The Mio 405 HC proclaims loudly on the box as being “the best experience in bicycle navigation”, but can it live up to that bold claim? Let’s put it to the test…
Mio 405 HC Cycling GPS Review – A overlooked gem?
For most of us, the name Mio might not be all that familiar, starting in 2002 this Belgian brand doesn’t have the market penetration of Garmin, but in the cycling-centric countries of Belgium and the Netherlands, Mio says that they hold a challenging market share. Perhaps the UK should be paying more attention.
After all, Mio proclaim that they offer “the best experience in bicycle navigation.”
Or is this just hyperbole akin to BMW’s “The Ultimate Driving Machine?” We’d better find out!
The range of Mio’s cycling navigation products is confusing, to say the least, and their website doesn’t help to clear things up.
While this review will deal with the Mio 405 HC, here’s a quick rundown on Mio’s naming structure:
- 200 series – Have a 3.5” screen, 320×480 resolution. ARM Cortex A7 processor.
- 300 series – Have a 3” screen, 240×400 resolution. Samsung processor.
- 400 series – Have a 4” screen, 360×600 resolution. ARM Cortex A7 processor. The 400 doesn’t have the ability to connect to any sensors, by either Bluetooth or ANT+, or manage notifications from a phone. The 405 connects to all sensors and a phone.
- 600 series – The same as the 400 series, but features a WIFI connection, so no need to plug into the USB on your computer. Also supports magnetless speed and cadence sensors.
- The suffix ‘HC’ on any of the products means that the package includes a chest strap heart rate monitor and cadence/speed sensor.
So they’ve got a product to suit every budget and set of requirements it seems, and a bit of competition sharpens the breed, doesn’t it?
Mio 405 HC Cycling GPS Review – Design
In the box, we’ve got the GPS itself, basic bar mounts with a handful of cable ties, chest strap heart rate monitor, speed and cadence sensor, USB cable, and a quick start guide which tells you how to turn it on and attach it to your bike. Handily, Mio’s online FAQ portal is very informative, with screenshots and idiot proof guides – link.
The included cadence/speed sensor unfortunately is one of the older generation units requiring a magnet to be added to your wheel
The included ANT+ cardio monitor is pretty standard. But in a positive twist, the HRM comes with my preferred “end on” strap, which makes getting connected much easier in my opinion
Looking at the exterior, it’s mostly black with a splash of silver here and there, and a silver rim around the screen. It’s not going to win any awards for originality, but it’s pretty inoffensive. A simple ‘Cyclo’ logo sits at the base of the screen.
Looking from the back, we’ve got a bit more branding, this time on a circular textured surface, which looks quite nice, and surprisingly helps find scratches over time
We’ve also got charging details, serial number, holes for a lanyard, and the USB port. All this information being on the outside is a giveaway that the device is not user dismantleable.
USB connectivity is taken care of via a micro USB port with a rubber cover, helping the 405 achieve an IPX7 waterproofing rating. However, for reasons best left with the designers, the Mio 405 has the port on the very base of the device. Not a showstopper as many devices do, however a lot of units this size do have the port facing down so that the unit doesnt have to be face down when charging
Oddly, I’ve found the rubber flap surprisingly tricky at times to open. Maybe it’s biting my fingers too much, but sometimes I’ve had to grab a small implement to help open the door
The sides of the unit are sculped an make grasping the unit in the hand quite pleasant.On the RIGHT side of the unit is the on button, start and lap buttons
Small icons on the side of the screen also indicate their function, and that when using the unit, the power button acts as a shortcut to the screen brightness
It’s a bit of a shame that there’s no function to move between dashboard screens without using the touch screen, as we have more of a halfway house here. One extra button would have gone a long way to help here, as the screen isn’t particularly sensitive to a dry, gloved finger. I found myself having to take a glove off to move between map and data displays during a ride.
The Mio range uses their own mount, which means buying a whole new out-front mount *groan* if you dont like the included handlebar / stem mount. Which is is a plastic cap, on top of a rubber seat. All held together with included cable ties
The system itself requires slightly more or slightly less than a quarter of a turn, and seems to be very similar to the Wahoo mount, but just at 90 deg. Unsurprisingly the mount works perfectly well even over rough terrain. I do wish that if brands want to user own mounts, that they would include an out front in the box. It would just be so much easier. The Karoo Hammerhead got the message!
The screen is perhaps the main area where the Mio has the advantage over an equivalent Garmin. A 4” screen is miles bigger than the main rival from Polar and Garmin.
Howver all three units suffer from the same issue. The screens are just a touch dim. The smaller Garmin and Polar devices, and all the Wahoo options use monochrome screens, which are easy to see. If a copy insists on using a colour screen for the GPS unit, which is only really useful if the unit has navigation, you need to follow the retina-searing of the Hammerhead Karoo.
Mio 405 HC Cycling GPS Review – Specification
- Device weight: 177 grams
- Screen: (360×600)
- Memory: 8Gb total, comes loaded with maps for all of Europe
- Battery: “Up to 15hrs ride time”
- Water resistance: IPX7 (“protected from immersion in water up to 1 metre for up to 30 minutes”)
- Sensor compatibility: HRM, Speed, Cadence, and Power, Air pressure Barometer built-in
- Connectivity: Bluetooth Low Energy & ANT+
Mio 405 HC Cycling GPS Review – Manual
The Mio 405 / 400 Series user manual can be downloaded HERE
Mio 405 HC Cycling GPS Review – Using the Device
Turning on the device gives a simple loading screen, an opportunity to choose your profile (handy if you’re sharing the device with someone else) and then drops you straight into the home screen. No flashy animations here.
But before you do anything, quickly pop into the setting menu and switch off the tone on screen tap – your sanity with thank you!
The home screen is very simple, with six big icons to choose from:
- Dashboard: if you’re navigating somewhere, you open this to look at your map and your data fields.
- Navigate: in here you can choose where to go. Do this by either choosing a point of interest taken from OpenStreetMap, a track that you’ve put together yourself on MioShare (more on this later), a point on the map, or an address. When out on a ride you can also use the ‘back to start’ icon to take you back to where you started from, a feature I found very useful. You can also explore your favourite Strava segments on here.
- History: See your previous rides here. Also view your riding summary for a given year, month, week, or day.
- Surprise me: More on this feature below.
- Workout: Here you can start a workout to cover a given distance, time, calorie, HR zone, or power zone. Start the clock ticking, and watch the numbers as you pedal away.
- Settings: Self-explanatory, for setting up sensors, phone link, profiles, dashboard preferences, Shimano Di2 link, screen, sound alerts, etc.
It is going to help if you have downloaded the CycloAgent Software to your PC/Mac
A slight oddity is that you download the software, and are offered a login box… but with no option to actually sign up
For that you need to go the MioShare site, which was mentioned is very important due to this being where the Strava Live Segments special sauce is kept
As the Mio 405 is based on a device first released in 2012, it’s not the slickest, smoothest unit out there. Flicking between the screens does have that buttery smooth quality of a bang up to date release like the Hammerhead Karoo, but is quite comparable to Garmins current units
There is the usual boatload of parameters available to be measured by the Mio 405. The inclusion of a heart rate monitor and speed and cadence sensor in the HC packages is a real plus point for Mio when it comes to value for money
However, setting up the dashboard to display only the data you want is nigh on impossible. You are faced with a predetermined set of data fields, and the number of these fields can be increased or decreased, but you can’t just pick and choose the ones you want, which is a tad frustrating.
Setting up the included sensors is straightforward, select the type of sensor you want to find
Wait for things to pop up. You are only going to see ANT+ sensors though, no Bluetooth ones
Bluetooth is purely for the phone connection
Now credit where credit is due, the Mio 405 also handles smart notifications, something which Garmin literally took YEARS to implement. The notifications are clear and easy to read. But as you can see from the below shot, when using WhatsApp there is no identifier which is a bit daft in my mind
The 405 benefits from turn by turn navigation, and several options for background colour on the maps, allowing you to pick the one that you find easiest to view at a glance. The navigation is nice and smooth, with the autopause function working promptly and unobtrusively. The device also automatically zooms in on the map as you come up to a junction or direction change, along with the direction indication and distance on top
I quite like the topography map of the route in the bottom. A reasonable use of the additional screen size when in map mode
See the green flag above? Well, that indicates the start of a Strava route. Strava Live Segments are now baked into the Mio 405 firmware. But are relatively rudimentary in their alerts. You don’t get previous PR’s and things like that
You do however get the usual time behind etc. Plus the larger screen means that you get a better view of the elevation map, to plan your attack
You load the Strava segments via the Mio site, and connecting your accounts. Strava segments will then auto-populate onto the device when plugged into the computer next
You can view your Strava segments, from the Manage tab, under settings
I actually prefer the Mio w405 way of setting out the Strava Segments compared to Garmin. I’ve got a route idea which of my segments are steep and which are not, but find it a little more use to know what my various distances I am from them, in case I fancy going segment hunting
However, when it comes to navigation, the 405 has another trick up its sleeve. Remember the “surprise me” icon we mentioned earlier?
Well, it’s a function given a lot of marketing space by Mio, so here’s how it works. You can either choose a loop, or a location. If you choose a loop, you give the device a distance or a time, and it gives you three options for rides that fit that criterion, with different elevations. If you choose a location, the GPS will give you two or three options of how to get there.
This is a really good feature for breaking out of normal routes and finding something different, Or when you and your mates are bored of every route you can think of to the Sunday morning coffee stop, Mio dreams up a new route for you. Great stuff.
One area where Mio REALLY shines is their online route creation software. If you’ve tried to use Garmin’s online software, then you know the pain of which I speak! MioShare’s route plotter is very intuitive, and gives options to calculate any given route based on “easy riding”, “serious cycling”, or “shortest” algorithms. Click, go, adjust, save. Done!
From there it’s a simple click to “save to tracks”, and these are synchronised to the 405 next time you plug it in. All of your tracks are available under the “tracks” heading on MioShare and can be easily downloaded as GPX files from there. Users are also able to upload GPX files to MioShare so you can use all of your old favourite routes, plus the “explore” heading gives you the chance to find a premade route in your area. The only negative to speak of here is that once you’ve created a track, you can’t then go back and edit it, which is a bit of a shame.
Uploads are done by way of connecting the device to your computer and syncing with MioShare, only the top-spec 600 series benefits from WiFi connectivity. Once you’ve synced, all your rides are uploaded to Strava, and your activity levels are added to MioShare’s calendar function. The calendar itself is fairly basic, giving cumulative figures by the day, week, and month for distance, calories, time, and ascent, but with no function for setting goals for each.
Now that does bring me neatly to the navigation on the Mio 405 itself… Something seems to have been lost along the way.
So, I ask the Mio 405 to generate a route from home to work. Simple really. The address entry is perfect really. Post code in, it confirms the street, and you are ready to generate a route
For this first generation, I just let the unit use it’s default routing settings – i.e. everything on
So it’s taken the quickest route and sent me down a footpath through the old quarry works. A reasonable course, but not in work clothes thank you!
Hop into the settings, and switch off unpathed roads. I’m expecting it to give me the usual 4km route to work… and somehow Mio thinks that a 9.9km ride, doing three and a half sides of a square is both the shortest AND quickest routes.
Ok, something is odd. Back into route planner and switch off everything but main roads. 22.2km !!! You’re having a laugh!
Now Garmin would ONLY give me the route by the quarry. But Google maps actually offered me, my exact route to work, including the cut through the town centre!
I think the fact that Mio’s routing online, first time, gave me a very reasonable route to work makes things all the odder. With just two clicks!
Mio 405 HC Cycling GPS Review: Conclusion:
So is the Mio 405 – “the best experience in bicycle navigation” – as a device no. As an ecosystem probably
With a price point at £250, the Mio looks a touch expensive compared to the Garmin 52o, or the top end Polar V650 both at £150. The biggest question you really have to ask, is whether that large screen is something you feel is worth the extra cash.
Particularly as access to Mio’s great online route creator is free. Currently I’m going to give a reasonable 3/5. The unit would have easily gained a 4/5 is the internal route planning algorythms had been as effective as the planning software it is attached do