Mio – A701 review

PDA phone with built-in GPS route-mapping
Photo of Mio – A701
£449 with MioMap software and maps of Europe, £379 with no software or maps

In-vehicle navigation is becoming quite the thing, with the range of options available growing all the time. Unless you are super-rich you are probably going to be looking at one of two set-ups: a stand-alone sat-nav system which only offers route planning, or a more hybrid type of system built around some sort of PDA.

The Mio A701 falls into the latter category, and is one of a small but growing number of PDAs to have a GPS antenna built in. It runs Windows Mobile Pocket PC.

The great advantages of built-in GPS are that you only have to remember to charge and carry one device, and you don’t have to fiddle with Bluetooth pairing or a wired link. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to tell by just glancing at the Mio A701 that an antenna is built in: lettering on the top edge gives the game away, but it is pretty discrete.

The Mio A701 has another trick too. You can drop your SIM into a slot under the battery, which means that this device functions as a voice and data phone, PDA and navigator all in one. That’s quite a mixture in a piece of hardware that measures just 117 x 59 x 22mm and weighs 150g.

Windows Mobile 5.0 provides for synchronising diary, tasks and contact information with Outlook on your PC, as well as for e-mail, SMS and MMS management. Pocket Internet Explorer caters for the Web, Media Player for music, and Word Mobile, Excel Mobile and PowerPoint Mobile for your word processing, spreadsheeting and presentations needs – the latter view-only, though. There’s a 1.3-megapixel camera built in too, but no Wi-Fi; just Bluetooth and infra-red.

Generally, the Mio A701 performed well enough on test. Its battery managed to churn out more than six and a half hours of continuous music with its screen forced to stay on to push it rather harder than you might in everyday use. When you are using it in a vehicle it will be powered by the supplied cigarette lighter charge cable. For voice calls it isn’t a great deal bigger than a mobile phone to hold to your ear.

The usual Windows Mobile software is augmented with a utility that can send an emergency SMS using the GPS antenna to deliver your position to a caller as latitude and longitude coordinates, simply by holding down one of the side buttons on the hardware.

You can buy the Mio A701 direct from Mio with or without navigation software. The software Mio supplies is fine once it gets going, but entering information about where you want to go is a little painful as you are forced to start with either a postcode (four digits only) or a town. We’d like to be able to begin with a street name, too, and it is irritating to have that option denied.

The software will also pick up addresses stored in the Windows Mobile Contacts application, but not always: it has to be properly laid out with the right type of information in the right field. If you cut and paste addresses into Outlook on your desktop for synchronising with the Mio A701, the formatting may well be off in many cases.

Company: Mio

Contact: 0905 464 0010

The Mio A701 brings together navigation, PDA and phone in a single device, and if you need all three features at your finger-tips it could well appeal. Consider opting for different navigation software, though - there's plenty to choose from.