November 22, 2006

Review: Mio H610 by GPS Lodge

H610 Hi-Res.JPG

The Mio H610 is a svelte little GPS device that has is an absolute beauty to behold, with its amazing screen and its simple rounded shape. The unit is a strong step forward in the GPS field, leading in many ways, others who haven't recognized the opportunity to get a beautiful device delivering a GPS with some seam functions that bring it darn close to a PDA device. The Mio H610 performs well as a GPS, and adds on a lot of simple functionality that make it a data center for travel and a general life-aid.

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MioH610onBox.jpgThe Mio H610 is a simple, if not elegant design that allows it to fit into your busy, gadget laden lifestyle with ease. It's portrait based orientation makes it feel more like a PDA type product than the typical landscape oriented GPS device. Navigation is provided by a Mio Map branded version of the iGo navigation software. The H610 has a simple on button on the top of the device, a "Menu" button on the left side, and a power/USB connection as well as a headphone jack on the bottom. It comes with earphones and a headphone cable based control panel to allow you to control the music playback without getting into the menus onscreen. There is an SD slot in the right side that allows you to store media files, along with a reset button and a "lock" for the touchscreen. The unit runs several applications that you move into or out of, including the navigation application. The unit has changeable faceplates and uses anti-aliasing capability so that the screen looks brilliant and smooth. The fast processor helps drive the smooth zooming and panning. The unit is driven with the SiRF star III chipset, but in my experience, the satellite reception wasn't as mind-blowing as some other SiRF star III equipped units; like I couldn't pull in a signal indoors as easily. I don't think that this is going to be a hinderance in normal use, but you won't be able to show off the unit sitting around the office.

Overall, navigation is sound, and I like the interface. The Mio Map software, takes advantage of the beautiful screen by offering nice panning of maps and highly detailed maps and icons that pop off the screen. You are able to navigate to addresses, Points of Interest, and coordinates which should get you just about anywhere you want to go. Mio uses Teleatlas maps; not my favorite but getting better. When you tap on the screen, a small menu bar pops up from the bottom of the screen to allow you to pick from several options: Route To, Add as A Via in the middle of a trip, Continue to this location after the current destination is reached, Add a speed camera to the database, and Add a custom POI to your database. This is a lot of functionality in a little space with a simple action; I like it.

Through the menus you can also program multi-point destinations and the unit offers clear spoken directions through its small but very loud speaker on the back side of the unit. There is a mute icon on the screen, but I wish I could have a slider for volume in addition to the muting capability. The screen based icons are small but very functional, including zoom, satellite status and what I'll call view. By toggling through this icon you get direction of travel up, north up and then "airplane" view which gives you a customizable view of your route or general area. It's nice to have this ability on the main screen so that you can flip between your main navigation and an overview of your area or route. This really helps to get your bearings when you are traveling a route. I will say that the icons are small, and tapping them with fat fingers can be tough. This is why Mio added some nice little stems to the dongle that hangs from the wrist strap. With this in hand, you can tap away with decent accuracy. Down the left side of the main map screen you get zoom in and out, and then a set of tilt controls that allow you to change the tilt of the view when viewing the map.

I recently went to Plimouth Plantation with the Mio H610 which was a bit of an oddity, traveling with the aid of a small GPS to a place where they reenact life after the crossing on the Mayflower when the best navigational aids they had were a compass and a piece of wood on a line to tell them how fast they were traveling. So, while they took some nine weeks to travel from England to the outer Cape Cod (where they first landed), I was able to navigate there with ease and confidence using the Mio H610. I was able to pull up Plimouth Plantation in the POI list and navigate to their doorstep using the Mio H610. It barked out turn commands at regular intervals in the male american english voice. The H610 comes with many languages, but at this writing only one voice in "American English". When navigating I liked to hit the menu button on the top left side of the unit that offered a "cockpit" view. This view is a nice navigation view that shows you four data fields at the bottom; three of which are programmable. These show the road that is upcoming, as well as things like speed, time to destination, etc. At the top of the cockpit view (the view on the screen at the top of this post), you get a turn indicator for the next turn (left, right, bear left, etc), as well as turn countdown bar that goes horizontally across the screen under the street name.

When not in the Cockpit view mode, a the top left of the screen you can tap the "Route" icon which brings up a routing menu allowing you to edit the route as needed, or view an overview of the route as needed.

There is a ton of flexibility to the system and how it is displayed. You have the usual routing options of fastest, shortest, etc. but you also have the ability to show speed limits (mostly for highways), and the ability to sound an alarm when you exceed the limit by an amount that you set (either as a percentage of the speed limit or a hard number of MPH over the limit). In a nice move, they have included the ability to record a track, essentially a bread crumb trail for where you go. This allows you to see it on the map, and then export it as a GPX file that can be displayed on a lot of free or inexpensive GPS software. Some will convert this file into a KML file for use in Google Earth. You can then send to friends and show them where you traveled to.

Media Player
The Mio H610 does a nice job of playing music too. While the media player is a separate application, it can play music while the navigation software is running. Unfortunately you can't flip easily to the music player to change music and then back to your route, the player will play while you are traveling down the road, without a performance lag that I could see. The media player will also show pictures and MPEG4 video. The screen and playback was crisp and would certainly be a nice companion for anyone on the road.

Other Stuff

The Mio H610 has a ton of other things that make exploring it fun, and might just help you out later on down the road. I won't cover them all here, but here's a flavor of what they have. It has a set of fun games that kept me entertained for a while, and doing pretty well on the Gem Stacker. The graphics are good, and the games are impressive for a little GPS. The unit has a world clock functionality, and a packing list helper function. Could help you when you are packing for that jet setting route around the world. I mean the thing also has clothing size conversions and an electronic compass. I think they covered a lot of territory here.

Review Summary - Mio H610

Mio has set the bar for graphics quality in this small sized GPS. So the frontier on smaller pocketable and highly portable GPS units has been opened up by Mio with the H610, and the future looks bright. Will others follow? The Mio Map software that is based on the iGo platform is a good navigation system with only a few things to quibble over. Searching and data entry is sound and not hard to follow where you are. There are a couple of menus that seem redundant (lots of settings and advanced settings menus), which makes the learning curve a little longer than I would like. Once understood, I was able to navigate the menus and the software quickly and easily. The icons on the screen are useful, like the mute and the ability to toggle between the North Up, Direction up and the Overview settings. I liked the pop up menus for navigation once you touched a location on the map. This is a sound device, and depending on your point of view, the size is going to be a huge plus or a drawback. If you want the ultra-portability and the PDA type functionality, you're golden with this unit. I think that Mio has stepped up here with the design and the adoption of the iGo software platform into their Mio Map navigation application. Nice work.

More at Mio and Amazon

What's in the Box - Mio H610

  • Mio H610 Navigator
  • Neck Lanyard
  • Wrist Lanyard
  • Earphone Controler
  • Earphones
  • Windshield Mount
  • Adhesive disk for Dash mount
  • Mini USB
  • 12v Car Charger

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    Posted by Scott Martin at November 22, 2006 1:22 PM
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