Garmin Transalpin Review and Interesting News

Garmin copying from Openmtbmap and making good ground but....


Today Garmin released a demo map of the upcoming Garmin Transalpin, usually I would not write a lot about this, but today I will drop a few lines, as Garmin has copied many features previously unique to the openmtbmap. But as we know it is Garmin, they have copied what is obvious, but again did not understand what really makes the openmtbmap unique.


But let us start with the good points:

I started as first Garmin map creator by putting ways that are lying exactly on top of another to display seperately just like in normal topographic maps that you can buy in any store. Garmin after many many years of map creation seems to feel the pressure and know what is around in the market, because many features have been copied. A few examples below:


For some time Garmin has been using transparent tunnels, just like the openmtbmapmap. For bridges and fords it's the same game. (typfile as seen in Maptk)


That was all about transparency however. Hiking or Cycling routes were simply thrown on top of other ways, making it really hard to figure out what kind of way a route was going along.

Now mtb-routes seem to be looking more or less look-alike to the first editions of the openmtbmap in May/June. Still remembering the old desin?

Not surprisingly Garmin has now for the first time a map that mimics topographic maps more or less.
At least as long as one sticks to Mapsource 6.13.6 or views it on the GPS. Map is nicely rendered. (copyright Garmin Transalpin 2009)


The same location as seen in Mapsource 6.15.6 looks a bit like rubbish. mtbroutes and marked hiking trails are now very difficult to distinguish. (copyright Garmin Transalpin 2009)


So for now I must admit that the Garmin Transalpin is the best outdoor map (at least based on the demo tile provided) that Garmin has published. That garmin is now using the same principles as I am for styling maps is primarily a good thing. Garmin will

a) have to create the buggy appearance in newer Mapsource versions

b) will not remove the transparent features from the GPS via firmware updates

Knowing that Garmin started to sell GPS featuring the Malsingmaps (a free map project similar to openstreetmap in Malaysia) means that maybe one day Openstreetmap maps will come preinstalled instead of the lousy basemap with their GPS units. This would really push Openstreetmap forward and give a bigger Audience.


But it wouldn't be Garmin if the map were really usable, would it?


Autorouting Misery

Autorouting still leads you along big streets instead of interesting trails. While the openmtbmap gives you great downhills, and easier uphills, Garmin Transalpin knows of no such differentiation!

Holes in Ways (at least in Austria) are often present in the map material. This means that autorouting sometimes simply doesn't work and means huge detours for small distances - 17km instead of 600m. At least in Eastern Austria where I could test the Topo Austria v2 (based on the same map data, minus the mtb routes from Uli Stanciu and minus E5 long distance hiking routes) autorouting is in effect useless. (screenshot copyright Garmin Transalpin 2009)



Besides from the well added mtb routes and marked hikinkg trails that are a very good feature, their main problem (at least in Austria) persists. The data used for the map is incosistent (identical to the Garmin Topo Austria v2) and there are ways that are obviously not fully inside the map material:(screenshot copyright Garmin Transalpin 2009)



We can therefore expect at least in Austria to see many ways and trails on the map, that don't exist anymore. Also ways will be up to 100m away from their real location making it sometimes really difficult to know which way to choose.

Of course based on OSM data for the next 1-2 years the openmtbmap alps will have many white spots where we still miss a big part of the ways. Well the Garmin Transalpin will only have very good coverage (with above discussed shortcomings) in Germany and Austria. Switzerland, Slovenia and Liechtenstein only have basic map coverage, meaning more or less primary to maximum residential streets - no trails or ways present. The coverage of Italy is according to Garmin good (versus very good for Austria/Germany and basic for Switzerland/Slovenia/Liechtenstein) - what this will mean in reality is difficult to tell right now. It will be seen after the map is fully available. I would be surprised if good means decent and not only better than rubbish (see older Garmin maps of Italy to understand the scepticism).

However at least using openstreetmap data, we know we can add all of our favourite Transalp routes and that it will not take very long for us to catch up and overtake the Garmin Transalpin in usability.

More about the Garmin TransAlpin here:


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