Mio C310x vs Garmin Nuvi 350

Remember how I said I got the US model of the Mio C310,the C310x, a while back? Turns out that wasn’t a good thing after all.

Mio has finally released an update to the Teleatlas maps that come with the C310x, but they’ve dropped support for Canada from the map set. People are upset about this, of course, but so far, Mio isn’t doing anything about it. I’m guessing at the price they were selling the update for, they couldn’t afford to include Canada, and since the C310x wasn’t sold in Canada, no big deal. But for me it is a big deal.

I have a lot of complaints about the maps that come with the C310x. Teleatlas maps are generally accepted to be inferior to NAVTEQ maps for North America – probably because NAVTEQ is based in North America, while Teleatlas is based in the Netherlands. The C310x maps for my area are incomplete in a lot of areas, and the POI database was out of date. Driving to a Dairy Queen to find it closed years ago is no fun.

The C310x also had some bizarre ideas about how to get from A to B. It really likes highways, so it will choose a much longer route if it can find one that involves taking a highway for part of it, leading to routes around Ottawa that are 20 minutes or more longer than if you’d taken a more direct route.

Anyway, the map update was their chance to fix this, and after bragging about its quality (“The new Tele Atlas maps are robust and arguably one of the best digital maps ever commercially developed”), what they delivered is not impressing anyone. So I went looking for a new GPS.

After a bit of research, I picked up the Garmin nuvi 350. I’m going to post a differential review of the nuvi, as compared to the C310x. Here goes:

  • The C310x starts up almost instantly (it’s basically Windows CE in Sleep Mode when it’s off, so turning it back on doesn’t require “rebooting”). The nuvi takes about 20 seconds to boot.
  • The 350 has text to speech for directions, which is very nice. But it pronounces Ottawa wrong! It puts the emphasis on the wrong syllables: otTAwa instead of OTtawa.
  • The speaker in the 350 sucks.
  • The C310x can zoom in and out in real time; you just hold down the zoom key and it zooms in or out. The 350 tries to do this but it’s too slow; you end up having to click the zoom in or out buttons a bunch of times to zoom.
  • The C310x lets you scroll around the perspective view. The nuvi doesn’t.
  • The C310x has hardware buttons for volume, the nuvi doesn’t.
  • The nuvi has a much better window mount.
  • The nuvi gets the directions right!
  • The nuvi gives me a “don’t fiddle with your GPS while you’re driving, moron” warning every time I turn it on. The Mio doesn’t. I can understand the legality of this, but the nuvi also has a “safe mode” where it won’t let you fiddle with the GPS while you’re moving. If that’s turned on, I think it should disable the bootup warning.
  • The nuvi knows which side of the road your address-based destination is on.

It’s really too bad the maps in the C310x are so bad, because in my opinion, it’s a better GPS in almost every way. But accurate mapping and text to speech do make it worth the switch.

One thing that neither of them does that I find annoying, is property tell you how far away something is when you’re searching for points of interest. I live by a river, and there are businesses on the other side of the river that are close to me, but they’re a 10km drive away. If I’m looking for a gas station from here, I’d prefer the one that’s 2km away on this side of the river than the one that’s 1km away on the other side. I wonder how high-end you need to go before you get this.

I also can’t help but think that the biggest cost, and biggest limitation of these devices is the lack of network access. If a car GPS had Internet connectivity, it wouldn’t need to have a huge onboard database; it could stream it in as you drove. Maybe if Google wins the wireless spectrum auction they can provide Google Maps data to GPS devices by subscription. Constantly updated data, access to satellite imagery, being able to stream context-sensitive ads based on your current location, and other perks would make this a killer business.