Competition is a wonderful thing. It forces companies to cut their prices and it persuades them to improve their service levels. It usually means a better deal for customers, though it might not be great for the manufacturer’s/supplier’s bottom line.
And in the world of portable sat-nav, competition is fierce right now. The use of Windows CE as a platform for such devices, and a mushrooming of mapping software have led to a veritable avalanche of sat-nav systems. And that has forced prices down and features up.
If nothing else, that's one thing we have to thank firms like Acer and its v200 for. This compact unit is a member of the aforementioned avalanche of 'generic' portable sat-navs. It runs Windows CE Core 5.0 with Destinator 6 (the PNA – personal navigation assistant - version) carrying the burden of mapping duties. It's based on Navteq maps.
In theory this line-up should be able to compete with offerings from the likes of TomTom, Garmin and in particular Mio, whose products run on the same operating system core. Alas, the sum of the v200's various parts is rather less than one might hope for.
Why? Well it's not because it isn't well put together. In fact its palm-sized chassis is solidly built and is nicely pocketable. It has a decent speaker on it, making audio instructions clear and easy to hear. Its mini-USB connector at the right hand side on the bottom edge is easily accessible, even when the v200 is sitting in its windscreen mount. There are external volume controls here too.
Nor is it because it's lacking clever features or that it's poor value either. The tool that allows you to store a list of roads to avoid, for example, is excellent. This lets you put horrendous places like the M6 around Birmingham and the A11 in east London on a permanent navigational blacklist, never to be driven down again. It also has a pedestrian mode, though you're braver than me if you'd consider walking around in central London with one of these in plain view. And you get maps for the whole of Europe thrown in for just £115.