The only hint that this is a GPS capable device, are the letters inscribed in the plastic at the top. In one corner is a plastic hook for attaching a strap while the stylus is located in the other corner. It can be extended or shortened, which can help you use it when placed in a cradle close to a windscreen. The top can be unscrewed and can be used to insert into the reset switch, which I needed to do on one occasion.
The PDA runs Windows Mobile 5 and sports a processor that operates at 400MHz. There’s 64MB of RAM and 128MB of ROM, though only 54.10MB and 95.84MB respectively are actually available for use.
The battery is rated at 1,200mAh and a figure of 4.5 hours is quoted for battery life. This might be possible in certain cases, but not when the screen is left on and the internal GPS unit is active, as it would be on a car journey. In this situation you’ll get a low battery message pop up after only an hour or so. I found this worrying, annoying and far too premature, as it will last closer to three hours.
However, the first time I had to rely on the Mio to get me to a destination it turned out that the car I was in had no power sockets, so I had to hope the battery would last, lest I found myself lost in the mists of deepest Uxbridge. Fortunately, it did.
The internal GPS unit is the now ubiquitous SiRF Star III, which should mean great performance, accuracy and staying power. However, in the P550, I had some very mixed results. To save battery I put the device into a Powersave mode, and soon enough the screen turned itself off. However, when I turned it back in to see where I needed to go, the GPS connection took some 15 minutes to recover, which was quite disappointing. This was in good conditions with a clear view to the sky. It took a reset to get the device going again, but in the meantime I was left stressed and nearly stranded. However, later it re-established the link with the satellites much more quickly, so I could put it down to a one off.
I also found at one point that it got confused about which road I was on and which was I once facing, which left me driving for a while following my nose while I waited for it to sort itself out.
While the Mio 168 used CoPilot software, the P550 is bundled with MioMap v3. I first encountered MioMap on the C710 and while it can do a job I found it confusing and frustrating and little has changed here. The style and textures of the buttons looks basic, while the layout is anything but intuitive – working out where various functions are is a hit and miss affair. I’m used to t he logical arrangement of a TomTom and by comparison MioMap is a hair puller.
Spoken directions are clear but only one voice is on offer, a male one and I found it overly loud and intrusive so I turned it off. Movement on the map is jerky and sometimes the lag after you’ve turned is quite noticeable.