Skramblr's Review of Magellan Mapsend DirectRoute 3/North America

Part of the Robert Lipe tech articles, robertlipe at usa dot net

Editors Note: This is the first of the articles to appear on the Robert Lipe collection of tech articles that's not actually written by Robert Lipe. Skramblr is a frequent contributor to the Magellan Meridian and Mapsend yahoogroups and has used DirectRoute since it first shipped. He was one of the first to use DirectRoute that had extensive experience with the earlier versions, so when he wrote up his impressions, I thought they should be available to world in a permanent place alongside similar articles. Thank you, Skramblr, for composing this and sharing it here!

2006-03-12 Original version posted on
2006-03-13 Add foto, "Addition 5"
2006-04-15 Addition 6
2006-07-01 Addition 7:Judgment Day

I took the plunge and purchased the MapSend DirectRoute v.3 retail package. The software did not come in a traditional cardboard box with a CD case inside. Instead it came in a blister pack with a Mapsend Software DVD inside. Additionally is an 8"x11" page of paper with a Coupon Code. The code is used to activate DirectRoute (once installed), so you don't need to pay. You activate it by clicking on the "Buy Now" process, but when it comes to checking out you type in the code and the software price magically drops from $149 to $0.

Printed on packaging: It clearly states is has DirectRoute V.3 I don't know why is says .3 and not just 3. But it is a step in the right direction. With DR v1 and v2, they never did acknowledge with version was in the box, so it was a surprise! The package also states it uses Navteq Q1 '05 data. That's also a great step in the right direction on letting customers know how outdated the maps are before you buy them. Map coverage has a footnote - Full coverage of 48 states, Hawaii, & Metro areas of Canada. I noticed the absence of Alaska and Mexico (Mexico is in North America, isn't it?).

Mapsend Software on DVD:

  • Mapsend Direct Route North America V3
  • Mapsend Topo 3D USA v1.5
  • Mapsend Topo 3D Canada v1.5
  • *Free* Mapsend
  • Manager *Free* Mapsend Lite

On the DVD software install pages:

  • DirectRoute = $149 new, $79 upgrade, $70 upgrade mail-in rebate offer
  • Topo 3D USA = $149 new, no upgrade
  • Topo 3D Canada = $149 new, $80 upgrade mail-in rebate offer

Activation - Requires an Internet Connection. You are taken to Magellan's website where you unlock your software. You have to provide your GPS Serial number. You are also given an option to see if you qualify for one of the upgrade rebates. You'll need to print out the rebate form and send in your Mapsend CD.

Direct Route Map Data Summary:

  • DR ver 1 = Oct 2003, 966MB
  • DR ver 2 = May 2004, 627MB
  • DR ver 3 = Aug 2005, 1200MB
Note that date is the file dates in the Map folder. Actual map data may be older (but never newer).

Coverage: True to the marketing claim - Alaska is not covered. Well, it has a few things - but not much. Puerto Rico does have full coverage (even though it is not listed). Mexico does have major highways, but no metro data. My neighborhood had a road put thru and a new school erected over 2 years ago. They finally showed up on this version of Direct Route. A little over a year ago we had some traffic circles installed a couple miles away from here. They also show up in this new version. A new highway onramp opened up last summer - missing (which should be expected per the map database date).

New Mapsend DirectRoute Features I noticed: No more CD Key required to run Max Map size raised from 64MB to 122.8MB Actual size of maps to cover USA increase to ~1.3GB of SD card space. Select GPS Type - eXplorist or meridian/sportrak Geocaching Menu -Load GPX, LOC or GS files -view descriptions, logs, hints, or goto webpages

What Magellan says is updated in the programs.

DirectRoute Updates NAVTEQ streets and points of interest to Spring 2005 data Improved coverage in selected US towns Works more smoothly with compatible eXplorist and also works with compatible Meridian and SporTrak GPS receivers Requires internet connection to purchase unlock code Requires full installation Owners of MapSend DirectRoute North America v1 can buy Version 3 from the DVD and receive a $70 mail-in rebate.

Topo3D USA Works more smoothly with compatible eXplorist and also works with compatible Meridian and SporTrak GPS receivers Requires internet connection to purchase unlock code Requires full installation

Topo3D Canada Adds 3D map viewing capability on PC only Works more smoothly with compatible eXplorist and also works with compatible Meridian and SporTrak GPS receivers Requires internet connection to purchase unlock code Requires full installation Owners of MapSend Topo Canada version 1 can buy Version 1.5 from the DVD and receive an $80 mail-in rebate.

Important to note - The v1.5 versions of Topo 3D (Canada and USA) do not have updated maps and Magellan does not recommend upgrading. The primary purpose of this version appears to be adding native eXplorist support.

--------------------- Message #2 Thanks for all you comments, I'll try to address some here.

I just got the software last night. So haven't had much time to play with it yet.

Purchase - I called Magellan customer service at 866-339-0488 and asked for the DirectRoute v3 upgrade on DVD. You cannot purchase the software at the discounted price. You have to first pay full price, install it, unlock it, get the rebate form, then send in your original disk. Shipping was an added $6.

GPS Serial number - Yeah, I was also concerned about the unlocking process and if it will lock my maps to a single number. The v3 program has a spot where you can change serial numbers (just like before), but I haven't tried changing it yet.

Firmware - Unlike previous mapsend products I bought, there is no FW update disk. The software does tell you that you need to run FW version 5.35 or later. If you don't have that version installed, it tells you to use the FW Update CDROM (which you didn't get) or go online.

Routing preferences, adding vias/waypoints into routes, Search feature improved? No difference. Remember the maps are just data. The firmware needs to be updated to do these type of things, and there is no updated firmware with this program.

Example of broken search feature. I want to find Starbucks. I tell it to list nearest restaurants - but there are 20 restaurants closer than starbucks and it doesn't make the list. So I search specifically for starbucks, and it produces a list of a hundreds starbucks in no particular order. So you have to scroll thru the entire list looking for a close one.

Worth the update? - For me, barely. I have several road changes (as I described some before) that were missing and now they are there. Indeed money may be better spent on the Garmin 60Cx, but since I have multiple GPS units and a PDA I am not really in the market to buy a Garmin (yet).

Other things noticed:

POIs only show up at 100' Zoom level. Crap, you can only see about one city block's worth of POIs. This is stupid, stupid, stupid... And one of the first things I'm going to have to hack. I've got to make them show up earlier to be useful.

POI Categories - dumbed down a lot. Like Restaurants. There used to be a bazillion categories. But now there are only a single page worth of them.

POIs complete? Not. There is a Fred Meyer store about 1 mile from my house. For some reason it doesn't see that one, but finds the rest. No campgrounds or RV parks either.

---------- Message #3

Just a couple more quick notes:

It appears that Magellan wised up to the Modify the copyright message on DirectRoute. You can no longer modify the Mapsend.ini [Copyright] section and have it show up on the GPS. It always displays the Navteq copyright.

Also, POI zoom level parameters also do nothing.

The POIs appear at the 100ft zoom level. Adjusting map details settings does nothing about that. So there is no easy way to customize it.

At power-on, the GPS no longer tells me my map is out of date and to check for updates. Now it tells me to "check for map updates". Great. One more pop-up message I can't avoid.

---------- Message #4

Two more questions regarding DR V3:

1. Can DR V3 be installed both on a desktop and a laptop, now that it requires unlocking? Yes - It appears that knowing the GPS Serial number you registered is just part of the unlocking process. You can load it on a second computer, no problem -and- you don't need the DVD to start it up. So I can finally leave my CD at home!

2. Is it still possible to combine the blx files from Mapsend Topo 3D into DR V3? I had a bit of trouble with trying to add Topo data into DR3 - The elevations would show up, but not the contour lines. I made sure I had the Show_Topo=1 in the [Options] section, too. So something is a little different, here. Tried both Topo USA and Topo 3D data. The data still gets into the IMG files for the GPS, it just won't display on the PC screen. Apparently this is the same problem as DirectRoute Europe

---------- Addition #5

Bad News - I can confirm that the software is now locked to a single GPS Serial number. When you try to change the serial number in the Mapsend Program, it will not let you continue and tells you that it is not registered for use with that serial number.

As of 3/12/2006, most of the product descriptions and details for DirectRoute NA are out of date, referring to the older versions. But the maps in the preview are the updated V3 maps with much improved coverage of Canada.

In typical Magellan fashion, they didn't waste creating problems with this new release. Previously they released a whole bunch of Topo 3D USA shipments with a bad CD. Now I've seen reports of receiving DirectRoute V3 with the coupon code missing - as in not printed on the paper that says here is your code! Oops.

---------- Addition #6

The Exit / Route number or Street name does not appear on my Meridian Color when traveling on a limited access highway and using the street to street go to function. Secondary roads are OK. Ed: This is a major regression from V1/V2.

---------- Addition #7: July 1, 2006

Now that I have been using the DR3 maps for some time, my conclusion is that I have wasted my $79 upgrade fee. I use DR when traveling to new places I haven't been before. When approaching exits, there are often two exits close to each other. For some reason, DR3 does not tell you which exit number to take. It just shows an arrow telling you to exit the freeway. DR1 and DR2 tell you the exit number (IE, take exit #213A). If you take the wrong exit, you may be taking a 30 minute or longer detour to get turned around in the right direction again. I was having to use Mapquest to print out the exit number I needed ahead of time, thus defeating the purpose of having DirectRoute.

So, I've taken my copy of DR3 and chucked it in my useless software pile. I am now back to using DR2. I've contacted Magellan Tech Support twice about this, and both times they did not even reply to my query.