As promised then, my initial review of the A701. Pictures to follow later this evening.
Normally I'm against companies announcing products months in advance, but in Mio's case it seems to have worked to their advantage. If I hadn't have heard about it last August I would by now have bought a separate PDA and bluetooth GPS unit. After 7 months wait though, I finally have an A701.
First impressions? You'll be pleased to hear it's worth the wait. Ergonomically, the A701 is great, and fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. I've just compared the feel of it to a colleague's iPAQ 5550, and that feels very cumbersome in comparison.
The screen is sharp, clear and easily readable. My first gripe though - Mio have included a plastic screen protector, but it's about 2mm too narrow, so bear this in mind when you fit it. Navigating using the stylus works out the box with no calibration necessary (although there is a utility to do it, if needed). The stylus itself is very thin, and not particularly comfortable; it stows away in a slot in the base of the unit which, although is fine when everything is new, does make me wonder whether it will start to slip out on its own accord when it's been used for a few weeks.
I bought my A701 with TomTom preinstalled and it works perfectly. I'm able to get a signal inside, away from the window, which I could never do with my Garmin i3 sat-nav. It also has the ability to download an Ephemeris file that apparently helps navigation software to fix GPS location more quickly. In use, the TomTom voice directions come from a speaker on the back of the A701. It could do with being a bit louder, but it's perfectly usable (and I do drive a fairly noisy car.) In comparison, the A701's 100% volume is comparable to the i3's 4/5. To answer a previous question, the GPS works independently of the phone network carrier.
The phone supports Bluetooth, and it paired with my Nokia HS-36W without problems. This allows you to answer and hang up calls and to redial. However, this does lead me to the first major oversight - the A701 doesn't support voice dialing. So you have a phone that is designed to be mounted in a cradle in a car, supports Bluetooth headsets, but doesn't have any safe way of making a call. If anyone has ideas on alternative software to do the job I'd be pleased to hear them.
When using a Bluetooth headset in conjunction with TomTom, the voice directions come from the speaker until a call is taken; the speaker volume then mutes and the call is redirected to the headset.
Mio certainly aren't shy with the accessories, which makes a nice change. Included with the A701 are a car charger, windscreen suction mount, AC adaptor, USB cable, case, spare stylus, screen protector and CDs. Not much in the way of printed material, just a quick start guide written in about 10 different languages, with the main manual on CD.
It wouldn't be fair of me to comment on battery life yet, as it's only had one charge, but so far I've used TomTom on a 40 minute journey and taken about 30 minutes of calls on it, and the battery indicator is only down to 3 bars from 4.
This is only intended to be a preliminary review as there are some features I haven't used yet, such as ActiveSync, but, as I say, first impressions are good. This isn't the holy grail of all-in-one devices - there's no Wifi or IrDA for a start - but for my needs it is certainly up to the job.
- Clear, easily readable screen
- Unit comfortable to hold/use
- Sensitive GPS receiver
- No voice dialling
- Stylus too thin
As ever, questions and queries in the comments section below.
**UPDATE 14:40 20 August 2006**
I've had the phone almost 6 months now, so I thought I'd give a bit of an update. As a PDA and SatNav the A701 is great, but, unfortunately, as a phone it is terrible. Too often I find either:
- the phone freezing when I answer a call. Seems to be related to having it locked.
- the call will pick up, but there is no audio in either direction.
- the A701 won't hang up a call properly, meaning a soft reset is required.
- after making a call via a bluetooth headset, the other person can't hear you.
I don't know whether these are hardware or software problems but, either way, Mio have done nothing to even acknowledge them, let alone fix them. I will be very reluctant to buy anything from Mio in the future.
**UPDATE 14:00 15 March 2006**
Photos will be coming tonight - I spent all of yesterday evening fighting with MS ActiveSync. It's not Mio's fault, but I haven't used such a useless, bug-ridden piece of software for years. Firstly, I had to uninstall my firewall (Sygate) as the A701 wouldn't connect: just disabling it wasn't enough. Why ActiveSync should even be troubling a firewall is anyone's guess. Next, when I synchronise with Outlook it misses some of my contacts: not the first or last few, just random ones throughout. If you leave the A701 plugged in to your PC ActiveSync wakes it up every 5 minutes. I've sync'd Outlook with Siemens, Ericsson and Palm devices in the past with absolutely no problem at all. Microsoft should be ashamed of ActiveSync.