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Garmin iQue M5 Pocket PC with Integrated GPS Review

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Posted April 9, 2005 by Lisa Gade and Tong Zhang

Garmin's iQue 3600 was the first PDA with an integrated GPS to infiltrate the US market in late 2003. The Palm OS iQue 3600 was much anticipated and well-received at launch, proving that consumers wanted an integrated device that kept them both on-schedule and on track to their next appointments. But what about loyal Pocket PC users? Mitac came to the rescue in early 2004 with their Mio 168 which has enjoyed strong success in the US though Mitac isn't a household name here. The Mio has middling specs by Pocket PC standards and an excellent GPS. Garmin then released their first Pocket PC with integrated GPS, the iQue M5. If you're looking for a more budget minded version, check out our review of the Garmin iQue M3 which was released in late 2005.

The M5 has a lot going for it: a 416MHz Intel XScale processor which beats the Mio's 300MHz processor, Bluetooth, a user replaceable battery (the Mio's is fixed) and it runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition with support for landscape mode while the Mio runs Windows Mobile 2003 (not SE). Clearly, the Garmin has strong Pocket PC specs and a high price tag to match: the list price is $749, though it can be found for less at many retailers. But how about the GPS and GPS software? Read on to see!

The Garmin M5 uses Garmin's own Que GPS software which is the spitting image of the software used on their Palm OS iQue 3600. The unit comes with MapSource City Select maps on CD for the US and Canada with base maps of South and North America and Puerto Rico. Maps of Europe and the Pacific rim are available for separate purchase, and international versions are available for users in those areas with the appropriate respective maps bundled.

Garmin iQue M5
Garmin M5  back

In the Box

The Garmin comes with a nice bundle of goodies: the iQue, removable Lithium Ion battery, charger, cradle, stylus, removable flip cover, Pocket PC software CD, map CDs, in-vehicle car mount comprised of a windshield mount, cradle, external speaker and cigarette lighter charger.

Design and Ergonomics

The Garmin iQue M5 is a relatively large Pocket PC in length, though it's not overly wide. It's about ½ inch longer than the Mio 168, and identical in size to Garmin's Palm OS iQue 3600. Like the Garmin iQue 3600, the M5 scores a bronze metallic finish that looks professional. It has the standard Pocket PC controls on the front: four application buttons below the display along with a round directional pad with an action button in the center of the d-pad. The circular d-pad moves easily (but not too easily) in all directions and supports diagonals. The application buttons launch Calendar, Contacts, Messaging and Que Cycle (cycle through bundled Que applications); and you can re-assign other applications to these buttons. Above the display, you will find a microphone/speaker grill on the left, the Power on/off button in the center and two LEDs on the right. The left LED indicates battery status while the right indicates Bluetooth status. The iQue M5 comes with a removable flip cover that's rigid and protect the screen from scratches and minor bumps.

 

Deals and Shopping

 

 

 

On the top edge you'll find the standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, an SD card slot, IR window and the top of the stylus silo. The metal stylus feels good in hand thanks to its weight and thickness. Near the top on the left side of the device, you will find a voice recorder button and the right side, you will find an external GPS antenna port underneath a tiny rubber cover. On the bottom of the unit, you will find the combined sync and charging port which plugs into the desk cradle and the in-vehicle cradle. You can't plug the charger directly into the Garmin, but rather you must plug it into the cradle or car charger.

The back of the Garmin iQue M5 is occupied by the hinged GPS antenna panel that can be flipped up when using and locked shut when not. There is a lock release slider next to the antenna and you will need to slide it to unlock the GPS antenna. The battery door is located below the GPS antenna and the iQue's battery is user replaceable.

The Garmin iQue M5 comes with a very sturdy windshield mount with integrated cradle which can be adjusted to various angles to fit your car the best. The mounting kit has a speaker and an in-vehicle power adapter that can charge the Garmin via the cigarette lighter.

Horsepower and Performance

The Garmin has a 416MHz Intel XScale PXA272 processor which offers strong performance and beats out the Mio 168 in benchmarks. The iQue M5 does extremely well in graphics benchmarks and as a result maps render quickly, and game and video playback are excellent.

The device has 64 megs of RAM with 63 available to the user and 64 megs of flash ROM, 15 of which is available to the user as "safe Store" non-volatile memory which will survive a hard reset and complete battery depletion.

The Pocket PC has an SD slot for expansion which supports SDIO for networking cards. Need more space to store map data? Simply put them on an SD memory card.

Gaming performance is very good, and video playback is excellent using the included Windows Media Player 10 and 3rd party players such as BetaPlayer.

Above: side view with antenna extended (left) and flip cover attached but open (right end).


Comparing the Garmin M5 (left) and the Mitac Mio 168 (right)

Benchmarks

We performed benchmark tests using Spb Benchmark, which has become the standard for testing Pocket PC performance. The Garmin did well, holding its own against other recent 400MHz Pocket PCs and beating out the 300MHz Mitac Mio 168. Certainly if you're looking for a Pocket PC with integrated GPS and good processing power and graphics performance, the Garmin is a good choice.

Display, Sound and Gaming

The Garmin has a 3.5" QVGA transflective 64,000 color display running at 320 x 240 resolution. The display's brightness and contrast are average for a Pocket PC, and color saturation is quite good, though the display does have a pink tint. While not nearly as bright as the Mio 168's display which is one of the brightest and sharpest we've seen on a Pocket PC, it is on par with the Dell Axim X30 and X50 Pocket PCs.

Voice volume through the built-in speakers is loud enough for normal applications, gaming and route guidance as long as the road or your car aren't terribly noisy. The volume doesn't come close to the Mio 168, which is by far the loudest PDA. The Garmin is louder than several iPAQ Pocket PCs and compare favorably to Dell models. The included in-vehicle mounting kit has a louder speaker, which ups the volume adequately. Sound volume through a pair of stereo headphones is very good, and it's louder than the the iPAQ 4705 for MP3 and movie playback.

All the games we tested worked very well on the Garmin. Game speed is very good, even when playing some of the most processor intensive titles. We tested some 3D flight-shooters including Metalion 2, Anthelion, the 2D shoot 'em up game Sky Force and the ever-popular Age of Empires. Controls are responsive and games play smoothly. Game sound FX and music are quite loud through the speaker.

Battery Life

The Garmin's 1250 mAh Lithium Ion battery provides good runtimes. Garmin claims that it can get 5-7 hours of continuous PDA/GPS use, which is a bit optimistic unless you're only using the GPS and PIM functions, set brightness below 50% and do not use Bluetooth. Gaming and video playback will consume power more quickly as will active Bluetooth usage. That said, the Garmin is above average among Pocket PCs and will outlast the Dell Axim X50 and some iPAQ models. In our tests, the iQue M5 played MP3s with the display turned off for just over 7 hours before it hit the 10% battery mark.

 
HP iPAQ rx3715 (400MHz)
Dell Axim X30 (312Mhz)
Mitac Mio 168
(300MHz)
Garmin iQue M5
Spb Benchmark index
1545
1474
-
1625
CPU index
1529
1673
-
1864
File system index
1387
1050
868
1154
Graphics index
2956
3916
1358
4259
Platform index
1422
1142
-
1240
Write 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1422
1030
935
1300
Read 1 MB file (MB/sec)
23
28.6
20.4
24.9
Copy 1 MB file (KB/sec)
1392
1029
941
1301
Write 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
1066
705
644
892
Read 10 KB x 100 files (MB/sec)
10.2
9.51
7.69
9.76
Copy 10 KB x 100 files (KB/sec)
960
629
543
774
Directory list of 2000 files (thousands of files/sec)
37
19.8
16.1
21.7
Internal database read (records/sec)
1329
1280
1100
1482
Graphics test: DDB BitBlt (frames/sec)
388
308
146
284
Graphics test: DIB BitBlt (frames/sec)
29.8
21.4
16.9
27.1
Graphics test: GAPI BitBlt (frames/sec)
392
913
172
885
Pocket Word document open (KB/sec)
54.6
36.1
31
39.2
Pocket Internet Explorer HTML load (KB/sec)
10.2
6.73
5.66
7.73
Pocket Internet Explorer JPEG load (KB/sec)
220
206
180
212
File Explorer large folder list (files/sec)
763
592
472
550
Compress 1 MB file using ZIP (KB/sec)
312
230
194
244
Decompress 1024x768 JPEG file (KB/sec)
551
501
460
628
Arkaball frames per second (frames/sec)
158
262
105
264
CPU test: Whetstones MFLOPS (Mop/sec)
0.084
0.059
0.057
0.079
CPU test: Whetstones MOPS (Mop/sec)
55.2
43.2
41.5
57.4
CPU test: Whetstones MWIPS (Mop/sec)
5.44
3.88
unable to test
5.17
Memory test: copy 1 MB using memcpy (MB/sec)
59.5
115
unable to test
105

* Spb Benchmark couldn't complete some CPU and mem copy tests on the Mio 168, so results for the Mio aren't available in all categories.

Bluetooth

Unlike HP iPAQ Pocket PCs and several other brands with integrated Bluetooth, the Garmin does not use Broadcom's (formerly Widcomm) excellent Bluetooth stack and software. Instead, the iQue runs Stonestreet One's BTExplorer. While there are some similarities in the user interface and overall functionality, BTExplorer falls short of Broadcom's offering. The user interface is less than intuitive. When creating a new Bluetooth connection, you'll select the new connection option, and like Broadcom's software on recent iPAQs, you can either select "Explore Services on Remote Device" to allow the Pocket PC to discover available services, or if you know what you want, you can use the drop-down menu to select other options such as ActiveSync, "Connect to the Internet using Phone/Modem"," Browse Files on Remote Device" and so on. Once you've made your selection, you'll hit "next" to have the M5 scan for Bluetooth devices in range. Unfortunately, once the Garmin has found a Bluetooth device, on subsequent visits to this page, it will only show the device(s) it found the first time. There is no refresh or scan option, so you'll sit there pondering how to make the little bugger find its intended new Bluetooth pairing partner. How to do it then? Tap and hold in the devices window using the stylus to bring up a menu which offers options to discover devices, delete all devices and more. An integral step in the discovery and pairing process should never be a well kept secret. Once the Garmin has found the Bluetooth device it will take you to the next screen where it lists discovered devices. This window has a pop-up menu near the top which filters results (all devices, audio devices, network devices, phones, printers, computers, and OBEX devices). Oddly, even if you started off by selecting phone pairing, this window's default filter seems to be Network Devices, so you'll wonder where your phone went until you tap the pop-up menu to select phones or all devices.

But the good news is that the device does pair nicely with standard mobile phones like the Nokia N-Gage QD and other recent Nokias as well as the Sony Ericsson T610. It did pair with the Audiovox SMT5600 smartphone but for some reason couldn't make a connection to the Internet, though this phone plays nicely with other Pocket PCs such as the HP iPAQ hx4700 and the Dell Axim X50.

The Garmin M5 has a strong selection of Bluetooth profiles such as audio, ActiveSync, serial port, OBEX push, dial up modem, and networking (via access point or connection sharing). Once you get beyond the interface, the functionality is good.

Software Bundle

The Garmin iQue M5 runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition operating system. Since both portrait and landscape orientations are supported natively in this version of the OS, you can view the maps in either orientation. The Garmin also comes with the standard Microsoft Pocket PC software including Pocket versions of Word, Excel, Windows Media Player 10, Internet Explorer, Pictures (a photo viewer), Terminal Services Client, MSN Messenger, and Outlook (Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Notes and Messaging). Like all Pocket PCs, the Garmin comes with ActiveSync and Outlook 2002 for the desktop. Pocket PCs sync to Outlook for PIM data (contacts, calendar, tasks, notes and email), and you can use ActiveSync to sync files and install Pocket PC applications on the Garmin.

In addition to this standard Pocket PC software, Garmin includes Stonestreet One's BTExplorer for managing Bluetooth connections and a nice application launcher Today Screen plugin called QuickLaunch Bar. The Garmin also comes with Sprite Backup, an excellent backup program that allows you to back up your data to an SD card or the 15 meg flash ROM area of memory.

And of course, the M5 comes with GPS and navigation software. The unit comes with Garmin's signature "Que" suite of applications. These are QueMap, QueFind, QueGPS, QueTrip, QueRoutes and QueTurns. The iQue M5 package also includes a very impressive map package called MapSource City Select that utilizes map data from NAVTEQ, offers highway and street level maps for all 50 US States, Canada and Puerto Rico, and over 5 million POIs (Points of Interest).

screen shot

Above: the Bluetooth wizard.

 

Que apps

Above: the Garmin Que apps. Below: Garmin's Today Screen Plugin with status popup.

Today screen shot

NEXT-> Page 2: Detailed Review of the GPS Features, Specs and Conclusion

 

Specs:

 

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