Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Choosing Your Handheld

What to consider before you purchase a GPS, EFB or NAV/COM

handheldPilots today are increasingly dependent on electronic navigation and communication equipment: GPS for navigation, satellite radio for weather avoidance and VHF for voice communications (since September 11, no pilot can seriously think about flying in controlled airspace without one).
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GARMIN’S GPSMAP 695 AND 696 add a seven-inch portrait-format display and electronic charting to the already rich feature set offered by the previous top-of-the-line GPSMAP 495 and 496. All four models include a complete aviation database with terrain, navaids, obstacles, airports, instrument procedures, taxiway diagrams and AOPA’s airport directory. The GPSMAP 696 adds an IFR map mode, offering a display similar to standard en route charts, and includes electronic U.S. approach procedures; the GPSMAP 695 is available in versions optimized for use in North American, Pacific or Atlantic airspace. Like the GPSMAP 496, the GPSMAP 696 also includes a built-in XM Satellite Radio receiver for aviation weather (which requires an XM Satellite Radio subscription), support for TIS traffic if you have a compatible Mode S transponder (not supplied with the unit) and turn-by-turn ground navigation with a wide range of predefined points of interest. All four models offer a GPS-based simulated instrument panel for emergency use that updates five times per second. Price: $3,295 (GPSMAP 696), $2,695 (GPSMAP 695); the smaller GPSMAP 496 and 495 are available at lower prices. Contact: Garmin, (800) 800-1020, www.garmin.com.

is an air- and ground-navigation device built around a Hewlett-Packard iPaq 310 touch-screen PDA. It features a built-in GPS receiver and software that offers aviation moving map with VFR, IFR and TAWS modes, instrument approach plates and optional aviation weather if used with a compatible XM Satellite Radio receiver (not included). It also offers turn-by-turn navigation on the ground. Price: $695. Contact: Anywhere Map, (800) 292-1160, www.anywheremap.com.

AVMAP'S GEOPILOT II PLUS is a GPS navigator that can be used both in the air and for turn-by-turn navigation on the ground. Its features include a 5.6-inch color display, oversized control buttons and a unique thumb-stick cursor control. A Jeppesen North America database is included with navaids, airports, low-altitude airways and terrain. Other features include flight planning, E6B functions and optional aviation weather when used with a compatible XM Satellite Radio receiver (not included). Price: $1,199. Contact: AvMap, (800) 363-2627, www.avmap.us.

provides complete weather briefing information—including animated NEXRAD weather radar—on compatible cell phones. Other data includes lightning strikes, temperatures, wind barbs, sky conditions, pilot reports and TFRs. Pilot My-Cast is supported on more than 100 phones. Price: $9.95 per month. Contact: Digital Cyclone, (952) 974-3300, www.digitalcyclone.com.

PCAVIONICS' MOUNTAINSCOPE software turns a PDA or Tablet PC with GPS into a moving-map display with flight planning, terrain, controlled airspace, instrument approach plates, airport diagrams and TFRs. If used with an electronic attitude gyro (not included), MountainScope can provide a simulated-attitude-indicator display. With an XM Satellite Radio (also not included), it can display aviation weather. Price: $495. Contact: PC Avionics, (877) 444-4722, www.pcavionics.com.

is a Fujitsu Tablet PC running Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC edition software. The computer offers an 8.9-inch daylight-visible display with touch-screen input, convertible form factor with built-in keyboard, 1.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 512 MB RAM, 40 GB hard disk and built-in wireless connectivity. Price: $1,779. Contact: Advanced Data Research, (248) 299-5300, www.adrsoft.com.