* Prices may differ from that shown
When my last SatNav the TomTom One (with a do not resuscitate order), after just 3 years of loyal service, fell into a state of serious decline with the constant freezing, connection losses, fatal crashing (the operating system, not me driving)...so much so that I had to actually wait for the battery to drain before adding more juice to get it to restart...it was painfully time to say goodbye. Whilst the TomTom was a good SatNav, there were a few niggles with it so I decided to look for a different (hopefully cheaper) model and after a bit of browsing found that the reviews for the Mio brand of SatNavs seemed to be predominantly favourable so I eventually decided upon the Mio Spirit 485 4.3" Sat Nav with UK and Ireland Maps (since I wasn't too bothered about needing maps outside of the UK as I've never driven abroad in my life) and despite being £89.99 at RRP it was still cheaper than the TomTom so felt like a decent bargain (I believe it is now going for £69.99 so even better). Of course this was before I found out that various accessories had been rather inconveniently missed off...
* The 4.3" SatNav
* In-car charger
* Windscreen holder
* Quick Start Guide
* Limited Warranty Statement
* DVD-ROM for Windows XP or higher with Software, Map Data and Documentation
What should have also been included for usefulness but have to be purchased separately (quoting Amazon prices):
* USB cable to connect the SatNav to a computer - £0.95
* Home charger - £3.95
* Carrying Case - £4.99
Really - they couldn't have included accessories worth £9.89...?
So, if you need to use your SatNav straight away there is no option but to plug it in your car as you cannot charge in your house and therefore cannot make any setting changes via your computer as, alas, you can't plug it in with the power of your mind alone. It is a good idea to read the Quick Start guide first (which I foolishly didn't) as it gives you a fuzzy diagrammatic guide to how to assemble the charger to the windscreen holder then to your SatNav without breaking stuff (which thankfully even a small chimp could do), but most importantly it informs you that you will require the product code on the side of the box to activate your SatNav the first time you use it. So going to your car sans box will require an extra trip back to retrieve said box in order to start using your SatNav. Sigh. Once you've agreed to all the licensing threats and promised to use it responsibly and safely you can then access the main menu to start planning a route.
If, however, you do have a USB cable to hand you can install all the software by shoving in your DVD-ROM (so if you've only got a CD player you are a bit screwed) which will automatically bring up the option to run the .exe file to start downloading various C++ frameworks and Adobe Reader (to read the online user guides) if you need it before installing your MioMore Desktop application which allows you to: buy things online at Mio from within the application; buy or check your subscriptions for Travel Books and Safety Cameras; buy or check what maps you have installed (so the default is UK and Ireland but you can expand to the whole of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and North and South America); add in Custom POIs (Points of Interest); run an Image Search; unlock your features like travel book or safety camera subscriptions; redeem your lifetime map update; view the map of "My Places" which are saved locations, and check your Mio preferences such as languages, voices, backups, system recovery and updates.
To be honest though, you can operate your SatNav perfectly well without downloading your MioMore Desktop application, but you will miss out on updates so it is an idea to run through the process however boring it may be to make sure you always have the most accurate road layouts to prevent ending up in cow infested fields. However, major warning time, if you do not register your device within 30 days of purchase or use you will miss out on the free lifetime map update offer for 4 times a year forever more and have to pay £39.99 for the privilege, and will probably have to keep paying every time you need a new update which frankly is lame. Guess who didn't read any fine print and didn't register their device? If you have any problems with any part of operating your SatNav you can also pop online to their website mio.com and download a copy of their user guide for your chosen language and model. This user guide is laid out in the form of FAQs but is incredibly comprehensive and I think you'd find the answers to most questions here and even ones you hadn't even thought of.
==How it Works==
I'm sure I don't need to explain how a SatNav works but just in case I'll do it as briefly and as patronisingly as I possibly can - SatNavs pick up satellite signals and use them to plot your exact(ish) location on a map before plotting routes to other locations of your choosing based upon your said location and any preferences you might have. The end. So, how good is this little beast at doing just that? Well, in order to help judge, below are all your options on the main menu:
1. Plotting your course
You can choose your destination by clicking the big blue box "Find" on the first screen and selecting via:
* "Keywords" - these are okay if you have something specific in mind, but say you were searching for a "pub" you will also end up with "public transport" results which is not ideal so you need to be precise with your pattern matching.
* Entering the "Address" is great, but takes a bit of time as you need to enter the town/city, then the street then the number manually but it will get you to your exact destination.
* "City/Area" is good if you are looking for just a vague area rather than an exact destination as you only need to type in your chosen area (which will always direct you to the centre) but that is more for the thrill seekers that like to live dangerously.
* "On Map" is quite tricky to manoeuvre as the screen doesn't seem overly responsive so using your nail seems the only way to get it to work and only makes sense if you are searching for something in the local vicinity which you already have to have a vague idea of its location as otherwise you'll just be blindly flying around a 3D map, and if you were looking for something 100s of miles away it will probably take you as long to move this map to its location as it would be to actually drive there. I personally would never use this option.
* The "Postcode" option is a quick and precise way to plot your exact destination by plonking the postcode in then the house number and away you go. The only annoying thing is when you don't have a house number forcing you to make one up, so you may not directed to the front door so there is a slight potential for having to use your own instincts to finish the journey off which is where I often go wrong.
* "Points of Interest" is great if you spontaneously want to investigate/need something urgently in an area or didn't plan properly and failed to actually get down the address of a destination in mind and you can search for things (by name, food, petrol, parking, by type, hotels, cash, SOS) nearby you, in a city/area, along a route you are already on or things near your final destination.
All these option will bring up a list of results which when you click on will bring up the name and address which you can save, show on a map or simply click Go and your route will be planned. Once you begin your journey you will get the chance to break it down with a map overview, a plan of how far and how long it should take and step by step text instructions. You can also click on the "Traffic" function which (if it is available in the area), although I've never used it, should flag up any issues with a warning sign in your vicinity and allow you to avoid catastrophe. You can also have the option to display one piece of information in the top corner so you better make it a good one, which include the current time, your ETA, Distance to Go (DTG), and Time To Go (TTG) in minutes.
2. Looking at the Map
You have the option to simply look at your location on a 3D map and scroll around (using your nail) to see what is in the vicinity, but it is slow to update the moving screen and I'm not too sure of the purpose of this if you haven't plotted a course as all you can do is look but not touch (at least without going back to the menu).
3. My Places
You can save locations you use multiple times, i.e. your home so all it takes is a quick couple of taps and you have plotted your destination.
4. Near Me
Similar to searching under the "Find" menu, there is a shortcut on the main menu which allows you to search for essentials like Food, Petrol, Parking, Hotels, Cash and emergency SOS locations like hospitals or police stations in your vicinity, so if you need to find something super quickly this is a very useful addition.
Here, for those that enjoy tweaking and fiddling you can look at and adjust the settings for: Audio (Volume); Screen display (Brightness); Safety (Driver fatigue alert, speed limit display, speed limit alerts, set your own manual speed alert, warnings not to use the SatNav whilst driving); Route options (i.e. fastest, easiest, shortest or most economical routes, what type of roads to avoid, applying historical and intelligent learning from your own driving to pick the best routes); Map display (Auto-zooming, No-entry signs displayed, 2D or 3D map, aesthetic map schemes); My Maps (switching to foreign countries); Language (written and audio); Units (distance, time, date formats); Time Zone; Trip Meter (Distances, average speeds, max speed, time travelled, stationary time); Device (delete saved information,restore default settings, reset GPS, GPS logging), and a Help option giving you a tutorial.
Having disobeyed the suggestion to initially charge the SatNav up for 8 hours due to not owning a home charger and believing driving around for 8 hours would be a ineffective use of my time, I'm not sure if I did the battery any damage, but it is supposed to provide up to 2 hours of use when fully charged before running out and I feel I only get about 1 hour tops which isn't great (although to be honest I only use this SatNav when plugged in to the car barring a few minutes here and there so it doesn't upset me too much) so following their advice, assuming you can, may be advisable.
In my opinion this is a SatNav designed purely for basic functionality and tries to avoid any unnecessary and confusing bells and whistles which I personally like, although it is so basic you are forced to have one female voice doing all the talking so...if you don't like her...well it could be a problem. Plotting a journey is self-explanatory and allows for the many creative and varied ways you may wish to choose your destination like using full addresses or making spontaneous decisions, and also makes finding things like restaurants, parking, petrol, cash and other emergency places like hospitals and police stations very simple and efficient. When you are following the map whilst driving it is very clear what road you are on, how far until the next junction, turning or roundabout you may be approaching and with both the visual and audio guide, which gives ample warning of upcoming events, what you need to do when you get there so it is quite hard to go wrong (although I am so bad at following instructions I have often gone a bit wrong much to the bemusement of my passengers).
One other thing I love about this SatNav is the lane guidance feature which makes it very clear if you need to be in a specific lane(s) to avoid going somewhere you really don't want to which is something I always panic about when I'm on an unknown journey so this feature really helps me to relax without fear of abject and embarrassing failure. I've been using this SatNav for coming up to a year now and it has never once crashed on me, and I have found the GPS connection has only very rarely been lost, normally when going through tunnels or thick tree-lined roads which I suspect all SatNavs would struggle with so practically all my journeys have been uninterrupted and straightforward. The main issue, and again I have experienced this with most SatNavs I've tried, is when you try to drive through places out in the sticks and you get directed through horrible one-track roads and end up placing all your trust in your SatNav to avoid ending up stuck on a farm to be met by a gun toting farmer, but it has never once failed me or I'd still be in my car now unable to write this review.
Occasionally I have had issues searching for a place via an address or a postcode as it just seemed to fail to get to the search results page so there is perhaps a little gremlin somewhere, but if you reset it works fine so it isn't the end of the world and that has only happened a couple of times and pretty much when I put in about 10 different searches due to my inability to operate the SatNav properly so it could have got its knickers in a twist due to my stupidity. One final confusing thing is when you switch to off it doesn't turn off straight away but you need to choose Lock or Sleep which is a bit weird. If you Lock it still keeps your last menu navigation in cache so when you turn on you pick up where you left off, but it does suddenly blurt out instructions unexpectedly which for the faint of heart could be dangerous, so if you are trying to switch off, Sleep is the one even though it suggest the same thing as Lock in name!
So to summarise, the pitfalls with this device are the lack of useful accessories (which could lose to a deteriorated battery), the lack of sensitivity for the screen and tapping with a finger is about as effective as a chocolate teapot and you really do have to use your nails (or a stylus pen if you are high class) and it can often take a couple of attempts to get the option you want which is a tad frustrating, and getting stung big time if you were late with registration for getting map updates and getting charged £39.99, having to pay for repeat subscriptions for safety camera maps (although if you never speed you'll never need 'em) or only being able to rent maps for other countries for between £5-£20 so if you need them again you need to pay again. For some reason the words Cash and Cow spring to mind. The positives, which massively outweigh the negatives, are that the device is very reliable, extremely easy to programme and breakdown your journey, very easy to follow with excellent visual and audio guides, and the windscreen holder is immovable despite constantly being removed and re-attached which is not something I found with the TomTom provided holder. If you are looking for a cheap, basic but functional SatNav you won't go much wrong with this one - but do make sure you register straight away to get all the offers and perhaps buy the accessories at the same time to avoid frustration.