BMW Motorrad Navigator III

[ September 3, 2007 ]

I don't know when I bought the BMW Navigator III but I'm sure it was earlier this year.  I used it for the 2007 Death Valley trip so it must have been in the February time frame.  All I can remember is being absolutely fed up with the TomTom and its power cycling.  When I need the navigation system, it's not available for use.  Instead, it spends its time flickering on and off.

In my case there are two possible factors that can cause this problem:
  1. The R12GS is still having electrical problems
  2. The TomTom Rider design is flawed and can't operate according to specs
Unfortunately for me, both cases were correct.  I had a grounding problem on the R12GS and the TomTom Rider design is flawed.  I did eventually get the grounding problem fixed but the TomTom's case is hopeless.  Historical problems aside here is how the BMW Navigator III stacks up against the TomTom.

There is a mix blessing when using the Nav III.  The navigation unit has no internal battery and relies completely on an external power source. This means the motorcycle has to be on in order for you to play with the navigation system.  This also means you can't use the navigation system in the house unless you have a power source to drive the unit.  The bonuses of not having an internal battery are:
  1. You don't have to worry about recharging the unit
  2. There is no need to replace a built in internal Li-on battery
Fortunately, the unit comes with hookups of all kinds.  Motorcycle cabling, car cigarette port cabling (with speaker), and a power transformer for in home use.  There is also a USB cable for route downloading/uploading and firmware updates.  Like the TomTom, the Nav III uses Bluetooth to communicate to you.  Also like the TomTom, the Nav III can be paired up with a cell phone to allow for phone dialing, answering, etc.  The TomTom has capabilities for real-time traffic updates.  So does the Nav III.

The BMW Navigator III is a much improved unit compared to the TomTom.  This is mostly due to the later generation software.  Garmin has incorporated a text to speech system that allows the navigation system to read the street names.  This is quite a handy feature as it allows you to know the street you're going to turn onto.  Additionally, the way the screen is organized, all the necessary information you would ever want to know is right in front of you.

Among the cool features of the Nav III:
The computer software that comes with the unit is pretty cool too (MapSource).  It allows you to plot your course on the computer and then download the route to the navigation system.  Alternatively, you can also upload the route from the Nav III to your computer for permanent route storage.

If there is one complaint about the entire setup, the system is too flexible.  OK, so that is not really a complaint.  However, because the system is so flexible, you can easily get lost and not know what options are available and what settings needs to be set.  Some off road paths on the map shows up as roads.  For the R12GS this might be good.  For the R12R that's not such a hot idea.  However, MapSource allows you to block out regions on the map that you consider to be impassable.  This allows for proper routing on the computer's part.

Lastly, there is one real complaint about the BMW Navigator III, but the problem is fixed with the 4.30 version of the firmware.  The initial 4.20 version has issues with Bluetooth and doesn't communicate very well with Bluetooth devices.

All in all the BMW Navigator III is the same as the TomTom Rider, in terms of functionality.  However, since the Nav III is a generation later, it has more refinements that make it a much better navigation unit.  The biggest item in favor of the Nav III is its ability to work properly unlike the design flaw seen with the TomTom Rider.

The R12GS BMW Motorrad Nav III re-mounted on the R12R.

There's still enough room to see the dials.

Written on: September 3, 2007
Last modified: September 23, 2007