Monday, August 25, 2008

Live Earth vs. Google Earth - Which One Is Better?

I decided to run a comparison between Google Earth and Live Earth. Here are some of my findings.

Google Earth runs only as a separate executable. Live Earth runs as an ActiveX control within the live maps interface. Microsoft's approach is more integrated but it also means that you cannot run the application full-screen.

Google Earth seems to find locations better especially when they are vague. For example, I typed in "yonge and dundas toronto ontario" and Google Earth found the intersection. Live Earth couldnt find it and simply suggested businesses which weren't even at that location.

Google Earth's ability to handle misspelled words is much better as well. For example, I typed in "young street toronto ontario" and it was still able to find Yonge Street as an exact match. Microsoft Live Earth could not find it.

Microsoft Live Earth splits the search box between businesses and locations. The search assumes that you will split the business name and location into the two boxes. For example, I typed in "eaton centre toronto ontario" into the business box and it asked me for a location. In Google Earth, typing in the same search query finds me the exact match.

The search box in Google Earth is on the left hand side. In Microsoft Live Earth the search box is at the top of the screen. This makes a big difference if you are using a wide screen monitor. Microsoft's map ends up being very wide. Google Earth's map ends up being nice and square.

Microsoft's satellite pictures seem to be more up to date and detailed. Looking at downtown Toronto, the Google Earth satellite picture shows certain buildings under construction which I know are now complete while the Microsoft picture shows them finished. See also the picture of Monarch Park below and you'll notice a significant difference in picture quality and resolution.

Microsoft Live Earth

Google Earth

Both Microsoft Live Earth and Google Earth have 3D modeled buildings. However, Microsoft Live Earth's are vastly superior both in number and in quality. Google Earth shows about 5-10 buildings in Toronto where Microsoft shows hundreds.

Google Earth: Not Much of a City Scape

Live Earth: Now That's a Downtown!

Both applications take up a large amount of RAM to run. Looking at Task Manager, Google Earth was taking up to 800 megabytes of RAM and Internet Explorer was taking up to 600 megabytes. I assume this must be for caching of data.

For smaller towns, both applications seem to be equally poor. For example, searching for Port Hope, Ontario yields a poor grainy image in both cases likely because the high resolution satellite imagery is simply not available.

Google Earth

Google Earth is much richer in terms of content overlays and more flexible in being able to turn them on and off. My personal favourite is the Panaromio overlay which geo-maps personal photographs to locations from hundreds of thousands of users around the world.

Microsoft Live Earth has a feature called "Birds Eye" which does a map of photographs to the map taken from different angles. This feature is not available at all in Google Earth.

Microsoft Live Earth has very nice traffic reporting features. I was able to check the 401 highway in Toronto, see the busiest spots to avoid and also it provides construction updates as well. Google Earth does not have this feature at all.

Both applications provide directions. However, Google Earth has a feature that allows you to "play" the route. The camera will follow the route through the directions showing you in 3D how to drive to your destination.


manny said...

Hey Chris

Nicely written, very good examples with image comparisons. Very good!! Job!


Anonymous said...

Very well indeed .. I would have however . (do to my own lazyness I grant you) . would have liked to seen a compairison chart showing who won which catagories. with total score.
But again . EXCELLENT article the pictures were definatly a nice touch. Not to mention the unbiasness you showed through out the entire article !!! That's what were missing these days. HONEST opinons . .the media is to swayed right or left on everything. Not giving us Just the facts!!

Anonymous said...

Good work on this, I've recently installed both on two computers, and as time goes by, I prefer Google's nice big square of a map but revert to Live Earth when I want to check out the Bird's Eye views of a location - very nice when you want a view from all four compass points. Thanks for posting!