There's a lot to love about the Mio C220. It sports a compact, no-fuss design. It's easy to use right out of the box and offers all the navigation basics. And when it comes to in-car GPS devices, you really can't beat its $250 price tag. Basically, it's a great option for first-time buyers and those on a budget. Would we recommend it? Unfortunately, no. While the Mio C220 has a strong receiver and offered accurate directions and tracking, the device's screen is barely readable during the day. We tried various viewing angles and tweaking the backlighting and map colors, but no luck. If you're in the market for your first portable navigation system, we suggest you look at the Garmin StreetPilot i series or the TomTom One.
The Mio C220 is designed for use right out of the box, and it truly is easy to use. First of all, it's very compact at just 4.2x3.2.09 inches and 3.8 ounces. The GPS receiver is integrated into the device, so you don't have to worry about any extra bulk or moving parts that you sometimes get with models with flip-up antennas. This all makes the C220 great for multivehicle use, and it's even small enough to pack in a suitcase, so you can bring it to use in a rental car on your vacation or business trip.
The Mio C220 is a study in simplicity. There isn't much to the design aside from a power button and an external antenna jack on top; a mini USB port on the bottom of the unit; and an SD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right side. All other functions are handled via the unit's 3.5-inch, 65,000-color TFT touch screen. Now, while the touch screen is quite responsive and always registered our commands, we found it really difficult to view during the day. We tried adjusting the angle of the screen, changing map colors, and adjusting the backlighting, but the C220's display was barely visible; colors looked washed out and there seemed to be some fading at the top of the screen.
We also had problems with the onscreen keyboard and buttons. The number and letter buttons are quite small and cramped together, and there's no included stylus, so you have to pay close attention as you enter addresses. Once you're in map view, the icons for zooming in and out of the map blend a little too well into the background, and adjusting the volume requires four taps through various menus. There is a little speaker graphic on the map, but it only mutes the sound. So while we appreciate the minimalist design, some external controls for the zoom or volume would have been nice.
The Mio C220 ships with a number of accessories, including a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a car charger, an SD card preloaded with maps, and a map DVD, but we wish an AC adapter was also part of the package.
The Mio C220 uses a 20 SiRFstarIII, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and comes with maps of the United States preloaded on an included 1GB SD card. To start navigation, you can enter a specific address, select a destination from your My Favorites list, or tap a point on the map and hit the Route To option. The C220 also saves your recently visited locations, so you can choose from that list as well, or add stops along your route for multipoint trips. Otherwise, if you don't have a specific destination or trip, you can use the Follow option to have the unit track you as you drive around. There is also a database of more than 3.5 million points-of-interest (POI) for making pit stops along the way. POI categories include all the basics--gas stations, ATMs, lodging, and restaurants--as well as more specialized interests, such as concert halls and amusement parks.
Navigation guidance comes by way of text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. The C220 can calculate directions by the shortest, fastest, or most economical route. Voice directions are available in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, French, Italian, and German, and with different voice options. The system doesn't support text-to-speech functionality, so it won't actually speak specific street names. You can view a detailed list of instructions before you head out under Itinerary or get a running demo of the route with the Fly Over function. If you want to steer clear of a certain portion of the route because you happen to know there's road construction or it's known for heavy traffic, just hit the Avoid button and choose from a list of options. The system also supports route recalculations if you happen to miss a turn.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D mode, and a Night Mode changes the color scheme of the maps for better nighttime viewing. There is a Cockpit tool that shows you the direction of your next turn, distance to your destination, estimated time of arrival, and more. As a basic, entry-level system, you don't get much else with the Mio C220.
We tested the Mio C220 in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit about three minutes to acquire a satellite fix under clear skies, while subsequent starts were faster. The receiver did a good job of keeping a lock on the GPS fix, and it accurately tracked our location as we drove through the city. We entered our standard trip from the Marina district of San Francisco to CNET's downtown headquarters, and the C220 computed directions almost immediately. We also took several wrong turns to test the route recalculation rate, and the unit was able to get us back on track in a reasonable amount of time. It's really too bad the screen was unreadable, because otherwise the Mio C220 is a solid performer.