The Mio C320 is a widescreen GPS follow-up to their widescreen C520 model that hit the market earlier this year, and has already made a mark on the shelves brining widescreen affordability to the masses. The Mio C320 can be considered an entry model widescreen GPS that offers solid navigation on a widescreen unit without some of the features that are found on mid-tier models. You still get SiRF star III chipsets, a widescreen, maps of the US, as well as MP3 playback capability. The unit hits its price point by shedding the Bluetooth handsfree capability and the maps of Canada along with some POI data. It does maintain the split screen capability that the Mio C520 brought with it (See my review of the Mio C520), which is a user selectable option and one that I personally like.
The Mio C320 was announced today, but I have had the opportunity to check it out ahead of the launch to put it through its paces over the last couple of weeks before the general public gets its hands on it. The unit I used was a full working model.
The Mio C320 continues the minimalist design that surrounds the widescreen with a sleek black frame. Like the C520, the mount has a pretty wide mounting cradle that makes it easy to hit when mounting the GPS unit, and the cam lever action makes getting the unit on the windshield easy also. The articulating mount takes a couple of hands to set, but once you tighten down the screws the mount is solid from there on out.
I mentioned in the C520 review that the unit has a mini-USB power inlet in the bottom of the unit, but unfortunately uses a mini-USB plug in the car that comes straight out instead of an “L” plug. This creates a couple of tough situations that I would put in the refinement category, and not in the “can’t stand it” category. You will need to have the unit just a bit higher off the dash than others because the plug comes straight out the bottom of the unit. The unit’s mount also has a hole for the mini-USB plug to go into the unit, not a slot (see pictures at my Mio C520 review). This makes taking the unit off the mount a two-step process: 1) unplug the mini-USB, 2) Dismount the unit. If there was a slot, you could simply dismount the unit and stow it to get it hidden when you run into stores, etc. I have resorted to taking the whole unit off the windshield, which in the end is probably the safer thing to do.
The top of the unit has a single power button that is easy to operate and a quick tap powers off the unit. 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. The unit has an internal battery that should last several hours, I had no issues with it lasting plenty long and I believe that the claim of it going around 5 hours would be accurate.
Navigation with the Mio C320 is fairly easy with numerous ways to find your destination. The new Mio Map version is on the C320 and it 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 Mio C320 has 1.7 Million POI, versus the 6 Million in the C520. The Mio C320 has the ability to search for stores and places of business, which is a huge help, but the database is a bit limited. WalMart, Target, Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks are all in there, but things like Old Navy and The Gap aren’t.
Navigating with the Mio C320 is good, and voice prompts come at the right times. I like the split screen views as the unit can give you plenty of data (tab 1) or a list of next turns (tab 4). The maps are based on the new TeleAtlas maps (version - 2006.10), which does away with a lot of the inaccuracies that were an issue just a year ago.
Split Screen – Tabbed Browsing
When I first saw the split screen I was skeptical, and a bit leery of its usefulness, but it’s surprisingly helpful. 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 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, the POI tab, shows distance to gas stations, which may also be a good thing while on a trip. Nicely enough, the POI tab on the Mio C320 split screen is configurable, which is fantastic. Set it up with the POI that you need and want to have access to; gas stations, restaurants, fast food only restaurants, train stations, post offices, etc.
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:
- Tap the lower left “Menu” button
- Tap the Gear or “Settings” button
- Tap the “Manage POI” button
- 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 information if you elect to have the traffic module installed (I did not), while the last tab shows a list of turns that are upcoming. 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.
Net I like the idea of tabbed browsing on the interface, and expect that this be a big step change in the user interface much like tabbed browsing has changed internet browsing.
Overall, I think that the Mio C320 is a solid GPS for Mio and offers a good entry-level widescreen GPS. Mio continues to keep price pressure on the GPS world, and in the year since they rocked the GPS market with the introduction of the Mio C310x, they have seen more competition in the value end of the market. With that said, they have not stood still and continue to innovate and drive shelf prices lower, keeping a price edge and staying competitive in features arena. The navigation is sound, and the interface is good, but not as dead easy at a Garmin. There are a lot of very happy Mio users who come to learn the interface quickly and are confident in the navigation. I think that the Mio C320 represents a good value with some innovative features that can make your navigation life easier after you learn your way around the interface. Definitely add the Mio C320 to the list when shopping around for entry-level GPS devices.