If you ever dreamed as a child (or as an adult) of owning a car like KITT of Knight Rider fame, your dream is about to come true...sort of. Unless you're rolling in money, you can't have the actual Trans Am or David Hasselhoff, but you can have the next best thing: the Mio Knight Rider GPS. The GPS manufacturer partnered with Universal Studios to come up with a Knight Rider-themed portable navigation device (PND) that uses the actual voice of William Daniels (the actor who provided the voice of KITT) to present you with audible directions. It is, indeed, a trip to hear KITT tell you where to go, but it's more than just a novelty act. The Knight Rider GPS is an easy-to-use and solid entry-level PND that comes with a pretty reasonable price tag of $269. The Mio Knight Rider GPS certainly won't be for everyone, but definitely makes for a nice present for any Knight Rider or car fanatic in your life.
The Mio Knight Rider GPS doesn't necessarily capture your attention at first glance. Aside from the Knight Rider logo above the display, the portable navigation system looks like a number of other in-car GPS with its slim profile and black chassis. Once you fire up the device, however, the PND really comes to life with flashing red LEDs that flank either side of the display. It simulates the "scanner" lights on KITT and pulsates with any audible instructions. It's pretty cool ... the first few times, but then it can get old, so thankfully there's an option to turn it off completely.
The unit measures 5.5 inches wide by 3.1 inches tall by 0.7 inch deep and weighs 6 ounces, so it's nice and portable for multivehicle use. That said, we couldn't help but think the plastic casing felt a bit cheap, so definitely take care when transporting between cars.
On front, you'll find a 4.3-inch touch screen with a 480x272-pixel resolution. The display is sharp and vibrant, making it easy to read maps and menus. You can choose from a number of map colors, and there's a day/night option that will automatically change the map colors once the sun sets for better nighttime viewing.
We found the user interface to be pretty intuitive. All the menu pages feature large and clearly marked icons. As we've noted in other Mio reviews, the address entry process isn't quite as streamlined as a Garmin or TomTom unit, but the Knight Rider GPS has predictive text so it will automatically come up with a list of possible results as soon as you start to enter letters. We did notice a bit of lag when entering and selecting destinations, but it wasn't as bad or crippling as what we experienced with the Mio Moov 310. Also of note, the onscreen keyboard is available in QWERTY or ABC mode.
On top of the GPS, there's a power button and an SD card slot, while a mini USB port is located on the bottom. The Mio Knight Rider GPS comes packaged with a car charger, a USB cable, a vehicle mount (dashboard and windshield), and reference material. The vehicle mount consists of one part and is very simple to install and securely held our GPS during our road tests. We also like that there's a locking mechanism for the suction cup mount for that extra seal with your windshield.
Though the voice of KITT makes the PND quite flashy, the Mio Knight Rider GPS is very much an entry-level system. It's equipped with 20-channel SiRF StarII InstantFixII receiver and comes preloaded with TeleAtlas maps of the United States and Canada. The trip-planning process is pretty standard; you can enter a specific address, an intersection, a zip code, or city center. As a shortcut, you can also choose a location from a favorites list, recent destinations, or navigate straight to your home address.
The Knight Rider GPS supports multidestination trips, and you can tap any point on a map and add it to your route as a waypoint. The PND also has more than 4 million points of interest (POI). The database includes all the major categories as well as more specialized interests. In addition to the general catalog, Mio includes menu shortcuts to more popular POIs such as fuel, food, and parking. We checked out several of the categories and found the database to be pretty comprehensive, but as usual, we found some listings to be out of date.
There are several routing options. You can choose from shortest distance or fastest time; with or without freeways, toll roads, and so forth. Like the Moov 310, the Knight Rider GPS is for cars only and there's no pedestrian or bicycle mode. The system also supports automatic route recalculations, route simulation, and has a detour function. Unfortunately, unlike the Moov 310, you don't get a free year subscription to real-time traffic updates.
Maps are presented in 2D or 3D view, and you can toggle between them using the arrow icon on the lower-right side of the Map screen. You can pan and zoom in or out of maps. As you're driving a specific route, the bottom of the screen will display your current street name, while the top shows your next turn (name, direction, and distance) and estimated time of arrival. A list of text-based turn-by-turn directions is also available if you want to review it before or during your journey.
In addition to the text-based directions, you also turn-by-turn voice guided directions in English, Spanish, or French. Of course, the big highlight is the voice of KITT. Mio partnered up with Universal Studios for the product and got the original KITT, actor William Daniels, to record various greetings and general navigation instructions. There is also a database of names so you can customize the device to have KITT personally greet and talk to you (provided that your name is included). For example, when you turn on the GPS, it will say, "Hello, Michael, where would you like to go today?" I have to say, once again, I'm a little disappointed that "Bonnie" is not included in the catalog, especially since one of the main characters of the Knight Rider TV show was named Bonnie.
Now, having KITT talk to you is certainly fun and amusing (the voice is also very soothing), but the one downside is that you can't get text-to-speech (TTS) directions using that voice. This means you won't hear specific street names for audible directions; it's disappointing but we can certainly understand why this is so. To have had this functionality, William Daniels would have had to sit in the studio and record the name of every street in North America. You can get TTS directions using the English-Samantha voice, but it will require you to download it from the included software CD. Out of the box, the Mio Knight Rider GPS ships with the KITT, French, and Spanish files onboard but you will have to ditch one of them, to upload the TTS files since they take up a lot of memory. The extra work is a bit of a pain but worth it for the TTS functionality.
We tested the Mio Knight Rider GPS in San Francisco and from a cold start, it took the unit just under two minutes to get a fix on our location, while subsequent starts took a matter of seconds. The PND did a good job of tracking our location as we drove around the city. While it was able to keep its lock on the satellites as we drove through the skyscraper-lined streets of the Financial District, we did, as expected, lose a signal driving through the Broadway Tunnel. That said, the system was able to quickly get a fix once we exited the tunnel.
As usual, we plotted our test course from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters. The Knight Rider GPS was very quick to return with directions, and we checked the list of text-based directions to check the accuracy of the route and were happy with the results. We set out on the road, and while we got a great kick out of having KITT give us directions (the audible prompts were loud and clear), we eventually missed the benefits of TTS and switched over. To test the route recalculation rate, we missed several turns and performance was mixed. Overall, the system was quick to get us back on track, but there were several occasions where it was too slow and we missed the new turn.