Review: Mio Knight Rider GPS

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There are lots of GPS units out there, talking to lots of drivers.  Some people may even enjoy the voices produced by their GPS units. But only the Mio Knight Rider GPS can speak to you in the voice of William Daniels, the original voice of KITT from the Knight Rider television show.

Sure, it’s gimmicky, but it’s also a lot of fun to hear Daniels’ voice giving you turn-by-turn driving directions. I’ve been using this GPS for a short while now, and even once the novelty of pretending to drive KITT wears off — especially when your car doesn’t respond when you say “Kitt, I need you pal!” into your wristwatch — the voice of KITT is surprisingly pleasant and enjoyable.  If for some reason you do grow weary of William Daniels giving you directions, you can select the generic Male and Female voices.

The unit itself is extremely light.  The plastic case is shiny, and not uncomfortable to hold.  It slips easily into shirt and jacket pockets, as well as the back pocket of your pants.  It’s not bulky or awkward, so it’s easy to take the Mio Knight Rider GPS with you when you exit your vehicle.  In addition to a power button on the top, there’s also an SD slot so that you can load new maps.

The user interface is easy to use, and the touch screen is responsive.  I never felt the need to stab the screen to make it recognize my input.  Battery life is acceptable, though not stellar, which is to be expected from a device that is intended to be plugged into your car’s power outlet for most of its use.  Satellite acquisition is reasonably fast, as is route calculation, and most of the routes it plots are acceptable.  It doesn’t usually take me the way I would choose to go to some of the destinations I selected, but it never led me astray.

You can select from four screen modes: 3D, 2D, route, and turn-by-turn (thelast two only available when you’ve actually defined a destination).  Several preset zoom levels are available for quick use, as well as manual incremental zoom.  You can have the top-right widget display the distance to go, time to go, speed, estimated time of arrival, or just a plain old digital clock.  The bottom right widget can display a compass, battery life, satellite signal strength, or a speaker icon telling you whether you’ve muted the voice or not.

This GPS is not without its faults, of course.  The user interface is a little sluggish, especially when typing in location names as it tries to provide a list of auto-complete matches for you.  If you keep this sluggishness in mind, you won’t have any problems.  If, like me, you forget the sluggishness, you’ll type in extra characters and find yourself pressing the backspace key a lot.

My other big gripe about this unit is the mechanism for finding locations nearby.  The destination search screen has three big buttons: City/Area, POI Name, and Search Nearby.  I know where I want to go, so I usually press the POI Name.  This takes me directly to a text input window, where I can start spelling out the name (and pressing the backspace key a lot, because I’m impatient).  That searches the entire state though, so when looking for Wal-Mart the first suggested match is in Akron, Ohio, rather than Columbus, Ohio, where I am.  What I need to press is that “Search Nearby” button, and then press “Search by name” at the top of the following screen: then I can start spelling out my destination and get the list of Wal-Marts in my city.  I’m sure a lot of time was spent deciding that that button configuration was best for the Mio users, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.  It’s aggravating that I need to press an extra button to move past an extra screen to start typing my destination name.

Finally, it took me a while to get the AC power adapter properly settled in the windshield suction mount in such a way that I could easily and quickly dock the GPS in order to charge it.  This is hardly a reason not to buy the device, but it’s worth knowing about, in order to be prepared.

Overall, I enjoyed using the Mio Knight Rider GPS.  It’s not a top-of-the-line GPS, and it’s not a bottom of the barrel, either.  It works well, does what it purports to do with no other fuss, and the included software is perfectly adequate.  All in all, a decent product.  Now, if only someone would get Peter Cullen to record a GPS voice, so I could live my fantasy of riding around inside Optimus Prime…

Bottom Line
Great fun with some good functionality. A must for KITT fans.

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