New Tech Review – DeLorme Earthmate GPS LT-20

Most of us have spent hours trying to find a relative’s home or that one time get-together at a place you have never heard of before. You waste hours getting better directions from gas stations and searching some more. Perhaps you printed out turn-by-turn directions from the Internet only to realize the directions get you within a block but not right to the door. We have all been there and it is frustrating as well as time consuming. DeLorme created a very affordable and useful unit that plugs into any laptop so you will never get lost again.

The unit is an Earthmate LT-20, which communicates with orbiting satellites to triangulate your position. The Earthmate plugs in to your laptop via USB. It draws its power from the laptop through the USB cable. By plugging the USB cable in, two or three satellites will pin point your location.

The system comes with everything you need including an updated street atlas of the entire US. This map is extremely detailed; the GPS unit recognizes and displays any movement of more than a few inches. It is so accurate you can easily see yourself changing lanes. There is nowhere you can hide, not even in doors. It may not be able to lock three satellites on to your location when you are inside but only two satellites are needed to track any movement.

In most cases, a service like this would require a monthly fee to use but there are no fees for a GPS system. No accounts to create or phone calls needed to get you up and driving. Once you remove the unit from the package, plug it in the laptop and install the software. It is just that simple.

I suggest that even though it is impossible to get lost and the roads are very up to date, it still cannot replace thinking. Sometimes the system does not recognize that you need to make a boulevard turn to make a left. Do not rely on it 100% or you may get frustrated. The GPS unit is highly accurate and makes driving easier but it cannot replace forward thinking. If you know you cannot make a turn that the unit proposes, simply have an idea of where it is taking you and plan appropriately.

The map will auto zoom for you depending on speed which is very convenient. At higher speeds on freeways, the camera’s view of your location will zoom out making it easier to see what is coming up. On surface streets or when you are close to your destination, the camera zooms in showing you exactly what you need to see.

It is not safe to constantly look at a laptop screen so DeLorme built in a navigator who talks you through each turn. After completing a turn, the program will say the distance and approximate time until the next one. It will make sure you do not miss a turn since it will remind you when and what to expect. If you set up the program before you leave, you do not even have to look at the screen again.

Even if you miss a turn and we all do, the system will adjust within about five to ten seconds. It will readjust your route to get you back on track. This comes in handy if you miss a turn and you do not know how to get back to your last location. The system takes care of it all. I would suggest that if you get off track, pull over or drive slower until the system readjusts your route. On surface streets it will be easy to drive past a turn that the GPS software wanted you to make the moment you passed it. That will cause it to readjust again and you could miss the next turn. Let it readjust without going to far.

The software comes with many features that are too many to list here. Some of the more interesting and useful ones are the ability to place stops along your path of have multiple destinations. If you need a gas station or restaurant, the software can help you find the closest one and lead you there by the hand. You can also save addresses of family members or other places. If you only visit a place a couple times a year, you may not remember how to get there but you will need the address so the system can find it. Another interesting feature is the speedometer and compass showing you your exact speed, heading along with miles to go, and estimated time of arrival.

It is not a 100% accurate but after using this product for several months, it is well worth the investment. You will save time and many headaches. It only costs $100 and it is much more affordable than the larger Garmin units for sale today.

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