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On the Road

My significant other and I recently decided to drive from Chicago to Florida to visit our families over the holidays. We thought we'd avoid the hassle of packed airports while exploring the Southeast. But there was one problem with this plan: We both have abysmal senses of direction. I feared that what should be a 20-odd hour drive could stretch into days--or weeks--of missed exits, wrong turns and endless doubling back.

Those fears were somewhat allayed when I had the opportunity to bring the Mio C710 GPS on the trip. The ultra-portable 6-ounce device, which retails for $649, comes preloaded with U.S. and international maps and is equipped to pinpoint where you are, where you're going and how best to get to your final destination.

Once it finds a GPS signal, the C710 works fairly intuitively. The user types his or her destination on a 3.5-inch, full-color touch screen, and the device then determines the most direct route and generates a user-friendly map. The user can even view a demo, which shows a close up of each turn in the journey, before taking off.

The device was a huge help in navigating curvy, unlabeled roads through Tennessee's Smoky Mountains, and switched easily between local road maps and wide views of the Interstate system. The C710 also provides audio directions in addition to visual maps. This allows a solo driver to safely follow the instructions, which the device dictates in a calm female voice, without looking down at the screen.

But I had a few problems with the device. First, it has too many bells and whistles. For instance, the C710 plays videos and music--an unnecessary feature that surely contributes to the hefty price tag. The add-ons crowd the menu screens, making it confusing to navigate to the core functions. Second, the car charger does not fit the cigarette lighter in my Ford Focus. This didn't present too big a problem, however, because the C710 has excellent battery life--lasting nearly a full day on an overnight charge. The most annoying problem with the C710 is its inflexibility once it selects a route. For instance, the device admonished me at least a dozen times, "U-turn, 200 yards," when in reality,

I was well on my way to my destination, but had taken a different highway exit than the one it suggested.

Despite these kinks, the Mio C710 is a handy and capable portable GPS that will make navigating unfamiliar terrain less stressful.

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