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Asus MyPal A636 review: Asus MyPal A636

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The Good An excellent example of integrating GPS into a PDA, the Asus MyPal A636 includes North American maps, a loud speaker, and excellent battery life. It also has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Windows Mobile 5.

The Bad Thicker and heavier than competitors, the Asus MyPal A636 has a 3.5-inch screen that's too small for viewing driving directions, and the included 256MB SD card holds the bare minimum of maps. There are also no map updates available at this time.

The Bottom Line The Asus MyPal A636 is a PDA with a built-in GPS receiver that puts maps and directions on an equal footing with appointments and e-mail. While it delivers accurate directions and long battery life, it's a bit sluggish.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

5.8 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5

Review Sections

Asus MyPal A636

By elegantly integrating a GPS receiver and a foldout antenna into a PDA, Asus turns the heads of the perpetually lost with its Asus MyPal A636. While it's heavier and thicker than competing mapping PDAs, the A636 has excellent controls, and its well-designed maps provide an accurate location fix and reasonably good directions. We love the nearly nine hours of battery life, but the A636's performance is mediocre, and the 3.5-inch screen is not as good as that of dedicated map machines. However, if you want a device that will keep you on track, both in your life and on the road, the Asus MyPal A636 does a fair job. At $600, it's pricey but on a par with similar devices. Unlike the new generation of handheld and portable in-car GPS devices, the Asus MyPal A636 is first and foremost a PDA with a GPS receiver and antenna grafted onto its case. The gray and dark-silver body is rugged and looks like a dozen other PDAs on the market but has a foldout GPS antenna on the back. With it open, the unit can tap into the constellation of 24 GPS satellites that are constantly orbiting the earth for accurate mapping and directions. Measuring 4.8 by 2.8 inches, the A636 feels good in the hand, but at 0.7 inch thick and weighing 6.5 ounces, it's 0.1 inch chunkier and an ounce heavier than the similar Mio 168RS and gargantuan compared to the Garmin Nüvi 350. The 1.75-inch square antenna sticks out of the side and swivels 90 degrees to grab the strongest satellite signal; it can also be used as a crude stand.

The Asus MyPal A636 features a swiveling GPS antenna for the best reception.

Like the Garmin Nüvi 350 and the Mio 168RS, the A636's 3.5-inch, 240x320-resolution color screen is a little too small for the car, so expect to squint a little to see details. We like the Lowrance iWay 500c's 5-inch display better, but the A636's spoken directions are right on the money, and the device's speaker (located beneath the screen) is surprisingly loud and clear.

Next to the speaker are two circular control pads. The keys are well marked and easy to use one-handed, but like other PDAs, the A636 comes with a thin plastic stylus for more exact work. In addition to volume up and down, the device has buttons for calendar, voice notes, and contacts, as well as for switching between landscape and portrait mode. Oddly, it doesn't come with a way to instantly launch the mapping app, but you can reprogram one of the shortcut buttons to do this. While the front scroll-up and -down buttons are acceptable, a jog-dial button on the side would have helped make this device even better for quickly going through Web pages or mapping choices. In addition to a headphone jack, the system has a SDIO/MMC expansion slot and a recessed reset button.

The A636 features well-marked and easy-to-use navigation controls.

Asus includes a vinyl slipcase, AC and auto power adapters, a synchronization cable, a 256MB SanDisk Secure Digital card, a car cradle, and a gooseneck windshield-mounting arm that attaches to a car's windshield with a suction cup. We noticed that the car cradle has a tendency to shake loose of the windshield arm.

Inside the Asus MyPal A636 is an up-to-date PDA with Windows Mobile 5 software and programs. The device comes with the basic organization and planning software as well as the Destinator 5 Personal Navigation application and nine regional map sets, including data for Hawaii, Canada, and Alaska. Unfortunately, you'll need to tediously load three CDs, then select the maps to install on the SD card using Destinator. Plus, the 256MB card has barely enough room to hold the data for the Northeast. If you're planning a trip of any length, we recommend investing in a 1GB card, or you'll have to reload a new set of maps every thousand miles or so.

Asus includes a 256MB SD card in the package, but you'll want to invest in a bigger card to store maps for longer trips.

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