Mio C310x Portable GPS Navigation System
By Don Lindich, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
February 5, 2007
Once most drivers have used a GPS navigation system, they don’t want to go back. Besides offering efficient point-to-point navigation and route planning, a GPS will point out restaurants, gas stations, parking areas, entertainment, and other points of interest.
One of the biggest factors keeping GPS navigation from achieving near-universal acceptance has been cost, ranging in the thousands for a factory-integrated navigation system to many hundreds for a portable unit.
In-car navigation is the way to go if you are buying a new car and can afford the cost. Because it is integrated, there are no wires, it will be on at all times and likely to be used more often, and will have a much bigger screen.
Portable units bring GPS functionality to any vehicle, but must be mounted on the windshield or dashboard and plugged into an accessory outlet for charging. The benefit is much lower cost and the ability to move it between vehicles, or even carry it for street navigation when walking in large cities.
Mio’s $299 Digiwalker C310x made quite a splash over the 2006 holiday season, advertised as low as $149 the day after Thanksgiving and at $179 or $199 afterward. Curious as to how such a low-priced unit would stack up, I got one for review. It worked well, with a few caveats.
Small and affordable
The C310x is lightweight but does not really feel cheap. It has a 3.5-inch touchscreen and soft-touch buttons on the side for quick adjustment of volume and calling up the main menu. The box includes a car charger, a disc with uploadable maps and system documentation, and a mounting bracket. Most of the documentation is on the disc, but a quick-start guide is included to get you up and running. It will play MP3s as well as provide GPS navigation.
Speaking of which, the C310x was not very intuitive. Menus and actions were a little hard to figure out without the quick-start guide, but referring to it cleared things up. If you get a C310x, keep the guide close at hand as you familiarize yourself with it.
The screen is not high resolution, but looks good and gets the job done. You can save your home and work addresses under large buttons appropriately called “Home” and “Work.” Need to get home or to work from wherever you happen to be? Just press “Home” and “Route to” and the C310x does the rest.
Entering destinations was easy with the touch-screen. Either enter a specific address, or search for a point of interest such as “Disney World” or “ABC Bowling Lanes” and select it and press the “Route to” button. The C310x will compute the route then start giving directions, for example “Drive 3 miles then turn left.”
Map proves useful
While the voice prompts were great, what I enjoyed most was the map itself, which changes angles automatically (for example to an overhead view when merging from a cloverleaf) and was easily adjustable for perspective. The C310x always seemed to know the best vantage point for the situation at hand and adjusted to it automatically. The left side of the display shows your estimated time of arrival, distance to destination in miles, and driving time remaining. A directional pointer shows which way you should turn and how far you are from making the turn. As you get closer, the distance readout changes. If you are 75 miles away, it will say 75 miles. As you get closer the distance is shown in increments of tenths, hundredths, and feet â€” for example 12.1 miles, 1.08 miles, 500 feet. The name of the road is shown at the top of the screen.
While I found it to be an excellent performing GPS, its cost-cutter nature showed in some areas.
For example, many GPS units will say the name of the road or street: “In 1 mile turn left on Elm Street.” The C310x will simply say, “In one mile turn left.” I recently handled Navman’s F20 unit, which normally sells for $299-$329, and it felt more substantial than the C310x, had a nicer display, and prompted streets by name.
I found the C310x to be a thoroughly effective and enjoyable GPS and a great traveling companion.
At $299 I am not so sure the C310x would stack up well against the F20 and other competitors, though I would have to say based on my positive experience it is worth the asking price.
However, at the online sale price of $199 (http://www.frys.com still has them at that price) it is a screaming deal and a standout value that makes GPS navigation obtainable for almost anyone.
You can see the Mio C310x at http://www.miotech.com.