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Australia's largest map shop, start your journey here!
Australia's largest map shop, start your journey here!

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HEMA HX-1 VS HN7 NAVIGATOR COMPARISON REVIEW

It has been just over two and a half years since the HN7 was released and it has hands down been Hema's best GPS to date. Now Hema has announced the launch of their new HX-1 and I thought it would be a good time to look at what this new unit features and how it compares with the HN7. Hema was kind enough to let me have a demo model to test out and it was very much appreciated.

The HX-1 is built on an entirely different platform to the HN7; the HN7 is a dedicated GPS unit running Windows CE as its operating system, whilst the HX-1 is a locked Android tablet. This fundamental difference brings with it some interesting points of difference to explore. Firstly, let's look as some of the benefits that arise from this new Android tablet platform.

HX-1

The Screen: LCD vs LED

The HN7 has a 7 inch 800 x 480 pixel WVGA TFT LCD, compared to the HX-1, which has a 1024 x 600 pixel LED tempered glass screen. The benefits of the LED screen are that it is brighter and sharper. I would say that the new LED screen with its better image quality is a big improvement over the HN7s TFT LCD screen and after having seen it in the flesh it really is an excellent screen with great readability even in direct sunlight.

Battery Life: 1500mAh Li-Poly vs 5000mAh Li-Poly

The HN7 has a fairly short battery life, the specs give a continuous usage time of 1.5 hours. The HX-1's continuous usage time is considerably longer, having a larger capacity battery of 5000mAH, Hema cites 6 hours, and my initial testing indicates that it certainly runs 4 hours without any issues. A more powerful battery with a longer off power usage time is then a big plus for the HX-1.

Processing Speed: 128MB vs 1GB

The HN7 has 128MB of ram, whilst the HX-1 has a full gigabyte of ram. By having almost 8 times the processing power the HX-1 has a faster refresh rate when accessing the 4WD maps and I also found that the menus opened up significantly faster. I like my gadgets to work quickly so I give the extra RAM a big tick of approval.

Updating: Computer vs Wireless

In order to update an HN7 you have to connect it to a Windows based computer and install two pieces of software, the first is Windows Mobile Device Centre, which allows the HN7 to talk to the computer and the second is the Naviextras Toolbox that manages the data upload. Initially this process can be a bit time consuming but once done becomes a set and forget process.

The HX-1 uses an inbuilt wireless card to connect to the Hema Cloud and downloads its updates, which is a simpler user experience. This is also good news for Mac users, as the HN7 software is not Mac compatible. The wireless feature will also allow for easy sharing of pictures and routes on the Hema Cloud.

Front facing camera: No vs Yes

The HN7 does not have a built in camera for taking geotagged pictures whilst the HX-1 does, so if you like taking pictures and sharing them then the HX-1 is great. The HX-1 has a 5 mega pixel camera, which should enable you to take some good travel photos in decent resolution.

Mapping Updates: 2 years free vs 3 years free

The HN7 comes with 2 years of free updates for the iGo street navigation system and the HX-1 comes with 3 years of free updates. Also for the first time with the HX-1 Hema is offering free 4WD updates for the life of the machine whereas updates for the HN7 are available for purchase from Hema's online store. The HX-1 is the clear winner in terms of software updates, especially for 4WD maps.

Street Mapping mode

I found the HX-1's street mapping program to be a considerable improvement in terms of user experience over the HN7 and with the ability to download iGo map updates, the street mapping side of things go a lot more user friendly. Also all the great CAMPS 8 information on campsites, caravan parks and dumpsites has been retained from the HN7. Overall an excellent experience.

Topographic & Street Mapping in 4WD mode

The HX-1 comes with the ability to download more detailed mapping for the 4WD side of things. These additional maps are available from the Hema Cloud once you have registered the unit. This mapping as you would expect includes the entire catalogue of Hema's mapping, as well as the ability to download topographic mapping of New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania and the HERE street mapping. So if you are going to be using the HX-1 primarily in NSW, QLD or TAS then this will be a major benefit of the HX-1.

HX-1 Summary

So the HX-1 has improved street mapping, more detailed 4WD mapping, a brighter sharper screen, longer battery life, a faster processor and is simpler to update, so I would say that the HX-1 has improved in some key areas on the HN7. Also with the ability to share pictures and routes with other HX-1 users it marks a significant move towards creating a community of users outside of dedicated 4WD clubs. And the extra year of updates for street navigation and free 4WD updates for the life of the unit is a nice addition. As with any major change in design there will be some compromises, just ask Apple about the 3mm audio jack, so I will now go over some of the feautres that have been so popular with the HN7.

HN7

4WD Navigation Programs: OziExplorer vs Hema Off-Road Navigation

The HN7 uses OziExplorer CE as its 4WD navigation program. OziExplorer has been Australia's leading GPS interface software for the last 10 years and has been a favourite of the 4WD community because of its ability to add more mapping to the Navigator. The biggest difference between Hema's HN Navigators and other GPS manufacturers has been this ability to add your own mapping, whether you have purchased additional pre-packaged ECW mapping or have created your own maps using the full version of OziExplorer.

The HX-1 uses Hema's own Off-Road Navigation app as it 4WD program. As such the HX-1 user only be able to download mapping available from Hema's Cloud. For the vast majority of users this will not be an issue, as Hema undoubtedly make the best 4WD maps and for the average caravaner or recreational four-wheel driver the level of mapping available to download will be more than sufficient. If, however you have more particular requirements such as custom geospatial data for a specific area or activity such as prospecting then the HN7 is still the GPS of choice.

Accessing detailed mapping

There is a significant difference in the way that the HN7 and the HX-1 treat their 4WD maps. With the HN7 all the 4WD maps are stored on the external micro SD card (up to 32GB capacity) and are continuously available.

The HX-1 comes with Hema's 150k Explorer Map as its base map and it is always available. To access more maps you need to register the HX-1 with Hema in order to access the maps on the Hema Cloud. Once registered and connected to a WI-Fi network these additional mapping layers will become available as you make a mapping layer active.

In order to access the Hema Cloud mapping if you are out of Wi-Fi coverage you will need to pre-download sections of the map you want onto the internal memory. The HX-1 has a 16 GB internal memory, with 6 GB dedicated to map storage. So in order to benefit from the additional layers maps you will need to download the maps before you set off unless you have mobile data access. My best advice is if you need more detailed mapping on the road then to try to limit your downloading to areas with Wi-Fi such as caravan parks.

Transferring programs, maps and data to a computer

Another major difference between the HX-1 and HN7 is how the 4DW maps are available for use on a full sized computer. With the HN7 you are able to install a cut down version of OziExplorer onto your desktop and transfer all the 4WD maps onto your hard dirve. This allows you to view the maps on a larger screen with a faster processor, as well as to plan your routes and review your track logs. Waypoints and routes can be transferred between the OziExplorer Data folder, which is duplicated on both the desktop and HN7. As far as I can tell at this stage this is not an option with the HX-1 all

This transition from OziExplorer to the Hema Off-Road Navigation program does unforuntely mean that you preious HN users will not be able to transfer their data across to the HX-1, unless they first convert it to GPX, or GPS Exchange Format.

Reversing Camera: Yes vs No

One of the questions I get asked most often about the HN7 is does it accept a reversing camera, the answer to which is yes, in fact it accepts two through a 2.5mm jack. This would seem to be a feature that the 4WD and in particular the caravanning community consider to rank highly. It is surprising then that the HX-1 doesn't come with the ability to connect a reversing camera. I feel it is a feature which is going to be missed.

GPS Chip: 64 Channel SiRF vs 22 Channel

One of the reasons the HN7 is so power hungry, as I talked about in the section on battery life, is due to the fact it is running a high end 64 Channel SiRF GPS receiver. The reason that a good GPS chip is so important is firstly it makes for a more accurate location fix, the more satellites the GPS can find the more accurate its fix, always something of paramount importance to the GPS user and secondly it allows the GPS to work even when there is limited line of sight, such as in streets surrounded by tall buildings of when there is overhead leaf clutter. The HN7 is truly remarkable it quite often picks up a fix through the roof when we are loading them. From the specs of the HX-1 it looks as if it will be using a 22 channel GPS receiver, I am not sure if the loss of 42 channels is going to make a real day to day difference, as you only really only need 4 for a GPS fix and I can say that the demo unit acquired a GPS fix whilst inside our office which is encouraging.

CONCLUSION
After comparing the HN7 and HX-1, I believe that Hema has tried to make the new unit as user friendly and intuitive as possible, which is always good for the user. However when customers ask whether the HN7 is easy to use I always say yes but qualify my answer by saying "but if you are willing to invest the time and learn how OziExplorer works then you will get so much more enjoyment out of the unit, as its capabilities grow with your understanding."

What I believe we now have are two distinct GPS units for two different markets, for the everyday 4 wheel-driver or caravaner who wants a great easy to use navigation device that can be loaded with all Hema's brilliant new multi-layer mapping then the HX-1 ticks all the boxes. However, if you are an enthusiast who wants the best 4WD GPS with the ability to load your own maps as well as access to a huge collection of off-line maps using OziExplorer then the HN7 is the best GPS for you.
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KASHMIR ADVENTURES - PART 3

Eventually we turned off onto a road that ran smoothly along the edge of a vast lake – Lake Dahl. Numerous little jetties lined its shores, and we kept driving almost to the last of them. Here I was greeted by a boy, maybe in his late teens. He had maple-coloured skin, and pale blue eyes. Silently, he hoisted my bag from the car into a very strange ferryboat. It was kind of a floating four-poster bed, complete with a canopy. Climbing aboard, I sat down cross legged on the thin mattress – feeling I wouldn't be able to take myself seriously if I sprawled across it, like some bizarre Michelangelo painting. The boy jumped in, taking his seat at the far end, and began to row us out onto the lake. Once we had gotten a fair distance out, we entered what I can only describe as a floating village. I saw a convenience store, a silver merchant, a haberdasher… all half sunk into the lake. Other boats passed us, heading back to the shore. One of them was filled with a group of guys about my age, who asked me where I was from. When I told them, several key words were yelled excitedly over to me; "Kangaroo!" "Aussie Aussie!" "Ricky Ponting!"
I gave a thumbs-up, to wild cheers.

Eventually we came to the place I would be staying for the next few days – a houseboat named 'The Wild Rose', moored on a small island. Honestly I had no idea what to expect, my experience with floating guesthouses in mountain lakes was pretty limited at that point. I was pleasantly surprised though. Waiting on the small dock for me was Ibrahim. He must've been about sixty, with a bit of a belly, wearing a long robe and a pair of glasses. Ibrahim was the owner of the boat, which his family had taken care of for several generations. The boat itself was a hundred years old, so he said. It really was beautiful; I had to give him that – the carefully carved wooden interior was complete with a bedroom, kitchen, dining room, even a well-furnished sitting room. After we spoke for a while, he left me to settle myself in. Well, this isn't so bad, I thought, striding excitedly up and down the length of the boat. If I'd had the money I probably would've bought the whole thing outright, and had it airlifted back to Perth to start a new life on the Canning.

As the day began to fade, I was left feeling a strange mixture of foreboding and exhilaration. On the one hand, my trust for the travel agency (currently in possession of my money) had waned significantly since news of the 'swine flu outbreak'. On the other, I was in an undeniably brilliant situation – no matter the cost, it's impossible for Kashmir to be a rip-off. In the early evening I climbed a small wooden ladder onto the roof of the boat, and gazed around at the incredible panorama. Snow-capped mountains rose on all sides, hawks and eagles cut smooth slipstreams through the cool air. And as the last light in the sky burnt out, songs from the scattered mosques rose and echoed through the mountains. I took a deep breath. It was a relief to let my thoughts go silent for a while, and enjoy such a peaceful surrender. I realised that this trip was never going to be what I had wanted or expected, and for a brief moment it didn't matter.
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KASHMIR ADVENTURES - PART 2

Two days later it had been arranged that we would meet in the hotel lobby, sort out the payment, and the trip would commence immediately. The first stop would be Jodhpur, as it was approaching the tail end of tourist season in Rajasthan, and temperatures there would soon skyrocket to the low fourties. Raj calmly withdrew an EFTPOS machine from his bag; I inserted my card, and handed over the vast bulk of my available funds. It seemed like a somewhat steep price, but I'd been promised it would cover everything. Once the transaction went through, Raj sat me down to talk about a 'change of plans'. Oh man, that was some seriously bad hoodoo. He informed me that there'd been an outbreak of swine flu in Jodhpur, and that I'd have to postpone my visit there for a week or so. Before I could question this absurd turn of events, I was informed that there was nothing to worry about. Fortunately, Raj had been kind enough to book me a flight to Srinagar, up in Kashmir - it was departing in one hour. With no time to calculate the sudden insanity of my predicament, I virtually ran to the car waiting outside, and we sped off to the airport.

After blitzing my way through the domestic terminal, I managed to reach the gate with a couple of minutes to spare. Soon enough, the tiny IndiGo plane had lifted off, and I was on my way. Still breathing heavily, I settled back into my seat and looked out the window. The teeming mass of Delhi sprawled immensely below, endless streets filled with endless crowds. I was glad to be out of it. Looking around the cabin I noticed dimly that I was still the only westerner present, in fact I hadn't encountered any others during the entirety of my stay thus far. Maybe I was the only one in India; everyone else had received some memo warning them to keep clear of a menacing tropical madness brewing on the subcontinent. The flight from Delhi up to the Himalayas is a surprisingly short one – a little over an hour – and I was astonished to soon see snowcapped peaks rising up below me. We landed on a near-empty runway, and walked across the windswept tarmac to the terminal. After collecting my bag, I had to pass through three separate security checkpoints, and then fill out a form to explain exactly why I had decided to come to Kashmir. The natural beauty, the clean mountain air… the unprecedented outbreak of swine flu further south…

Outside the terminal, I was greeted by my 'guide', who gave me the same, wild smile that I was sure would end up haunting my dreams before much longer. He had a gold hoop through one ear, a faded sports jacket, and seemed very excited by the fact that I was Australian. Following him through the parking lot, we came to his car – which was in fact a small, decommissioned fire truck. Well, I assumed it was de-commissioned; it was not hard to imagine a notice board somewhere in Srinagar, offering a reward for any information regarding a stolen emergency services vehicle, the primary suspect being a grinning lunatic last seen freewheeling it towards the airport. We rolled down streets lined with tin-roofed buildings of wood and mountain stone, many people going about their business in the chill, alpine air. Some of them were dressed in more contemporary, western styles – jackets and jeans – that seemed surreal given our setting, while others wore more traditional, hand-woven garments. Dotted amongst the civilian population were khaki soldiers, their rifles hanging from leather straps over their shoulders. I looked at them with interest, having never really been anywhere that required such an overt display of force to keep things in check. The political landscape here was as dramatic as the physical one, the site of long running tensions and border disputes between India, Pakistan, and even a sect of the local population that felt no allegiance to either. My guide saw the direction of my gaze, and gave me a wink – quite the show, huh?
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KASHMIR ADVENTURES - PART 1

I was a twenty-year old Westerner with a desire to prove myself as some kind of worldly and brilliant adventurer, so naturally I'd set off to India with no plan in mind. To this day, I don't regret the decision – I learnt something from it (I hope). Shortly after touching down in Delhi, I immediately felt like I was in way over my head - picked up by a taxi after my late night arrival, told by the driver that the street my hotel was on had been closed due to concerns over public safety, and whisked off to a tourist office that could perhaps help me set things straight.
The small office bore a government sign out the front, and the walls inside were lined with framed 'Incredible India' posters. I was greeted by a six foot four Sikh, with arms as thick as my chest. He had someone brew me a cup of chai, and sat me down outside while he walked back into the office to call my hotel, and see what could be done. 'Jeeze', I thought, 'this is some real quality service'. Marveling at India's tourist infrastructure, I sparked a cigarette, and felt a little more at ease – soon I'd have somewhere to shower, and pass out for a few hours.
My enormous friend returned a short while later, saying that the hotel I'd booked would be unreachable, but that he knew of one not too far away that could put me up for the night – free of charge. Thanking him profusely, I hopped back in the taxi, and was whisked off to the spot.

I woke early the next morning, and gathered myself for the day ahead. Once down in the lobby, the guy behind the counter asked me brightly where I was going today. I shrugged. Honestly, looking out the glass front onto the street, it struck me that I actually had no idea whereabouts in Delhi I was. He said it was no problem, and that he'd organize a driver to set me on the right track. I'll be damned if the whole universe wasn't conspiring in my favor.
Sitting on the front steps, having a smoke (India really amped up my nicotine addiction at the time) and attracting many bewildered stares from locals, I felt a deep sense of the strangeness of my surroundings. A white face stands out, especially on a nameless street in Delhi. Soon enough, a rickshaw rolled up nearby, and an old gypsy of a man emerged from the displaced dust.
"Hello, my friend!"
Several gold teeth flashed as he grinned widely at me, and motioned to the rickshaw. Stubbing out my smoke, I climbed obligingly into the back.

We zipped along the early morning street, lined with people setting up their stalls for the day. Stray dogs roamed through the crowd, and pale sunlight filtered through the haze overhead. To my surprise, he pulled up in front of the tourist office from the night before.
"Here! You make plan, my friend!"
He gave me another roguish grin, and I nodded slowly in response. A short while later, I was sitting in the office with another cup of chai clasped in my hands, being asked where I wanted to go in India. Over the course of the next hour or so, me and a bearded man by the name of Raj plotted out everywhere I was interested in visiting – Varanasi, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Jaisalmer, and of course Kashmir. I was told by this smiling, helpful devil that it would be no trouble to arrange my accommodation, transport, and meals right then and there - no trouble at all. Gazing around me, at the very official-looking government posters and ministry of tourism signs, I shrugged – why not, what was the worst that could happen?
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THAI ADVENTURES - PART 1

A first night on Khaosan.

It's busy, it's hot, it's Bangkok. Arrival in the concrete jungle.

A considerable lack of trees. Instead there are tall grey buildings, they look weathered. The billboards are huge as well. The streets are teeming with the howl of motor vehicles. I've heard that Bangkok is where the hungry come to feed, that it is the gateway to South East Asia. Damn right it is. Like any good backpacker I found myself on Khaosan road. For those that haven't heard of this street, it's a walking street lined with restaurants, bars, massage parlors, clothing merchants, and a range of accommodation.

The atmosphere is exciting. As night falls over the city there are no stars in the sky. My theory is they all fell to the ground, all those thousands of stars are shining, burning, orbiting around the streets of this city; there are no sky lights, all is illuminated from the floor-up. Bangkok, Khaosan in particular, is filled with transient, like-minded characters, everyone on their way somewhere, this is a stopover city, this is the nucleus that links the whole travelling world of South East Asia together. It's filled with the ambition of thousands of travelers, all of them in the orient to see something that home just cannot offer. Now, I am one of them.

I go to a bar, as all good travelers should on their first night in this steaming city. It's a great atmosphere to meet other travelers. I order the standard – the right of passage meal of Thailand, a pad-thai. Conversation at the bar is all about what is where in Thailand – and further, in South East Asia. Conversation mounts on the pinnacle of people's experience, people that have been south to the islands, people that are going North to Vietnam, people that are on their way from Laos or Cambodia or Myanmar. There's insurmountable knowledge being transferred from being to being about how and where to travel. This, mixed with the excitement of fresh faces and people embarking on their journeys makes for an incredibly animated, spirited atmosphere.

The street is also packed with merchants selling 'cheap for you, a good price my friend'. There's all sorts of useless junk being sold – little ornaments, things to play with - cheap treasures reign supreme. I'm approached from all sides by all sorts of grinning men with these toys. On Khoasan, 'no' means 'maybe'. I visit a few different bars with some new friends, testing the deals on offer from each. It's always happy hour. The nightlife on Khaosan is a rich tapestry of travelers all seamlessly weaving into each other, creating a beautiful, coloured, textured, material that is worn over the heart of every wanderer passing through.

This concrete-heat-swelled-city is matched with a fierce sense of individuality endowed upon the people within it. The Thai people themselves are sparkling, cheeky, colourful, and the travelers are shooting in a million different directions, but for a moment they are trapped in time together, on the hustling, bustling streets of Bangkok.
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AEGEAN ADVENTURES - PART 1
Day 1 - Athens

12hr flight to Abu Dhabi, followed by a 8hr stopover in the airport. Every seat where I can put my feet up and rest my head is taken. I'm reduced to sleeping on the carpeted floor on which I wake up periodically every hour for the next 6 hrs, worried that I've missed my connecting flight to Athens.

I'm now on the plane, a little less stressed than I was before. Still extremely tired but relieved I'm closer to my destination. Yet, I'm faced with another obstacle. No luggage… I'm the last person on my flight waiting for my belongings to come through the conveyer belt, there's no big red suitcase. The only thing I'm handed is 35 euros to buy some toothpaste and other essentials until my luggage is tracked down. Taxi to my hotel alone was 40 euros, thank goodness I had my travel card on me.

Finally, in my hotel room and although I'm without my belongings I'm thrilled to be in a new place and enjoying the warmer weather than what I'd be receiving back home in Perth. I've earnt this shower and I was hungry to splash my face with some cold water. I'd decided to hang my clothes on the balcony to air out, as I will probably need them for the next coming days seeing as my suitcase was MIA. This proved to be one of the stupidest moves I'd play on my whole journey. After my rinse I went to collect my clothes off the balcony however, one item is missing… my jocks. They had blown off my 5th floor balcony onto the balcony of a resident on the 1st floor. "great I thought, now this." I was determined to run downstairs and collect my only pair of underwear from the occupant of the 1st floor apartment. Suddenly, I'm hit with devastation. The man occupying the room on floor 1 has stumbled out of his room onto the balcony, taken one look and my jocks and kicked them over the edge into a puddle of drain water! This isn't happening. No suitcase, no friends around, no one speaking a lick of English and now my last bit of comfort is taking a bath in a puddle of drain water. I've had enough, I'll call my sister and vent to her all my trials and tribulations.

I've woken up 12hrs later and faced the reality that I need to trawl the streets of Athens, birthplace of democracy, for a pair for jocks. They were easy enough to find. On my quest I've found a small shop that sells gyros a souvlaki type snack packed with chips, I gobbled down three then took to the streets to do some site seeing. After visiting the Acropolis, the New Acropolis museum, the Temple of Zeus and the Old Gate of Athens I searched for the nearest restaurant and parked myself in a chair for the next hour sipping on a mojito and reflecting on the last 24hrs I've had in this city. I'm feeling hard done by, hosting a pity party of one in the Acadia restaurant in the café strip. Looking up at the Acropolis that was only a couple hundred meters from me I came to the realization that I was having a sook over so many little things. My problems in the grand scheme of things are so pathetically small that I should forget about them and look towards what's coming up. Tomorrow my two friends from back home would be arriving and the three of us would be setting sail around the Greek islands for the next eight days. I'm fortunate to be here and excited for tomorrow.
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I find there is something really awesome about a massive wall map. In particular the different ways people customise them to fit their own space and to reflect their individuality.

One of my favourite maps is the World DMA Mural as it has such rich colours being a physical map. The World DMA, which many of you will recognise as the Flight Centre map.

The great thing about the World DMA is because it has a flat projection you can centre it any which way you like and trim it to fit most any space.

Here are some examples of kids rooms that have been turned into something special, I especially like the one with the climbing fixtures!
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2016-02-22
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Have you ever wondered what clock the CIA uses to track day and night anywhere in the World. Well if you look in the background of any Tom Clancy movie you will see a Geochron hanging on the wall.
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At over 6ft (1.8m) tall and 9 ft (2.7m) wide the EARTH Atlas is by some way the largest Atlas in the World. So if you were thinking of checking one out from your local library you may need to plan on hiring a small truck before heading down!
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Here is a great video from Hema about the Navigator that covers the main features and benefits that the HN7 will bring to your outback adventures.
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