Review by Lutz Bendlin
PND (Personal Navigation Devices) have mushroomed left, right and center over the last few months. Most of them have a pretty standard design, but there are a few that have raised the occasional eyebrow.
The TiBO is certainly one of these eye catchers. Its design is rather unique, and our review will show if the performance of the device is on par with its looks.
Speaking of looks. You may have noticed the metallic "ears" on both sides. They are not useless design elements (as it first may seem) but instead are trying to contribute to the navigation experience in a blinking way, so to speak.
Thanks to TotalPDA for providing the review sample. At the time of writing TotalPDA were selling the Tibo for £289.05 including VAT.
A walk around the TiBO
The front has the display (standard QVGA landscape, 320x240 pixels), the Zoom in/Zoom out button, and a standby/power off button. The TiBO logo is actually a button as well, and fulfils the role of a "Cancel" button. I found that slightly unusual, from a user experience point of view. Shouldn't the product logo convey positive things?
In the back you can see the rear facing speaker, the flip-out GPS antenna (with a non-standard connector for an external antenna), the holding bay for the stylus (yes, the TiBO has a stylus!), and all kinds of controls and connectors
- Volume control
- Audio out (3.5 mm)
- DC in (12v)
- Mini USB for data and charging
- Reset button
- Sync button ( to re-initiate an ActiveSync connection)
On the top (not shown) is the SD slot that can accept any size of SD cards (I tried up to 2 GB without problems).
The car mount is nothing to write home about - basically a HR Gooseneck with a special tiny adapter to slide into the back of the TiBO. Well, at least you can rest the unit on the dashboard to reduce the resulting vibrations. Make sure you are especially careful when removing or replacing the mount, it looks really fragile.
Overall the device is very light and pocketable. Thanks to its integrated battery it can also be used for city navigation outside the car (or to find your way back to where you parked the car).
Be advised though that the unit does not have an automatic standby mode. Instead, you have to manually press the power button - briefly to switch off the display, and longer to bring the device to a true standby (this will be indicated by a short blue blinking of the ears).
The TiBO can be charged through the 12V DC In or through the USB cable.
The Software selection
Despite being a PND by designation, the TiBO actually comes with quite a few extra programs. It almost seems that this device tries to position itself more as a multimedia device rather than a pure GPS navigation system.
After startup you will see the above menu items. You can listen to your music collection, watch pictures you may have taken with your camera (SD slot only of course), or even try to calm down the kids with some movies that you have copied from DVD onto a SD card.
In addition you can lookup the GPS status for some minor troubleshooting, adjust the screen brightness, set the time, or calibrate the touch screen.
I have tried thes additional functions and while they generally work as advertised I was not too impressed - the screen is too small for movies or pictures and the speaker is not up to the task (although you could use headphones) - so better use the TiBO for what it was originally designed - for navigation. Let's press that button.
The Navigation Software
The TiBO uses a special version of Destinator for navigation, called Destinator ND. Apart from one tiny little difference (more on that later) this version behaves identical to the Destinator PN that we have reviewed already earlier.
HSTC (the producers of Destinator) have a mixed track record for navigation programs, but the latest release (which also includes a version for the Microsoft Smartphones) is actually working reasonably well.
Adding to that the ability to show and alert about custom points of interest, especially safety cameras, this Destinator ND is an acceptable navigation solution. It's also your only choice if you own the TiBO - it is not possible to replace Destinator ND with another navigation software. (Not yet possible, I should say).
Destinator ND works well in landscape mode, and the Settings page has been adjusted accordingly
The GPS page gives us a first hint at the GPS hardware. The flip out antenna is wired to COM5, and set to 9600 baud.
However, there is no mention of the type of receiver. From what I understand it's not a SiRF chipset. The high sensitivity (only slightly inferior to SiRF III) would hint at a RFMD chipset. But we can't be sure without opening the device. (Now, where's that screw driver...)
Actually I am not sure how to call these thingies. Anyone? So far the TiBO is the only PND I know that has this kind of hardware signalisation of upcoming turns.
When you approach a turn the appropriate ear will start to blink, first blue, and then when you are getting really close to the turn, red. When you approach your destination the lights will blink - righto - purple...
The light is bright enough to be seen during the day, and it is pretty irritating at night. The ears can be controlled through the setup menu of Destinator. There's an additional checkbox in the Visual Notifications page. So if you are annoyed by the blinking ears, switch it off here.
Needless to say that Destinator ND is the only program version that actually knows about the ears. Any other navigation program (if it would run) would not be able to take advantage of them.
Modding the TiBO
PNDs are - by their very nature - locked down to their intended use. People are not supposed to tinker with them, and to try and run other than the preinstalled software.
Of course this is like telling a little child it can't have the scissors. As a result most of the PNDs on the market today have been "cracked" or modified in such a way that they boot to the operating system (Windows CE that is) and then can accept other programs.
The TiBO is special in that regard - it seems to have locked down solid. Pressing the Reset button on the device does not issue a soft reset but rather a hard reset, wiping all the data in RAM, and only leaving the stuff in ROM, on the Flash Disk, and the SD card intact.
So whatever modifications you have done to the startup folder or the registry are gone. There is an option to soft reset but that is only available after some serious tinkering. I finally had to replace one of the buttons in the startup menu - now when pressing the music button it instead opens the next best thing to a Shell - the CECommander program.
From here you can then walk the device, visit the control panel or do a true soft reset.
The processor is a Samsung 400 MHz version, available RAM is 55 MB (as opposed to the advertised 64 MB). Nevertheless that is plenty of RAM for the navigation task.
Not many CE programs run though - the TiBO seems to be missing some of the rather important CE DLLs. I am sure there is a way to fix that, but alas - my time is running thin on this kind of sport. At least I could verify that the GPS receiver would be accessible by external programs (if they would run).
These measurements were taken indoors, about three metres away from a window, with very limited skyview.