Highway Dreams

Travelling Around Australia

Hema Navigator HN7 Review

Over the past 2 years we have been using a Hema HN6 GPS system which has been proudly mounted above our dashboard helping us navigate to new places, find camp sites and track our off road adventures. A few months ago we were given an opportunity to give the latest HN7 Navigator a test run. Hema Navigator HN7 Review

In all honesty the HN6 has been a brilliant machine over the past few years and has not only been easy to use but the powerful off-road navigation tools and features have been great when we have ventured out into the outback, often taking dirt tracks and unnamed roads to find those secret outback camp sites or quirky points of interest.

I was keen to see the latest improvements in action on the HN7 so when I received the unit in the mail it didn’t take me long to have all the accessories out and plugged in to charge the battery.





IMG_0183If you have read any of my other reviews you will know that I consider the packaging of products to be very important- maybe not quite as important as the quality or functionality of the product but still it gives you the ‘all important’ first impression of the product or brand. If you know that clever thought and design has gone into how a product is packaged you can almost guarantee that the product itself must be worthy of such respect. Hema hit the mark (once again) and the HN7 was stylishly packaged in its own customised box (as was the previous HN6). I often compare such clever and stylish packaging as almost ‘Apple like’ in terms of simple but clever! Nice one Hema!

So anyway, once I got past the nice box and opened it up there was a range of goodies included.

IMG_0186What’s in the box:

  • The HN7 GPS Unit as you would hope (includes 8gb micro-SD card)
  • 12v Power lead with cigarette lighter plug and mini USB power plug (right angled for a neater fit)
  • A stylus
  • A micro-SD to SD card adaptor
  • Warranty Card and user guides
  • A video cable used for connecting a reverse camera to the HN7
  • A USB cable for HN7-to-PC connectivity and charging
  • A heavy duty, fully adjustable mounting system with large suction cup for windscreen mounting (designed to handle the rough roads and corrugations where the HN7 is designed to be used)
  • A leather storage pouch to keep and protect your HN7 when not in use (includes stylus pocket)

The Hema HN7– the device itself!

The first thing that was visibly clear was the obvious larger screen size over the previous HN6. A welcomed improvement, especially as I use the off-road maps often so the larger screen shows me more of what is to the sides and still allows room for the on-screen icons to appear and not be a nuisance.

Looking around the the HN7 I notice some familiar ports and plugs. An easy to find on/off button is located at the top left and all of the ports are located down the left hand side of the device including the micro-SD card slot. From top to bottom there is a headphone/speaker output socket, video in port for reversing camera, Mini-USB/Charging port, USB port and a pin-style rest button.

One thing that I noticed which I thought was odd was there was no where on the device to store the stylus (only in the leather carry pouch). After using the HN7 for a while I have since realised that the new design means most of the menu navigation and operation is easily done with finger touch anyway- with the exception of detailed off-road route and way point selection where the stylus can give you more accuracy. This ease of use is also a much welcomed improvement, especially those like me who have broader fingers. (I think the term “broader” is a polite way of saying fat!)

The unit itself feels solid and the screen feels ‘thick’ which means I’m not afraid of pressing it in fear of it cracking (unlike some other GPS units I’ve used previously). Overall the device is tough and feels like a quality, well made product. Not fancy to look at but you know it means business!

Let the power begin……

Upon power up, the device will load to the familiar screen where the user needs to select the program they wish to use (On Road navigation (iGO Primo 2.4) OR Off Road 4WD Mapping (Hema’s customised OZIExplorer platform). Large icons make choosing easy. Also on this screen you can select and configure the main system settings (indicated by a spanner and screwdriver logo) and see at a glance the battery level, bluetooth status, FM radio output status and GPS signal level. You are also able to change the devices volume by clicking on the speaker icon. This might all sound “run of the mill” but in ‘real time’ its nice to be able to see at a glance this type of information and have control.

HN7streetscreen1500px[1]I’ll start with the street navigation. The iGo Primo program is all very familiar to me and the menu structure is easy to operate. Finding destinations is a simple task. I particularly appreciate that you do not have to have the suburb or town selected in order to find a street address. You can simply search for the street by entering it directly into the search bar. A list of same or similar street names state-wide will appear which makes it easy to select the one you require. This is important when you don’t know exactly what suburb the street is in. For example in cities, a street or road may pass through many suburbs and unless you know which suburb exactly, some GPS systems wont allow you to select the street or number until a suburb is entered (sometimes making it impossible to find the place you need). At least the adoption of the open-ended search method makes the guess work less frustrating. The only catch is the search is state based so if you are near state borders and wish to search you will need to be aware that you may need to change the state or territory to find what you are after. Hardly something whining about.

Using the “Find Places” feature you can easily search for businesses, fuel stations, accommodation, banks, medical etc- and specify either within a set town or do a quick search around your immediate location. Great for visiting new towns and you are needing to find a service or business type in a hurry. We find this very convenient and use this often.

All the usual features like clear voice guidance, street name announcements, visual 3D landmarks, lane change warnings, visual lane guidance and safety camera warnings are all still part of the program.

HN7unit_CampssitePOI500px[1]As travellers, another feature we use often is the CAMPS 8, Caravan Parks Australia Wide and the Dump Point directory. We are always on the lookout for budget camp sites and used in conjunction with our CAW books and Wikicamps App, we find the simple camp site directory very useful especially as it has the direct navigation to the sites at a touch of a button. The new updated CAMPS 8 in the HN7 (with over 6000 listings) includes very useful photos of most listings and we can see at a glance the facilities each camp site offers to help us determine if the camp will be suitable for us. In some cases even a phone number is provided in case you wish to contact someone for more information about the site. HN7StreetCampsscreen3500px[1]

These features really add a lot of functionality to the HN7 for travellers, campers and holiday makers. With the growing number of nomads on the road and keen 4x4ers looking for frugal accommodation options- the convenience of the CAMPS 8 directory is almost priceless!

From the Hema website:




Premium street navigation
  • Latest HERE mapping for Australia and New Zealand
  • iGO Primo street navigation
  • 2 years of free map updates
  • Powerful new address and POI Search function
  • Timed School Zone alerts

For driving around town, the HN7 has the latest Australia-wide street mapping from HERE in partnership with turn-by-turn navigation from iGO Primo. Intelligent features like speed camera alerts, multi-point routing and speed warnings simplify street driving, while navigating to out-of-the-way destinations is seamless with every Camps Australia Wide POI fully integrated.

Off Road Mapping and Navigation

HN74WDpicta500px[1]This is a whole other kettle of fish and where the HN7 comes into its own (just like the HN6 did)- imagine the ultimate software program for your computer where you can bring up a variety of concise digital maps suitable for planning your next off-road adventure. Imagine being able to plot out waypoints, add your own specific details to the maps, add your own photos of river crossings and camp sites, create your own tracks, make trek notes, or create a comprehensive record of your last exploring, camping or 4x4ing trip for future reference! What if you could transfer this kind of info between your computer and the GPS unit that’s sits on your dash? This is what’s so great about these Hema products and Hema has delivered this feature once again with the HN7.

OziExplorer has to be one of the most full-featured map viewing software I have come across. But I won’t lie to you- there is quite a lot to learn when it comes to using it, especially if you want to make the most out of all its features.

Hema’s dedicated version of the OziExplorer program for the computer is called “HN Explorer”. (Hema’s PC version is basically designed to integrate more seamlessly with the Navigator units than the generic OziExplorer version) and is included on the Micro-SD card or can be downloaded directly from the Hema website. HN explorer will give you a harmonious integration of all the features you will need (and want) in a true off-road navigation system. From trip planning right through to keeping records of where you have been- as comprehensive as you want it to be.

So, when you fire up the HN7 and select the OziExplorer application- you will be taken to what at first seems like a complicated, user-Unfriendly menu screen. But trust me, with a few worthwhile hours reading the instruction manual and playing hands-on as you get familiar with the icons and menus, you will be feeling quite comfortable in the driver’s seat. It’s just like looking at the detailed paper maps but in digital format with the navigation functions at hand. And the larger screen (as I mentioned earlier) makes a big difference to the usability of it.

Hema has done a great job of making tutorials for most of the major off-road features of the HN6 & HN7 and can be viewed on their youtube channel. These tutorials are a MUST in order to get the most from your device. The power of the OziExplorer is intimidating but knowledge is power too so invest some time in learning the ins and outs of the menu etc

IMG_0217Out in the field….. Just imagine you are 500km’s from nowhere, on a dirt track with no signs or landmarks. You aren’t lost, but in reality you have no idea where the heck you are. You turn on your generic GPS and although you have a perfect GPS signal all you see is a blank screen and the cursor that represents YOU in the middle. No roads, no information- its useless to say the least. With the Hema HN7 and off road digital maps, you can simply choose just how detailed you want the screen to display your location. Showing you EXACTLY where you are, what road or track you are on and where the nearest towns and waypoints are (even see where you have been in case you need to retrace your steps). This is what you are paying for when you buy one of these units. Any old GPS can tell you what street you are on if you are in town, but try using one out here! You might as well ask that tree stump or mulga bush for directions!

From the Hema website:

Trusted Hema 4WD maps

  • Complete Hema digital map collection preloaded

  • Hema seamless 1:1Million Road and 1:250K Topo maps

  • Hema New Zealand touring maps

  • Hema Navigator Explorer map viewer to install HN7 maps on your Windows PC for pre-trip planning

The Hema Navigator is the only GPS navigation system with Hema 4WD maps preloaded, backed by the unique mapping and updating process that Hema Maps has been perfecting since 1996. Exclusively featuring the entire Hema digital 4WD map collection, the HN7 covers all of Australia with base road and topo maps, state maps, regional 4×4 maps and national park maps

To summarise:

Hema boasts that the HN7 Navigator is…. “Australia’s Most Powerful Touring Machine”. Thats a pretty big call but I tend to think that Hema has the credibility and reputation to back that claim up….. in fact if you have come across a more featured, more functional and more accurate touring machine on the Australian market then, please- let me know about it!

Although I love the HN6 I previously used, it was nice to see some subtle improvements in the HN7 and definitely agree that the upgrades result in a more user friendly device.

I would like to see a spot for the stylus on the device itself as I do use it occasionally and would be nice to have it handy but its not a deal breaker for me.

The battery life- well, it is thirsty compared to most electronics gadgets we use in todays world but after all, its designed to be used in your vehicle where there is 12v available so battery life is also not a deal breaker. A few hours is about all you get before a power source is needed.

Connecting the HN7 to the computer is not quite ‘plug & play’ and you will need to have correct software set up on your PC in order for the devices to talk to each other. Again, Hema has a great tutorial and step by step instructions on how to do this but just be prepared for the process and once you have done it a few times it becomes easy.

What I do LOVE about these units are the abundance of trusted high quality and detailed maps included. The maps are far superior to those found on any other device I’ve used in the past. Having maps that are current, easy to read and best of all ‘field tested’ is the a major advantage for any traveller or explorer- its peace of mind if nothing else. Try putting a price on that!…… ok, so Hema did put a price on it – $699….. but for what you get that represents pretty good value considering there isn’t anything else on the market that compares to it.

It would be quite hard for me to try and tell you in a product review just how the 4wd navigation program works to the point you would feel like you have learnt enough to “want and go and buy one”. But all I can say about the HN7 in general is that you could not possibly want any more features from a GPS unit for ON or OFF road use.

 

Here are the nitty gritty specs from the Hema website: www.hema.com.au

Hardware

Unit Dimensions, WxHxD: 175mm x 110mm x 13mm
Display size: 7″ diag (17.7 cm)
Display resolution, WxH pixels: 800 x 480
Display colours: 65,000
Display type: Colour LCD touchscreen
CPU and Operating System SiRF Atlas V, Dual Core, ARM11 500MHz, CE6.0
Weight: 300g including battery
Battery type: lithium polymer rechargeable
Battery life: up to 2 hours depending on Settings
GPS Receiver: 64 channel
Headphone Jack / audio line out: Yes, 3.5 socket
Reverse Camera input interface: 2.5 mm AV IN (NTSC)

Street Nav – iGO Primo

Preloaded Maps: Yes, Australia and New Zealand Sreet Mapping
Free Map Updates Yes, 2 YEAR FREE map updates via Naviextras website
Text To Speach (ie. Spoken street names): Yes
Voice prompts (e.g. “Turn right in 100 metres onto Smith Street.”): Yes
Map data provider: Navteq
Automatic routing (Turn by turn routing on roads): Yes
Door to door navigation including House Numbers: Yes
Lane guidance: Yes
Speed camera warnings (fixed locations): Yes, provided by Here
Redlight camera warning (fix locations): Yes, provided by Here
Route optimisation (provides most direct route): Yes
Route avoidance (avoid highways, tolls etc.): Yes
Auto re-route (fast off-route and detour recalculation): Yes
Choice of route setup (faster time, shorter distance, etc): Yes
Free Text Search (type ‘McK Eig’ to find McKechnie Drive Eight Mile Plains): Yes
Outback 4WD Tracks Yes, exclusive Hema Maps track data provided to Here
3-D Landmarks: Yes
3-D City Map: Yes
Junction View: Yes
General Points of interests (Hospitals, Restrants, Hotels etc): Yes, provided by Here for Australia and New Zealand
CAMPS 8 Location Points of Interest – fully detailed with facility icons, site descriptions and Camps Snaps images Yes, provided by CAMPS Australia Wide
Caravan Parks Points of interest – fully detailed with facility icons and site descriptions Yes, provided by Caravan Parks Australia Wide
Dump Point Points of Interest – fully detailed with facility icons and site desciptions Yes, provided by CAMPS Australia Wide
School Zone Speed Warning Yes
Advanced database search for addresses and POI Yes

4WD Nav – OziExplorer

Version: OziExplorer Ver 2.41
HEMA Ezi Ozi Interface Yes, The 2014 Ezi Ozi (version 3.0) is a Hema developed user interface for Ozi to easily harness all of the power and grunt Ozi has to offer. This version features all new menu and keyboard design to allow easy use by finger touch control.
PC Software included: Yes, comes packaged with HN7 Hema Navigator Explorer Windows™ PC software containing the Hema Navigator Explorer Map Viewer and the entire 2014 Australia 4WD Raster Map Collection. The Hema Navigator Explorer software on the HN7 will install all the maps from the SD card to your Windows™ PC for easy viewing and data transfer (waypoints, tracks and routes).
Preloaded Maps: Hema Maps Australia 4WD Raster Map Collection, 4WD and Regional maps, Seamless 1:1Million Australian Touring map, Australia TOPO 250K map, New Zealand North and South 1:250K Super map in OziExplorer ozf4 file format
Seamless mapping scroll: Yes
Moving map: Yes
Live GPS location display: Yes
Support for transfer of tracks and Waypoints between Windows™ PC and Hema Navigator HN7 Yes, the Hema Navigator Explorer program facilitates this feature. (program included on the SD card supplied with the HN7)
Mac OS support: No

Hema Navigator HN7 Review



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