The MIO A701 is a jack of all trades device designed to replace your mobile phone, GPS unit and PDA. Sporting a touch screen but no keypad, the versatile A701 also boasts a 1.3 megapixel camera and both MP3 and video players. However the features list is a little bare in other areas. It is let down by a lack of Wi-Fi and 3G support, as well as outdated specifications; notably USB and Bluetooth 1.2.
The MIO A701 is a jack of all trades device designed to replace your mobile phone, GPS unit and PDA. Sporting a touch screen but no keypad, the versatile A701 also boasts a 1.3 megapixel camera and both MP3 and video players.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
As a phone, the A701 handles voice calls quite well, with only a minor echo during conversations. They were generally clear, although they could have been louder; we sometimes found ourselves struggling a little in noisy environments. The A701 features speed dialing, recent call lists and an on screen keypad to dial phone numbers. Unfortunately, this is only a tri-band GSM phone with no support for 3G. It does however have one really nifty feature named "location call", which sends an SMS with your GPS co-ordinates to a pre-defined contact. This is activated by holding down the volume key for six seconds and is a great little safety feature.
The A701 runs the Windows Mobile 5 platform, so it is equipped with the regular office tools including Microsoft Outlook, Excel, Word and PowerPoint. Also present is Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, Internet Explorer and MSN Messenger. Push email is easy to configure, with the A701 supporting standard POP3 email accounts including Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Like all Windows Mobile 5 smart phones, it will auto-configure settings for these Web mail accounts.
Being a jack of all trades device, the A701 is capable of playing multimedia and the included Windows Media Player 10 Mobile can synchronise music and video from your desktop media library. The bundled headphones aren't ideal for quality sound though, and the 2.5mm jack means you aren't able to use a regular pair without an adapter (not included). The quality of the external speaker is also nothing to write home about.
Users can store their media files on the A701's 64MB on-board memory, and there is also a SD/MMC slot to increase capacity. Keep in mind though that because the MIO map software runs off an SD card you can't use this in slot for storing and accessing data at the same time as the GPS. The A701 has 128MB of ROM, 64MB of RAM and a 520MHz Intel XScale PSA-270 processor, but even with these specifications the interface is a little sluggish, especially when switching between applications.
Connectivity isn't a strong point of the A701. The biggest letdown of the unit is the lack of native Wi-Fi and while Bluetooth and USB (with a USB cable in the sales package) are included, these are both 1.2 and not the newer and quicker 2.0 protocol. This means synchronising with a PC is noticeably slower than on most new smart phones and connected Bluetooth accessories have a shorter wireless range.
The A701 uses the same navigational software and mapping as its dedicated GPS counterparts, the DigiWalker C310 and DigiWalker C510. The MIO Map V3 main menu is excellent, with clearly labelled, coloured icons and text descriptions, making it easy to navigate through the device. Some of the submenus, however, feature smaller icons with no text and these are difficult to distinguish.
The Sensis V13 maps on the A701 (which are stored on the included 256MB SD card) are just as impressive as MIO's dedicated GPS units, offering a good amount of detail. Street names are easily readable and the current location is clearly marked by an expanding circular beacon, much like an alarm or distress icon. Users can quickly change the map view using the cycle maps icon in the top right hand corner of the screen. There are standard 2D and 3D views, and north up, track up and sky view maps.
The navigational experience was pleasing thanks to clear voice instructions; our only complaint is with the relatively soft volume levels. Overall, the A701 isn't too difficult to use as most of its functions are accessed via the MIO Map main menu. Users tap the relevant icon to navigate to a specific address, a point of interest (POI) or a saved favourite.
When searching for a specific address, the A701 doesn't filter suburbs by state, so unfortunately you are presented with a list of every suburb in Australia; although it does narrow down the search when you start typing. Once the city is selected, the street name (filtered by suburb) can be chosen. The address entry screen uses a large on-screen keyboard, but the keys are small and some may have difficulty with accuracy.
The usual routing options, such as avoiding tolls and unpaved roads, are all supported. Users can also set a preference for using motorways or normal urban roads and this is taken into consideration when the unit calculates a route. MIO has also included up-to-date speed camera and red light camera warnings as well as a safety mode which doesn't allow you to operate the unit while in motion.
Unfortunately, the A701's GPS is ultimately let down by a poor receiver, which doesn't respond well in a city environment. We experienced a constant loss of signal when driving through the city, due to the obscured view of the sky thanks to large buildings. We were unable to use it at all in this environment, as the unit struggled to maintain a connection. We also found the time taken to actually find a signal from power up was quite slow as well, often taking more than a minute.
The A701 measures 107mm x 57mm x 18.8mm and weighs 148g. It looks quite sophisticated, although the inbuilt GPS antenna that necessitates an upward slant at the top of the handset does mar this. The A701 has a 2.7-in touch-screen, with a 240 x 320 pixel resolution. The screen can be used in portrait orientation for use as a PDA or phone, or in landscape orientation for GPS navigation.
The controls are fairly standard with a five-way navigational pad, answer and end call keys and dedicated media and GPS buttons. External volume controls (which can be used for both in-call and GPS volume), a dedicated camera button and a mini-USB connector for charging and synchronising via USB also adorn the unit.
The sales package includes a fair number of accessories; a leather carrying case, mini-USB cable, AC adapter, window mount (for GPS use), a car charger and a screen protector film. Battery life is average according to MIO figures, with the A701 offering 200 hours of standby time and up to four hours of talk time.
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