Mio A701 GPS mobile phone

The trouble with dedicated GPS units is that once you take them away from the car they don’t really offer that much.

So what are you options, well you could go the Tibo route and add an MP3 or MPEG4 movie player to keep you entertained in the next traffic jam, or you could opt to go the route Mio has for its latest GPS, and add a mobile phone.

The Mio A710 is small, slender and impressive. GPS comes via the new SiRF Star III chipset and this means that for the most part you can pick up a signal in doors before you start you journey.

Maps of Europe are provided on a 512MB SD card, included in the box, and it’s a case of just putting this in the SD slot on the side of the unit and away you go.

The maps themselves are very easy to use and the mapping software considerably faster in this version than the last Mio we tried.

If that wasn't enough of an incentive the software is easy to use as well and has a nice speed feature which warns you when you go 10 miles over the limit. Speed freaks will be pleased to hear this warning isn't a constant siren or wailing noise until you reduce your speed, just an explanation mark and the word "beware" voiced via the speakers.

Based on the Intel PXA270 processor running at 520MHz the Mio A701 has a 2.7-inch screen, which is capable of displaying a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels.

Techies out there will be pleased to see that the persistent memory is catered for with total memory 192MB of memory which is split 128MB of ROM and 64MB RAM.

To help with using the GPS maps in the car the phone supports a flip screen option that allows you to flip from portrait to landscape at the press of a button depending on whether you are using it as a phone or a GSP.

But the GPS is only a third of the story. The Tri-band GSM phone runs on Microsoft’s new Windows Mobile 5 OS and that means Business users can take advantage of the OS's new Push Email features to make it work just like a BlackBerry, as well as giving you access to a plethora of applications like Word and Powerpoint to Go.

For multimedia buffs there is even a 1.3 megapixel camera that offers a 2x,4x, and 8x digital zoom included and overall in our tests we found the A701 fast and easy to use.

Our only criticism of the phones controls is the small on screen number pad that we found almost impossible to press with your fingers.

It would have been nice if we could have pressed a further button to maximise this, but alas, we couldn’t find one. This results in having to get out the stylus every time you want to dial a number with any guaranteed success and if you are dialling in a hurry a real annoyance.

Compared to other smartphones appearing on the market it would have also been nice to have included wifi in the package, so you could collect your mail or surf the web when you find yourself in a hotspot.

We are not sure whether it was a space or price constraint, but given the choice of wifi over the new GPS chipset we are glad that Mio opted for the later - it certainly makes a difference.

Verdict

The Mio has a very good colour screen and the addition of the new GPS technology meaning you can pick up a signal indoors is certainly welcomed.

Although missing out on a QWERTY keyboard, the payoff is that you aren't looking at a device that is the size of a paperback book and certainly something that you could slip in your pocket without making a huge bulge.

The Mio A701 is great for those looking for more than just a phone with a supped up address book, but not looking to go the whole hog with a PDA QWERTY keyboard styled device.