- Review Price: £118.97
After a controversial start, Mio Navman’s new Spirit interface has been shaping up much better, and we actually warmed to it considerably in the Mio Navman Spirit 300. The Mio Navman Spirit 500 is the widescreen sibling of the 300, offering a 4.3in display, but it’s still extremely keenly priced.
Like the 300, the basic 500 comes with just UK and Ireland maps as standard. However, there are also versions with European maps and a Hands-free version which incorporates Bluetooth. As its name suggests, the latter allows you to use the sat-nav as a hands-free microphone and speaker combination, but the Bluetooth connection can also be called upon to provide a mobile data connection, so this edition of the Spirit 500 offers live Google Local Search, which the other two don’t.
All three offer RDS-TMC traffic updates, however. The receiver is built into the car power cable, so you can’t get a signal without this hooked up. You can browse a map showing major incidents, or call up a list of events and scroll through them, then select one to read further information and peruse a more detailed map. The Spirit 500 will let you know if a traffic jam has formed on your current route, and give you the option to calculate an alternative. A lifetime RDS-TMC subscription for the UK is included.
The main menu interface is a grid of large icons, which can be recalled at any time using the rather subtle button with a red line through the centre found in the top left-hand corner of the device. You have to be careful when holding the device not to hit this button accidentally, as it is positioned precisely where your left thumb rests on the screen bezel. The grid shows eight icons at a time, and you can scroll through to find all the options. This single menu incorporates all the main features you’re likely to need.
Our main bugbear with the original version of Spirit was a feature called SlideTouch. This attempted to mimic the finger-friendly scrolling of Apple’s iPod Touch and iPhone, but instead ended up creating one of the most frustrating interfaces we’ve come across in a sat-nav. Menus were hard to control, and would frequently dock back into the side of the screen when you least wanted them too. Fortunately, all it took to remove the pain was to replace the freeform finger scrolling with simple arrows to shift the menus up and down, or dock them to the side. You can still switch back to SlideTouch if you wish, but unless you’re particularly dexterous we can’t see why you would.
Fortunately, Spirit wasn’t just a new interface – it also signalled a more free-form way of accessing the underlying address database. The Find icon offers the usual options for locating your destination via address, or by name if it’s a Point of Interest. You can drill down from city to street with the former, and via category with the latter. However, Spirit also allows you to search by keyword. Simply enter one or more words, and a list of any matching results will appear. Best of all, the keyword search is across an entire country and includes Points of Interest. So if you don’t know what city your destination is in, you should still be able to track it down, whether it’s a street or a tourist attraction.
The main menu also offers a Capture button for storing your current location in My Places – handy for saving a destination which doesn’t have an obvious address listing. There are also icons giving you direct access to the most frequently used category of POI, including petrol stations, hospitals, restaurants, tourist attractions, car parks and cash machines. There’s a route planner for creating journeys with custom waypoints, as well.
The Spirit 500 also incorporates a Travel Book, which is a tourist guide based on WCities data. This is essentially a more detailed POI listing, so you can read information about potential destinations. Phone numbers are also listed, so you can (for example) phone a restaurant in advance to make a booking, then navigate to it using the Spirit 500. Our sample came preloaded with data for London, Paris and Rome, but more can be downloaded and installed.
The Spirit interface also includes a completely redesigned map view compared to previous Navman sat-navs, with much less onscreen clutter, which has been branded TruMap. Only the route and important features are coloured, with everything else shades of grey, which is very clear and easy to read. The next turning is also very clearly described at the top both using text and an icon. The latter is particularly descriptive, showing precisely which exit on a roundabout or lane on a motorway to use, although this was already a strength with the previous Navman Smart ST interface. The right-hand corner shows a useful piece of information about your journey, such as ETA. You can also drop down a list of further options, and either choose something else for the top right-hand corner, or leave this list onscreen so you can see all the information at once.
The Spirit 500 offers the now-ubiquitous speed camera warnings. These involve a clearly audible chime and an indication of the prevailing speed limit, with just enough intrusiveness to ensure you check you’re within the limit. A full-screen Lane Guidance graphic pops up at complicated motorway interchanges, showing a realistic sign for the turning you are supposed to be using and a clear schematic of which lanes will take you in the right direction. Thankfully, the 3D Landmarks of some previous Navman sat-navs haven’t been included with the 500.
There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about the Mio Navman Spirit 500. It ticks all the main boxes, but doesn’t have any stand-out features other than the countrywide keyword search. Nevertheless, it does the job intended, and at under £120 for the UK and Ireland maps version, which still offers live traffic updates, it’s good value. The £165 Hands-free European version is similarly budget conscious, coming in around the same price as TomTom’s XL IQ Routes Europe, which doesn’t have live traffic.
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