Mio DigiWalker A201 review

Price when reviewed

The first Pocket PC to have an integrated GPS receiver came from Mio Technology, a division of Taiwanese manufacturer MiTAC. The A201 is therefore a direct descendant of the ground-breaking Mio 168.

Mio DigiWalker A201 review

Like the Dell X51v, the A201 comes with the PDA maker’s own navigation software, called MioMap. It looks remarkably familiar, because it’s essentially a rebranded version of Navigon Mobile Navigator 5, as seen on the Fujitsu Siemens. There’s one major difference, however: MioMap uses Tele Atlas map data, while Navigon uses Navteq. The map data is the underlying database of road names, GPS co-ordinates, traffic speeds, turn restrictions, POIs and so on that make up the maps. Navigon and MioMap, and all the other packages here, are simply graphical front ends that provide a user-friendly interface to the data, along with search and route calculation functions.

Like the N520, the Mio A201 comes with complete maps for the UK and Republic of Ireland on an SD card. Zooming out also shows Europe on the Mio, since the 512MB card also includes major roads of Europe. There are enough shown to get you from city to city by motorways and regional highways. However, while the N520’s install discs have locked European maps (you buy an unlock code), the MioMap disc comes with unlocked detailed maps that you can transfer to your device from a PC. This makes it great value for continental business trips and holidays.

There’s very little to choose between the Navteq and Tele Atlas maps in terms of accuracy. The Navigon interface makes roads easy to see, and road widths scale well on zooming. But Fujitsu Siemens’ bundle edges ahead in terms of additions to the map: road names and POIs don’t clutter the view as much, and there are a few more parks and public buildings shown. The other noticeable difference is the collection of POIs. MioMap includes ATM cash machines – something most people will find extremely useful – where the N520 doesn’t. However, MioMap omits a great many of the smaller railway stations, which could prove frustrating.

An important point to note is that the Navigon version is also much more responsive when zooming, scrolling and selecting menus. While it isn’t a deal breaker, the A201 – which is powered by the same 312MHz processor as the N520 – can become an annoyance when the hourglass appears on the screen even when you just want to change an option in MioMap’s menu. MioMap itself is slow to boot, taking a foot-tapping 35 seconds.

In-car, the experience is virtually identical. MioMap took a marginally different route to Navigon for our test journey, but neither was necessarily better than the other. The difference stems from subjective weightings within the data sets, providing the GPS software an estimated real-world speed for each road in order to calculate the quickest route.

As we expected, MioMap had all the same great features as Navigon, such as bear left/right warnings, speed limit pop-ups and the ability to show two graphics where one turn immediately follows another. However, the road numbers announced, such as “turn left onto the A501” were often different to Navigon’s instructions; Navigon tended to be the more accurate one, but as long as you keep an eye on the screen it’s difficult to make a wrong turn. Both systems are effusively polite with their clear voice instructions, asking us to “please take the first exit”.

Differences between the PDAs themselves are more pronounced. The Mio A201’s GPS antenna is a fold-out affair that stows into the back of the device, making it feel bulkier. When you open it and twist 90 degrees, it automatically switches the display from portrait to landscape – a neat touch. As the aerial doesn’t fold completely flush, the A201 rocks to the right or left when placed on a desk.

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