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It has been just over two and a half years since the HN7 was released and it has hands down been Hema's best GPS to date. Now Hema has announced the launch of their new HX-1 and I thought it would be a good time to look at what this new unit features and how it compares with the HN7. Hema was kind enough to let me have a demo model to test out and it was very much appreciated.
The HX-1 is built on an entirely different platform to the HN7; the HN7 is a dedicated GPS unit running Windows CE as its operating system, whilst the HX-1 is a locked Android tablet. This fundamental difference brings with it some interesting points of difference to explore. Firstly, let’s look as some of the benefits that arise from this new Android tablet platform.
The Screen: LCD vs LED
The HN7 has a 7 inch 800 x 480 pixel WVGA TFT LCD, compared to the HX-1, which has a 1024 x 600 pixel LED tempered glass screen. The benefits of the LED screen are that it is brighter and sharper. I would say that the new LED screen with its better image quality is a big improvement over the HN7s TFT LCD screen and after having seen it in the flesh it really is an excellent screen with great readability even in direct sunlight.
Battery Life: 1500mAh Li-Poly vs 5000mAh Li-Poly
The HN7 has a fairly short battery life, the specs give a continuous usage time of 1.5 hours. The HX-1's continuous usage time is considerably longer, having a larger capacity battery of 5000mAH, Hema cites 6 hours, and my initial testing indicates that it certainly runs 4 hours without any issues. A more powerful battery with a longer off power usage time is then a big plus for the HX-1.
Processing Speed: 128MB vs 1GB
The HN7 has 128MB of ram, whilst the HX-1 has a full gigabyte of ram. By having almost 8 times the processing power the HX-1 has a faster refresh rate when accessing the 4WD maps and I also found that the menus opened up significantly faster. I like my gadgets to work quickly so I give the extra RAM a big tick of approval.
Updating: Computer vs Wireless
In order to update an HN7 you have to connect it to a Windows based computer and install two pieces of software, the first is Windows Mobile Device Centre, which allows the HN7 to talk to the computer and the second is the Naviextras Toolbox that manages the data upload. Initially this process can be a bit time consuming but once done becomes a set and forget process.
The HX-1 uses an inbuilt wireless card to connect to the Hema Cloud and downloads its updates, which is a simpler user experience. This is also good news for Mac users, as the HN7 software is not Mac compatible. The wireless feature will also allow for easy sharing of pictures and routes on the Hema Cloud.
Front facing camera: No vs Yes
The HN7 does not have a built in camera for taking geotagged pictures whilst the HX-1 does, so if you like taking pictures and sharing them then the HX-1 is great. The HX-1 has a 5 mega pixel camera, which should enable you to take some good travel photos in decent resolution.
Mapping Updates: 2 years free vs 3 years free
The HN7 comes with 2 years of free updates for the iGo street navigation system and the HX-1 comes with 3 years of free updates. Also for the first time with the HX-1 Hema is offering free 4WD updates for the life of the machine whereas updates for the HN7 are available for purchase from Hema's online store. The HX-1 is the clear winner in terms of software updates, especially for 4WD maps.
Street Mapping mode
Topographic & Street Mapping in 4WD mode
The HX-1 comes with the ability to download more detailed mapping for the 4WD side of things. These additional maps are available from the Hema Cloud once you have registered the unit. This mapping as you would expect includes the entire catalogue of Hema's mapping, as well as the ability to download topographic mapping of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania and the HERE street mapping. So if you are going to be using the HX-1 primarily in NSW, QLD or TAS then this will be a major benefit of the HX-1.
So the HX-1 has improved street mapping, more detailed 4WD mapping, a brighter sharper screen, longer battery life, a faster processor and is simpler to update, so I would say that the HX-1 has improved in some key areas on the HN7. Also with the ability to share pictures and routes with other HX-1 users it marks a significant move towards creating a community of users outside of dedicated 4WD clubs. And the extra year of updates for street navigation and free 4WD updates for the life of the unit is a nice addition. As with any major change in design there will be some compromises, just ask Apple about the 3mm audio jack, so I will now go over some of the feautres that have been so popular with the HN7.
4WD Navigation Programs: OziExplorer vs Hema Off-Road Navigation
The HN7 uses OziExplorer CE as its 4WD navigation program. OziExplorer has been Australia's leading GPS interface software for the last 10 years and has been a favourite of the 4WD community because of its ability to add more mapping to the Navigator. The biggest difference between Hema's HN Navigators and other GPS manufacturers has been this ability to add your own mapping, whether you have purchased additional pre-packaged ECW mapping or have created your own maps using the full version of OziExplorer.
The HX-1 uses Hema's own Off-Road Navigation app as it 4WD program. As such the HX-1 user only be able to download mapping available from Hema's Cloud. For the vast majority of users this will not be an issue, as Hema undoubtedly make the best 4WD maps and for the average caravaner or recreational four-wheel driver the level of mapping available to download will be more than sufficient. If, however you have more particular requirements such as custom geospatial data for a specific area or activity such as prospecting then the HN7 is still the GPS of choice.
Accessing detailed mapping
There is a significant difference in the way that the HN7 and the HX-1 treat their 4WD maps. With the HN7 all the 4WD maps are stored on the external micro SD card (up to 32GB capacity) and are continuously available.
The HX-1 comes with Hema’s 150k Explorer Map as its base map and it is always available. To access more maps you need to register the HX-1 with Hema in order to access the maps on the Hema Cloud. Once registered and connected to a WI-Fi network these additional mapping layers will become available as you make a mapping layer active.
In order to access the Hema Cloud mapping if you are out of Wi-Fi coverage you will need to pre-download sections of the map you want onto the internal memory. The HX-1 has a 16 GB internal memory, with 6 GB dedicated to map storage. So in order to benefit from the additional layers maps you will need to download the maps before you set off unless you have mobile data access. My best advice is if you need more detailed mapping on the road then to try to limit your downloading to areas with Wi-Fi such as caravan parks.
Transferring programs, maps and data to a computer
Another major difference between the HX-1 and HN7 is how the 4DW maps are available for use on a full sized computer. With the HN7 you are able to install a cut down version of OziExplorer onto your desktop and transfer all the 4WD maps onto your hard dirve. This allows you to view the maps on a larger screen with a faster processor, as well as to plan your routes and review your track logs. Waypoints and routes can be transferred between the OziExplorer Data folder, which is duplicated on both the desktop and HN7. As far as I can tell at this stage this is not an option with the HX-1 all
This transition from OziExplorer to the Hema Off-Road Navigation program does unforuntely mean that you preious HN users will not be able to transfer their data across to the HX-1, unless they first convert it to GPX, or GPS Exchange Format.
Reversing Camera: Yes vs No
One of the questions I get asked most often about the HN7 is does it accept a reversing camera, the answer to which is yes, in fact it accepts two through a 2.5mm jack. This would seem to be a feature that the 4WD and in particular the caravanning community consider to rank highly. It is surprising then that the HX-1 doesn't come with the ability to connect a reversing camera. I feel it is a feature which is going to be missed.
GPS Chip: 64 Channel SiRF vs 22 Channel
One of the reasons the HN7 is so power hungry, as I talked about in the section on battery life, is due to the fact it is running a high end 64 Channel SiRF GPS receiver. The reason that a good GPS chip is so important is firstly it makes for a more accurate location fix, the more satellites the GPS can find the more accurate its fix, always something of paramount importance to the GPS user and secondly it allows the GPS to work even when there is limited line of sight, such as in streets surrounded by tall buildings of when there is overhead leaf clutter. The HN7 is truly remarkable it quite often picks up a fix through the roof when we are loading them. From the specs of the HX-1 it looks as if it will be using a 22 channel GPS receiver, I am not sure if the loss of 42 channels is going to make a real day to day difference, as you only really only need 4 for a GPS fix and I can say that the demo unit acquired a GPS fix whilst inside our office which is encouraging.
After comparing the HN7 and HX-1, I believe that Hema has tried to make the new unit as user friendly and intuitive as possible, which is always good for the user. However when customers ask whether the HN7 is easy to use I always say yes but qualify my answer by saying "but if you are willing to invest the time and learn how OziExplorer works then you will get so much more enjoyment out of the unit, as its capabilities grow with your understanding."
What I believe we now have are two distinct GPS units for two different markets, for the everyday 4 wheel-driver or caravaner who wants a great easy to use navigation device that can be loaded with all Hema's brilliant new multi-layer mapping then the HX-1 ticks all the boxes. However, if you are an enthusiast who wants the best 4WD GPS with the ability to load your own maps as well as access to a huge collection of off-line maps using OziExplorer then the HN7 is the best GPS for you.