While ViaMichelin has released a number of products over the last 12 months their real attack on the likes of Garmin, Navman and TomTom began at CeBIT.
With the 'X-960' and 'X-970T' the company has really got its act together. Both are midrange models which feature bright QVGA 3.5in LCDs housed in compact (108 x 80 x 20.6mm) and lightweight (136g/155g) form factors with matching memory (64MB RAM, 128MB ROM) and fast CPUs (300MHz/400MHz).
Where the higher end X-970T significantly moves ahead of the X-960 however is with the integration of Bluetooth enabling hands free mobile calls and a 50 per cent greater battery life (three hours verses two). On the other hand both models employ the celebrated SiRF Star III GPS receiver, pick up traffic information, contain a free speed camera database and come preloaded with either UK and Ireland maps or the option of a full European database.
So the hardware is clearly up to snuff but it doesn't stop there with brand new software tidying up the interface and enabling that most neglected of features: offline route planning. This means you can plan your journey from anywhere and watch it demoed regardless of whether you have a GPS signal or not. This is a great system because it makes drivers, cyclists and pedestrians (the devices support all three modes of transport) more prepared and it means you don't have to sit like a lemon waiting for the device to lock onto satellites before you can enter details and get going.
Finally, the company has a brand new service called the 'ViaMichelin Advantage' to compliment not just the X-960 and X-970T but all its devices. It provides access to continuously updated maps and speed camera positioning while also enabling your device to synchronise with the fabled ViaMichelin Guide and import any preferences, restaurants, hotels or POIs you saved while using the guide online.
Prices are good too with the X-960 and X-970T costing just £159 and £239 for the domestic editions and £199 and £279 respectively for the European versions.
Satellite navigation systems often have little to differentiate them but – on this evidence – ViaMichelin has found a way. I came away genuinely impressed.