Hitachi has produced an eye-catching GPS – at least for its sheer size if nothing else – but once you scratch beneath the surface appeal, you find a GPS system that while not actually bad, is defined more by what it omits or can’t do than what it actually can.
The big selling point for the MMP501 is clearly the large display – at five inches (12.7 cm) it’s larger than anything else on the market today, and it’s allowed Hitachi to make all of the onscreen controls for the MMP501 large and easy to discern. The MMP501 uses a primarily touchscreen-based interface with a set of buttons running down the left-hand side used for quick menu, bluetooth and A/V access.
Underneath the impressive display, the MMP501 uses the SiRFStar III GPS chipset, along with 256MB of inbuilt flash memory used to store the unit’s maps. Like most of the other GPS providers in Australia, the MMP501 uses map data provided by Sensis, running on a GPS application that Hitachi calls Destinator. It also provides an SD/MMC card slot for playing back MP3 music files and MPEG-4 movies. The MMP501 can also pair with Bluetooth compatible mobile phones.
While at a technical level there’s nothing wrong with the MMP501, and on a physical level the large screen is a definite bonus, we were still largely unimpressed with the MMP501 due to a large number of limiting factors. For a start, GPS synchronisation was exceptionally slow, taking an average of three minutes to work out where we were, and often misplacing us by more of a distance than we were really comfortable with when driving.
The map search facility is comprehensive, but you’ve got to start every search by suburb/city, and the list includes the whole of Australia – there’s no way to quickly narrow down to state-based searches. The integrated Bluetooth is nice, but it’s limited to calls only – the similarly priced TomTom Go910 can read SMS numbers and import contacts, which the MMP501 simply can’t manage. Pairing with the MMP501 was also rather hit and miss, and we found best results when simultaneously trying to pair the MMP501 and a phone, which shouldn’t really be necessary. The entertainment options are rudimentary, which does make them easy to operate, but they also run completely separately from the GPS application, so you can’t listen to music while the system navigates for you.
The asking price of $999 might seem viable given the technology on offer – and especially the screen size — but the experience of using the MMP501 makes it something of an also-ran in the GPS race.