Mio won our January 2006 GPS group test but the new version of MioMap (3.2) has since undergone some serious tweaking. Previously, its display was blocky but simple to follow. Now the maps are far more polished with simple-to-read road names.
Physically, on the right there are power, menu and volume buttons, while at the top there’s an SD/MMC card slot for additional maps (and MP3s) and an external antennae socket. At the bottom is a mini USB port and a headphone jack. The latter helps with the MP3 player function — virtually as pointless as the contacts feature. What matters is mapping.
Entering addresses is quite straightforward although you must pick a suburb first, which can prove awkward on occasion. The on-screen keyboard is also a little small for those with fat fingers. However, we like how you can navigate to a town centre and how a shortlist of streets appears before you’ve finished typing a street name. Before setting off, you must choose whether the address is a destination, waypoint or new speed camera location.
The display is generally easy to follow. It’s easy to see which way to go, where to turn and the audio instructions are clear. However, some of the added frills feel counterproductive. For instance, when you come to an intersection the map can zoom in and move from 3D to an overhead viewpoint. But all too often the lag involved in the graphical processing meant that the ‘second left turn’ was actually the left turn we were driving past. Despite settings which let you minimise zooming, an overhead view zooms in as you close in on a turn — giving the effect of a frozen screen.
There are many settings but finding them requires practice: two main menus let you access some identical and some different settings. But the settings can be useful. There’s automatic night mode colours, choices of route for car, taxi, bus, truck, emergency vehicle, pedestrians and bicycles and the ability to modify all journeys’ usage of unpaved roads, motorways, ferries, U-turns and toll roads. You can also adjust the main screen layout to include ETA, distance and time to destination, via point or next turn. Uniquely, you can record routes taken and back them up to an SD/MMC card. We also like the ability to stop sticking to a road — useful when going up unmarked bush tracks.
Points Of Interest (POI) are as hit and miss as with all Australian GPS devices. You can select which POIs to display on a map but only their group icon will be displayed: you’ve got to tap the screen to see what type of shop you’re viewing. It’s all very good once you’re used to it but the itinerary system that costs it an award. All too often, when we’d struck a via point, the system just sat there or displayed a distant overhead map leaving us unable to return to the 3D ‘cockpit’ view without re-entering everything.
If the 3D view was constant it would rival the TomTom. However, the TomTom’s BlueTooth features and live speed camera updates see it maintain its lead. Also see Mio’s A701 which embeds the GPS into a phone. For now, we like some C310 features, but it tries to be just a bit too clever.