ASUS MyPal A696
- GPS chipset, included navigational software, brushed metal finish, 3.5mm headphone jack, excellent battery life
- GPS experience doesn't compare to dedicated portable units, Windows Mobile 5 rather than 6 on earlier units, bland design, heavy
The MyPal A696's GPS is handy, but the navigational experience isn't as satisfying or complete as the multitude of dedicated portable units on the market. What remains is a solid, yet unremarkable PDA.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
It has been relatively quiet on the PDA front of late, but ASUS still believes there is life in this category yet with the release of their GPS-equipped MyPal A696. Sporting a brushed metal design, a SiRF Star III GPS chipset and a 3.5in anti-glare display, the A696 is unfortunately hindered by running Windows Mobile 5, instead of the latest 6.0 version - though the latest batch of units boast the Windows Mobile 6 upgrade.
The A696 ships with TravRoute's CoPilot Live navigation software in Australia. It is included on a 256MB microSD card, and a microSD-to-SD adapter is included. Installation is as easy as inserting the SD card into the A696, and following the prompts. Once installed, the software runs from the SD card itself, so you'll need to swap SD cards if you wish to access other files or programs.
Although both the CoPilot Live software and the A696's GPS chipset are handy, it's a long way off a dedicated in-car GPS for accuracy, usability and reliability. It regularly took a few minutes to find a GPS signal, and the interface isn't as easy to grasp as dedicated TomTom or Navman units. The NAVTEQ maps also lack some detail when compared to most in-car units. PDA's are flexible though, as you can easily purchase and install many other navigation software packages, albeit at an extra cost. Conveniently, ASUS includes an in-car charger, a window mount and a cradle for GPS use.
As a PDA, the A696 is solid, yet unflattering. Design wise, its brushed metal finish adds a subtle touch of class, but the unit is bland and uninspiring on a whole and the metal finish adds some unnecessary extra weight. The unit is a good size though, and is quite thin considering it manages to pack in a GPS receiver. The 3.5in display is quite large, but lacks clarity and brightness of similar units. On the bright side, its anti-glare coating is excellent when used as a GPS.
The A696 originally shipped with the Windows Mobile 5 OS, which is a little strange considering Windows Mobile 6 has been on the market for almost six months. However, this has now been updated and our review unit featured the upgraded Windows Mobile 6 version. The 416MHz Intel XScale processor helps the unit along nicely, but speed isn't breathtaking. To complete the tech specs, 256MB of flash ROM and 64MB of SDRAM are included.
Bluetooth 2.0, USB 1.1 and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi give the A696 plenty of pulling power in the connectivity department, while the included Remote Presenter application allows you to present Microsoft PowerPoint presentations wirelessly. The standard 3.5mm headphone jack is great news for those wishing to use the A696 as a portable multimedia device.
Battery life is outstanding according to ASUS figures of 15 hours music playback and up to six hours of GPS navigation.
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