We're just back from the annual Outdoors Trade Show - OTS - where GPS specialist Satmap announced the launch of its Satmap Active 12 unit, a new GPS which shares the casing of the original Satmap Active 10, but has a higher resolution screen, Bluetooth connectivity and other useful upgrades.
The original Satmap Active 10 has two stand-out features: a full colour screen that's larger than any other outdoor GPS unit we've tried and a button-operated user interface that's intuitive and easy to use. Its operating system has been upgraded over the years and it's now significantly faster than when first launched, but essentially the unit has stayed pretty much the same.
The Same But Better
The new Active 12 may look virtually identical bar the give-away orange buttons, but its had some serious revamping. For starters, the 3.5-inch full colour screen is twice the resolution it was before - an HVGA 320x488 pixels as opposed to the 10's QVGA 240x320 pixel unit if you're interested - which combined with new higher resolution mapping from the Ordnance Survey means mapping on screen which is much closer to print quality.
It looks sharper in general and you can also zoom in closer without the mapping becoming pixellated. Just a nicer experience all-round and more like looking at a real, printed map than before.
Bluetooth Connectivity Added
That's not all though. There'll be twice as much RAM as before for faster operation, but there are a bunch of upgrades to bring the new unit into line with competitors. For a start, a new Bluetooth module will allow users to monitor and record heart rate data in use, cyclists will be able to track speed and cadence and you'll be able to share route and track data wirelessly with other Satmap users.
Thew new unit will also have a super-accurate Swiss barometric sensor which is claimed to be able to measure differences in pressure across just 50cm. That means users will be able to track ascent and descent rates and monitor the gradient of slopes, a great feature for both cyclists and mountaineers.
And More To Come
Chatting to Satmap at the show, it's clear there's plenty more in the pipeline too with options like split-screen views, customisable menus and, in time, the ability to share your position with and track other Satmap Active 12 users. The Bluetooth module means there's also the potential to use a smartphone as a modem and upload or download route data in the field.
Finally, while Satmap's online 'xpedition' mapping and planning site will still exist, there are plans to allow users to access mapping they've purchased on smartcards directly via a PC or laptop for easier advance route planning.
Once available - projected launch time is late autumn/early winter 2013 - the Active 12 will sell for £450 as a bundle complete with complete 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey GB mapping and the Power Bundle which includes a rechargeable lithium polymer battery pack. That's around £50 more than you'd currently pay for an Active 10 equivalent.
The Active 10 will continue as a basic, funtional mapping GPS for those who don't feel the need for the added bells and whistles of the new unit.
In short, the unit we reckon is arguably the best all-round mapping GPS on the market is about to get a whole lot better. We'll be bringing you first user impressions as soon as the Active 12 becomes available.
There's more Satmap information at www.satmap.co.uk.