We review the Garmin Asus nüvifone M10, a Windows Mobile device, designed for personal navigation
There is nothing original about having navigation software in a smartphone these days.
Google Maps and Ovi Maps offer it for free, and CoPilot is just one example of software that does the job very well for a fee.
So has Garmin Asus come up with a handset to rival the best of what is already out there?
Well, the key point is that while those examples above add SatNav to a smartphone, the Garmin Asus nüvifone line is more about integrating smartphone and SatNav at the very core of a device.
This is shown not only in the software but also in the way that you get absolutely everything you need in the box.
The Garmin Asus nüvifone M10 has its navigation software already installed. Maps of most of Europe are on a 4GB microSD card, leaving you with a bit over 1GB for personal storage. You get a very nicely made car kit too. All for around £300 SIM free.
The handset is well built. It is a bit on the heavy side, and a little thick to hold too – it measures 116x58x14.3mm. But it feels solid, and the black chassis with deep slate grey metallic surround looks nice. There’s a 3.5-inch screen that delivers 480×800 pixels, and it is sharp, bright and clear.
It is disappointing that the screen is resistive rather than capacitive though. That immediately rules out pinch to zoom actions, but also, we found it a bit less responsive than some resistive screens to finger presses.
The Garmin Asus nüvifone M10 runs Windows Mobile 6.5.3, and that means some icons and other on-screen controls are a bit small to hit accurately with the fingertip.
Add this together with the lack of responsiveness of the screen and we sometimes felt frustrated. Until, that is, we looked around the edges of the chassis and found a little surprise. A stylus. Nestling away on the bottom right corner of the shell.
Using that made tasks like entering text for email and SMS a bit faster and easier than using our fingers. It won’t make everyone happy but at least Garmin Asus realises the issue and provides a fix.
Back there a few paragraphs ago we threw in the fact that the Garmin Asus nüvifone M10 runs Windows Mobile 6.5.3. The OS’s look and feel is decidedly out of kilter with more modern smartphones, and Microsoft’s app store isn’t as well provisioned as that of Android or the iPhone.
Plus, with Windows Phone 7 due before the end of the year, the OS feels somewhat out of date already. Oh – and no, you won’t be able to upgrade to the new OS version.
Still, all that noted there are some very neat features here. Garmin Asus has gone to town with navigation and location aware services, putting them at the very heart of this smartphone.
On the Today screen there are dedicated buttons to take you straight into the map view from where you can view the area surrounding your location, and to take you to a search screen that gives access to a lot of navigation features.
You can, do the usual navigation software style stuff of finding an address, point of interest or favourite. You can also locate a contact from the Windows Mobile address book, do a Google Local search and use Panoramio to find photos of places near your location.
Of course, if a point of interest has a phone number listed, you can easily click through to give it a ring if there’s anything you need to check out. And live traffic data is easily downloaded over the network by tapping a button on the map screen.
And there is a final really useful tool in that you can put in latitude and longitude coordinates to find a location. Now, you won’t want to use that a lot, but it can be really handy if your destination is, for example, a car parking field rather than an actual street.
The Garmin Asus nüvifone M10 got a fix quickly every time we used it, and it kept a fix even when indoors and not right next to a window. Spoken instructions are quite loud, though the volume doesn’t go as high as it does on some dedicated SatNav devices and you may not always be able to hear as clearly as you’d like.
The basic smartphone features are all here too. HSDPA, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS of course, and a 5 megapixel camera. The camera has fewer features than we’d like, though and didn’t really perform as well as it should.
A 3.5mm headset jack rounds things off, and this sits on the top edge of the chassis. When it comes to getting music on and off the Garmin Asus nüvifone M10 we were rather irritated to have hot-swapping microSD cards nixed by the fact that the microSD card slot is under the battery.
In the end, the Garmin Asus nüvifone M10 works very well as a SatNav device, but the integrated smartphone capability is perhaps a bit less good than we’d have liked to see. More attention to detail on that side of things, and we’d have been happier.