Review: Mio Spirit 687

Published: May 12, 2011 11:00 PM
By Fabien Pionneau
Translated by: Sam McGeever
The new Mio Spirit 687 sat nav is part of a current trend for large displays on GPS devices.  The interface is as clear and complete as ever, and adds a few handy new features, some of which represent a genuine innovation. 

Hardware: a design classic, but the accessories are beginning to show their age

Of course, a large screen takes up a lot of space.  At 14 cm across, the Mio Spirit 687 isn't the easiest device to slide out of the way, despite being relatively thin (17 mm) and light (185 g).  The exterior is perfectly reasonable, but the whole thing looks cheaper than it is because of the rather dubious quality plastics and the all too standard glossy black finish.


Mio Spirit 687

The good news is that the 5'' screen has a matte finish and it soon takes up all your attention.  It's bright, has good contrast and viewing angles and combines a good quality display with excellent touch-sensitive performance.  Nevertheless, it's a resistive touchscreen, meaning it can only record a tap in one area at once (so no multitouch).

The suction mount is the same as usual and is starting to look dated.  It sticks to the windscreen well enough, but it's the connection between the device and the stand that poses a problem, especially when you want to get the GPS out.  Manufacturers like TomTom have a much simpler system, either by including the stand in the device itself, or making a larger stand that stays in your car.  The cigarette-lighter connection is also too big.


Mio Spirit 687
Despite what the photo at the top of the page might make you think, the production version of the Spirit 687 doesn't have a microSD card slot.  Mio has confirmed this, and the European maps are all stored on 4 GB of internal memory.

It doesn't take much for the speaker to start to sound saturated, and there isn't, unfortunately, any sign of an FM transmitter that would have solved this problem by routing the audio via the car radio.

Handling: simple and smart

The Spirit 687 uses the same Spirit QuickStart software that has helped Mio mark out its sat navs for the past few months.  The menus are clear and incredibly simple to use.

The are two physical shortcut keys on the left of the screen: one returns users to the main menu, while the the other adds the current location to the list of favourite places. 

When you're typing an address, characters on the keyboard are eventually greyed out if they don't correspond to a potential address, which is very handy.  You can also look up points of interest or pinpoint locations on the map.

Despite the fact that the Spirit 687 doesn't have any connected services, Mio has still included support for Google searching: you need to connect a mobile with an Internet connection via Bluetooth to make it work.

Mio Spirit 687

The list of new features includes a new mode designed to ease planning and simulating routes, as well as a new way of selecting the exact route you want to follow.  For every itinerary, the sat nav works out four different routes, and you can see at a glance whether you prefer the fastest, the shortest, the easiest to drive or the cheapest.  Being able to check that your GPS isn't sending you on a wild goose chase before you start is very handy.  The routes are calculated using IQ Routes technology, which records the actual journey times calculated for different roads, which means the estimated arrival times are more accurate.

Route guidance: clear, plus a new truck mode

One of the main selling points of Mio's Spirit range has always been clear navigation information.  The route ahead is very clear and is shown in green against a white background.  The lane display is up to date and is simple but accurate and means you don't end up in the wrong lane at busy junctions.

Mio Spirit 687

The sat nav also displays speed limits, which remain semi-transparent as long as you respect them.  You can turn on audio alerts for fixed speed cameras.  As the system isn't online, though, you can't expect reliable information about mobile speed traps like the data provided by Coyote for TomTom and Mappy.

Driving directions are read aloud using text-to-speech, but there's only a single female voice which doesn't sound too natural.

The V-Traffic TMC system can detect big traffic jams on motorways and busy A roads.  It's not as accurate as online systems like TomTom's HD Traffic, but it can certainly help out on busy weekends, even if you're far from certain to find a smoother ride on other roads. 

Finally, there's a new truck mode which will be great news for HGV drivers or anybody with a caravan.  Mio doesn't offer a 100% guarantee, but it does aim to avoid routes with low bridges or banned to HGVs.  The service is free for a month, and then available for an annual subscription.

Other Features: Bluetooth and parking camera

The Mio Spirit 687 has a Bluetooth handsfree mode to route calls from your mobile to the GPS.  It works well, but the mic adds a little bit of crackle.

There are no online services like those we found on the Mio Moov Spirit Flat, but the map data does feature text guides to the main European cities.

More originally, there's also an optional parking camera that connects wirelessly to the GPS to make it easier to squeeze into a tight spot.  We didn't get a chance to test it.

Mio Spirit 687 Camera

4/5 Mio Spirit 687 DigitalVersus 2011-05-13 00:00:00

Pros

  • Attractive 5'' widescreen display
  • Easy to use
  • Very clear interface
  • Four different routes for every itinerary
  • Truck mode

Cons

  • Hangs occassionally
  • Ordinary design

Conclusion

The Mio Spirit 687 sat nav is as easy to use and fully-featured as ever, and its wide screen and easy interface are a powerful pairing. It doesn't boast any online services, but has a lot of handy features that make it a great choice for a very reasonable price.

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