Installing the Smailo HD 5.0 in one's car
Naturally, the first step in testing the level of real-life performance delivered by the Smailo HD 5.0 GPS navigation system was to attach the device to the windshield, a process that should take no longer than a couple of minutes for just about anyone.
The first step of the process involves attaching a plastic mounting connector to the body of the PND via the three grooves we've mentioned above. The connector attaches in a fairly easy manner, and also houses the stylus, plus a plastic support that allows one to turn the PND in some sort of digital photo frame or portable video player, need be.
Anyway, after you're done with this part, all you'll have to do is attach the windshield mount to the windshield via the usual suction cup (which offers a very good “grip,” as far as we've been able to see), hook up the PND via the aforementioned adapter and you're done, the Smailo HD 5.0 is ready to go.
We'll also have to mention that we've really liked that mounting “arm,” which comes equipped with a couple of plastic adjustment wheels that allow users to choose the position that best suits their needs and set the device firmly in that position. What we didn't like was the position of the USB connector, the cable connecting the PND to the charger hanging in a pretty unsightly way along the side of the Smailo HD.Menu browsing, settings, customization and setup
The next step in our real-life testing of the Smailo HD 5.0 was to start browsing through the menus and the various settings the PND has to offer. We won't go too deep into specific details regarding the device's various functions here, but rather have an overview of just what one might experience when pressing on the power switch.
First of all, we'll have to say that we've really appreciated the speed of the Smailo HD 5.0, the device switching on and entering the menus only a couple of seconds after switching it on. And the surprises just kept on coming, since the user interface has a very modern and 3D look, a lot better than some of the other GUIs we've seen over time.
However, as always, there's also somewhat of a downside to this very advanced and attractive user interface, namely the main navigation arrows. As you can see from the photos, in order to cycle through the available menu options, one will have to press one of the two navigation options found in the lower part of the screen. Easy enough, you'd say, but that's not the case.
So, when you press the arrow on the left side of the screen, the whole GUI will be cycled to the right, and vice versa when you press the arrow on the right side. We sort of understand the logic behind this implementation, but the truth of the matter is that we found it to be a little bit unnatural. Anyway, leaving this small issue aside, we'll have to admit that the whole interface moves quite well (very smooth and fast transitions between menus), which means you shouldn't have any serious problems during real-life usage, even while you're driving.
In terms of customization options, the Smailo HD 5.0 offers pretty much the same options as most high-end PNDs out there. So, one can easily adjust the display's brightness level (as mentioned above, this particular feature is extremely useful, especially in bright sunlight), the speaker volume, the language or the date and time.
Additionally, users can activate the FM Transmitter, which allows them to broadcast audio from the PND right into their car's speaker system, a feature that can really come in handy especially when traveling through some pretty loud environments, where the device's built-in speaker can't cope with it.
Another interesting setting is NaviPath, which, as far as we've been able to see, allows users to choose their desired navigation software after previously installing it within the satnav's memory. Naturally, one has to purchase the navigation software legally first, but that's a whole different issue altogether.
Last, but certainly not least, the settings menu on the Smailo HD 5.0 PND permits users to view useful information regarding the device itself and the most important available GPS data, but also to reset all of the settings at their factory default values.GPS navigation
OK, we've talked a bit about the overall setup of the Smailo HD, now it's about time to move on to the more serious stuff, namely its navigation features.
As mentioned in the tech specs section, the PND from AROBS runs the Microsoft WinCE.Net 5.0 Core operating system and, on top of it, the Mireo Black Edition 3.1 navigation software (a product from Croatia). Since we had no idea what this application was capable of, we watched it closely... with the results being quite impressive, to say the least.
First of all, while the startup time is a bit higher than in the case of some of the other PNDs we've tested over time, the wait is well worth it. The software offers complete and comprehensive search options (addresses, POIs, postcodes, longitude and latitude, etc.), but also allows drivers to save their favorite locations and even favorite routes to follow. And, as you might have imagined, the maps are very up-to-date and even display certain landmark 3D buildings.
Another very important feature worth mentioning is the alert system, the device being able to warn drivers whenever they're overspeeding or a speed camera is approaching. In fact, what's even more interesting is that users (well, Romanian users at least) can download a complete and comprehensive list of local speed cameras right from the manufacturer's website and upload it into the PND's memory.
The Smailo HD 5.0 also provides a lane assist function, informing users which lane they should take for their desired exit, and constantly informs the driver just how much they still have to go before reaching their desired destination. Plus, the text-to-speech function works great, the voice sounding very natural, compared to other solutions.
Now, leaving the software aside, we'll also have to point out the fact that the Smailo HD 5.0 offers good efficiency level, being able to pickup the satellites in almost no time, while also delivering excellent speed readings and very accurate positioning.
So, to sum things up, as far as its basic function (navigation) is concerned, the Smailo HD 5.0 manages to behave great, on par with some of the most advanced solutions available on the market.Multimedia playback and additional tools
One of the things we really loved about the Smailo HD 5.0 is the fact that it delivers high-end multimedia playback features at the price point of a mid-range product. So, we've got video and music playback, as well as photo viewing options, which should satisfy pretty much every user out there, despite the fact that the players/viewers are not exactly too advanced.
As mentioned before, the only thing we weren't too happy about was the fact that one has to load the multimedia files onto a microSD card first in order to be able to access them, but guess that this is only a minor price to pay for those people who spend a lot of time in traffic and feel in need of some distractions.
Anyway, neither the music player nor the video player offers any advanced options, users being able to just browse for content, play and pause the audio/video files or adjust the display brightness/speaker volume. However, as far as we're concerned, that's about enough, especially since, to be perfectly honest, we don't envision many drivers using these features too often, instead relying on their vehicles' built-in infotainment solutions.
We'll have to admit, though, that the quality of the playback is quite OK, whether we're talking about the audio or the video clips, the device's 5-inch display really coming in handy, especially in the latter case.
The photo viewer seems to be the best-developed application of this type on the Smailo HD 5.0, since it also supports a slideshow mode, allows users to zoom in and out of the photos, rotate them, as well as easily browse through them. Plus, the built-in plastic support found on the mounting bracket adapter will help users turn the PND into a full-fledged digital photo frame, if they don't already have such a device around the house.
Besides multimedia playback, the PND offers a couple of functions that will be very useful on the road, especially when traveling abroad, namely a calculator and a unit converter.Bluetooth and Internet connectivity
The presence of a Bluetooth module seems to be a big bonus in the case of the Smailo HD navigator, given the fact that most devices in the same price range don't offer such an option (they don't even deliver multimedia playback, let alone the possibility of transforming the PND into a full-fledged Bluetooth speakerphone).
The device can be paired either with a mobile phone or a computer featuring a Bluetooth module, the whole process being a fairly simple and fast one. The Smailo HD 5.0 will pick up most active Bluetooth-enabled gadgets in its immediate vicinity and upon being prompted by the user, they initiate the pairing process, which involves introducing a password on both devices being paired. Pretty standard stuff, really.
After the pairing process is complete (and if said process involves a mobile phone), the Smailo HD will turn into an advanced speakerphone, users being able to dial numbers, make and receive calls, transfer their contacts list into the PND's memory, write messages, transfer files between the devices, and so on.
If the paired item is also Internet capable, then users will have access to the Internet DUN function, meaning they'll be able to go online directly from the Smailo's built-in browser. This feature might come in handy in certain situations but, once again, we don't really envision it being used by that many drivers out there.Battery life
The official estimate for the Smailo HD 5.0's battery life is set at around 2.5 hours, but we'd say that you should expect something along the lines of 2 hours for normal navigation. Naturally, battery life will decrease significantly when using the PND for viewing movies, but since most users will probably turn to multimedia playback in order to pass the time while driving (or while waiting in a traffic jam), that shouldn't be that much of a problem.