Though the voice of KITT makes the PND quite flashy, the Mio Knight Rider GPS is very much an entry-level system. It's equipped with 20-channel SiRF StarII InstantFixII receiver and comes preloaded with TeleAtlas maps of the United States and Canada. The trip-planning process is pretty standard; you can enter a specific address, an intersection, a zip code, or city center. As a shortcut, you can also choose a location from a favorites list, recent destinations, or navigate straight to your home address.
The Knight Rider GPS supports multidestination trips, and you can tap any point on a map and add it to your route as a waypoint. The PND also has more than 4 million points of interest (POI). The database includes all the major categories as well as more specialized interests. In addition to the general catalog, Mio includes menu shortcuts to more popular POIs such as fuel, food, and parking. We checked out several of the categories and found the database to be pretty comprehensive, but as usual, we found some listings to be out of date.
There are several routing options. You can choose from shortest distance or fastest time; with or without freeways, toll roads, and so forth. Like the Moov 310, the Knight Rider GPS is for cars only and there's no pedestrian or bicycle mode. The system also supports automatic route recalculations, route simulation, and has a detour function. Unfortunately, unlike the Moov 310, you don't get a free year subscription to real-time traffic updates.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D view, and you can toggle between them using the arrow icon on the lower-right side of the Map screen. You can pan and zoom in or out of maps. As you're driving a specific route, the bottom of the screen will display your current street name, while the top shows your next turn (name, direction, and distance) and estimated time of arrival. A list of text-based turn-by-turn directions is also available if you want to review it before or during your journey.
In addition to the text-based directions, you also turn-by-turn voice guided directions in English, Spanish, or French. Of course, the big highlight is the voice of KITT. Mio partnered up with Universal Studios for the product and got the original KITT, actor William Daniels, to record various greetings and general navigation instructions. There is also a database of names so you can customize the device to have KITT personally greet and talk to you (provided that your name is included). For example, when you turn on the GPS, it will say, "Hello, Michael, where would you like to go today?" I have to say, once again, I'm a little disappointed that "Bonnie" is not included in the catalog, especially since one of the main characters of the Knight Rider TV show was named Bonnie.
Now, having KITT talk to you is certainly fun and amusing (the voice is also very soothing), but the one downside is that you can't get text-to-speech (TTS) directions using that voice. This means you won't hear specific street names for audible directions; it's disappointing but we can certainly understand why this is so. To have had this functionality, William Daniels would have had to sit in the studio and record the name of every street in North America. You can get TTS directions using the English-Samantha voice, but it will require you to download it from the included software CD. Out of the box, the Mio Knight Rider GPS ships with the KITT, French, and Spanish files onboard but you will have to ditch one of them, to upload the TTS files since they take up a lot of memory. The extra work is a bit of a pain but worth it for the TTS functionality.
We tested the Mio Knight Rider GPS in San Francisco and from a cold start, it took the unit just under two minutes to get a fix on our location, while subsequent starts took a matter of seconds. The PND did a good job of tracking our location as we drove around the city. While it was able to keep its lock on the satellites as we drove through the skyscraper-lined streets of the Financial District, we did, as expected, lose a signal driving through the Broadway Tunnel. That said, the system was able to quickly get a fix once we exited the tunnel.
As usual, we plotted our test course from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters. The Knight Rider GPS was very quick to return with directions, and we checked the list of text-based directions to check the accuracy of the route and were happy with the results. We set out on the road, and while we got a great kick out of having KITT give us directions (the audible prompts were loud and clear), we eventually missed the benefits of TTS and switched over. To test the route recalculation rate, we missed several turns and performance was mixed. Overall, the system was quick to get us back on track, but there were several occasions where it was too slow and we missed the new turn.