Posted March 6, 2004 by Lisa Gade,
Editor in Chief, and Tong Zhang, GPS Guru and Senior Editor
Palm OS users who wanted an integrated GPS had
their prayers answered by the Garmin
iQUE 3600 in 2003. Pocket PC users now have the Mitac Mio 168,
introduced March 2004, as their all-in-one solution. Mitac has
been selling the Mio line of Pocket PCs and MS Smartphones in Asia,
and we could only admire those devices from a distance here in
the US. The Mio 168 is Mitac's first venture in the US market,
and it should be a hit. It features a bright and colorful display,
a very loud speaker (great when using it as a GPS in the car) and
a compact design.
While the iQUE is a strong PDA, Garmin is a GPS
company and seems to view this model as a GPS first. We met with
Mitac's Business Development Manager and Sales Manager in their
Northern California office, and were impressed that they saw the
Mio 168 as a PDA first and a GPS second. After all, if you merely
wanted a GPS, you could buy one of the many standalone models available
today. Mitac realizes the importance of offering and supporting
a full featured Pocket PC running Windows Mobile 2003. Not that
we weren't also impressed with their focus on the GPS: they thoroughly
evaluated GPS hardware and mapping solutions in their quest to
offer the best integrated GPS solution.
Design and Ergonomics
The Mio 168 is a very attractive, modern and
compact device. The casing is finished in bright silver and has
pleasing curves. Like the Garmin, the GPS antenna is mounted on
the top rear, and swings out and up for use. The GPS receiver housing
is apparently very rugged, as the Mitac folks demonstrated by banging
the GPS section onto the table while it was folded down against
the rear of the PDA!
The Mio has two LEDs that indicate charging and
alarms. The speaker and mic are located on the front near the bottom
of the PDA. It has a 5-way joystick navigator, and the usual four
button for quick launching applications. The left button group
and right button group are each made of a single piece of plastic
but can be pressed simultaneously. The power and record buttons
are located on the left side of the unit, and the pleasingly thick
telescoping stylus slides into a top-loading silo on the right
top edge of the unit. For those of you who turn on the unit with
accidental button presses, you'll be happy to know you can disable
power on when the record button is pressed and/or when the application
buttons are pressed. The 2.5mm (the size used by mobile phones)
stereo headphone jack is on the lower left side of the unit. The
SD slot is located on the top, as is the IR port. The soft reset
hole is on the left side of the unit. Don't mistake the on/off
slider switch on the back for the soft reset, it hard resets the
Mio back to factory settings!
Inside the box you'll find a
CD which includes ActiveSync 3.7.1 and MS Outlook 2002, mapping CDs
for the US (except Alaska) and Canada, a thick printed manual, stereo
earbud headphones, a world charger (range of 100v to 240v) and a USB
sync cable. The Mio 168 doesn't come with a cradle, so you'll sync
using the included cable. The charger plugs into the USB cable, so
you'll need to bring both if you need to charge the Mio when traveling.
The Mio also comes with a car charger and dashboard mounting bracket— a
nice touch, as this accessory package can run $50 when you must purchase
it separately with other GPS units and the Garmin.
The Mio 168 has a PXA 255 Intel XScale processor running
at 300 MHz. That's a middle-of-the-road processor, with the 400 MHz XScale
models being the fastest. The Mio has 64 megs of RAM and no NAND flash
ROM available to the user.
The unit runs Pocket PC 2003 Premium Edition, which
is the full featured version of the OS (compared to PPC 2003 Professional
Edition). This means MS Reader, Terminal Services and Microsoft's new
Images program come pre-installed in ROM. For expansion, you've got IR
and an SD slot supporting SDIO. I tested the Mio with the SanDisk
SD WiFi card and it worked perfectly .
Video playback was quite good using Pocket MVP and
Pocket Windows Media Player, especially for a 300 MHz unit. MPEGs, AVIs
and ASF files recorded at 300k bitrate played back smoothly with only
a few dropped frames per thousand played. Videos encoded at 600k showed
some occasional loss of audio sync and had a higher percentage of dropped
frames. Considering that most videos available on the web are encoded
at 300k or less, the Mitac should be more than adequate for most users.
Screen, Sound, and Gaming
Transflective displays, currently one of the best touch
screen LCD display technologies have become standard on PDAs and the
Mio 168 has a 3.5" transflective display. This is an absolutely
gorgeous display! It's exceptionally bright and vivid, having some of
the nicest colors I've seen on a transflective PDA. The color bias is
fairly neutral, and is perhaps a bit on the cool side. It doesn't suffer
any color shift when viewed from an angle as do the iPAQ 1900 series
The sound volume is exceptionally loud. You won't miss
alarms and will probably turn down the sound unless you're using the
unit in the car. MP3 playback sounded good using the included earbud
stereo headphones as did the audio tracks of movies.
How about gaming? Hard core gamers favor the fastest
PDAs just as they want the fastest possible desktop machines. That said,
the Mio 168 did a very good job with demanding games, and didn't send
me running for my 400 MHz Toshiba e805. Hexacto
Bounty Hunter Pinball,Bust 'Em.
and Metalion 2 played quite well. In
fact, Metalion 2 ran better than on several other Pocket PCs we've tested.
The application buttons and joystick behaved well in these games, with
no button lag and no problems with simultaneous button presses. However,
the nipple-like joystick is small and will take getting used to when
The Mitac Mio 168 has a 1350 mAh Lithium Ion battery
that is not user replaceable. That's a good capacity battery, and the
Mio needs it to power the GPS, though of course you can use the included
car charger when using the GPS for trips. We were impressed with battery
life and got runtimes well over 3 hours with the power management set
to high performance rather than battery conservation. In a mix of web
surfing using the SanDisk SD WiFi
card, playing games, watching movies on an SD card, working with
MS Office docs and using the PIM apps, we got an average of 3.75 hours
per charge. For less demanding tasks such as playing MP3s with the display
turned off, using PIM functions and working with Office docs, you'll
likely get longer runtimes, while using WiFi continuously, gaming and
playing videos will shorten runtimes.
The Mio 168 comes with Windows Mobile 2003 Premium
Edition, which is the more full-featured version of the OS. It includes
Pocket versions of Outlook, Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Windows Media
Player, MSN Messenger, Pocket MSN, Terminal Services Client, Pictures
(an image viewer) and Microsoft Reader. Of course, you get the GPS software
detailed below, and a few of Mio's own apps for the 168. eBackup allows
you to backup and restore your Mio using an storage card, eMenu is a
nice application launcher and status app that shows you the number of
unread emails in your inbox, upcoming appointments, tasks, as well as
battery status and amount of remaining storage space. Below that, there's
an application launcher with tabs for Programs, Multimedia, Games and
Favorites. You can edit groups and create new ones as well as add/remove
icons in groups. E-Viewer is a very nice image viewer application that
reminds me of Resco's fine image viewer. It supports BMP and JPEG images,
has a file browser, slide show, screen capture, text and audio annotations
and an email function.
We've run benchmarks using VOBenchmark 3 from Virtual
Office Systems. I've compared the iPAQ
2215 and the iPAQ 1945 to the Mio 168.
All tests were run with units fresh out of the box with no other software
added. The iPAQ 2215 is 100 MHz faster than the Mio, so we don't expect
to see equal performance. Rather we hope you can see the difference
in numbers when selecting a unit that runs at 300 MHz vs. 400 MHz.
I was very impressed with the Mio's Auto performance mode which like
other Pocket PCs with this feature, should scale back on performance
for low demand tasks and ramp up when demand is high. The Mio did a
better job of ramping up performance in auto mode compared to other
Pocket PCs with this kind of feature. Higher
numbers are better (shown in bold).
* Some tests show N/A results because the Benchmark
app didn't offer the test at the time we tested the unit.
GPS (GPS section by Tong Zhang)
The built-in GPS uses the SiRF chipset and the Mio
168 supports the standard NMEA protocol and map data that's within this
protocol with supported Baud rates. Mitac has bundled Destinator 3 navigation
software with the Mio 168, and the map data and POI database are provided
by NAVTECH. To read more about how navigation software and map data work
with GPS hardware, read our guide here.
The navigation software provides turn-by-turn directions, visual and
voice guidance. The map data shows you the street-level maps and POI
(Point of Interest) which gives you a list of useful locations (such
as ATMs, gas stations, movie theaters, restaurants and a lot more) near
your destinations. There is also a GPS status screen where you can see
the number of GPS satellites the unit has acquired. Of course, the beauty
of having the GPS receiver and software built-in is the tight integration
they offer with the Pocket PC's built-in applications. The Mio 168 also
offers a convenient one-touch hot key press for launching maps, GPS stats
screen or POI database using one of the hardware buttons.
You can launch the Mio Map GPS application by either
going into the Programs group or press the Hot Key button. The built-in
GPS receiver takes under 1 minute to get a 3D fix in a cold start and
a few seconds for a warm start. The receiver tracks 5 satellites consistently
and gets very good signal strength in the Silicon Valley area. The Mio
Map GPS has a simple but intuitive interface that shows the number of
satellites the GPS is tracking, Latitude, Longitude, Altitude readings,
Velocity, Date and Time as well as a visual chart of satellites and their
signal status. You can also change COM Ports, Baud Rates and Protocols
in GPS Settings.
The SiRF chipset in the Mio 168 receiver is capable
of supporting WAAS, however Mitac is still in the process of implementing
WAAS support on this Pocket PC. If you want to know more about WAAS,
read our FAQ. The receiver's sensitivity
seems to be tuned very well and gave very accurate readings for locations
in our tests even without the WAAS support.
The map and POI data comes on 2 CDs. You can
install the map data in 11 languages including Hebrew. Once the
map application is installed, you can launch the Mio Map console
to start cutting maps and installing maps to your Pocket PC.
Mio Map includes 49 US States (not including Alaska) and Canada,
and it divides the maps into 9 files. The largest map file is
224MB and the smallest is 3.2MB (Hawaii).
Mio Map offers a unique feature that allows
you to cut parts of these 9 individual maps and only install
the maps that are near your destinations and waypoints. This
feature allows users to save space on their Pocket PC by only
installing the maps they need. The map cutting process is very
easy, just use the Crop map tool and the application will save
your new map into a separate file. You can give the new map file
a name and short description, and it will show up on the Mio
Map Console, ready for download. Once you've selected all the
maps you wish to download, you can load the maps onto your Pocket
PC's internal memory, memory card or a card reader.
If you are planning a cross-country trip and
need to map a continuous route for the entire trip, you will
need to get an additional map package called Route USA from Destinator
for an additional $50. It includes all major roads across the
country in a single map, but it doesn't include a POI database.
This is because Mio Map only allows you to map start and end
points within the current map's region.
Navigation and Driving Guidance
Once you've installed the maps and received
GPS satellite signals, you can start navigating your routes on
the Mio 168 Pocket PC and getting driving guidance. You can input
origins and destinations by entering new addresses, selecting
Points of Interest from the database, using contacts in your
Contacts database, or selecting destinations you've saved to
your Favorites and from History list. You can add waypoints and
avoid roads in your trip planning, however there is no option
to select the types of roads you wish to avoid. You must input
either the type of roads (highway, bypass, etc.) or the name
of the streets you wish to avoid manually. If you've already
mapped out a route and wish to avoid the streets on your route,
you can just click on the road/street names to re-route your
trip. The trip plans we've created seem on target. You should
play with the options of quickest route or shortest rout to find
the best routing possibilities.
The options for viewing routes and directions
are extensive. You can view the route map in 2D, 3D or Bird's-eye
view and use the stylus to drag the map around. There is a very
nice sliding bar on the right side of the map for you to zoom
in and out easily, and you can also use the 5-way joystick's
up/down controls to zoom the map. Pressing the joystick to the
left or right will change the map's compass setting. You can
change the color skin for daytime and nighttime viewing. In addition,
the Destinator software bundled with the Mio 168 actually allows
you to add additional skins and voices. You can download these
skins and other files from Destinator's web site.
The Turn-by-Turn driving directions view will
give you a map view with next turn instructions and the Driving
Directions view will give you the entire trip turn instructions
in text with turn icons and distance between each turn. There
is also a Show Route view that gives you a map view of the entire
trip as well as a summary of the trip. If you miss your turns
while driving, the Mio Map will recalculate the route on-fly.
The recalculation starts very soon after you've missed a turn
and it takes only a couple of seconds to give you a new route
The voice guidance given by the Mio 168 is
one of the best we've ever tested. The turn notifications come
on twice before each turn (one at 200 yards to the turn; one
at the turn). The voice guidance will also notify you how long
you will need to drive on the same road after a turn. Unlike
the first generation of digitized voice guidance, the Mio Map
has a very nice and friendly human voice. Thanks to the Mio's
loud speaker, the voice guidance can be heard loud and clear
over road noise. There is a nice option where you can turn on
or off certain voice alert prompts such as "over the speed
limit", "Route Recalculation", etc. as well as
the visual notifications of the alerts such as map flashing when
an alert comes on. Mio Map also offers the ability to save your
routes and play them back later.
About the Map Data
Mitac licensed the NAVTECH map data, which
is one of the most detailed and updated map sources. The North
America map bundle includes street-level maps and highway data
for the 49 States in the US as well as selected metro areas of
Canada. The street-level maps and database from NAVTECH include
a large number of POIs (points of interest). They not only get
the most up-to-date material collected from all levels of government,
planning agencies, police and fire departments and aerial photographs,
but they also collect first hand data in real time. NAVTECH has
over 100 field offices staffed with over 400 analysts and engineers
who drive everyday to collect data and feed it daily to the live
database. NAVTECH uses up to 150 data attributes in each road
segment that may affect the way you get from one place to another.
These road attributes are characteristics of the roads and include
road names, address ranges, turn-restrictions, one-way Info,
time of day restrictions, speed limits, and more. If you wish
to sample the map data, you can use MapQuest.com since it also
uses the map data provided by NAVTECH or check out NAVTECH's
General PDA features: If you're looking for a
PDA with an integrated GPS, then the Mio 168 and the Garmin iQUE
3600 are your only choices. If you're a Pocket PC person, then
this is your only choice. Fortunately it's an excellent choice!
The Mio 168 is very compact, attractive and doesn't make concessions.
It's got an excellent display, a loud speaker, very good performance
for a 300 MHz unit and even supports SDIO. The price is very attractive
given the Pocket PC's features and quality plus the built-in GPS.
Pros: The built-in GPS provides a very nice integration of the hardware and
software. The GPS receiver gets very good signal strength in this area, and
takes short cold and warm start time. The Destinator navigation software bundled
in the Mio 168 provides a good set of features for easy navigation and complete
driving guidance. The voice volume is the loudest we've heard on a built-in
and external GPS device. The voice guidance performed very well in our test.
The ability to change the look and feel (skins and voices) is a new and exciting
feature for GPS enthusiasts. The NAVTECH map data provides updated info and
POI database. The map cutting is a unique way to save storage space on your
Pocket PC and allows users to customize their own map database. The navigation
is easy thanks to various ways of inputting your destinations.
Cons: You need to pay an additional $50 to get
Route USA for cross-country trips, and the Route USA map only includes
the major roads and doesn't come with POI database. It would be
nice to have more out-of-box granularity in trip planning on the
Mio 168, such as check boxes for avoiding highways, bypasses, local
roads, etc. instead of inputting them manually.
in speaker, mic and 2.5mm stereo headphone jack
(stereo earbuds included). Voice Recorder and Windows
Pocket Media Player 9 included for your MP3 pleasure.
PC 2003 Premium operating system (aka Windows Mobile
2003). Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket
Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also,
Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket
PC, MS Reader and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting
recognition. ActiveSync 3.7.1 and Outlook 2002 for
PCs included. GPS software include Mio Map, Mio Map
GPS and Mio Map POI.
SD (Secure Digital) slot, 4 bit data bus, supporting
included. Can use accessory IR modems and SDIO networking