A lot of GPS manufacturers today are integrating multimedia features into their devices to make these portable navigation systems more versatile in the car and on foot. And while we appreciate the inclusion of such things as MP3 playback and picture viewing, we've always felt these additions were more of an afterthought or that the device's form factor didn't lend itself for true portability. However, this isn't the case with the Mio C710 ($649.95). It's ultracompact to make it a travel-friendly gadget, and the multimedia features are well integrated into the device. The C710 proved to be a reliable navigator, and it includes traffic services and built-in Bluetooth for hands-free calling. However, it has some setbacks. First, the list of compatible Bluetooth phones is quite limited, making the feature useless to most people, and the screen is hard to read in sunlight. Still, with its solid performance and attractive form factor, the Mio C710 is a handy and versatile device to use in and out of the car. The Mio C710 sports an ultracompact form factor. At just 4.4 by 3.0 by 0.7 inches and 6 ounces, you won't have any problems transporting this device from car to car or on foot. You also get a nice carrying case with a carabiner attached if you want to latch it onto your bag. Alternatively, you can easily slip this into your bag or purse, although you'll want some sort of case to protect the screen from scratches. Mio says the C710 was designed for the fashion-conscious traveler, and we certainly found the gadget to be attractive, with its sleek all-black casing and minimalist design.
Just four rubberized buttons are on the right spine: power on/off, main menu, volume up, and volume down. You can access the rest of the C710's functions via the 3.5-inch, 65,000-color display. The touch screen is responsive, and text and images are clear and sharp. In addition, the menu icons are large and easy to understand. But it's not a complete lovefest, as we had a couple of complaints. First, the C710 is barely readable in sunlight. We had a really hard time viewing maps as we drove around on a sunny day in San Francisco, even after we adjusted the angle of the device. Viewing videos and pictures outdoors in a park was also abysmal. Our second gripe was that the virtual keyboard was on the cramped side. We had to pay particular attention as were inputting addresses; still, we had numerous mistakes. Users with larger digits will definitely want to test this feature out before committing to the purchase.
There's an SD/MMC card expansion slot on the top of the Mio C710 for carrying extra media, such as music and video. On the bottom of the device, you'll find a mini USB port, a reset hole, and a 3.5mm headphone jack (accepts Walkman-style headphones) that also doubles as the traffic antenna jack. There are two small LEDs to the upper left of the screen; the first illuminates orange while the battery charges and the bottom one blinks blue when Bluetooth is ready for use. Finally, the speaker is located on the back along with a port for attaching an external antenna for better satellite reception.
Mio packages the C710 with all the necessary accessories to get you started. Aside from the aforementioned protective case, you get a windshield mount, a car charger, an AC adapter, a USB cable, a TMC (Traffic Message Channel) antenna, an application CD, and a map DVD. The Mio C710 uses a 20 SiRFstarIII, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and comes with maps of North America preloaded on the device's 2GB of ROM, so you don't have to deal with any time-consuming map transfers from your PC and it's ready to go right out of the box. You get the standard text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. The C710 does not, however, feature text-to-speech functionality, which speaks actual street names; instead, you'll get generic directions, such as "Turn left in 100 feet." The Settings menu allows you to customize the C710 to your liking. You can choose to get directions by the quickest or shortest route, in English, Spanish, or French, or enable/disable various voice prompts, such as speed and unreliable GPS connection warnings. You can also tell the C710 to avoid certain roads, but interestingly, only toll roads are included as part of the default list, not highways. You can, however, manually input them. Maps are presented in 2D or 3D mode, and a Night Mode changes the color scheme of the maps for better nighttime viewing.
For route creation, you can enter a specific address, an intersection, or select a destination from your My Favorites list. The C710 also saves your recently visited locations, so you can choose from that list as well. If you need to make a pit stop during your trip, the unit has a 5 million points-of-interest (POI) database with entries for main attractions, such as gas stations, restaurants by type, shopping centers, and lodging, down to specialized interests, such as casinos, golf courses, and nightlife.
Not only will the Mio C710's navigation features save you time on the road, so will its traffic services. With the integrated TMC receiver, the device receives real-time traffic data from Clear Channel's Total Traffic Network. You can have the C710 automatically avoid congested areas or instruct it to ask you first before creating a new route. With the purchase of the C710, you get three months of complementary service; afterward, you'll pay an annual subscription fee of $75. Also, check here to make sure the service is available in your area.
The Mio C710 has integrated Bluetooth, so you can connect it with your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone to make hands-free calls. Once paired, you can place and receive calls, but you can't wirelessly transfer contacts from your phone to the C710. It does, however, sync with Microsoft Outlook, so you can use the included USB cable to transfer your contacts from your PC to the device. We ran into a problem, however, when trying to test this feature. The list of compatible phones is quite small at the moment. For example, only one Motorola handset and two Samsung phones are supported (you can see the full but brief list here). This shortcoming may be a deterrent for those looking for a portable nav system with Bluetooth capabilities, so we hope Mio has plans to expand this list in the future.
The C710 has a built-in DivX media player that supports MP3 files and includes some advanced features, such as an equalizer and playlist creation. However, the player's interface isn't very intuitive. Aside from the main controls (track forward and back, play, stop, and volume up and down), none of the other controls are labeled, so you just have to tap on the icon to see what happens. There is a help section (the question mark icon) that will identify what each icon does, but the list is quite large, so it alone can be overwhelming. The video player is more straightforward, with fewer controls, and supports MPEG-4 format. Finally, you can view JPEG images with the photo viewer and play them in a slide show, but you can't add music to the playground. Mio also throws in a calculator for good measure. We tested the Mio C710 in the San Francisco area and overall, performance was good. From a cold start, the C710 took about 3 minutes to acquire a 3D fix (four satellites locked in), but subsequent starts were much faster. As is the case with most portable nav systems, we encountered some problems as we drove through the financial district of the city where tall buildings prevent a clear view of the sky. That said, the device did a good job of tracking our location, and driving directions were accurate. We purposefully took a couple of wrong turns, and the C710 was able to get us back on track with its automatic rerouting.
The C710's media player was surprisingly decent. Music playback sounded quite good through the device's speakers, although you'll want to remember not to lay the speaker face down. We plugged in a pair of Shure E3c's, and audio quality was even better. Unfortunately, we weren't as enthralled with the video quality. Pictures were often blurry and pixelated; they're watchable but certainly not up to the standard of a stand-alone PVP. As we've experienced with some other GPS devices with integrated multimedia features, the C710 had moments of sluggishness when switching between different apps. The Mio C710's battery is rated for up to 4.5 hours of use.