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If you've ever had trouble reading a map you've probably considered buying a sat-nav system. And why not? They're now so cheap and widely available that buying a low end device is a no-brainer. Soon, it seems, you'll be able to pick one up for less than 50 quid at your local Tesco or ASDA.
It's getting the big manufacturers worried and they increasingly have to come up with more innovative ways of persuading consumers to stump up the cash for their 'superior' high-end products. Just finding you the way is no longer enough.
Personally, I reckon they should be touting sat-nav's green credentials. After all, having fewer people driving around aimlessly for miles with no idea of how to get to where they want to go is bound to reduce our national carbon dioxide output. But no, strangely enough it's stuff like widescreens and traffic avoidance systems that seem to get the manufacturers excited.
Mio's latest navigation device, the C520t, certainly fits into the latter category. It may well help you do your bit for the environment but Mio thinks its 4.3in, 480 x 272 widescreen is much more interesting. And it's hard to disagree entirely, whatever you think of the current obsession with global warming.
The reason is that more screen real estate allows more information to be displayed without cramping the map view. I own a Mio C510e – the C520t's predecessor – and in its navigation mode the information panel takes up too much room at the side of the screen. Here, though, the panel is just as large – if not larger – but there’s plenty of room for the map. A big improvement.
Speaking of improvements, the C520t also makes better use of this information panel. The first advantage is that you can hide it away altogether. Leave it on screen, however, and you'll soon discover that the C520t packs in far more info than the bog standard route data that previous models were restricted to.
Press a button at the bottom of the panel and you can have it display nearby points of interest (POIs), along with your distance from them and roughly which direction you have to go to get to them. Double-click one of these POIs and the Mio gives you the option to automatically route you there – very handy if you're running on fumes and need a petrol station fast.
Another option displays the next few turns on your route and you can also choose to display nearby traffic incidents here as well. In my experience, however, the C520t’s Traffic Message Channel (TMC) technology, which is built into the windscreen cradle, doesn't work well at all – in fact I don't think I've ever been in a situation where it helped me avoid a serious jam.