Mapping sites showdown! Part 2: Bing Maps

Hello and welcome to my review of the online mapping website Bing Maps from Microsoft.

This review will be broken down into the positives and the negatives of the mapping site and will compare the performance of the routing engines at the end of this review.

First we shall take a look at the positives of the mapping site.

Subject: The interface:First I will note that the interface for Bing Maps is very intuitive, and you can get started on getting a map or directions right away.

Please note: I am testing and basing my review on the Microsoft Silverlight version of bing maps, your mileage may vary on the standard AJAX version. features are equivalent on both experiences except the following: Streetside view, Map Apps, PhotoSynths, and Dynamic Labels are only on the Silverlight version.

I found the interface to be very fast and performance was pretty good on my quad core system

The interface was also very awesome and fun to use with the new SilverLight controls. Look ma! No tiles! The map loaded smooth and dragging around had a nice feel to it. The zooming was smooth as well.

The biggest thing I really liked was the awesome StreetSide imagery! It is fantastic with very crisp image quality compared to Google Maps Streetview. It is actually rendered at a 3d image with photo textures applied, making it look realistic and not the distorted fish eye view you see in hotel virtual tour applications. “driving” with that is also very smooth and has some neat transitions as well. It is getting closer to taking a virtual drive to a city you want to check out. I like it a lot!

There are also a lot of useful “map apps” that can help you find, for example, restaurants, hotels, and some health apps to aid in people doing research, and the most essential traffic updates.

Now on to the next point and one of the most important points: Address input and processing:
I found the address inputs and processing to be quite accurate. They are using NAVTEQ's mapping data which they are the largest digital mapping company and have been pretty good with their data quality. I have only seen a rare few instances where the data has been inaccurate and you can easily report it to them and they should have it corrected. I have seen many corrections I have noticed be fixed moderately quick. Bing Maps finds most destinations inputted correctly but searching comes up with different results then Mapquest or Yahoo Maps.

In the directions category, Bing Maps gives hints like “if you've reached x you've gone too far” aiding drivers in finding their destinations. Route wording is very clear and to the point. It formats very well for cellphones or devices with smaller screens.

Now let's move on to the negative things about Bing Maps:

First topic: The interface:
The color scheme may be harder for people using older, more washed out monitors, or people using a laptop in the car. This is also harder for people that have vision impairments and Not good for night-time viewing. The color scheme is very white looking. It presents fine on my nice monitor, however other people might have problems.

There also is a lack of easy-share links for facebook, twitter, etc. But that is not too much of a problem.

The third topic is printing options: The printing options are not as much as I expected and only presents limited images for select few turns. Mapquest and Yahoo Maps have excellent printing options compared to Bing Maps.

Now let's move on to the routing options!

Route options: Shortest time, shortest distance with avoidances that include the following: highways and tolls and transport modes that include the following: walking, and driving.

Rating for routing options: 4/5

Now on to the Routing engine performance!

I took my trip to MicroCenter to purchase my monitor that I am now using to write this review on. It is a good bit of a trip, but I thought it was worth it!

I sent the directions to my cellphone as a MMS message so I can take it with me since I did not have a printer at the time and I did not have a GPS unit or a phone with one. It worked and formatted very well and was very easy to read.

I did choose to drag the route, as I did not want to take the back way to my destination, However I did let Bing Maps do the rest.

The route was : 154.3 mi, 2 hr 18 min according to Bing and seemed reasonable.

The timing was fairly accurate, had we not stopped at a rest area and talked to a man with his dog for a long time. (laughs)

I will display some of the routing information here for you to see how the routing engine performed for this trip. I will start at step 7 to avoid displaying my current location:
    7. At exit 44B, take ramp left for I-70 West toward Columbus 70.7 mi 8. At exit 108B, take ramp right for I-270 North toward Cleveland 20.0 mi 9. At exit 22, take ramp right for SR-315 South toward Columbus 3.8 mi 10. Take ramp right and follow signs for Bethel Rd 0.3 mi 11. Turn right onto Bethel Rd 0.2 mi 12. Arrive at 747 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43214-1901 The last intersection is Olentangy River Rd If you reach Jasonway Ave, you've gone too far B: 747 Bethel Rd, Columbus, OH 43214-1901

When we did get to Columbus, OH we encountered a very messy road system at I270-W and it looked very messy, however, Bing Maps made it look easy and only had one step for the I270 mess. This was very good and made us confident and more relaxed. I am very happy that the directions were very blunt and easy to remember, this is great for drivers who don't want to constantly look at the directions and want to keep their eyes on the road.

The route also ended quite well and was accurate for the ending point. Was very close. However Bing Maps did not tell you which side of the road it was on and didn't tell you when you needed to turn into the shopping center where MicroCenter is located.

Now the default route it would have chosen was pretty good as well. However I will only be reviewing routes I did take and actually drive on to be fair as possible and to understand the rationale behind each mapping site's decisions.

I will have to say that I was impressed with Bing Maps routing engine performance and I would easily give them a 4.5/5 overall!

Overall my ratings for each category are as follows:

presentation:4/5 routing performance:5/5 printing:3/5 ease of use:4/5 routing options:4/5 website performance:3/5

Recommended: Yes