- Review Price: £129.99
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.
Remarkably, considering the price, the 300 also bundles live traffic updates. The Traffic icon lets you browse current alerts, but specific warnings will pop up as you travel, too. These will give you the option to reroute around a detected problem. The alerts come via the traditional RDS-TMC system using an FM receiver in the car power adapter, so have the usual issues associated with that service. In other words, updates arrive every 15 minutes or so and only cover a fraction of UK roads. So RDS-TMC is useful for avoiding jams on motorways and major trunk arteries, but not so great for more local routing.
The Points of Interest database has been augmented with travel information for key UK towns from WCities. You can access this via the Travel Book. So alongside the location of POIs you can read a brief description of each one and even opening hours in some cases, to help you plan tourist trips. The most frequently used POIs have their own buttons, however, so you can find nearby petrol stations, medical facilities, tourist attractions, restaurants, car parks and cash machines with a single finger press.
In everyday use, the 300’s map view provides a decent level of information. The interface has been pared back a little from Navman’s Smart ST, and now leaves most of the screen area for the map. Along the top is a bar indicating the next turning, and just beneath on the right is a box which can show your choice of details such as distance to destination or ETA. This is perfectly adequate for most journeys, although TomTom manages to fit virtually everything you could want into the same space, even if the end result is a little less aesthetic.
The map design is clear, although we found that the screen updates could be slow in heavily built-up areas. Paying close attention to suggested turnings meant we never missed our route, but it did make metropolitan navigation a little less relaxed than it could have been.
Safety camera locations are built in, and updates cost 45 Euros a year. Alerts pop up subtly as you drive, with a banner plus an indication of the current limit, and no irritating perpetual ping as with some sat-navs. But we also found some long-standing camera locations curiously absent. Major motorway junctions are augmented by a 3D lane view including a realistic depiction of signposting, a virtually ubiquitous feature in the latest sat-navs but nonetheless useful and welcome.
Routing options include walking and driving, but no bike or truck modes. If you input a long route in walking mode, you will be asked whether you really wanted to travel so far on foot, and offered the option of recalculating in driving mode instead. There are 2D top down views to aid the pedestrian, which include footpaths and building silhouettes in some areas, so your routes should suggest a few shortcuts.
The Mio screen mount is worth mentioning as well. This isn’t the sleek all-in-one affair of Garmin’s top models and TomTom’s latest GOs, but it’s easy to use and holds the device firmly. Our one criticism here is that you can’t insert the 300 with the automotive power adapter plugged in, which is a shame as this makes attachment more fiddly.
Costing just £130 and without a widescreen, the Mio Navman Spirit 300 goes head-to-head with the likes of TomTom’s ONE ‘Classic’ and ‘IQ Routes Editon’. But neither of these models have live traffic included. However, now that the irritation has been removed from the Spirit interface, the 300 makes a good budget choice, especially if you’re a rush-hour traveller.
Score in detail
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