GPS is a rapidly growing technology and we’re starting to see a flurry of devices featuring the technology in one form or another. The Acer N35 is the second PDA I’ve looked at to feature a GPS receiver actually integrated into the PDA, the first being the Mio 168. For the GPS enthusiast this is great as it avoids the need to have any trailing wires to an external GPS receiver or having to rely on a Bluetooth unit that runs on batteries. While the Mio 168 used CoPilot as its navigation software, Acer has plumped for Destinator 3.
I’ve reviewed quite a few Acer products over the last year or so such as laptops and screens and have been quite impressed by what I’ve seen. I couldn’t help be other than disappointed when I first got the n35 out of the box. Compared to an HP iPaq or a Dell Axim, the n35 is a rather cheap and plasticky looking PDA. Particularly lack lustre is the central joystick at the bottom centre. Its range of movement is poor and it can’t be pressed in and used as a select button, which I found rather counter intuitive. The unit weighs a reasonable 165g, but seems a little bulky in the hand. There are two lights on the front, - a yellow one on the right to indicate power, and a blue one on the left that flashes when the GPS aerial is lifted up.
The specs are also on the average side. It’s powered by a 266MHz Samsung CPU, which proved to be a little underpowered while searching for addresses. The screen resolution is 240 x 320, which is only average. But it isn’t so much the resolution that's disappointing but the quality, which is below average compared to other PDAs; text looks grainy and the screen isn’t that bright.
The PDA has 64MB of built-in main memory, though only 55Mb was free for use. The good news is that the 256MB 'map-and app' SD card has 52.3MB of memory free, which is a bonus. What really plants the PDA is the underspecced camp is the fact that it lacks either built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. This could be added via the SD card slot - but as this will be occupied by the maps it’s not a particularly flexible solution. Along with the SD card at the top is a microphone and a headphone socket, while down the left is a scroll wheel.
For car use Acer supplies a suction holder and a clip that grips the PDA in place. This is released by pressing a button to one side, which cause the grips to spring open. It did slip out of its holder a couple of times but if you fix it in tight enough it shouldn’t cause any problems. One issue though is that when in place the stylus is too long to take in and out of the PDA, unlike the Mio 168, which was supplied with a specially shorted stylus. Then again, you aren’t meant to be using the PDA while driving. In fact as Destinator starts up you have to agree to a disclaimer that you won’t use the software while driving, which is sensible advice. However, it does make it less flexible to use and does beg the question as to how you’re supposed to use the POI (Points of Interest) database. It seems that to use it safely, you’ll have to pull over. Entering information has to be done using the stylus: there’s no large on screen keyboard as you get in a device such as the TomTom Go.