Pharos Traveler GPS 525 - handheld - Windows Mobile 5.0 review: Pharos Traveler GPS 525 - handheld - Windows Mobile 5.0

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.5
  • Design: 6.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Tiny and pocket-friendly, the Pharos Traveler GPS 525 has a powerful GPS receiver that doesn't require a fold-out antenna. It also comes with lots of maps, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, and it has solid battery life.

The Bad The Pharos Traveler GPS 525's screen is too small to use in a car, its audio is about as bad as it gets, and without a hold switch, it can inadvertently be turned on in a bag, leaving you with a dead battery.

The Bottom Line Maps and personal data go hand in hand with the Pharos Traveler GPS 525, a PDA that effectively combines organization with navigation to not only find where you are but also point you where to go.

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Pharos Traveler GPS 525

The Pharos Traveler GPS 525 is a breakthrough handheld computer that's about as small and light as a Windows Mobile computer gets these days, yet it manages to squeeze in a GPS receiver with mapping and trip-routing software. Great for those who hate to ask for directions, the aptly named Traveler GPS 525 is built around minimalist controls and can run for 9 hours on a battery; however, it has a screen that many will think is too small for drivers, and it's hard to understand the spoken directions. The Traveler 525 is great for day-to-day organization and getting to where you need to be, but its biggest payoff is its small size. One cautionary note: Prepare yourself for sticker shock. Like most PDA/GPS combos, the Pharos Traveler GPS 525 is pricey, at $600. Less really is more when it comes to PDAs, and the Pharos Traveler GPS 525 is one of the smallest, lightest, and most geographically aware handheld computers ever created. Measuring 0.7 by 2.3 by 4.3 inches and weighing just 4.4 ounces, the rounded gray and black PDA is a marvel of miniaturization that's half an inch shorter and narrower and 2 ounces lighter than the Asus MyPal A636 . Unlike the A636's clunky fold-out antenna, the Traveler 525's entire SiRF GPS receiver is inside and always yields a strong signal when in the open; there's a jack to plug in an optional external antenna for enhanced satellite reception.

For those who want a lot of buttons and flash, look elsewhere, because the Pharos Traveler GPS 525 is a delight of minimalist design. The navigation controls consist of a power on/off button, four shortcut keys (GPS, Today screen, and two customizable buttons), a voice-recorder activation key, and a five-way navigation joystick. The Traveler GPS 525's 2.8-inch screen is second best compared with larger displays found on other geoaware PDAs and dedicated mapping machines. Plus, the touch-sensitive display is not as responsive as those of other handhelds we've tested, so you'll always want to use the metal stylus for best results. The 65,536-color output and the 240x320 resolution make for bright, crisp, and clear text and images, but we found it necessary to squint to make out map details. The system's spoken directions could have helped, but the unit's audio quality is abysmal, with the voice constantly breaking up. Below the single speaker on front of the device, you'll find a headphone jack and a recessed reset button, but there's no dedicated button for rotating the screen.


Sweet and simple: The Pharos Traveler GPS 525 features a minimalist design.

Pharos packages the device with everything you'll need to hit the road, including a vinyl case, a windshield arm, a headset, a USB cable, and a 512MB Secure Digital flash card with mapping data for American highways and top urban areas. Happily, the Pharos Traveler GPS 525 includes AC and car power adapters but, like the A636, does without a desktop sync cradle, so it's really meant for those who spend more time on the road than at the office or at home. Fortunately, the USB cable can power the unit and move data, but it can take 10 hours to charge the device via the cable when it's turned on. Be careful, because the Traveler 525 has a tendency to turn on when jostled in a bag (a hold switch would have helped), so make sure it's in its case before leaving on a long trip.

The Pharos Traveler GPS 525 is a midrange Windows Mobile 5 PDA mated to a powerful SiRF GPS receiver that can work with the 24 global-positioning satellites orbiting the earth. Central to the Traveler GPS 525 is Pharos's Ostia 7.5 mapping application and the trio of digital map CDs that cover the 50 states but not Canada. It helps that the card comes preloaded with all the maps, but most people probably won't ever need all of them. You can use ActiveSync software to move the maps you need to the device or copy them directly with a flash-card reader on to a Secure Digital data module. The included 512MB card is adequate for this but leaves little room for music or other files, so we recommend getting a larger card and taking it all with you.

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Where to Buy

Pharos Traveler GPS 525 - handheld - Windows Mobile 5.0

Part Number: PTL525

MSRP: $549.95

See manufacturer website for availability.