The Mio Navman 687 satnav marks an interesting turn for the satnav maker. It’s one of the first models to license IQ Routes technology, which roadsters may recognise as a TomTom technology, born and bred. Is it enough to outclass its competitor? And what about those pesky satnav apps on mobiles? Curious, we took it for a spin: read on to find out what we made of it in our Mio Navman 687 review.
If the Mio Navman 687 has a rival, it’s the TomTom XL series – mid-range satnavs with a wide screen, and plenty of extra features/excuses reasons to faff around in a lay-by.
Physically, the Mio Navman 687 is nothing out of the ordinary. The 5-incher is a relatively thick, with a low resolution 480×272 screen that requires some hard, resistive stabs to register input, and a separate accessory to clamp it on to your windscreen.
The difference from previous Navmans is on the inside, with the routing software. IQ Routes works as advertised, suggesting routes to us during busy periods we know we wouldn’t need at quieter times of day, and even helping us discover a shortcut we never knew about – but of course, it does on TomToms too, even the cheapest Start models. We’re still not convinced by the narrow roads and layout of Mio’s mapping, but it’s not as if we ever struggled to see anything.
You also get a free trial of speed camera data, which from our travels across central London and out into the suburbs seem spot on, but our favourite UI gestures are the ability to search by keyword rather than an exact address, something many GPS makers have yet to grasp as a concept, and the option to rent maps for infrequent trips abroad.
There’s also Google Local Search on board so you can find petrol stations and whatnot nearby. Unfortunately this feature is rather superfluous. Where top end TomTom models have their own 3G connections, here you’re required to connect a phone via Bluetooth to hook into its connection – and as you can imagine, this process is not as simple as simply googling what you’re after on said phone.
Mio has long tried to stand out from the crowd with extra entertainment features (remember the TV-in-a-satnav?) but there’s little in the way of that here. There’s an AV-in port and cable to plug in a rearview camera, Bluetooth hands free calling and that’s about it.
The problem with all this however is that we’ve been spoiled by smartphones. We’re not suggesting that the free Google Maps Navigation provides more accurate routing – it doesn’t – but we are suggesting that on new smarpthones it loads maps a lot quicker than a dedicated PND like this. Move the screen slightly off route to see if you really are being sent the right way, and you’ll be met with seconds of delay and confusion as you wonder whether your prod has been registered – and more time with your eyes off the road is more dangerous for you.
Of course, this problem is by no means generic to the Navman 687. But in an age of handsets with 1GHz+ mobile processors inside, and fully featured satnav apps that cost under £30, it’s not something we should have to put up with. We quite like the large buttons of the Navman UI, but when mobile phones can increasingly deliver a more pleasant experience at an equivalent price, there’s a wee problem.