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Vindigo 2.0 review:

Vindigo 2.0

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The Good Now offers maps, shopping destinations, restaurant locations, and other information for nearly 30 cities; includes driving and walking directions; lets you rate destinations.

The Bad Costs $24.99 per year; no way to view user reviews.

The Bottom Line Planning a trip? Don't go without Vindigo. It's the best digital travel companion on the planet and the only app of its kind. It's well worth the subscription fee.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall

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Think of Vindigo as a tiny concierge for your Pocket PC--or Palm, for that matter. For any of 27 metropolitan areas across the United States, plus London, England, Vindigo serves up locations and directions for local restaurants, shopping, attractions, movies, and even services such as gas stations, pharmacies, and ATMs. It also provides street-level maps and driving directions and lets you rate the locations you visit. Give this invaluable travel companion a permanent home on your handheld. Think of Vindigo as a tiny concierge for your Pocket PC--or Palm, for that matter. For any of 27 metropolitan areas across the United States, plus London, England, Vindigo serves up locations and directions for local restaurants, shopping, attractions, movies, and even services such as gas stations, pharmacies, and ATMs. It also provides street-level maps and driving directions and lets you rate the locations you visit. Give this invaluable travel companion a permanent home on your handheld.

Pay up
Vindigo used to be free, but version 2.0 costs $24.95 for an annual subscription. Sudden price turnaround aside, that's an extremely fair amount to pay for the breadth and depth of content this service provides. You can also test-drive Vindigo free for 30 days to see if it's worth the investment.

To get started, download the setup software from the Vindigo Web site. During its installation, Vindigo asks a few optional, marketing-related questions: your age, household income, and so forth. At the end, you choose which city to install, though you can add more cities later, and select some or all of Vindigo's seven main channels: Food, Music, Movies, Museums, Bars, Shops, and Services. We loaded Vindigo on a Compaq iPaq H3800 and found the process fast and easy. Of course, the number of cities you install depends on your handheld's memory and how many channels you install. A single city can eat up anywhere from 500K to a whopping 2.2MB of RAM.

Vindigo takes advantage of your computer's Internet connection to fetch updated content, such as the current week's movie listings, new restaurants, and so on. Visit the Web site to make changes to your account, such as adding or removing cities and selecting or deleting channels, or to suggest locations you think Vindigo should add to its city listings.

Information on tap
Vindigo's uncluttered interface and speedy performance make for supersimple navigation. First, choose the nearest cross streets within your chosen city. Vindigo then displays a detailed, zoomable, street-level map of the area. You can either view the map or pick a channel to find a movie theater, a restaurant, a cigar bar, or another destination of choice. Each main category consists of numerous subcategories, so you can easily navigate to, say, listings for action movies, furniture stores, or folk-art museums. You can also search by writing in a location name, then filtering the search results based on criteria such as distance from your location, cost, or rating.

For your chosen location, Vindigo provides a detailed listing, including an address and a phone number; walking and, if applicable, mass-transit directions; a street map; a user or professional review, if available; and a vote ballot. The ballot, one of Vindigo's coolest features, lets you share your opinion on just about any venue, including stores, museums, and even gas stations. The data transfers to Vindigo the next time you synchronize. Unfortunately, Vindigo doesn't yet share all of the results of this real-world data; as of press time, only the Food channel would display any user ratings, though Vindigo says that more channels will show the user ratings in the future.

Small quibbles
Besides that missing treasure trove, Vindigo sparked a handful of other minor complaints. First, there's no room to record spots you've visited and liked. Second, Vindigo presents site-to-site, "walking" directions, even if you have to travel 10 miles. It's a semantic difference, but we'd like driving directions, too, just to make sure Vindigo doesn't have us traveling the wrong way on a one-way street. Finally, Vindigo's maps don't support tap-and-drag scrolling: you must use annoying, small, onscreen arrows to navigate.

Vindigo makes up for its few small failings, though, with plentiful tech support, including searchable online FAQ pages, helpful e-mail support that lets you track responses, and follow-up help via a personalized support page. Slick.

Compared to the cost of even one printed city guide, which ranges from $9 to $35, according to an Amazon.com search, $24.95 is a small price indeed for 28 locales. Vindigo is worth every penny.

Take me back to the roundup!

Among other things, Vindigo answers the eternal question, "Where's the nearest Starbucks?"

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