Asus' new PDA, the MyPal A696, is something of a triumph of style over content. If you're after a functional PDA-type device that also includes navigation features, this may not be a big problem, But if you're mainly after a satnav unit, the MyPal A696 is a bit behind the times.
If you are obsessed by looks, you'll relish the Asus MyPal A696's 3.5in touchscreen, the stylish brushed aluminium case and the slim dimensions. The problem with the MyPal is that its best assets are on the surface. As a PDA, the specification list is no better than average and the satnav capabilities aren't totally convincing either.
The version we looked at runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 but the retail version, we're assured, will come with WM6. In common with other Windows Mobile devices, the Asus therefore has Wi-Fi, which means the MyPal A696 can function as a communications hub, though whether you're likely to want to start web surfing while stuck in a jam is a moot point. (To be fair to Asus, it's really only its satnav capabilities we're judging it on here. If you want a WM6 device, head to our smartphone reviews.)
We can't fault the complexity of the Asus' GPS setup: it's a doddle to get started. Just slot in the 512MB card and the software does the rest, leaving you to just add the maps that you need. The Asus MyPal A696 runs on the SirF Star III GPS engine coupled with the dependable Destinator 6 satellite navigation software. The Asus MyPal A696 comes with a car charger, and there's no external GPS antenna to worry about as that's built-in.
The Asus MyPal A696's 2D and 3D map displays work well and are both very clear and easy to follow, and inputting street names is easy on the huge full-screen keyboard. However, the Asus MyPal A696's voice navigation is, at best, erratic. Sometimes we were not instructed to turn until we were already on top of the turning itself or until it was disappearing in our rear view mirror.
The Asus MyPal A696's GPS signal cut out on some B roads, and didn't even recognise a few of the more remote ones, choosing instead to show us driving through thin air. At one point, inexplicably, we were instructed to do a U-turn - on a dual carriageway. Being, in general, quite fond of living, we decided to turn a deaf ear to that one. You also might want to close your ears to the constant warnings about exceeding the speed limit - thankfully this is one feature that can be easily turned off on the Asus MyPal A696.