Mitac Mio 168 / Navman PiN GPS Integrated Pocket PC Review

by Andrew Reads (223,053)

Mitac Mio 168 / Navman Pin GPS Integrated Pocket PC Review

by Barry J. Doyle & Andrew Baxter


 

(Note: This review is based upon the Mitac Mio 168 product, but the Navman PiN and Mio 168 are the same hardware sold under two different brands)

Last year, the Garmin iQUE 3600 Palm OS based PDA with integrated GPS created quite a stir.  That unit has been highly rated by users, leaving the “Pocket PC preferred” users to rely on CF and Bluetooth add on GPS solutions.  For those users who hate carrying around the extra add-ons for their Pocket PC’s, a new solution has become available in the form of the Mitac Mio 168 Pocket PC with integrated GPS.

In The Box

Let s first take a look at what comes included with a purchase of the Mio 168


 
1. Adapter/Charger and Synch cable
2. Auto Charger
3. Quick Start Guide, Windows Mobile CD and Headphones
4. Additional GPS software, CD-ROMs
5. Owner s Manual and Warranty Card
6. Auto Mount

First Thoughts

One thing I would like to say about this device right off the bat is that upon first opening the box, I was thrilled with all the accessories, software and manuals that are included with this product.  The Mio 168 even comes with everything you would need to use the device in the car.  It is not inconceivable that many manufacturers would have forced you to buy an extra accessory kit in order to use the device mounted in the car, but MiTAC took the consumer friendly approach of making this an all in one purchase for a reasonable price ($499.95 MSRP).  While in your car simply power the Mio 168 using the included car charger and mount it to your windshield using the included car mount.  Some might be disappointed not to get a cradle or case.  I m happy to pass on the –free ” case as an accessory; usually such a case turns out to be nothing more than a lame nylon cover.  However, a cradle for this priced product is usually the norm.  People just tend to prefer a cradle over a synch cable, but you re out of luck if you want a cradle for the Mio 168 because at the current time this is not an accessory option.

Design

The Mio 168 has an overall slick metallic look; it certainly feels sturdy and roadworthy.   With a comfortable hold, the curved sides provide an attractive way to make the device easy to grip and lessens any chance of an accidental drop.

I certainly expected the Mio 168 to be bigger than it actually is.  I suppose it s a preconceived notion that something with such a thing as GPS built-in needs to be necessarily large.  The Garmin iQue is certainly a larger than average device.  However, the Mio 168 is actually quite a light and thin device.  Weighing in at 5.2 oz this device is about the same size and weight as the iPaq 2215 that I have.  A picture demonstrates this quite nicely:

iPaq 2215 on the left, Mio 618 on the right

The dimensions of the Mio 168 come in at 4.4″ x 2.7″ x .64″ (length x width x depth).  The dimensions on the iPaq 2215 are 4.54″ x 3.00″ x .61″ (length x width x depth) and it weighs 5.1 ounces.  So very similar dimensions indeed, however, the thickness for the Mio 168 might be a bit misleading.  Since the antennae swings back on this device it creates a –hump ” on the top-back of the device.  So the effective thickness of the Mio 168 is increased by about .20 “, but to be honest when carrying this device around in my pants pocket it felt less bulky than such devices as the Dell AXIM X5 and I couldn t tell the difference in size between it and the iPaq 2215.

The four shortcut buttons on this device are quite unique in design.  They definitely made me think of a commercial pilots –wings ” badge that you typically see.


The buttons are easy enough to press and have decent tactile feedback. The top buttons tend to be easier to hit though, you ll see that the surface area for the top buttons ( –notes ” and –tasks ” shortcut buttons) are much larger than the buttons on bottom ( –contacts ” and –calendar ” shortcut buttons).  I would have preferred a design in which all buttons are the same size because making the bottom buttons smaller tends to deemphasize them and make them harder to hit.

In the middle of our shortcut buttons we have a joystick for navigating around the screen or playing games with.  I actually really like the joystick approach.  It s easy to get hold of the stick with either your thumb or finger and pushing it in the exact direction you want to navigate is a cinch.  When the GPS map software is loaded up you can use the joystick to zoom in a rotate the screen.  It works great and feels very natural.

On the left-hand side of the device are located the power and voice record buttons.  They re enough out of the way that you will never accidentally hit them, but at the same time they re easy to press in when you want to access that functionality.  A pet peeve of mine is when I put a Pocket PC into a pocket turned off and then 2 hours later pull it out to find that the device is turned on and almost out of batteries because the power button got bumped.  With the Mio 168 the power button is depressed in enough that such a thing didn t happen, so although there is no –button-lock ” feature such as the Toshiba e405/e805 have in which you can lock buttons to prevent them being activated, the Mio 168 button design is decent enough that you won t be bumping or pushing buttons you don t want to.  The soft reset is also on the left-hand side of the Mio 168, use the stylus to press this in.  The headphone jack is on the bottom left.  I prefer to have the headphone jack on top in general, but can t have it all can we?

On the top of the device we have the stylus and Secure Digital card slot.  Also on top is the infrared beam for communicating with other PDAs or your PC.

On the back of the device is the hard reset button.  If you use the stylus to slide this button into the off position you will hard reset the Mio 168 and lose all your data, it s the same effect as cutting off all battery power.  Be careful!  For some this option might be a little too easy to perform, personally I like having a method to do a hard reset via a single hardware button that is placed well out of the way and impossible to perform action on except for with a stylus.  It s better than having to contort your fingers and press five or more buttons at the same time to hard reset the device like some other Pocket PC devices make you do.

Display

If you re going to be in your car and using a PDA as a navigation device then it s important that the display be clear and easy to see.  The good news is that the transflective LCD screen for the Mio 168 is indeed bright and provides a crisp rendering.  There are no issues with the display, it is well backlit and all the colors render as you would expect (no yellow hues on white backgrounds or such things as we ve seen as issues in other PDAs).  The screen size is 3.5 ” diagonally.  A larger display might have been nice to help in viewing maps, but that would have meant a larger drain on battery power and I had no problems using the display for maps.

The Mio 618 display is nice and bright!

Audio

Audio becomes especially important if you want to use the navigation feature on the Mio 168 that will give you audible step by step directions.  I ve never come across a PDA that has a particularly loud or clear speaker, until now!  The Mio 168 can become loud if you turn volume up all the way, there will be absolutely no problem hearing instructions while in your car, even if Jr. is screaming in the backseat.  So keep your eyes on the road and just listen to whether you re going the right direction, the sound is clear and loud.  This is great for MP3 audiophiles too.  For even crisper audio when listening to music I recommend taking advantage of the included headphones.

Processor

The Mio 168 is powered by the Intel XScale 300 MHz (PXA 255) processor.  I was a little surprised MiTAC didn t go with the 400 MHz PXA 261/263 type of processor.  Recent high-end devices have tended to carry the PXA 26X XScale, with has the added benefit of having built in flash memory.  This extra memory would have been a very nice add-on for a PDA that requires memory hungry maps to be stored on it.

Overall the processor performance is decent, but not blazing.  I found that the Mio map application was sometimes slow to load if there were background processes going on.  Below are some comparative benchmarks for the Mio 168 versus other Pocket PC devices (bolded blue highest numbers indicate best performer).

  Compaq iPAQ 3600 Series (2000, 206Mhz) Compaq iPAQ 3970 (2002, 400Mhz) HP iPaq 2215 (2003, 400Mhz) Dell Axim X5 (2002, 400Mhz PXA250) Toshiba e755 (2002, 400Mhz) Mitac Mio 168
Spb Benchmark index 1000 846 1146 752 1073 1016
CPU index 1000 855 1784 912 1234 1334
File system index 1000 855 1126 855 1270 726
Graphics index 1000 785 567 434 651 1339
ActiveSync index 1000 1101 2155 1518 1479
Platform index 1000 638 1204 629 850 956
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec) 794 656 1257 657 1200 920
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec) 18.2 15.7 27 15.9 20.7 20
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec) 790 710 1262 716 1180 920
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec) 560 480 905 477 768 392
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec) 6.35 5.36 9.78 5.26 7.6 6.95
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec) 476 379 799 376 626 284
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec) 123 118 19.6 112 153 15.1
Internal database read (records/sec) 421 380 1339 398 503 1090
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec) 26.9 19.9 52.3 41.8 42.3 144
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec) 13.5 11.3 22.8 12.3 29.9 16.7
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec) 216 175 60 47.1 72.4 169
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec) 31 21.3 100 22.5 28.3 60.1
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec) 13.1 4.73 7.96 4.73 6.67 5.47
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec) 52.8 82.4 208 79.7 105 176
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec) 515 210 564 238 291 470
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec) 106 62.7 225 65.5 89.1 195
Decompress 1024×768 JPEG file (KB/sec) 319 406 606 423 567 453
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec) 108 89.3 51.4 38.2 55.7 103
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec) 0.046 0.061 0.077 0.061 0.076 0.056
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec) 34.1 55.1 55.4 54.1 55.4 41.1
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec) 2.98 3.97 5.02 3.96 4.94 3.71
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec) 70.4 56.2 102 65 90.6 69.1
ActiveSync: upload 1 MB file (KB/sec) 115 99.4 201 142 135
ActiveSync: download 1 MB file (KB/sec) 94 211 356 249 274

The Mio 168 is middle of the road when it comes to overall speed of device

Memory

The Mio comes equipped with 64 MB built-in RAM of which 62.82 MB is available to the user.  If you want to store large amounts of map data on the Mio you ll have no other option than to buy an SD card for memory expansion.  Maps are memory hogs, but they need to be to store all of the useful information you ll rely upon for navigation.  The SD slot on the Mio 168 will allow you to store up to 1GB of information with the latest and greatest SD cards.  I would like to have seen a little more on board memory for the Mio 168, devices such as the Toshiba e805 are coming equipped with 172MB of onboard memory these days.  However, an SD card is good way to go to keep all the map data separate from other programs you want to install on the device, so at the end of the day you d be buying an SD card anyway.
 

The top of the Mio 618 has an SD slot for expansion

Software

The Mio 168 comes bundled with Windows Mobile 2003 Premium Edition.  This is the most fully featured version of Windows Mobile 2003 you can get, it includes the programs Pocket Outlook, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, MSN Messenger, MSN Messenger, Terminal Services Client, Pictures and Microsoft Reader.  That s all very nice, but the most important part of the software package we get with the Mio 168 is the GPS software.  The included software is called Mio Map but it s actually a 3rd party solution called Destinator 3.  Destinator 3 costs $199.99 when bought as a standalone software package, so just this is a large consideration if you re thinking of buying a Pocket PC with non-integrated GPS and mapping.  The software is award winning, and rightly so.  I ll cover all the features of this package later on in the GPS section.  The map data and Points of Interest database that come on the GPS software CD are supplied by a company called NAVTECH.

Mio also includes some of its own software applications, most of these are utility like tools.  A program called eBackup enables you to backup and restore your Mio using an Storage card, eMenu is an application launcher/device status application, eViewer is a pretty good image viewer application that supports supports .bmp and .jpg images along with providing a file browser, slide show, and screen capture feature to name a few.
 
Stylus

The telescopic stylus included with the Mio 618 is “acceptable”, but I always prefer to use a larger “full-sized” after market solution for my “pen of choice”.  It’s certainly better that the stylus Sony includes with its CLIE PDAs, and better than the stylust that comes with Axim devices for that matter.

Battery Life

The battery included with the Mio is an unswappable 1350 MAh battery.  That s a pretty decent sized battery, not as good as the Dell AXIM X5 1440 MAh battery, but good nonetheless.  Not being a swappable battery is kind of a shame, having an extended life battery is not an option because of this design move too.

In my battery life tests for the Mio 168 I got exactly 6 hours and 26 minutes of power when using the device in a normal mode, without GPS turned on.  The screen was on at close to full brightness during my battery drain test.  I ran an application that simulated opening and closing Pocket Word several times and writing to Pocket Word in between these open and close calls.  Given that the screen was very bright, this is actually good battery life.  With GPS on it s a bit of a different story, battery life is comes closer to 4 hours which is why it s important to have the car charger with you on long trips.  Below are the numbers MiTAC claims for the battery life.  We all know these numbers are usually a little inflated when they come from a manufacturer

Active:

1. Fully charged main battery, w/o GPS function = 12 hours
2. System continue on with backlight setting on middle range & GPS is full power mode = around 5.5 hrs
3. System continue on without backlight & GPS is full power mode = around 7.5 hrs.
4. System continue on with backlight setting on middle rage & GPS is in Trickle power mode = around 7 hrs.
5. System continue on without backlight & GPS is in Trickle power mode = around 11.5 hrs.

Suspend: 21 days (fully charged main battery)

Shut Down: Retain memory state for a minimum of 72 hours after low battery shut down

GPS

The Mio MiTAC of course stands out from the crowd through its offering of integrated GPS.  The Mio 168 uses the SiRF chipset.  The GPS antenna is manufactured by NavMan, a company that has been in the business of GPS for some time.  I found that obtaining satellites from a cold start with the Mio 168 took about 30 seconds, depending on the weather and my location.  It took 4-5 satellites, out of 8 available in the sky, to get a true and accurate reading of my location on the earth.  In general, the location was accurate to well within 30 feet once I had this number of satellites.  One caveat I will add is that the weather conditions and areas building density plays a huge factor in your ability to obtain satellites.  I live in New York and I had to go onto one of the highways next to the water to obtain any satellites whatsoever, if you re in the downtown area of New York then forget about getting any navigation assistance, the buildings completely block any satellite readings.  An NYC taxi cab would benefit nothing from having this device on its dashboard.  You ll benefit much more using GPS locator devices, such as the Mio 168, if you re on a highway or out in the suburbs of America where most people live, city dwellers need not apply.

Of course having the built-in hardware is just great, but if this is all you have you just have a great way of telling you your longitude, latitude, and vertical location on the earth.  Fantastic, that really doesn t make you a better person in life.  However, mix in the jewel of the GPS package, the mapping software, and you have an incredibly useful device and utility.

As mentioned before the bundled software, called Mio Map, is actually sold on the market as Destinator 3.The Destinator 3 Personal Navigation System software.  The award-winning Destinator is a full-featured GPS navigation system. Unlike GPS mapping systems that simply display your location, Destinator tells you where you are, and details how to reach your destination via the most direct route, with minimal hassle, in the least amount of time.
Destinator utilizes the GPS network of satellites to accurately determine your current position. To guide you, Destinator uses  NAVTECH map data supplied by Navigation Technologies Corporation, creators of the digital map database that has become the industry leader for location-based services and navigation.

The Mio 618 guides me along the steets and indicates there’s 106y to the next exit

Destinator’s advanced navigation algorithms and superior map-processing technology transform make for a top-of-the-line vehicle navigation.  It s as good as or better than many dedicated GPS device locator systems.

Destinator provides easy-to-follow turn-by-turn visual and voice prompts guide you to your destination.  Navigation algorithms generate either the quickest or shortest route that meet your specific requirements.  You can also use optimize routes with multi-point routing feature, so if you need to pick-up Jr., go to the grocery store, drop of the last video rental and then get back home the software will suggest the best method to go about doing this.  And then if you make a wrong turn as Jr. screams in the backseat about the lollipop he just dropped on the car floor, then the automatic route recalculation suggests an alternate route to then go.

The audio directions are built-in to the Destinator 3 software.  Multiple and clear reminders precede each maneuver you make.  The Mio 168 will provide voice warnings of an approaching intersection where a turn is specified in your route. Three hundred meters before the intersection, the warnings will be given twice and then once more when you arrive at the intersection.

Mio Map gives you distance, estimated route time, and estimated time of arrival

Graphically the ability to provide zoomed views of intersections enables drivers to have a clear view of their current location, with the map adjusted according to the vehicle’s current direction and position.  You are able to choose a skin for the map that provides enhanced driver-safe daytime and nighttime colors.  Choose between a 2-D, 3-D or “bird’s-eye” view of the map for intuitive and easy orientation.

This is the 3-D orientation for the Mio Map display

And to top all of this off, the GPS software comes with literally millions of categorized points of interest (POI) along with phone numbers.  Want to find the closest clothing store?  No problem, just select clothing stores as a POI and you ll find the closest one on the map and then get directed to it.  You can also synch your contacts to the Mio 168 and if they have addresses associated with them you can easily choose them as a destination for gaining directions too.

Pick from several points of interest you’d like included on the map

I was most impressed with the functionality of the software, on a ride to La Guardia airport I asked the Mio 168 to suggest the quickest route and then provide me with audible directions.  While in the city the device failed miserably, couldn t even tell me if I was on the right continent because the buildings blocked all satellites.  Once crossing into Queens New York the satellites were picked up and the kind ladies voice on the Mio 168 used the 88 or so commands she knew to guide me to the correct location for the airport.

Using the “Mio Map ” console application on your desktop you are able to cut new maps or select regional maps of North America to export to your Mio 168.  This is an easy process, and I highly recommend cutting maps to a small region to get the MB size down.  For instance, the entire state of New York takes 60.0 MB of data to store, but if you just want New York City and surrounding region you can fit it within 3.6 MB of Storage or so.

Full Device Specs

Below is a table of full device specs for the Mio 618:

CPU Intel PXA-255 300 MHz
Video Display: 3.5″ Color Trans-flective LCD, LED Backlight
Resolution: 240 320, 65K colors
Memory ROM: 32MB Strata Flash RAM
RAM: 64MB SDRAM
Communication SiRF GPS module built-in + Patch antenna
Antenna 25 x 25 mm Patch antenna with extended antenna jack
Audio Voice Recording (Mono)
MP3 Playback support ( Software )
Input / Output Touch Panel: Resistive type Touch panel
Input Method: Stylus pen / On-Screen Keyboard / Handwriting Recognition
SD / MMC: For SD, SD I/O and compatible with MMC cards
Microphone: Built-in type microphone x 1 (Mono)
Speaker: Built-in type speaker x 1
Headphone: 2.5mm Mini jack x 1
USB: USB 1.1 ( Client ) for ActiveSync
Infrared: SIR (30 cm, 115.2kbps )
Cradle: 22 pin Cradle Connector ( Same as Mio series )
Buttons / Switch 4 programmable buttons: Tasks, Calendar, Notes, Contacts
4-way Joystick + Enter: Up, Right, Down, Left, Enter
Voice Recording
Hardware Reset Switch
System Reset button
Indicator LED 1 ( Dual Color ):
   Battery Charging – Amber ( Static )
   Battery Full — Green ( Static )
LED 2 ( Single Color ): Notification – Red ( Blinking )
Battery Type: Un-swappable rechargeable Lithium Ion, 1350 mAh
Active:
   1. Fully charged main battery, w/o GPS function = 12 hours
   2. System continue on with backlight setting on middle range & GPS is full power mode = around 5.5 hrs
   3. System continue on without backlight & GPS is full power mode = around 7.5 hrs
   4. System continue on with backlight setting on middle rage & GPS is in Trickle power mode = around 7 hrs.
   5. System continue on without backlight & GPS is in Trickle power mode = around 11.5 hrs.
Suspend: 21 days (fully charged main battery)
Shut Down: Retain memory state for a minimum of 72 hours after low battery shut down
Charging Charger: Charger module
Time: 3.5 ~ 4.0 hours ( single battery pack )
AC to DC Adapter Input: 100~240VAC
Output: 5VDC, 1A
Connection: AC adapter able to connect to either main unit or cradle
Certification & Regulation FCC, CE, BSMI, CCC, MIC, UL, TUV, Ek-Mark
Device Physical Characteristics Dimension: 112.18 mm (Height) 69.6 mm (Width) 16.3 ~ 24.15mm (Depth)
Weight: 147 g
Operation System Windows Mobile Pocket PC 2003
Application Professional Navigation MioMap (North American)
1. USA map, including Hawaii
2. Canadian map
MioMap need to be auto switch to by a software icon ( hot key ) in Pocket PC main page
Package Accessories USB ActiveSync cable x 1
AC to DC power adapter x 1
2-sector Stylus Pen x 1
Microsoft Outlook certification with ActiveSync CD kit x 1
Quick Reference Guide x 1
Warranty Sheet x 1
Service Center List x 1
Packing List x 1
Regulatory manual (multi-language) x 1
Car Kit Accessories Car charger ( for car cigarette plug to cradle connector ) x 1
PDA mounting holster x 1
Glass mounting brace x 1

Conclusion

The Mio 168 deserves a thumbs up rating.  If you re looking for a GPS solution and a PDA, this could be the perfect and most reasonably price combination.  The GPS locator software is extremely good, I can t think of a single feature missing.  The PDA aspect of the Mio 168 is as good as or better than many PDAs on the market. The nice, bright screen and excellent audio are definitely stand-out features of the device.  The overall design is decent and the memory and processor could have been better, but given the fact you re getting a $200 software package, a lot of included accessories for free and a well rounded overall PDA device at the price of $499 (MSRP) then you can t really complain.

Pricing and Availability


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