Garmin has released the Garmin iQue M5, their third PDA with embedded GPS functionality, but first on a Microsoft platform. While certainly a niche device, Garmin looks to have made a quality device that excels at being a GPS receiver but also handles PDA functions well.
The iQue is well built, albeit from plastic. The body is solid though, something that is going to be required for a PDA that will presumably spend more time outside of the office than in. The antenna mechanism is similar to their Palm OS lineup, flipping out of the back of the unit. I found extremely fast satellite acquisition in an open area. Within a few seconds I had 8 satellites, much faster than the iQue 3600.
Garmin didn’t just slap GPS in a PDA and call it a day. They’ve included infrared, Bluetooth, an SD slot, a voice recorder, user replaceable battery, vibrating alarm, car mounting kit and a flap cover that doesn’t leave scarring when removed. They go further to include a high-quality cradle, something of a dying breed with PDAs, and an adaptor to allow charging without the cradle. They’ve also paid attention to smaller issues, by including a charging LED and a button that launches the mapping program. While these might all sound like obvious inclusions, a quick look around at the leading players in the PDA market will reveal that most are dropping the ball somewhere. Funny that it takes a GPS company to make a well-rounded PDA. Okay, there’s no WiFi and the memory is a little light, so you can gripe about that, but otherwise the hardware package seems pretty nice.
I haven’t had time required with the GPS and maps to issue a full opinion, but so far it’s pretty solid. There’s plenty in the default install to play with. I spent a bit of time driving and walking around with the M5 and found both speed and map accuracy to be very good. Of course I did have a high number of satellites to work with, which will yield better results. The main maps can zoom from 800 miles to 120 feet. So it’s easy to see where you are on the map of the
The Garmin iQue M5 is not the first Pocket PC on the block with integrated GPS. Last year MiTAC released the Mitac Mio168 and Navman released the Navman PiN GPS integrated Pocket PC devices. The devices released by these two companies are actually exactly the same product, but simply branded under each companies name. Both the Navman PiN and Mio 168 have sold fairly well and interest has actually built for them since the initial release last year. Since Garmin has a well known brand name in the technology navigation field, there’s no doubt they’ll compete well against these other devices. Based on specs alone we can see that the Garmin removable battery, better processor speed and slightly larger amount of memory puts it ahead of the other offerings. However, GPS performance and mapping software is a big part of the mix with this type of device, so this aspect will have to be looked at carefully in any comparison agains the Mio/Navman devices.
We’ll be back in a few weeks with a full review of the M5, along with more details about the GPS functions and how it acts as a PDA. At an MSRP of $750, this isn’t going to be for everyone, but my initial impressions are very good. If you have specific questions or comments, please post them here, and we’ll do our best to cover them in the review.