Poor software design and usability undermine the high-quality hardware of the HP iPaq 310 Travel Companion GPS Device.

Although HP has been creating GPS-enabled iPaq handhelds for a few years, its latest device is the first to attempt real competition with Garmin, TomTom and other dedicated GPS products made with automotive adventures in mind.

But while the iPaq 310 Travel Companion is a creditable effort, several glitches make its rather steep price (around £150) difficult to justify.

The HP iPaq 310 provides turn-by-turn directions and points-of-interest lookup on a slim (18mm-thick) device with a handsome, crisp 800-by-480-pixel 4.3in LCD touchscreen that you can perch on the included windshield/dashboard mount (you also get a car charger to keep the device juiced up). The HP iPaq 310 also has a built-in media player and supports Bluetooth for use as a hands-free cellular kit.

The HP iPaq 310's text-to-speech technology allows the voice directions to name streets, which can be a major plus in unfamiliar areas. The device's speakers didn't seem powerful enough, however.

Even with the volume turned all the way up, we sometimes had difficulty hearing the directions. Currently HP is not offering an FM transmitter to direct the HP iPaq 310 Travel Companion's audio through car speakers.

What distinguishes the HP iPaq 310 from competitors is its integration with HP's recently launched iPaq Navigate travel-planning website and Content Manager desktop software.

For example, you can sync Outlook contacts to the device and then choose a contact's address as a destination; you can also plan trips on the site and then sync them to the device and/or share them with friends (or the internet at large).

But you must register with the site to do any of that, and people who don't care about trip planning might not appreciate having to register just to sync contacts.

Also, neither the site nor the Content Manager software is intuitive.

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