Mission: Microriver

Mr Invenio, redirect those satellites, I need a GPS fix on the destination now!

Mr Invenio is also an mp3 player, video player, photo viewer and eBook reader. The mp3 player is a reasonable add-on, no fancy album artwork here, a la iPod, it simply plays songs. The quality is a bit tinny through the built-in speaker as you’d expect, but with headphones via the standard 3.5mm jack the sound comes across ok.

SPECIFICATION

Operating System
Windows CE
CPU
ARM9 400MHz 32bit Processor
GPS System
SiRF Star 3 With Flip-Up Antenna
Display
3.5” TFT LCD Touch Panel
Internal Memory
SDRAM 64MB, Flash 64MB
Audio
Internal Speaker
Battery
Rechargeable Battery 1150mAh
Function Key
Menu, Sleep/Wake, Back, Destination, Zoom Out, Zoom In, Navigation Stick, Volume Control, Reset
Interface
1 SD Card Slot
1 Mini USB connector for ActiveSync
1 Headphone Jack
Dimensions
120mm x 72mm x 17mm (Excluding Antenna)

No, not a line from the latest episode of 24 – a day in the life of a counter terrorist agent, it is in fact what’s going on in my head as I play with the latest satnav offering from MicroRiver – the intriguingly named ‘Mr Invenio’.

Everyone should give their GPS units a name, I’ve christened my regular satnav ‘Chrissie’ after the patron saint of travellers Saint Christopher (clever, huh?). It personalises the unit and gives me someone to shout at other than the other half in the passenger seat, saving on arguments and potential divorce settlements. Naming a unit ‘Mr Invenio’ makes the device sound like the henchman of a baddie in a spy thriller. Given 24 hours to toy with the new satnav, I found that it certainly lives up expectations (only with less nuclear bombs and no real risk to national security).

First thing you notice is the large 3.5 inch colour touchscreen, and Mr Invenio uses it all with typical henchman efficiency. Turning the unit on you realise that this is not merely a GPS device, but a multimedia unit with an mp3 player, video player, photo viewer, and eBook reader. Handy for getting you to a secret rendezvous, then keeping you entertained watching surveillance footage, listening to covert recordings, or reviewing top secret documents whilst you’re waiting for your contact. Although my test unit came with the Backstreet Boys, a copy of Harry Potter and pictures of kittens, not my usual diet of classified files.

First and foremost this is a satnav, and with the large folding, integrated, antenna you’d be hard-pressed to forget it.

Tapping the car icon cunningly takes you into the navigation mode where you’re presented with a map of Europe. The start-up time to connect to the satellites is very quick (quicker than Chrissie) and once up and running the screen displays how many satellites you’re connected to, how fast you’re going, and even your latitude and longitude. This may sound like a lot of information, but it sits unobtrusively on the left hand side, leaving a lot of space for viewing the map.

Entering a destination can be done one of a few ways. As expected you can enter the city and street. Time is saved typing as the unit predicts where you want to go by greying out letters that don’t fit possible destinations, until it provides you with a few options which can be selected with the stab of a deadly finger (these hands are registered as lethal weapons in 18 countries). Mr Invenio also boasts full postcode search. A lot of units on the market can only search against half the postcode followed by the first digit of the second half, but not with Mr Invenio. Entering the full postcode here gives an accurate target pinpointing your stop to a few buildings instead of a general area, saving you time having to type in a full address.

Mr Invenio is also able to direct you to Points of Interest (POIs). On the run from terrorists and need a safe place to stay? Click on ‘POI’, ‘Overnight’, then ‘Hotels’, giving you a list of hotels near your current location. Flicking left and right using the five-way joystick scrolls through the list and highlights them on the map. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, press the big ‘i’ and voila you’ve got the phone number to call and book a room. There are eight different categories, ranging from ‘Eat & Drink’ to ‘Venues’ and everything in between. You can then navigate easily to your local ATM, supermarket, car-park, or golf course. More POIs can be downloaded from your PC to the unit allowing you to customise which ones to display to suit you.

Your route can be set to go via other destinations as you see fit, handy if picking up a secret microfiche for delivery, or more likely colleagues on your way to meetings.

Thanks to the 400MHz 32-bit CPU Mr Invenio calculates the best route in seconds.

Once the destination is set you can fine-tune it to your specific circumstances, flicking from ‘shortest’ route to ‘fastest’, avoiding toll roads, motorways, ferrys, and police security checkpoints using the touchscreen (actually, it doesn’t avoid the latter, but I’m still in character). Don’t worry if you need to get to your destination quickly as a matter of national security, as speed camera locations are also mapped.

When you’re within 100 yards of what I like to refer to as ‘yellow tax-traps’ the screen will white out with a loud beep, and display the message “Speed Camera – 100 Yards!”. No mucking around, Mr Invenio gets straight to the point.

The route can also be adjusted depending on your method of travel. If you’re ever in the position where you need to ditch your wheels and go cross-country, maybe because your cover’s been blown or petrol tank shot out? No problem, a quick change of options from ‘Fast’ car to ‘Pedestrian’ and you’ll be ducking from cover to cover across a farmer’s field in no time with Mr Invenio guiding you places cars can’t go. Flesh wound to the leg sustained in the shootout you’re escaping from? Again no issue, select ‘Van’ or ‘Motorbike’ or even ‘Scooter’ to suit your chosen transport. Just make sure you get the information to the president before it’s too late!

As you are travelling Mr Invenio gives you further options. If you hit a traffic jam, roadworks, minefield, or roadblock, a tap of the screen gives the option to find an alternate route 0.5 miles, 1 mile, or 1.5 miles out of the way, allowing you to zip through towns as quick as you can tap.

So that’s the GPS covered, what about the rest?

As already mentioned, Mr Invenio is also an mp3 player, video player, photo viewer and eBook reader.

The mp3 player is a reasonable add-on, no fancy album artwork here, a la iPod, it simply plays songs. The quality is a bit tinny through the built-in speaker as you’d expect, but with headphones via the standard 3.5mm jack the sound comes across ok.

The video player is a good addition, handy for watching movies or recorded/downloaded TV straight from the memory stick. All the basic function buttons surround the movie, but clicking on the full-screen icon makes all that disappear so that Mr Invenio utilises all 3.5 inches of the screen.

The photo viewer works pretty much like the video player. You can switch between photos by clicking the relevant forward and back icons, but clicking on full-screen takes you into a photo slide-show, automatically scrolling through the images in your chosen folder, be they pictures of loved ones, covert surveillance imagery, or in this case… kittens (I’m convinced it must be a secret code).

The eBook reader is a thoughtful addition for reading basic .txt documents, but isn’t useable for large files. Supplied on the test unit was what seemed to be a full copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone which covered some 1300+ pages. There’s no scroll function, you can only skip through a document page by page, and if you leave the document to check a route, look at a picture of a kitten, or listen to a quick secret recording, when you come back you have to start at the beginning again.

If I had one complaint about Mr Invenio, it’s that he’s a little too sensitive. I don’t mean he crys when you call him names, but the touchscreen can sometimes mistakenly register a double tap when using a finger, particularly when scrolling maps. However, this can be overcome by using the supplied stylus, a fingernail, or the five-way joystick.

Overall this is a great unit and If I was stuck in enemy territory with nothing but my military trained wits and Mr Invenio, I’d be back home in a safe house being debriefed, and ready for my next mission in next to no time, in fact I wouldn’t even need my wits.

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