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Category: Hardware Published on Wednesday, 18 March 2009

New Mio and Alpine GPS Units Get You There - - - Most of the Time

Michael L. Berman's Blog
Nov. 28 , 2007

Maps???? I don't need no stinkin' maps! I have my trusty portable GPS system, which tells me where to go - - sometimes.

Two new portable units, the Mio C320 ($299.95) and the Alpine Blackbird PMD-B200 ($750), are the latest entries in the constantly growing GPS marketplace. And, although they don't rate as high on the Berman scale as a few others I've played with, they do have a few redeeming qualities.

The C320, which is only available at Radio Shack stores, is extremely easy to use. Just enter the information and you're ready to hit the road. It also has many of the nice features usually found in higher-priced models, such as arrival time, a speed monitor and detailed listings including turn-by-turn directions.

Unfortunately, there's also a downside. Although it does provide voice prompts telling you when to turn, it doesn't have a text-to-speech function giving you street names, so you could end up turning onto the wrong street. It does, however, list the next turn displaying the street name, but you have to take your eyes off the road or have a right-seat navigator with you to use it.

It also suffers from mapitis, which means it can sometimes take you to your destination along a pretty strange route. This, though, is pretty common with GPS units.

Among the C320's features are:

A built-in MP3 player.

1.7 million points of interest (less than many models out there, but enough for most of us).

One gigabyte of memory.

It's preprogrammed with U.S. maps.


Although it does its job and has a good price-point, I'd opt for it's smaller sibling (the Mio C230), which has text-to-speech, but lacks the MP3 player. Neither unit has TMC Traffic capabilities or bluetooth, things you can only get on the more expensive Mios - - -the C520 and the C720t.

The Blackbird comes loaded with tons of features:

A built-in Bluetooth module with an answer (call) button.

NAVTEQ maps for the U.S. and Canada loaded on an SD card featuring more than 6 million points of interest.

NAVTEQ Traffic RDS, which monitors traffic and reports any problems and reroutes you.

Text-to-speech voice prompts including names of major highways (but not streets).

An FM modualtor built into its cradle, so you can hear your favorite tunes played through your car's FM radio.

It can be docked into an Alpine in-dash head unit.

It has an external antenna that mounts on the roof of your car, which means it doesn't need to take up precious space near a window to get a GPS signal.


Now, for the downside. Although I really liked the Blackbird, I was extremely disappointed in its inability to list turn-by-turn directions or to list at least the next three or four turns. It also failed to recognize - - - and prompt me for - - - turns that had to be made on a major highway (including an exit or two), because the name of the highway didn't change.

On second thought, maybe I do need a stinkin' map!

For more information on these and other products, go to or

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