Access Tech Review: The HumanWare Stellar Trek

A handheld device with several buttons and no screen appears next to a compass

Access Tech Review: The HumanWare Stellar Trek

By Karl Belanger

It seems odd at first for a company to come out with a dedicated navigation device. Apps handle this task so well. Humanware’s Stellar Trek is just that—a stand-alone GPS device with Optical Character Recognition and address-finding capabilities. 

The Stellar Trek has a very simple layout—a four-way directional pad in the middle with a confirm button in the center, and two buttons above and below. One side has volume buttons, and the other has power and record buttons. It’s a very simplified control scheme. 

The Stellar Trek supports all common features from GPS devices: location information, routing, points of interest, etc. It also has landmark and custom route recording, which most other GPS products lack. 

Unfortunately, the product price—$1,595—is a deterrent for users who could most benefit from the device. It also currently lacks features which would compel comfortable smartphone GPS users to make the switch. That said, the Stellar Trek is a solid device that is well worth it for the right users.

Setting up the Stellar Trek

The Stellar Trek has a lanyard attachment point in the middle of the bottom edge, with USBC and 3.5mm headphone jacks above and to the right, respectively.

The left edge has volume buttons, which can be pressed and held together to switch between adjusting volume and voice speed. The right side has a power button, and a landmark/route button just below it. Pressing the power button while the device is on toggles sleep mode, and holding it turns the device on or off. 

The front of the device has the main controls. The back button is at the top left, with the Go-To button to its right. Below these buttons is a four-way directional pad with a confirm button in the middle. The Where am I button and the Repeat button to its right are below the directional pad. The speaker is just above the bottom edge. The camera is the only thing on the back of the device.

The Stellar Trek guides you through a setup process which is fairly self-explanatory. Be aware that the maps are quite large depending on your map selections. I wouldn’t recommend using a hotspot or other metered connection—you’ll blow through your data allotment quite quickly. The process may take hours, and you won’t be able to use the Stellar Trek during the download. 

Unique Features of the Stellar Trek

The Stellar Trek has two unique features that smartphone GPS apps don’t have—virtual map browsing and custom landmarks and routes. Virtual map browsing lets you virtually navigate around an area. You can either start from your current location, or by entering an address. Using your current location requires a GPS signal, but browsing from an address just requires the relevant downloaded map. 

Once you start virtual browsing, you can use the arrows to move around between intersections, follow specific streets, and get a feel for the area you are navigating through. You can also get points of interest in the block you are currently focused on.

Virtual browsing is useful for learning routes, or even exploring areas you will be traveling to. The device provides the current street name, cross streets, distance traveled, and points of interest if requested.

The Stellar Trek also lets you record custom landmarks and routes. A custom landmark lets you record a four-second message linked to your current GPS position. You could use this to flag sidewalk construction, useful environmental landmarks, waypoints through open areas, etc. Custom routes allow you to record routes as you walk them, and travel those routes again later. This could be useful if you have routes that don’t follow standard GPS directions. It’s also useful for people less comfortable with travel to have known routes, which also use custom landmarks to provide additional information.

My Impressions of the Stellar Trek

The Stellar Trek has a niche market. It currently isn’t very different from smartphone apps. Users who travel extensively might find its browsing mode useful for learning new areas before arriving. The ability to record custom landmarks and routes is another cool feature which smartphone apps don’t do yet. 

The Stellar Trek is worth considering if you find these features especially useful, or need to preserve your phone’s battery for other tasks. The Trek is also great for users who aren’t comfortable with smartphones and want a simple interface. Its straightforward control scheme with large, tactile buttons makes the Stellar Trek easy to pick up and begin using. Since maps must be downloaded prior to heading out, you don’t need to worry about data plans or cell coverage to get directions. Its battery life seems solid enough to get you through a day of travel without taxing your phone, leaving it available for other tasks.

HumanWare could add features to the Stellar Trek through software updates that could make it more compelling for smartphone users. It could download transit information along with map data, and while this wouldn’t give real-time arrival updates, it would enable multi-modal routes. It could pair with phones via Bluetooth for more timely updates, sharing routes with friends, backing up routes to the cloud, etc. I look forward to seeing what innovative features Humanware adds to the Stellar Trek in the future.

If you don’t use a smartphone or are less comfortable using one, want a solid GPS device with routing and navigation features, and OCR capabilities as a bonus, then I highly recommend giving the Stellar Trek a look. It’s available for $1,595 from