Review: Mobil Crossing's WayPoint 200 PDA - InformationWeek

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Review: Mobil Crossing's WayPoint 200 PDA

Though this GPS-enabled unit has some nice features, our reviewer gave this device a thumbs-down in many areas.

As a pocket computer, the WayPoint 200 is powered by a 400MHz Intel Xscale PXA 260 processor and runs Microsoft Pocket PC 2003 Premium Edition, which includes Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, pocket Excel and Word, and Outlook compatible organizer applications. A 3.5-inch Transflective TFT touch panel gives 320x240 resolution and 64K colors and it’s one of the better displays I’ve seen. In fact, it’s special.

The “transflective” portion of the description accounts for much of that. While most LCD panels have a consistent backlight level, transflective panels reflect ambient light back from behind the screen. As the ambient light becomes brighter, the reflected light forces the display to become brighter as well. As the ambient light level drops, the display dims appropriately. Effectively, the screen will out-shine the sun and then settle back to a comfortable brightness level as night falls. It’s an excellent arrangement for a device that’s carried around or used in a car outdoors -the ultimate in viewability.

There’s no physical keyboard. The touch screen, stylus, and the soft keyboard make it irrelevant. As well, the WayPoint 200 has four command buttons just below the screen. They’re set by default to launch the calendar, contacts, tasks, and WayPoint navigation applications but they can be reprogrammed as needed. Below that is a cursor button for mouse-like screen navigation ability. There’s a speaker at the bottom, a microphone at the top, a record button on the side, an IR port, secure digital slot, compact flash slot (which is where the Bluetooth interface is installed), a USB port, a cradle so it can sit on your desk, and USB connectivity to mate it to your PC. The WayPoint 200 is a very proper PDA.

You actually convert the WayPoint 200 PDA into a GPS device by sliding in the Bluetooth interface and then powering up the PDA and the separate GPS module. Putting the WayPoint 200 in your vehicle minimally requires the vehicle mount with its gooseneck and suction cup and the supplied patch cable for the external speaker in the mount. (There’s no holder for the GPS receiver. It gets velcroed to the dash.) At that point, you’re be running the devices off their internal batteries and should expect to see about 5.5 hours of operation.

If you choose to plug it into a 12-volt source, you’ll need the DC power cord and the adapter cords for the vehicle mount to PDA and GPS module to the DC power cord. That route left me staring at a collection of devices and wires that reminded me of the inside of my computer and the reason why I keep a cover on it. The same is roughly true for desktop installations as well.

This visual carnage can distract from a very important fact: The WayPoint 200 works and works quite well. It has a pre-selected collection of points of interest based on the regional map that’s loaded; you can find the distance between any two points on the map; navigating between the starting point and destination is as simple as entering the destination address; and the directions, including the voice prompts, are on the mark -- once you learn the WayPoint 200’s particular version of GPSese.

The WayPoint 200 indicates an upcoming immediate action by including the word “next” in its alert –roughly the same alert it’s been using all along but without that word. Of course, if you do miss your turn, or decide to ignore the WayPoint 200’s directions, it will recalculate the route. In fact, if you listen closely, you’ll even here it mumble an almost annoyed-sounding, “re-routing.”

Options allow you lock out highways and toll roads, as well as specify whether you prefer the shortest or quickest route. A 1-year subscription to Traffic Watch and Weather Underground is included and one of the four buttons at the bottom of the screen will take you there when in GPS mode. The other three now provide access to your favorite places (including a “home” command to immediately detail a route from your present position back to your home), a detour command for getting around traffic, and an information window that shows your exact speed and location.

Even with the esthetic mess presented by the cabling, the WayPoint 200 does its job well enough that it could be an easy recommendation were it not for its rather upscale pricing and lack of integration -- which really hits home if you’re trying to carry the unit. One of the instructions reminds you to keep your body from blocking the satellite signal to the GPS module. These things, however, conspire to keep the WayPoint 200 from being my first choice for a GPS PDA.

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