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Mio Navman Spirit 300 Sat-Nav
We haven't been particularly enamoured with the most recent releases from Navman. In terms of features and value, they have been as good as ever. But the S100 and S300 T sported a new 'Spirit' interface with 'SlideTouch', which we found more than a little frustrating (and we weren't alone). The new interface was developed with the help of Mitac, which bought Navman in early 2007. Back at the time of the acquisition, Mitac had its own sat-nav brand called Mio, which remained separate, producing devices like the C620.
Now Mio and Navman have come together, and our first glimpse of the joining of their forces is the Mio Navman Spirit 300, an entry-level model. This is a small device with a 3.5in non-widescreen display and just UK and Republic of Ireland maps as standard. The 300 also uses the Spirit interface, but it has been updated since we last saw it. You can still enable SlideTouch, but by default you now get onscreen arrow buttons instead for calling up the menus and stowing them, or scrolling through the options.
We found this a much more functional method of control, which transformed the user experience from the previous exasperation to a generally very positive one. Menus no longer appear and disappear when you misplace a finger, and finding the entry you're looking for is as reliable as it was with Navman's previous Smart ST interface. Sat-navs need to be more functional than some other electronic devices, and Spirit now fits that criterion.
Apart from making SlideTouch optional, however, Spirit remains essentially unchanged from the first couple of Navman products we saw using it. This is no bad thing, as despite the usability issues, it had some considerable strengths. The 300 has a more obvious button on the bottom left to call up the main options interface, and the latter now includes a big arrow button to scroll down when not in SlideTouch mode. But your first port of call is still a grid of square icons for the main features.
We particularly like how the Find option aggregates all methods for locating a destination into one place. You can still search for an address and postcode, but keywords make things even easier. Just tap in a partial street name and you will be provided with a list of results within the chosen country, which you can scroll through to find the address you want. This is a huge step forward from the days when not knowing exactly which village a street was in meant you would not be able to set it as a destination.