Handhelds are convenient platforms for GPS navigation, and the current trend is for manufacturers to build the GPS receiver into the device, rather than rely on an external unit. This provides an even more convenient solution: there's no need to pair the handheld with a Bluetooth GPS receiver or fiddle with wired connections, you avoid separate charge cables and you don't have to find in-vehicle locations for two devices.
When such a device also accommodates a mobile phone, the result could be the ultimate traveller's gadget. This is the claim for the Windows Mobile 5.0-based Mio A701, which costs £449 with Mio Map navigation software and European maps, and £379 without the navigation software/map bundle.
The Mio A701 is slightly taller than the average small-format connected Pocket PC thanks to its built-in GPS receiver, whose antenna is located above the screen. It's also thicker than many similar devices, such as the i-mate JAMin and Orange SPV M600. Although these differences are small (the A701 measures 59mm by 117mm by 22mm and weighs 150g), they do mean that the Mio A701 feels a little large both for the pocket and when held to the ear to make voice calls.
Styled in silver and shiny black, the Mio A701 looks distinctive, although it follows the general Pocket PC design, with buttons below the screen and dotted around the sides. The buttons beneath the screen are separated by a small, round navigation key. Call and End buttons form the top button pair, while beneath them there's a button that starts the Windows Media Player, and another that starts your navigation software.
The flash memory slot, which accommodates SD and MultiMediaCards (MMCs), is located on the right-hand side, as its more usual spot on the top edge is occupied by the GPS antenna. The slot is covered by a rubber protector, which looks susceptible to breaking off. The right-hand side also houses the reset button, a 2.5mm headset connector and a button for starting the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera.
The camera software is well implemented. One of the softmenu keys allows you to choose the image resolution (120x120, 240x320, 480x640, 768x1024 or 1,024x1,280 pixels), set up to 8x zoom, switch between burst, timer and normal modes, and change the brightness of the captured image. The White Balance settings are automatic. Other changes, such as image quality and a setting to run a slide show when the A701 is connected to a PC, require a little more effort to configure.
The A701's left edge houses a volume rocker, while the bottom edge is home to the mini-USB mains power and docking connector. On the back is the lens for the built-in camera, a self-portrait mirror and a speaker. To access the mobile phone's SIM slot, you need to open the case and remove the battery.
The 69mm (2.7-inch) 240x320-pixel screen is sharp and bright, and Mio's own-brand Today screen, which uses white text on a black background, lends things a distinctive look. This screen has large icons, four of which you can set as application shortcuts by choosing from a list; the fifth icon takes you to the Mio Menu, a graphical application chooser. If you use the Today screen to view upcoming appointments or tasks, you'll almost certainly need to use the vertical scrollbar that appears when information extends off the screen.
A further row of five very small icons to the bottom right of Mio's Today screen allow you to flip between landscape and portrait formats, see the battery charge level, control the built-in Bluetooth 1.2 module, jump to the memory settings area (to close running applications) and download the Ephemeris data that allows the SiRFStar III GPS chipset to fix your position faster. This needs to be downloaded over the air at regular intervals, but is not required for the receiver to function.
In the box you get a mains power adaptor and a USB cable for PC connectivity, a stereo headset, a belt-clip-style carrying case and printed quick-start documentation. The only detailed manual is on one of the three bundled CDs.
If you have chosen the version of the Mio A701 with navigation software, the second CD contains a backup copy of the software and map data (which comes on a 512MB SD card). The third CD has Microsoft's ActiveSync software. Mio also includes a cigarette-lighter power cable and a swan-neck-style windscreen mount. This comes in two sections, which are easy to fit together. Flexibility is provided by a ball joint -- the swan-neck itself is very stiff.