GPS is coming on fast and furious not only in car tech but also in the handheld market. PDAs with navigation features are sprouting up across the board, from the Garmin iQue M5 to the Mio 168RS to the Navman PiN, and now the Mobile Crossing WayPoint 200. Unlike with other PDAs, the WayPoint's GPS antenna isn't built into the device; instead, a Bluetooth GPS receiver and a CompactFlash Bluetooth card are included. It makes for a bit of a cumbersome setup, especially with the myriad accessories and wires that come with the PDA. That said, we were impressed by the WayPoint 200's solid performance and accuracy as a navigation device--it's a pretty respectable PDA. We just wish it weren't so expensive ($750). Plus, if you want to travel beyond your home region, you have to pony up even more cash to download additional maps. With its midnight-blue and black color scheme, the Mobile Crossing WayPoint 200's design looks better suited for the great outdoors than the boardroom. To complete its rugged look, it sports a sturdy aluminum casing and a rubberized back and bottom edge for easy gripping. The company markets the device as a navigation handheld first and a Pocket PC second, so the design makes perfect sense. The WayPoint 200 is easily pocketable and relatively light at 5.3 by 3.1 by 0.6 inches and 6.2 ounces.
The main attraction is the 3.5-inch TFT display, which shows off 65,535 colors and a 320x240-pixel resolution. Sounds like any other PDA, right? True, except it features smart technology that improves day brightness when the device is docked and powered by the vehicle mount. Plus, the WayPoint automatically readjusts the color scheme of maps, depending on whether it's day or night. In our tests, the WayPoint impressed us with these capabilities, and we had no problems seeing what was on the screen in direct sunlight, which is a common problem with PDAs and GPS devices. However, we weren't impressed by the fact that the display had a tendency to hold a lot of smudges and fingerprints, so keep a screen chamois nearby.
Depending on what mode you are in (Pocket PC or GPS), you'll find four shortcut keys that launch 12 different functions below the screen. In Pocket PC mode, you can access your calendar, contacts, tasks, and the WayPoint mapping program. When you are in WayPoint mode and using the GPS functions, the shortcut keys will open your favorite destinations, detour rerouting, display information (that is, speed and location), and access to the TrafficWatch and weather programs. Alternatively, by holding down these buttons, you can set your current location as a favorite, display the nearest seven points of interest (POI), call up an upcoming turn, and access traffic and weather options, respectively. There is a four-way toggle beneath the shortcut keys but, unfortunately, no center Select button. Completing the front of the device are three small battery, alert, and signal LEDs at the top, as well as the power button.
On the left side of the WayPoint 200, there is a voice-record button, a reset hole, and a jog dial. The dial is particularly handy, since you can use it to navigate the menus, and unlike the toggle on the front, it functions as an OK key when pressed. In addition, you can use it to zoom in and out of maps. Finishing out the design components are a standard headphone jack, dual expansion slots (CompactFlash and SD/MMC), an infrared port, a stylus holder on the top, and a user-replaceable battery on the back.
Mobile Crossing was generous with the accessories included in the box. You get a Bluetooth GPS receiver, a Bluetooth CompactFlash card, a desktop cradle, a vehicle mount, a power adapter, a USB cable, and a car charger. Strangely absent was a protective case. We must also warn you that when you first unpack the contents of the package, you may be overwhelmed by the mess of wires, and it can be confusing to determine what connects to what. In fact, reading the quick-start guide may bring back bad memories of when you tried to assemble your kid's tricycle for Christmas.Mobile Crossing markets its WayPoint 200 as a "personal navigation system that also happens to be a fully Windows Mobile-compatible handheld," so the emphasis is on GPS. That said, the WayPoint 200 is a respectable Pocket PC. Powered by a 400MHz Intel PXA260 XScale processor, the handheld comes equipped with Windows Mobile 2003, 32MB of flash ROM, and 64MB of RAM. You get the usual programs, including Pocket Word and Excel, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Reader, plus a couple of extra utilities, such as Gizmo Backup and QuickLaunch.
The real stars, of course, are the navigation features. Unlike with other PDA/GPS devices we've seen, you don't get a software CD with maps of the United States. Instead, Mobile Crossing delivers your WayPoint 200 with integrated maps of your home region, as indicated at the point of purchase, so there's no need for transferring maps. And if your travels take you beyond your home area, you can purchase more regional maps from the company's Web site. Although it was convenient to be able to use the device right out of the box, we weren't thrilled with the fact that we'd have to spend more money for additional maps ($19.95 for the second region, $9.95 for any additional maps), especially when the handheld already costs so much.
You get all the standard functionality: text and voice-guide directions (see Performance); automatic rerouting; and a wide-ranging POI database that includes gas stations, ATMs, campgrounds, sports stadiums, wineries, and more. You can create directions by address, intersection, favorites, and your contacts list, as well as avoid certain routes, such as toll roads and areas of construction.
All those features are standard fare in today's PDA/GPS combos, but the WayPoint 200 kicks it up a notch by including a one-year subscription to its TrafficWatch and WeatherUnderground services, which costs $69 per year after the complimentary period is up. With these services, you can get real-time traffic and weather information, but you'll need to be connected to the Web to download data. The other catch is the traffic service is available in only a limited number of cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, and Minneapolis.Overall, from a performance perspective, the Mobile Crossing WayPoint 200 makes a good navigation device, first and foremost. On top of that, it can be a good, basic PDA, as long as you don't expect a lot of entertainment out of it. The WayPoint 200 performed slightly below our expectations in CNET Labs' tests, scoring about 10 percent less in Spb Benchmark tests overall than other Pocket PCs with the same processor speed. Formal tests aside, the WayPoint 200 didn't lag in real-world use--all applications opened up quickly, and the device offers very good responsiveness.
The WayPoint 200 also has excellent battery life. In our drain test, where we let the device play a looped video clip with the brightness and sound set to High level, the WayPoint lasted more than 9 hours. And since our test is designed to drain the battery as soon as possible, you can expect two or even three times the battery life from a single charge with casual use.
We took the WayPoint 200 for a test-drive in the San Francisco area, and on the whole, the news is good. Using the included CompactFlash Bluetooth card, the device had no problem locating and pairing with the Bluetooth GPS receiver. The device locked on to the required satellites within 45 seconds from a cold start and 30 seconds or less on subsequent tries--overall, we were truly impressed by the strength of the receiver. We never lost a signal, even as we drove through a downtown area heavily populated by skyscrapers, but it wasn't powerful enough to survive a trip through a tunnel.
The Mobile Crossing WayPoint 200's accuracy was flawless in locating our position, and voice-guided directions were spot-on as well. It should be noted that the WayPoint 200 doesn't use the usual computerized-sounding text-to-speech directions; instead, it uses the voice of Jean Fox. While she sounds pleasant enough, we swore we sensed a tone of urgency when we missed our turn. Couple that with all the various alerts that sound off when you veer off track, and it becomes a bit unnerving. After a few tweaks in the Settings menu to mute some of the alarms, however, we were on track to a more peaceful ride.
CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo contributed to the performance analysis.