Mio Moov S501 GPS Device
At a Glance
If you're in the market for a basic GPS navigation system, Mio Technology's Mio Moov S501 might fit the bill. Priced at just under $200 (as of August 31, 2009), it offers a large, uncluttered screen, voice directions that name streets, and a generous points-of-interest database in a sleek, good-looking package. But the device has some usability issues, and you must forgo (or pay extra for) connected GPS features (such as real-time traffic alerts) that several competitors offer at no extra charge.
The svelte (less than 0.75 inch thick) Moov S501--along with its smaller, less expensive sibling, the Moov S401--introduces a new user interface called Spirit that's more user-friendly than its predecessors, mainly because it lets you eliminate extraneous information from its handsome, 4.7-inch, 480-by-272-pixel antiglare touchscreen. Navigating between moving maps and menus is fairly intuitive; it involves tapping large arrows and return buttons. The S501 ships with a database of 12 million points of interest that managed to track down every place I wanted to visit during a recent road trip to Maine.
Menu options on the home screen appear in large colored blocks that offer quick access to ATM and gas station searches as well as to the usual preferences and destination search/entry forms. But data entry itself could be streamlined. The unit does seek matches as you type in a street address, but you get a lot of irrelevant suggestions that wouldn't appear in a system that prompted you to start with the city's name first.
At least the search options let you focus on a specific area. A keyword search feature can help you zero in on well-known chains (like Starbucks) in locations you specify. But here again, the device has some puzzling defaults. if you don't specify a town, the default arrangement is to list keyword search results alphabetically by name of city, which I rarely found useful. You have the option of seeing results listed by proximity to current location, instead--and that would have been a better default.
In my tests with a shipping unit, some keyword searches worked better than others: When I typed Peets into the search field, the Moov S501 returned addresses for Peet's coffee shops in several Bay Area cities, but not for the ones nearest my home in downtown San Francisco. Searching for 'Peet' without the 's', however, produced an option to look for all Peet's Coffee and Tea stores, which did lead to local outlets.
The text-to-speech feature worked pretty well: Only twice did I have difficulty understanding a street name. Lane guidance was helpful, too, and the routing was generally sensible. A new Explore options shows you points of interest near your current location--a useful option for road trips to unfamiliar locations.
Though the Mio has no built-in real-time Internet connection, you can hook it up to your PC via a supplied USB cable and use the included MioMore desktop software to download such updated data as fuel prices, new maps, destinations plotted on Google Maps, and geo-tagged photos (which you can then navigate to). Of course, taking advantage of this option typically means carrying the unit back and forth from the car.
People who rely on real-time traffic information to cope with a daily commute can pay an extra $100 for an optional add-on module (the price includes a year of service). But if you don't mind syncing with an Internet-connected PC from time to time, the Mio covers a lot of bases at a moderate price.