We have been using the Mio C310 for a while here at the GPS Lodge, and when we got it back in May, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t expecting a knock-out performer. I mean designing a solid piece of consumer electronics – software and hardware, isn’t easy, and I have seen my share of poor design in GPS devices. Not just anyone can do this, and from the list of failures in the market it seems like there’s more do designing a sound GPS than one might think. Watch out, Mio has something here in the Mio C310. Is it perfect? No, but who is? It’s pretty darn good and it certainly beat my expectations.
Mio C310 Features
The Mio C310 is a small thin GPS unit that is about the size of a thick PDA (4.33" x 3.03" x 0.78"), with a 3.5 inch touch screen, MP3 playback, preloaded with TeleAtlas maps, a couple of million Points of Interest, an on board lithium ion battery and the SiRF star III chipset. (If you want to learn more about why this is a good thing see our story – “What is SiRF star III Chipset?”) The screen is bright enough in almost all conditions and was never an issue for me to see what was on the screen – I don’t drive a convertible so can’t vouch for reading the thing in pounding direct sunlight. Over several weeks though I never had to crane my neck to see what was going on. As a reminder, the Mio C710 adds Bluetooth and traffic capability standard. For the Mio C310, the Traffic capability is an optional add-on.
The mapping data was solid, although TeleAtlas doesn’t have my 3-year-old street on it yet. This is about to change though, as I met the TeleAtlas surveying person in the center of my town a few weeks back and I pointed out that my street wasn’t in their database. Well, he thanked me for pointing that out, and they now have my street mapped – Now I just have to wait for GPS makers to suck down the new data, right? Like I said, the map data was solid, seemingly better than I have seen out of them in the past. I know that they are working hard to map out all the obscure one-way streets and little side roads, of which there are plenty up here in New England, so it’s not a surprise to see the effects of their hard work.
I was happy with the battery life, several hours of GPS only use was fine, but when using the MP3 player, the unit lost power more quickly. It still gave me a few hours, but not all day. The SiRF star III chipset was great in this unit and snapped up a good satellite signal in no time. I never had the issue of being on one road while the unit thought that I was on another parallel road, like I have seen in the past with other GPS units not using the SiRF star III chipset, in poor reception conditions. The time to first fix was often very short, and generally less time than it took me to get settled in backing out of the garage and taking my first sip of coffee in the morning.
The MP3 playback is a nice to have idea, but not a bread and butter feature of the unit. It will play through the small speaker, interrupted only by the guidance voice telling me to turn. I am not a big fan of MP3 players unless they have FM modulation so you can play it over your car stereo, which this unit does not. HOWEVER, this unit is small enough to fit into your pocket when you get out of the car, and that’s a good time to listen to music on this unit through the headphone jack.
Navigation with the Mio C310
I trust the Mio C310 to get me to the right place without getting me lost or mixed up itself. I mean that’s what a GPS should do, but not all can do that, and after using it for a few weeks, I am impressed with its accuracy of the directions that I trust it blindly to get me to my destination. Last week I was in a part of Boston that I don’t usually visit and had the Mio C310 navigate me home. I followed it blindly through the streets of Boston, onto the highway and right home without missing a beat. It was great.
One thing to call out that they got very right was the prompting for turns. When traveling at faster speeds, the device will announce to you about a turn, 2 miles ahead of time, 500 yards ahead of time and then right at the turn. Plenty of notice, at appropriate times. These are voice prompts, not text to speech, so it announces “Turn Right in 500 yards”, not “Turn Right on Maple Street in 500 yards.” The prompt icon comes up in the form of a watermark turn indicator in the middle of the screen, easy to see and easy to deal with. At the top of the screen, the unit counts down the distance to the next turn, so in a quick glance you can see how far you need to go before you need to turn not matter how close you are to your turn.
One issue that I believe is being considered for the software update is the ability to avoid U-Turns. If you miss your turn, the Mio C310 will nag at you to make a U-Turn in some pretty inconvenient places to get you back on the planned route. Other GPS systems that I have used allow you to avoid U-Turns. In these other units, you would get routed onto other roads that might get you to the destination without a U-Turn, perhaps taking another road a couple of miles ahead. This is a minor issue – one that I think is easily fixed.
Turn the unit on, you are looking at a map screen with a Menu button option. When you tap the Menu button on the main screen, you can choose from 4 choices: Address, My Places, Food/Fuel/Lodging and Map Look & Feel.
Address – Click on this and you bring up a list of states, with your current one highlighted already, as well as a keypad (alphabetical) that allows you to type in a different state’s name. If you want your current state, just hit “Next”. The dialog goes on to allow you to then pick a city, and a street, then a number on that street. Alternatively, you can skip the street name and navigate to the “City Center”. Similarly you can skip the street number and navigate to the “Street Midpoint” which I found useful on several occasions when I didn’t know exactly what address I needed to go to, just a street name.
There are other “Modes” to choose from like search by Cross Streets, or by Zip Codes. The cross street function is OK, but when choosing the second street, it does not eliminate nonsense combinations. It offers you all the streets in the town and you need to count on knowing that cross street. Not a big deal, it would be nice though to pick only from the streets that intersect the first street.
My Places – Click this and you get a choice of Home, My Favorites, History and My Contacts. As you would imagine, the Home button gets you to where you set your home to be. My Favorites brings up a dialog where you can add favorite locations to your Mio C310 GPS. This allows you to add things like your favorite restaurants to the list, but the unit also allows you to categorize them and assign a small icon to the group. So, you can lump all the restaurants into one category so you know how to quickly access them. I like this, as it could keep you from scrolling through dozens of favorites every time you are in there.
History – Click on this and you get a list of the locations you have navigated to. Simple to scroll back and hit that Coffee shop you found last night.
My Contacts – The Mio C310 allows you to import your Outlook contacts into the unit, allowing you to scroll through your contacts and navigate to their addresses. Pretty simple and really convenient.
Food/Fuel/Lodging – This is the name for “Points of Interest” which the C310 claims to have around a couple of million POI’s. So, the Mio C310 allows you to navigate to lots of places like airports, parking, lodging, hospitals, food and tons of other categories. If you want a hospital, it gives you a list of them, with the closest one first. My problem is when I want to go to the Gap, or to lets say Dunkin Doughnuts. To do this, the menus are a little clunky. Instead of a top-level search function, I need to drill down into “Food” before I can do a search for Dunkin Doughnuts. And when I do the search, it drills down to the closest one in the long list of restaurants, but it doesn’t return ONLY the list of Dunkin Doughnuts. For that I click on the little (and I mean little) Binoculars button to search for only Dunkin Doughnuts. This allows me to choose from the dozen or so that would be in a 5-mile radius (You laugh – it’s that sick up here in New England). Minor annoyance, yes. Show stopper, absolutely not.
The POI categories are: Car Service, Hospital, Lodging, Airport, Shopping, Parking, Sport, City Service, Attraction, Fuel, Entertainment, Food, as main buttons and then about 55+ others.
Map Look and Feel – This houses several settings that allow you to see the map in 2D or 3D, convert to Night Mode, and interact with the route that you may be navigating. I am not a big Night Mode user, but I did like it when other units flipped over to Night Mode automatically after sunset. The unit also allows you to set roads to always avoid. This is a nice little feature. So, let’s say that you absolutely can’t stand driving down that one road in town because the traffic is always tied up due to the construction. You can enter this dialog and block out that road from being used in navigation. You can’t block out just a small section of that road – so, it’s all or nothing. The unit is smart enough that if you want to navigate to something on that road that you set to avoid, it will go down that road. I think this is a subtle but innovative plus.
Settings and Stuff - There is a settings button available at the bottom of the menu screen, which brings up the many core settings on the device like brightness, language, etc. You generally don’t need to be deep into this menu, so I don’t mind rooting around in here every now and then. The one item that I found myself going back to every now and then was the brightness setting. When running on battery, I tended to drop it down a few levels to save the battery. One reason you don’t tend to get down in there is that the unit has a lot of the major controls at your fingertips; Power, Volume Up, Volume Down and the Menu button are down the right side of the unit in a nice rubberized button format.
On the main screen you have a mute button, and zoom buttons. Quick easy taps and you are done. One other nice control feature is to simply drag the map around on the screen. If you want to see what’s ahead, simply touch the screen and drag the map to see what’s up there. Very nice. In a few seconds of inactivity the screen pops back to the original location. If you tap on a location on the map, you can pull up a dialog that allows you to set this location as a destination, as the origin of the trip, or allows you to add it to your favorites. Again, easy and intuitive. Finally, when navigating down the road, you can tap on the data bars at the top or bottom of the screen to rotate the data available, so speed and distance to location flips to estimated time of arrival and so on. At the top of the screen you can touch on the data bar and it brings up a turn list for the trip. Nice feature if you need to look ahead to what’s coming.
Review Summary Mio C310
Overall, the Mio C310 is a solid contender, and the highly portable form is a big plus; easy to carry, easy to hide under the seat when you are tucking it out of sight. The navigation is sound and trustworthy. It took me through downtown Boston, despite the tough navigation and ongoing road changes, with ease and confidence. The prompting is clear, the design is clean and it shows that Mio did their homework on this one. There are some navigation menu aggravations that I highlighted above, but with Mio’s concentration on getting the user experience right, I would trust them to get these minor annoyances out of the way quickly. For me, the Mio C310 was a pleasure to use, and for the most part these minor issues seemed to disappear when presented with such a sound package otherwise.