Back in May, we reviewed the Mio C220 portable navigation system, which we loved for its ease of use and affordable price, but ultimately we had to diss it because of an awful screen. Well, we're happy to say that its successor, the Mio DigiWalker C230, offers the same intuitiveness and budget-friendly price plus an improved display and text-to-speech functionality. It's rare to find the latter in an entry-level GPS device such as the C230, so that's a nice surprise and gives it an edge over its competitors, including the Garmin Nuvi 200 and the TomTom One. Our complaints are minor, having to do mostly with the design; for example, the extreme compactness of the device makes it a bit difficult to interact with the touch screen. However, if you're looking for a very basic navigation system or are new to GPS, the Mio C230 is a good choice, especially with its $250 price tag.
The Mio DigiWalker C230 is one heck of a small portable navigation system. At 4.2 inches wide by 3.2 inches high by 0.9 inch deep and 6.2 ounces, the C230 is more compact than most PDAs, and while the size is great for transporting between cars or for use on a bike or on foot, the C230 seems almost too petite for in-car use.
However, Mio still manages to fit in a standard 3.5-inch touch screen that displays 65,000 colors at a 320x240-pixel resolution. Maps were bright and sharp, and thankfully, unlike the Mio C220 we didn't have any problems seeing the screen content even in bright sunlight so that was a relief. The main menu icons are large and easy to press, but the onscreen keyboard is a bit cramped to easily punch out addresses and when in map view, it can be difficult to accurately tap the different navigation options. Users with larger fingers will have problems, so the inclusion of a stylus would have been nice.
The rest of the Mio C230 is as simple as its feature set. There's a lone power button on top, while an SD expansion card slot and a mini USB port are on the bottom. On the left spine, you'll find an external antenna jack, and on the back, the system's speaker and the master on/off switch. Though we like the minimalist design, we do wish there was an easier way to adjust the volume on the C230. You can mute the audio with a simple tap of the onscreen speaker icon, but you have to dig through several menus to change the volume.
The Mio C230 comes packaged with a car charger, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), a software DVD, and reference material.
The Mio DigiWalker C230 is a basic, navigation-only device. It's equipped with a 20-channel SiRFstarIII, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver and comes with TeleAtlas maps of the United States and Puerto Rico preloaded on the device. To start a trip, you can enter a specific address, select a destination from your My Favorites or recent destinations list, or tap a point on the map and hit the Route To option. The C230 can calculate directions by the shortest, fastest, or most economical route. Otherwise, if you don't have a specific destination or trip, you can use the Follow option to have the unit track you as you drive around.
There is also a database of more than 3.5 million points of interest (POI) for making pit stops along the way, and the C230 can do multistop trips so you can add these POI to your route. Categories include all the basics--gas stations, ATMs, lodging, and restaurants--as well as more specialized interests, such as concert halls and amusement parks.
Navigation guidance comes by way of text- and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. And much to our delight, the C230 supports text-to-speech functionality. This means the system will speak actual street names, allowing you to pay more attention to the road rather than the map screen, because you get more precise audible prompts. Typically, this is a feature that's found in pricier and more advanced, systems, so it's great to find it in an entry-level device such as the C230. We hope this becomes an increasing trend.
You can view a detailed list of instructions before you head out under Itinerary or get a running demo of the route with the Fly Over function. If you want to steer clear of a certain portion of the route because you happen to know there's road construction or it's known for heavy traffic, just hit the Avoid button and choose from a list of options. The system also supports automatic route recalculations if you get off course.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D mode, and a Night Mode changes the color scheme of the maps for better nighttime viewing. There is a Cockpit tool that shows you the direction of your next turn, distance to your destination, estimated time of arrival, and more. Finally, there are a number of safety options, including speeding alerts, a screen lock that prevents you from using the touch screen when the car is in motion, and safety camera information.
We tested the Mio DigiWalker C230 in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit about two minutes to acquire a satellite fix. Subsequent starts varied from just a few seconds to a few minutes, so the inconsistency was a bit frustrating. Once locked on, the C230 held a steady lock except when we drove through a tunnel (a normal occurrence with GPS), but it was able to immediately find our position again. We entered our standard trip from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters, and the system swiftly calculated a route. A quick glance at the list of text-based directions showed that the directions were accurate, and we set off on our trip. Text-to-speech audio prompts sounded slightly robotic, but we were still able to understand them all. We also missed several turns to test the route recalculation rate, which was satisfactory as it was able to get us back on track in a timely manner.