At first glance, there’s no discernible difference between Autoroute 2004 and this latest version. Second glance? Er, the same conclusion actually, with the look and feel of the program seemingly photocopied from last time around. In fact, after a good hour or two of poking around, this reviewer had to cheat and call up the ‘What’s New In Autoroute’ menu option, to be greeted by a six-point list.
Two of these six points are taken up by GPS devices, namely expanded functionality and easier configuration. Both are nice to have, but neither in practice are that vital. Then there’s the inclusion of Pocket Streets, which allows you to export maps from Autoroute into compatible Pocket PCs, Pocket PC Phones and Smartphones. A genuinely good feature this, even if we can’t see the majority of people using it yet.
Next? Updated data. Frankly, we take that as a given. Still, for European travellers more detail across Finland and Greece won’t hurt (although coverage of the continent is still patchy, and tends to be restricted to big cities). Then we have improved Web search capability, which allows you to use MSN Search to get more details about any areas of interest that appear on your map. And finally, additional options for displaying longitude and latitude co-ordinates. That’s Microsoft’s entire reasoning, basically, for you forking out another £50. Hardly impressive.
However, Autoroute is the friendliest and arguably the best all-round route planning software package, and it’s built up over the years so that it does more than just take you from A to B. It’s full of neat features, such as indicating where you can get to in a set period of time, and it conveniently points out attractions, places to go, where your local supermarket is, and generally helps you plan a good day out. It backs this up with readable, generally accurate and usable directions, which are available in several printed formats of your choice.
But then the last version did all this, too. If you take aside the list of features we’ve already discussed, then the only other measurable improvement worth talking about is that the program seems to work a little quicker, particularly when calculating complicated routes.
You can tell where this conclusion is heading. To justify another £50 outlay to anyone who already has Autoroute 2004, Microsoft really needed to make some more tangible changes and improvements. Perhaps the program has hit its peak, and there are few improvements left to be made. If that is the case, then maybe Microsoft can admit that, concede that data updates are going to be the big improvement year on year, and drop the price accordingly. For now, if you’re an Autoroute virgin, this is every bit as good as it looks. If you have last year’s version, however, there are far better uses for your £50.
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