Garmin iQue M5 GPS PocketPC

The best GPS/PDA combo currently available?

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Review Garmin was the first company to release a PDA with an integrated GPS receiver, the Palm OS-based iQue, and the M5 is its first Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition version. As soon as I opened the box and started playing with the device I realised that this was a GPS/PDA combo that meant business, writes Benny Har-Even.

Garmin iQue M5Some of the PDAs with GPS built-in have had disappointing build quality but the Garmin was quite different. It feels solid enough in the hand to deal with the rigours of transportation. No doubt this comes from Garmin's wealth of knowledge of how GPS units are used. While most people will use the M5 exclusively in the car, it does have a pedestrian mode, enabling you to use it on a walkabout. Garmin has also attached a cover to the unit affording the screen some protection when its in your bag.

Garmin has cleverly recessed the GPS antenna into the back of the unit. Releasing a catch on the side flips the aerial up and automatically launches the GPS software. Unlike GPS/PDA combo makers Mio and Acer, Garmin has bundled a cradle. It's no poor flimsy affair either and is made of a very solid metal base that looks impressive on the desk.

The specification's not too bad for a PDA. Other GPS-enabled PDAs have proved underpowered but this one features a not-too-shabby 416MHz Intel XScale PXA272 processor and a dedicated 48MHz ARM7 GPS co-processor. Certainly route calculation and on the fly recalculation times were acceptable. However, while driving, the location cursor did lag more noticeably than my TomTom Go, with the result that on one occasion I took the wrong road off a roundabout.

Bluetooth is a welcome inclusion but perhaps some may have preferred Wi-Fi. You could add the latter using the M5's SD IO slot. SanDisk's combined WLAN and memory cards would be best - the built-in 64MB of RAM will not hold much in the way of detailed map data. The battery is removable and located behind a sliding door while the soft reset button is on the underside, accessible using the chunky stylus.

The screen is 320 x 240, rather than the full VGA offered by some new, top-end units. It was up to par quality-wise, though, with the screen being colourful and certainly less grainy than the Acer's. _At the top of the screen there's a row of large quick access icons and there's a handy shortcut link that provides system status that lists all running programs and provides quick access to power and memory settings. Other nice touches include a vibrating alarm.


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