Mio C620 review

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Pros

  • Large, clear screen
  • 3D elevation mapping of roads
  • Calculates shortest, fastest and economy routes simultaneously
  • 7-digit postcodes and easy destination entry

Cons

  • Photo viewer and Calendar are odd extras
  • 3D landmarks are rather gimmicky
  • Chunky vehicle mount

The sat-nav market is becoming increasingly crowded, and players are finding they need to differentiate themselves from the competition, or risk losing out.

Differentiating is not an easy business. With basic navigation engines working well these days, the choice is one of adding extra features over and above the navigation side of things, or tweaking the navigation itself to make it a richer or more user-friendly experience.

Mio's C620 tries both approaches, offering more than just point-to-point navigation and adding some features to the navigation elements, including 3D landmarks and elevation views.

There are two iterations of the device. Our review model has a near sibling, the C620t, which adds TMC traffic data and costs £339.99.

Design
The C620 is a typical widescreen sat-nav device. The touch-sensitive display measures 4.3 inches corner to corner and sits in a casing that measures 126mm wide, 81mm tall and 19.9mm thick.

The screen itself offers large clear tappable icons, and we wholeheartedly approve of the widescreen format. Its 480 x 272 pixels display information clearly and sharply, and we had no trouble at all reading it during testing.

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But it does mean this is relatively chunky kit. The upshot is that when you leave your vehicle and wish to hide it — and its telltale vehicle mount — the glove compartment may not offer quite enough space. You will find just dropping the C620 into a pocket or bag could also be a challenge, not only because of its size but also because of its 170g of weight.

The vehicle mount is a somewhat complicated two-piece affair with a suction cap for the windscreen and a separate holder for the C620 itself. The two pieces fit together easily enough and the C620 can be swivelled on both its vertical and horizontal axes. In general we still prefer swan-neck style mounts, though the option offered here is solid.

Importantly, the C620 is held securely in the mount and its release is achieved very quickly and easily thanks to a hinged clasp.

As is usually the case, the device has an internal battery, which Mio says should provide up to two hours of life away from a power source. A vehicle charger is supplied and this connects to the device by a mini USB port.

The C620 has a 2.5mm headset jack on its left edge, and an SD card slot.

Features
The C620 comes with maps of 22 European countries (Andorra. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Great Britain, Italy, Ireland, Lichtenstein, Luxemburg, Monaco, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Vatican City).

Its offers two features that are significant in terms of navigation capability: 3D landmarks and elevation is one, and the ability to calculate multiple routes at the same time is another.

The latter feature is by far the less showy, but potentially very useful. When you enter a destination it calculates the fastest, shortest and "economy" options at the same time, allowing you to choose one as your preferred designation for that trip.

This is a vast improvement over sat-nav devices that require you to enter navigation preferences as a universal setting, as it allows you to make on-the-hoof decisions about the type of trip you want to make.

It is not clear on what basis the economy mode is calculated, but trips of a few hundred miles with a clear direct motorway option resulted in a much further distance to travel on their economy mode plans, so we assume motorway driving is deemed to be comparatively expensive.

The map display is accompanied by a set of touch buttons that are transparent, so they don't seem to overwhelm the view of the map itself. These buttons variously let you zoom in and out of the map, switch in and out of the 3D view, and access the device volume control.

It is the 3D mapping that steals the show, however. When we first learned about it we though it would prove to be something of a gimmick, and to a certain extent we believe we are right.

3D landmarks — of which there are, apparently, close to 1,000 — are not really that useful. If one is driving in Central London or Paris for example, then a giant image of the Houses of Parliament of the Eiffel Tower does not add a lot to your at-a-glance view of the route ahead.

We feel the same, up to a point, about the 3D landscapes. To see elevation on the device represent the same on the ground is interesting and rather fun. Anyone who is a fan of maps, and it has to be said that such people are still among the vanguard of the sat-nav community, is likely to agree. But we don't feel such on-screen information adds a great deal to the business of getting from A to B.

Elevation on roads themselves is, however, a completely different matter. When negotiating complex junctions with elevations, onramps, offramps and suchlike, it is reassuring to see the road layout — and your route through it — replicated on screen.

Are there driver-safety issues here? Well, the temptation for some may be to spend longer than necessary looking at the screen, especially in the early days, and we would counsel against this. However, with the c620 optimally located in your vehicle, a quick glance should suffice.

The wide screen lends itself to being split, and Mio has done some good things with the idea in the past. The same can be said of the C620. Tapping a button on screen causes a third of its area to be given over to providing an information panel. Tap the same button again and the entire screen is devoted to the map.

The information panel can be used to display information, such as nearby points of interest. The nearest four in your chosen category are displayed, and tapping one re-routes you to it. It can also display TMC information if you have the C620t, or information about your trip such as distance to destination and current speed.

You can also use this panel to hook into some of the additional features on the C620, namely Bluetooth phone-related features and music playback. Using a sat-nav device as a Bluetooth hands-free kit has long been an acceptable secondary feature, and Mio has also been a pioneer of extras such as music playback.

The player copes with ID3 tags on MP3 files so that you can view music by artist, album and genre. A simple file explorer can access an SD card. Music played through the device speaker is of average quality and no more.

In addition to these two extras there is an image viewer, which you access from the device main menu. This presents a basic file explorer so there is no need to put images into specific folders on an SD card. This means, in theory, that you can take an SD card from your digital camera and use the larger screen of the C620 to view its photographs. We aren't convinced it works well, though. We found image quality to be rather reduced, although this may depend on the quality of your photo-shooting equipment.

There is also a contacts application on board, which is fair enough given the Bluetooth capability. It can be set to synchronise with your PC. But we can't really see the justification for including a calendar. You can add appointments to this easily enough, but we just aren't convinced that people use their sat-nav systems frequently enough to warrant keeping their diary on board.

Performance and battery life
A sat-nav system is only as good as its first point of contact: the entry of destination addresses. The C620 supports full seven-digit postcodes and the tappable keypad has numbers and letters on display at the same time. Entering destinations using postcodes was by far the quickest and easiest way to proceed.

Route calculation was speedy. We found the processor did not seem troubled by the need to produce 3D graphics, rendering maps smoothly when we used this mode.

Spoken instructions were loud and clear.

Conclusion
The C620 is a pretty polished piece of kit. Mio makes good use of the screen space, and has the basics, such as fast map-rendering and easy address-entering, under control. The 3D rendering is a mixed bag, with some elements potentially very helpful.

We aren't convinced about the photo viewing or calendar applications. We do have a little more time for the music player, though not much. But these are types of extra features that competitors include in their devices, so Mio has to keep up.

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