January 29, 2008

Mio Digiwalker C720t Full Review

MioC720TGPSwithTraffic.jpg
The Mio C720T is Mio’s is the new top of the line Mio that combines the great features of the Mio C520 with a new TMC traffic cradle to offer what is finally becoming an important and more popular feature for those weary commuters who deal with traffic congestion on a daily basis. The widescreen unit features not only traffic alert and re-routing capabilities but Mio’s split screen capability with a tabbed interface that puts a lot of information at your fingertips while comfortably navigating along with the map displayed. The Mio C720T also includes a 2 Mega Pixel camera that allows you to grab pictures of things along the way. Hey if your cell phone has a camera, why can’t your GPS?

With Text-to-speech and Bluetooth handsfree capability the Mio C720T sits firmly in the premium segment, but like all Mios, the price is more comfortable than other units on the shelf.

Design

The Mio C720 has a slim design and slender look to it looking as much like a picture frame as it does a GPS. The give-away is the mount and associated cords coming out of the unit. The Mount for the Mio C720T is larger than most because it has the TMC receiver built in and feeds data through the data contacts on the bottom of the GPS.
Mount.jpg
The mini-USB power cord comes out the back of the mount (not through the mount like the Mio C520!!!) along with the separate TMC antenna cord that pulls in the FM signals for the unit. Love these mini-USB plugs as it conveniently charges my Blackberry too. I would prefer that the FM antenna is integrated like in the Nuvi 660.

The power button and shutter switch are on the top right side of the unit. Easily confused for the first few days, the different size and tactile feel gives you a cue as to which is which. I didn’t have any issue after that.

The back side of the unit sports a single speaker that is plenty loud, and the small camera lens. The unit ships with a protective case that will help you keep that lens scratch-free.

The left side has an SD slot for media data as well as a headphone jack. The back of the unit has the speaker that is plenty loud, and a small external antenna jack.


Navigation

Navigation with the Mio C720T is fairly easy with numerous ways to find your destination. The Mio Map version on the C720T includes a “type ahead” feature that shows you only the letters that are available next in the word that you are typing. So, when you type Maple St., and you type the “M”, the unit will only highlight letters that can come next, including “A”. This has the effect of speeding input; net, a big help here.

The POI database is robust (12 million Points of Interest! - that’s about twice as many as most other high end units) and includes phone numbers of the businesses, which can be a big help when you are out on the road.

The Mio C720T has the ability to search for stores and places of business, which is a huge help. The Mio C720T allows you to search for many different POIs and obviously navigate to them from the search terms. The Mio C720T has store level data, allowing you to navigate to a lot of branded stores. The Mio interface also has a lot of subcategories, allowing you to get to a branded pharmacy for example pretty quickly. I would love to configure this myself, but am happy to see the subcategories anyway.

Split Screen – Tabbed Browsing
I first used the split screen on the Mio C520 when I was reviewing it, and enjoyed the access to the data. I continue to think of it as an asset, but the traffic data starts to get a little small on these tabs.

The split screen is optional while navigating a route. Touch the small arrow in the upper right corner of the map, and you can hide the split screen. Tap is again the split screen grows out of the right side of the unit. With it shown, you quickly see that the right side of the screen is actually a tabbed interface. The main tab shows key navigation data, including speed, time of day and date when you are not navigating, but a additional helpful information when navigating to a destination. When navigating the unit shows current time, estimated time of arrival, ETA, Distance to destination, as well as right at the top of the screen distance to next turn and a turn indicator arrow.

The next tab shows distance to gas stations which may also be a good thing while on a trip. The POI’s available is configurable, so that you can see only the POI categories that you want to see.

In order to change what is showed, you need to display on the map the POI that you want to see; from the Map Screen:
1) Tap the lower left “Menu” button
2) Tap the Gear or “Settings” button
3) Tap the “Manage POI” button
4) Search through the POI list and when you get to a category that you want displayed, you highlight it and then tap the “Show” button in the lower left corner of the screen. [In order to highlight a higher level category, you can tap it, and then tap the “Back” arrow in the upper left of the screen to highlight the category button.

The POI tab now has the new POI category or categories that you just highlighted. You can do multiple categories.

The Third Tab shows traffic incidents. More on traffic below, but the traffic incidents are listed in order by distance from you.

These turn indicators show you the distance to that turn as well as the street name. This can be a big help when navigating, and I found it reassuring when I was trying to scan the route when going into unfamiliar territory. All of this can be had without losing sight of the maps or the layout of where you are going that stays right in front of you, inspiring confidence in your navigation experience.

Traffic
I was able to use the Mio C720t on several trips into Boston during rush hour. Typically I take off ahead of the big crunch, so as I approach the inner beltway, the back ups start to happen. The unit was able to pull down the data through the FM antenna as I drove, and adapt the route a bit better than other units I have used with TMC traffic. So instead of routing me onto surface roads for a bit and back onto the highway, the Mio routed me onto a totally different highway on one trip into the city. Overall a smarter approach. On the way back out, it sent me off highway and onto surface roads most of the way home, essentially telling me that I was screwed if I took the highway. The roads I took ranged from state highways to back roads through neighborhoods, that I have to say seemed to get me home earlier than I originally thought I would. So thumbs up on the routing for me around Boston.

There are some interface issues that I ran into though. The unit does not easily offer you a readable interface for traffic along your route. I was able to go into the menu, then to route, then info and finally to fit route to screen to see my route and associated traffic incidents. This became an easy habit, but could be improved.

The traffic tab offers a quick view of the traffic incidents around you in a list format, but the reality is that the writing is quite small when you figure in the road names around you. So as a result, the warnings are hard to interpret while driving, and a quick tap on the icons end up as maps that area sometimes hard to see where they are; too small to see the exact location. Net you spend a little too much time with your eyes off the road to make it worthwhile.

Text to Speech
Text to speech is an option worth paying for in my opinion, as it really helps when navigating in urban and densely populated areas where the streets are only a few hundred yards apart. It makes it a lot easier to figure out where you are and where to turn as you drive along. It can be the difference between watching the GPS unit for how many more yards to go before the turn and watching the road while listening for the street name as you drive. If you are in an area where the streets are close, chances are you may also be in some traffic, and watching the road is a much better thing to do in those situations.

The text to speech capability on the Mio C720 is good, and amazingly enough it doesn’t butcher some street names like you think it might. While it does have trouble with some of the street names based on native American words that are so prevalent around New England, it does just fine on a great majority of the ones I run into. I had the choice of one female TTS voice, and would have liked a couple of others to choose from, something that you can do on other higher end units. The voice is not as smooth as TomTom’s text to speech engine, which is one of the best in the class, but it’s not bad.

Bluetooth Handsfree
The Mio C720T also offers Bluetooth handsfree capability for connecting not only to your phone, but to headphones to listen to music. I don’t have a pair of headphones, so I can’t comment on that, but the handsfree mobile phone feature works well. The set-up was not hard, but not as straightforward as I would have liked. You need to jump out to the main menu shell (higher than the Mio Map program), to get the set-up going. I was able to navigate the set up without reverting to the manual, and it only took a bit of trial and error to set up. Calls were fairly clear, and easy to complete, a feature that I like to have.

Camera 2.0 Megapixel Geoencoded Pics
MioC720tCameraLens.jpg
The Mio C720t comes with a 2.0 mega pixel camera on the back side which is something that Navman pioneered back in the day, and with the acquisition of NavMan by Mio, this is the first execution of that type of capability in a Mio product.

I was able to take some pictures with the unit, though the lens is slow to focus and there is no flash, I was able to get geo-encoded pictures directly from the unit. You unfortunately need to exit the Mio Map program out to the shell to use the camera. Once you have the shots loaded on the Mio, you can browse them and see with a little satellite icon which units have the geoencoding. Tap on that picture and then you can tap on its full size image and see some icons on the right where you can then tap the “Route to” icon and the unit opens up the Mio Map software and navigates you there.

Another fun little item is that it includes a business card scan feature to use the camera to grab contact information. The program is by Pen Power, and does a decent job of importing business cards by taking a picture and using optical character recognition. I was able to grab a half dozen business cards with only minor changes to the files once the data was imported.


Review Summary
Overall, I think that the Mio C720 is a decent navigator but it struggles in a few areas that are pretty key for the unit. I like the traffic and routing capability and am thankful for the couple of times that it routed me around disaster, but the unit has some interface issues that hold it back. I continue to think that Mio can offer a value in the marketplace, but with that said, the reason to buy this device is for traffic, and the balance of benefits vs liabilities is not an obvious “Yes” with this one. I continue to like the lower end Mio models, but think that the traffic interface on the Mio C720t needs some more development.

  • Mio C720t Official Product Page
  • Mio C720t Manuals Download Page
  • At Amazon - Mio C720t

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    Posted by Scott Martin at January 29, 2008 8:22 AM
  • Recent Comments

    Will the Mio C720t print the GPS coordinates on the photos?

    Desperate to find out.


    Posted by: john at September 4, 2008 5:10 PM

    i have a mio c310 and did not get the upgrades as i didnt no how can you tell me where i can get up grades now thanks


    Posted by: jenny at June 5, 2008 5:58 AM

    WARNING!! Do NOT buy a MIO GPS Unit! You are only setting yourself up for frustration! I am the very sad owner of a Mio C520. It is awful! I enter personal addresses into Contacts through Tools, but when I try to map to them through the POI in Map mode, the addresses aren't even close to what I entered!!

    And for some reason, every time I exit a freeway and need to make a left turn, the unit consistently wants me to make a RIGHT turn, drive about a 1/4 mile, then do a U-Turn to head in the proper direction. This is WITH the U-Turn option disabled.

    And the route calcuation leaves a LOT to be desired! On routes that I KNOW are faster via the freeway, the unit calcs a route using the streets, and I mean side streets not even major thoroughfares.

    I've been working with Tech Support for about 3 months via email, but have not been very successful in getting any of the problems resolved. I can't say they aren't trying because they are. But so far none of my problems are resolved. They're last suggestion was to reload the software and maps from the CD. I just did that and...it didn't help. So, I just entered another entry into MIO Help. Should be interesting to see what they say now...... :-(


    Posted by: STJr at February 1, 2008 5:21 PM
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