The Mio c310x is competing in a tough crowd. The entry level, portable, pocketable GPS market. And Mio isn’t a brand that people typically think of first when they think of GPS devices, but perhaps they should. In fact, the the device makers behind Mio also manufacturer GPS devices for several other brands… including some big names. So how does the c310x perform against other devices in this class? We’ve taken the c310x for about 1,000 miles of travel and here is our review.
Physically, the c310x is a little bit larger than other devices in this class. While it has the standard 3.5″ display, it is a little bit wider than other devices such as the Nuvi 350 or the TomTom ONE. The extra width accommodates four buttons along right right side of the device. One for power, settings, volume up, and volume down. I do like having the volume buttons on the case rather than in the menu settings, so there is a worthy trade-off here.
Mio made what I consider a typical mistake of placing the power connector (in this case the mini USB plug) at the bottom of the device. This makes it harder to have the GPS sit low on the dash. With the device higher it is more prone to vibration and may obstruct your forward view a tiny bit more than if it could rest on the dash completely like the Nuvi can.
The suction cup mount doesn’t work extremely well either. It is very thick and you cannot control the up and down tilt of the display without two hands unscrewing the joint. And each “click” of the tilt moves it too many degrees. Side to side angling works okay. But if you can set it and forget it you might only have to deal with those issues once.
The display is a 3.5″ display, standard of GPS devices in its class. The display itself is bright, however much of the interface is drawn with dark tones which occasionally make it seem not as bright as other devices. The Mio c310x has a glossy white housing which also adds to the illusion of the screen not being as bright as it really is. Also the battery/power indicator lights on the left side are bright…. too bright at night and I wish they could be turned off or dimmed.
Routing to an Address
The process of routing to an address works very well. You click ‘Menu’ –> ‘Address’ then select from either your current city, a list of recent cities you navigated to, or another city. As you enter in the city name, a number to the right side of the display indicates how many cities match what you have typed in so far. This gives you great instant feedback and will let you know when you have typed enough so that you can select the city from a list based on what you have typed in so far. A similar search function is provided for the street name.
Once you’ve located the address, a map is displayed of that location. A menu opens on the bottom where you can then click ‘Route to’ and you are on your way.
Finding Points of Interest
Finding POIs is equally as efficient. You click ‘Menu’ –> ‘POI’ and then being navigating the categories and subcategories of POIs. The default search is for POIs around your location, however you can change the reference point to search for POIs in another city. (And yes, they do include classifications for different types of restaurants.)
When looking at the POI search results, not only is the place name displayed, but also the physical address of that POI. While this is a nice feature, all of the text needs to be fairly small in order to accommodate all of this information. If your vision is less than perfect, the text in the search results (and other parts of the Mio c310x interface) might be a little too small to comfortably read.
There are a couple of other issues I have with the interface. The preferences are located in various locations all over the device and can be difficult to find. For example I couldn’t remember how to force day/night modes. At first i went to the settings button on the side, then hit the ‘Tools’ button and looked in ‘General’ with the gear icon. Not there. Then I went back to the settings button on the side, hit ‘Tools’ again, and this time clicked on ‘Advanced’ with the tools icon. Not in there either. Finally I went back to the ‘Cockpit’, clicked on ‘Menu’, then clicked on the tiny gear icon, and clicked the icon with the sun/moon on it. It would be much easier if all of the preferences for the Map mode were in one place.
This brings up my second issue with the Mio c310x interface, the icons. In many, many places they use just icons, no text, to describe the button. Even after using the GPS for about 1,000 miles I still couldn’t remember what each icon’s purpose was. This is why the Garmin devices are so popular… they (smartly) make them so that any four-year-old could operate the GPS.
The news on the Mio c310x isn’t all bad though, in fact overall the Mio c310x is a really nice GPS… especially at the prices it has been available for recently. (Under $200).
The voice navigation instructions were very loud, very frequent, and very clear. In fact, the Mio c310x has the highest quality voice prompts of any GPS I’ve tested. Even at high volumes the voice was still very clear. Unfortunately there is only one US English voice included, “Jason”. At first I thought the GPS might be a little too chatty, but when navigating in unfamiliar areas (why you buy a GPS in the first place) the chattiness is welcome.
There are also a ton of route parameters you can specify which is really nice… if you can find them in the menu structure. For routes you can pick Fastest, Shortest, or Economical. I thought this was very clever. Economical will look for the fastest route, but if it finds another route that will take just a little bit more time, but far fewer miles, it will select that more economical route. The onboard help system also says there is an option to select the “easiest” route which prefers highways (fewer turns) even if those highways make a slightly longer route…. But unfortunately for some reason that setting only exists in the documentation and not on the device itself.
You can also specify the method of transportation which will alter the route settings. You can specify Car, Taxi, Bus, Truck, Emergency, Pedestrian, or Bicycle modes. These different profiles will dictate if things like one way streets are enforced (for example they wouldn’t be on pedestrian routes).
While navigating, the cockpit display three fields of your choice from the following: Distance to destination, time to destination, time to next via point, distance to next via point, arrival time at next via point, speed, time to next maneuver, or arrival time at destination. I especially like that it is highly configurable on what parameters you would like.
You might have noticed that “via” points are referred to. Yes, the Mio c310x can create a single route with multiple via points. After routing to your destination you can continue to look for new points to add as “via” points to the route. If you get some of the destinations in an incorrect order you can easily rearrange them.
There are also Detour options available. You can select a turn/street from the list of turn instructions and click an ‘Avoid’ button. You can select to avoid the maneuver (they spell it manoeuvre), road, or a certain amount of miles ahead from 1 to 30. This isn’t as easy to use as the detour functions on the TomTom devices as it takes many more keystrokes. However at least it has a detour function which can specify a specific road and distance which is much better than is on most Garmin devices.
I didn’t like how they implemented “favorites”. You can specify two favorites, work and home. If you want to save more addresses then get added as “custom POI” categories. That is fine, but I found the process of creating the custom POI category, then finding addresses, then saving those addresses to the custom POI category non-intuitive.
Like other devices at this price point, there is no Bluetooth hands-free calling, no traffic receiver, no text-to-speech, and no option to add a traffic receiver later. However at this price those features are not expected. There is an MP3 player, however. It works like most other GPS MP3 players and if you are not going to use it with headphones like an iPod then the quality of the speaker isn’t good enough to replace your car stereo anytime soon. The Mio c310x also comes with the SiRFstarIII chipset which makes signal acquisition fast and reliable.
The Mio c310x is a decent GPS device, especially at the cost. I do have some reservations about the user interface being confusing, so if you are not the most technically savvy person on the planet you might want to consider something more simple like the Garmin Nuvi 350. But if you can get a grasp on the user interface and want a few more sophisticated routing options and preferences than are available in the Nuvi, The Mio c310x could be a great choice. If that sounds like you, then you might want to match the c310x against the TomTom ONE which also has advanced routing functions and generally is considered a little easier to use, but at a slightly higher price and the TomTom ONE lacks an MP3 player.