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Navman PiN - handheld - Windows Mobile 2003 - 3.5 review: Navman PiN - handheld - Windows Mobile 2003 - 3.5

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MSRP: $749.95

The Good Compact; includes car mount and charger; excellent 3D-navigation view.

The Bad Some setup wrinkles; destination selection can be frustrating; half the internal RAM is unavailable; bundled memory card too small for some maps; wobbly windshield mount; battery not removable; no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The Bottom Line Though powerful and practical, the Navman PiN's doppelgänger, the Mitac Mio 168, is the better of the two navigators.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5

Navman PiN

If the Navman PiN Pocket PC looks familiar, that's because it's physically almost identical to the Mitac Mio 168. In fact, the two devices are more similar than dissimilar. Both offer an integrated GPS antenna, real-time mapping and navigation, and even the same car-mount accessories (including a charger and a wobbly windshield arm). So what sets the PiN apart? Software.

The $499.95 PiN incorporates Navman's SmartST II mapping and navigation software, which differs in some important ways from Mitac's Mio Map--and not always to its benefit. While the PiN itself is just as compact and versatile as the Mitac Mio 168, we found its navigation software somewhat inferior. It'll steer you from point A to point B, but the frustration is often not worth the trouble.

In terms of design, the main difference between the Navman PiN and the Mio 168 is the case coloring (charcoal gray vs. silver); otherwise, the PiN has practically the same compact dimensions (4.4 by 2.7 by 0.9 inches, 4.2 ounces) for which we lauded the Mio. The GPS antenna sits on the back and adds a bit of bulk, but it's solidly constructed and feels like it can withstand a reasonable amount of punishment. Its 3.5-inch TFT screen displays 65,000 colors and a 240x320-pixel resolution; four shortcut keys and a five-way navigation joystick sit just below it. Rounding out the chassis are an SD/MMC expansion slot, a front-side speaker, a 2.5mm headphone jack, and an infrared port. Under the hood of the PiN, you'll also find the same components as on the Mio 168, including an Intel 300MHz PXA255 processor, 64MB of RAM, and Windows Mobile 2003. Unfortunately, there's no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

To get started, the PiN comes with a simple desktop program that lets you load maps one state or province at a time for all of North America. Unfortunately, only 30MB of the PiN's 64MB of RAM is user accessible--not enough to hold map data for some states. Likewise, many states are too large to fit on the included 32MB SD card. (The Mio 168, for its part, has about 50MB of user-accessible memory--enough to hold nearly any state.) Also, you can't split maps to create smaller files, nor can you divide a map's data between main memory and a memory card. It took about 11 minutes to download the state of Michigan--a 40MB file--to one of our own SD cards.

Once you transfer the maps to your PDA, the SmartST II PiN application lets you navigate to an address (entered manually or lifted from your contact database), an intersection, or a point of interest (POI). It keeps a list of recent destinations and lets you create a list of favorites. We particularly liked the Quick Nav option, which provides one-tap access to three user-selected favorites and includes a handy return-trip option. But it's not all smooth sailing. We had difficulty getting the software to recognize the GPS antenna, which should have happened automatically. It took a trip to the manual, which is excellent, and Navman's Web site to discover the correct COM-port settings.

Next, we experienced considerable frustration manually entering addresses. Instead of a field for city name, SmartST provides an entry called Area, which, true to its function, can be a state, a city, or a county. We tried Northville, Michigan, and were presented with a drop-down menu containing six choices, including Northville, MCD; Northville, Lyon MCD; Northville, Northville; and other confusingly worded entries. Regardless of which one we chose, SmartST II couldn't find the corresponding street or house number. We weren't sure if this was the result of incomplete map data or a problematic address, so we tried routing to a nearby intersection. Inexplicably, the software didn't seem to recognize the meeting of the two streets, even though we could find it by manually searching the map.

Finding points of interest also proved vexing at times. Gas stations are categorized as petrol stations, and POI listings don't include distance from your current location. Plus, you get only half a screen's worth of POIs; hiding the onscreen keyboard doesn't expand the list. You can tap a listing to get the address and the phone number or to show its location on the map, but the lack of distance information is irksome.

Once you've selected a destination, SmartST II routes you there with typical voice-guided, turn-by-turn instructions. The onscreen map display is commendable, with large street labels and an excellent 3D view. You're stuck, however, with a top-down 2D view while in moving-map mode--3D isn't available unless you select a destination.

Armed with a 300MHz Intel processor, the PiN garnered good performance results, holding its own among other midrange Pocket PCs. All applications responded fairly quickly, and it was a pleasant device to use overall. In CNET Labs' battery-drain tests, where we repeatedly played a video clip with the backlight set at medium, the PiN lasted 3.2 hours. Of course, you'll get more mileage out of the PDA with normal use since our tests are designed to zap power as quickly as possible. Plus, if you're really in a crunch, you can always use the included car charger to fuel up the PiN.

Perfomance analysis written by CNET Labs project leader Dong Van Ngo.

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