Mio DigiWalker C520
- Great 4.3in widescreen with split-screen technology, text-to-speech, Bluetooth, excellent maps, design, safety camera warnings
- Some confusing menus, battery life
Without a doubt the best GPS unit Mio has ever released, the C520's delightful widescreen display, split-screen technology and text-to-speech navigation makes this one of the best units we've reviewed.
Price$ 499.00 (AUD)
Dubbed the world's first split screen mobile in-car GPS device, the Mio DigiWalker C520 boasts a 4.3in widescreen, Sensis R14 mapping, 500,000 Points of Interest (POI), audio playback and Bluetooth. Also utilising text-to-speech technology, the C520 combines an excellent display with a convenient split screen feature, allowing you to see next turn information, speed, points of interest and more - in tandem with the map screen.
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Despite our initial reservations that the C520's split screen technology would be little more than a gimmick, we are pleased to say we were totally off the mark. Basically, the display is split 70/30 - with the largest view dedicated to the navigation map, and the other 30 per cent displaying additional information. These include the current time, speed and date, a list of the nearest POI's, traffic information (not yet available in Australia) and a list of the next four turns in your trip. Our favourite and most useful sidebar was a split decision (no pun intended) between the next turn list, and the surrounding POI's; the latter can conveniently be navigated to by simply tapping it on the screen.
While the split-screen technology contributed to a user experience that is excellent overall, the Mio Maps menus are user once again a mixed bag. The main screen is excellent, with clearly labelled, coloured icons and a text description making it easy to navigate. However, some of the submenus feature smaller icons with no text and these are difficult to make out. While some are obvious, others - such as a winding road with a flag - are hit and miss, especially for first time users. The lack of labelling also occurs on the map screen; the row of icons on the right hand side are small and it's sometimes unclear just exactly what they do until you press them. Like previous Mio units, the C520's instruction manual is definitely a resource worth reading.
The maps themselves are impressive though, and despite one hiccup involving the C520 telling us to turn right over a median strip, our experience was positive. Mio has used Sensis V14 mapping, and these are preloaded onto the unit's 1GB of memory, leaving the SD card slot empty for multimedia, or any extra maps. You can quickly change the C520 map view using the cycle maps icon in the top right hand corner of the screen. The unit offers standard 2D and 3D views, with north up, track up and sky view maps as well. The latter is represented by a picture of a plane and is really only useful for a full view of your closest surrounding suburbs, rather than using it to navigate. The maps have an excellent level of detail, with street names easily readable and the current location clearly marked by an expanding circular beacon, much like an alarm or distress signal icon. An excellent feature is the automatic zoom, which hones in every time you make a turn to give you the clearest possible route. This is handy when you are at a large intersection or roundabout with many streets going through it, for example.
The C520 is equipped with the popular SiRFstar III GPS chipset and we are pleased to report its performance is fairly speedy. During our driving tests, we found the unit took anywhere between 15 and 30 seconds to pick up a signal after being turned on, and there were no drop outs, even when driving through the surrounding skyscrapers in Sydney's CBD.
The overall navigational experience is pleasing thanks to clear voice instructions and the text to speech technology works quite well - even if it does struggle with some of the longer and more confusing street names. Our only complaint is with the relatively soft volume levels, and the fact there is no external volume control - having to navigate into the menu to access this is a hassle we could do without. The C520 has plenty of languages to choose from including German, Italian, English, Dutch, Spanish, French and Portuguese, amongst others. The voices are clear and concise and generally quite smooth, and the annoying attention tone that sounds before every voice instruction can be turned off in the settings menu.
When searching for a specific address, the C520 doesn't filter suburbs by state, so you are presented with a list of every suburb in Australia. Although it does narrow down the search when you start typing, we'd still prefer to be able to select a state first, then a city. Once the city is selected, the street name, filtered by suburb, can be chosen. The address entry screen uses an on-screen keyboard, but the keys are small and those with large fingers may have difficulty with precise selection. Once you've selected an address, the destination will show up on the map and you can then start the route, change your starting point, or add a POI.
The usual routing options, such as avoiding tolls, unpaved roads, motorways, ferries and U-turns are all supported on the C520. 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.
The C520 is much more than a GPS, as it includes an audio player, photo viewer, a contacts list and Bluetooth hands free for both hands-free calling and streaming via the A2DP profile. For the Bluetooth features, pairing the C520 to a mobile phone is a simple matter of finding the device by doing a search, entering the default passcode and making the connection; the process takes less than a minute. Once paired with your phone, you can use the C520's large screen to dial a phone number using the large on-screen keypad, browse the phonebook complete with letter shortcuts, and access call history. While this feature is a handy addition, we sometimes struggled with clarity of calls, especially when driving in noisy areas. You'll have to ensure your windows are closed and noise is minimised to have a clear conversation, and the C520 certainly isn't as effective as a dedicated hands-free speakerphone.
A music player is also included; a fully adjustable 10-band equaliser, the ability to recognise ID3 tags and playlist support are very convenient. The A2DP Bluetooth profile means you can wirelessly stream music from your mobile phone to the C520. For traditionalists, you can also store your music on an SD card, the slot located on the left hand side of the unit. Sound through the external speaker isn't great though; a decent pair of headphones is advised should you wish to use this function often.
Despite the extra large widescreen, Mio has managed to trim the C520 down to a respectable size - it's just 19.9mm thin and fairly light at 190g. The stylish design, a glossy silver finish on the front and a matt black finish on the rear, make it one of the more attractive GPS units we've reviewed. Mio certainly hasn't compromised by delivering style though, as the C520 feels solid and well built - important if you are taking the unit from car to car.
The 4.3in widescreen is excellent in all areas. It's bright, clear, has an excellent viewing angle and doesn't manage to be too affected by direct sunlight. The screen produces 65k colours and has a resolution of 480 x 272 pixels, making it one of the highest specified GPS displays currently available on the market.
Included in the sales package is an AC charger, an in-car charger, a window mount and holder, and documentation. The C520's lithium-ion battery lasts up to four hours according to Mio figures, which is satisfactory, but far from outstanding, especially if you plan to use the Bluetooth and multimedia features.
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