on November 20, 2005
After trying other Garmin units, this is the one I kept. Simply wonderful. I bought it when it was more than triple its current price and thought it was good deal then. It's a great deal now.
It has all the characteristics that I was looking for:
1) VERY compact -- easily able to fit in a breast pocket
2) Text-to-Speech -- announces proper street names, not just "turn left in 500 feet"; radically reduces how much you need to look at the screen to figure out the real instructions; wouldn't own a GPS unit wihtout this
3) Bright Screen -- readable in virtually every situation
Faster location of the GPS satellites. This turns out to be quite important in day-to-day use. In the other systems, it wasn't unusual that we could be driving for a couple minutes before it located the satellites and could give us directions. With this unit, the satellites are located almost as quickly as the unit fully starts up.
One comment on how we use this: We don't mount it on the dash board or on the window (which is technically illegal here in California). Instead we just lay this on the center console in our van or car. The antenna system is plenty sensitive to work just like this and we've never lost the satellite signals except in tunnels.
We also like all the potential of the traveling features (clock, calculator, etc.), but this is the one to own even if you just use it for the basic GPS features.
[July 2006 Update]
How Its Ease-of-Use Enhanced Our Vacation: We were recently on a vacation combined with a business conference. While I was at the conference, my family had the confidence to explore the city without ever getting lost. Even our kids were able to help enter addreses and find locations.
Factoring In Added Cost: Just a warning about upgrade costs. Although Garmin does a good job of releasing updates to their system software that either fixes bugs or adds enhancements, the cost to update the built-in maps is extra. And they issue updates about once a year.
on August 12, 2006
And it took an electronic device. LOL.
OK, here is the deal. This product is as good as any GPS I have ever used or seen. It is small and easily carried with you wherever you go (something most of them can't do at all). It can be used in any vehile (caveat, you do not get multiple mounts, but extra mounts can be purchased for $25), and even has pedestrian and bicycle modes. ABOVE ALL it is easy to use, thanks to good software and an excellent touch screen, although a getting started manual would have helped me enormously.
The thing is great at telling you what to do and where to go. There are no second guesses. It says take a right, it highlights the turn graphically and it even tells you the road or route you are turning onto verbally, something most GPS's are missing. Instead of "turn right in .02 miles", you get "turn on to Vista Drive in .02 miles". It even has some landmarks that comfort you along the way.
On of the best features is something my wife experienced on a trip to NY. She is not familiar at all with the roads here on the east coast and was taking a rather long drive to NY to a hotel we had never stayed at. Along the way, she managed to mess up and miss one turn. For her, that could have been a major hassle. I mean, you know what it is like. I have spent as much as an hour getting back on track when I was lucky. Even more time was lost when I wasn't lucky because of detours or road work. One detour in California took me over two hours to recover from on what was originally a 1/2 hour trip. Other GPSs do this too, but this one seems incredibly adept and efficient at it.
When she missed her turn, the system immediately recognized it and redirected her. She lost about five minutes for her goof and didn't have to ask directions or even pause in her travels.
In NY, she used it repeatedly in pedestrian mode to find where she was going. And it worked like a charm even in the confines of all the buildings in NY.
OK, my complaints are why it doesn't get a 5 star rating. Read them closely, because there are ways around a couple of them, but that said, I don't think ANY GPS would get 5 stars from me.
1. There is no "getting started" manual, although it is referenced by Garmin in one of their manuals, it doesn't exist in the package or on the website. All such a manual (which could be one page long) has to say is how to get it working the first time. I will tell you after this how to work around it, but I think it results in a number of these devices being returned in frustration.
2. It does sometimes get confused about the best route. Don't get me wrong, it will get you there and will show you exactly where you are. But when I use it on roads I know, it often isn't optimal. For example, it wanted me to take a road I knew had 10 traffic lights instead of an open freeway in one instance. Or it told me to drive a half a mile out of my way when the left turn onto the highway I wanted was right in front of me.
3. Detour mode is great if there really is a detour. But I accidentally hit this once and there does not appear to be a way to turn it off. I found this incredibly annoying on one trip because I knew it was the best route, but needed details at the end of the trip and the GPS was trying to send me every way but the right way because I accidentally clicked a button. :-(
4. It has an emulation mude allowing it to pre-navigate a trip for you. I thought this would be an INCREDIBLY useful feature. You could practice a complex route before you actually took the trip. But it works at real speed. So emulating a four hour trip would indeed take, well, four hours. Silly indeed. Great for sales demos, but useless for the customer. If someone knows a way around this, it would be a great thing to tell folks.
5. The battery is not customer replacable.
OK, so how do you work around 1? You charge the battery, you go outside to use it the first time under an open sky, and you give it at least five minutes to acquire the satellite positions. It won't work on your couch in the living room unless you are very lucky. It needs at least 3-4 satellites to triangulate your position, and I couldn't get more than one indoors. Outside, it picks up more than enough satellites to get the job done. Oh, and dont' forget to open the antenna. :-)
How about working around 2? Live with it, it is a factor of the mapping software. It ain't perfect, but it is great when you get lost. That one wrong turn is easily corrected. When you are in an unfamiliar area, it really doesn't matter if you use the perfect route anyway in most cases, just that you got there safely. And add to that you always know where you are, and you have something worth every penny. It truly kills the stress factor of driving in an unfamiliar area.
Now 3 is a problem. Don't use the detour feature unless you are absolutely sure you need to take an actual detour. It takes you literally that the route is detoured, and the only way I could find to work around it was to restart the entire trip over from your current location. Something annoying while driving on the highway if you don't have another person in the car to reset it.
For 4, there is no workaround I have found. It makes this mode useless for only the shortest of trips.
For 5, again, you have no workaround. You will have to take it in for service if the battery wears out. IPODs have a similar issue though, so I am used to that. Battery life appears to be 4-6 hours. So when I use it around town or on short trips, I don't even bother to use the cigarette ligher adapter.
Conclusion: Awesome unit. Wins every comparative review I have found. Works great. And gives you peace of mind for you and your family in your travels.
on May 5, 2006
I was recently looking to purchase a GPS unit and I had resigned myself to spending approximately $800. The obvious choices presented to me were the Garmin Nuvi 350 and the TomTom 910. For use in the USA, both machines are essentially equally equipped, with large, bright color touch screens and pre-loaded maps. The TomTom also includes maps of Europe, but as I don't intend to travel there anytime soon, this was not a compelling selling feature.
I spent a bit of time in the store using both devices side-by-side. I entered identical destinations and observed how many keystrokes it took to get the machines to recognize the address. The Garmin Nuvi, with a very refined user interface, took significantly fewer keystrokes in most cases. Since the Nuvi allows you to enter the state first, the machine can pinpoint your destination city much more quickly than the TomTom, which requires that you enter the city before the state. As such, you are presented with a (sometimes) very long list of matching cities, which you then must scroll through to find the correct one. Consider, for example, a city name like "Springfield." Once you manage to key in enough characters that the machine can guess the name, it presents you with a list of Springfields, one for each state! There are a lot of Springfields in the US, so you end up wasting considerably time clicking past the ones you don't want.
Now that the addresses were entered (and I was already starting to get annoyed with the TomTom's inefficiency), the machines begin to calculate a driving route. The Garmin found a reasonable route from Paramus, NJ to Cambridge, MA in about 8 seconds, and it took another 5 or so to draw the map and announce the first move. The trip was estimated to require about 3 1/2 hours (reasonable, if not a bit low). On the other hand, the TomTom required more like 30 seconds to calculate the route, plus another 10 or so to draw the map. What's worse, the TomTom told me it would take over 8 hours to reach the destination. Only on a pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday in snow, many years ago, has it ever taken that long!
I figured perhaps some other customer had chosen a route preference that led to this odd path. After searching hopelessly through several poorly labeled menus on the TomTom and failing to see a "shortest distance" or "quickest trip" option, I tried resetting the machine's preferences. Unfortunately, the machine's touch screen registered a finger-touch event right after the reset (I must have brushed the screen accidentally), and it locked in a foreign language I couldn't read. (I guess the first question it asks after a reset is "what language do you want?") There was no "back" button that I could find, and it kept asking additional questions in this foreign tongue. I needed a translator to continue! At that point, there was no sense in playing with the TomTom any further. The user interface was simply one frustration piled on another. Even if they were to update the menu choices to be more logical, the touch-sensitive feature is slightly misaligned, requiring you to press the bottom corner of a button you want in order to get the correct selection. Button presses made in the center of a button often resulted in the button above being chosen. I don't appreciate electronics that waste my time.
The speed of the Garmin's route calculation is more important that simply allowing you to set off quicker, though. If you miss a turn en route, the machine must recalculate your trip so it can correct your path. The Garmin recovers from missed turns quickly enough that it can usually find and announce the correcting route before the next turn. If a machine cannot recover this quickly, you'll simply miss that turn, too, and the machine will set off recalculating another new route. You'll end up in a vicious cycle of missed turns if the machine is off-line for too long. I have not used the TomTom in a car, but given that it was such a laggard in the store, I would want to experiment with it during a missed turn before investing such a large sum.
As for bright light visibility, the Garmin is more than adequate. I have a convertible, and even in bright sunlight with the top down, the Garmin is adequately legible. The built-in speaker, though small, is powerful and clear. Directions are easily audible over the wind and road noise, assuming I've got the stereo at a reasonably low level. The Text to Speech (TTS) feature allowing the unit to speak street names performs well enough to recognize the street without looking at the unit.
The windshield mount worked quite well despite the stiff suspension in my car, my aggressive driving habits, and the fact that it was in the direct sun and heat for several hours today. (The car corners at greater than 0.95g, and achieves about 1.00g in deceleration, which did not so much as shake the unit or the mount. Larger transient forces such as expansion joints also failed to upset the suction cup mount.) The machine snaps in and out of the charger / holder with complete ease.
Garmin's unit is much thinner than the TomTom, and its battery is rated for up to 8 hours of use while unplugged from the car charger (a wall charger is also included). Becaues the unit is so small (think iPod size), it fits easily into a pocket for walking trips, hiking, and biking. It's also very easy to place in a brief case or pocketbook, further protecting your investment when you park.
$800 is a lot of money to spend on a GPS device, but the Garmin has justified the expense with an exemplary machine. With plenty of map data, a very polished and efficient user interface, and simple setup and operation, they have managed to outshine the competition.
As a footnote, I had planned to purchase the Garmin from Best Buy or Circuit City until they told me there was a 15% restocking fee for a returned item. Given the unique nature of this device (you need to like using it IN YOUR CAR, not in the store), this could be quite a loss if you decide against the item. Amazon has no such penalty. However, if you choose the Garmin, I suspect you will never want to send it back! Hope this helps you choose.
UPDATE: After a 1300 mile road trip to Virginia, I am still extremely pleased with the Garmin Nuvi 350. Even gravel side roads off the Blue Ridge Parkway were accurately labeled and present in the map data! No matter where we were, a few taps on the screen brought up a list of nearby restaurants (marked with arrows so you can choose only ones that don't require a U-turn!) or stores. Also, do not underestimate the utility of having a portable, battery-powered device while walking around unfamiliar cities and towns. It's a huge help. In short, this device is a joy to use. Garmin also plan to release Macintosh compatible software in the next several months (according to press releases on their Web site) so that we Mac users will be able to keep our Nuvi's accurate in the future.
Daniel Wambold, MD
on December 12, 2005
After extensive research, I decided to buy either the Garmin 2720 or the Nuvi 350. I wanted reliable maps, ease of use, future real-time traffic expandibility. I decided on the Nuvi because the sensitivity of the GPS antennas is much better in urban environments and the small pocket-sized shape. I have now owned the unit for 2 months and used it extensively. Here are my observations:
1. The antenna sensitivity is outstanding. As a test, the first time I got it, I had the unit "find itself" from within my 2 story house. I was on the first floor and not near a window. While I took a shower, it figured out where it was. In the car, it usually finds itself within 5 seconds. The tangible benefit of this sensitivity is that I don't have to mount the Nuvi on my car dash or window. It just sits on the center console of the car.
2. The maps are very good. So far, it's found every place I searched including little local resturants. The time to calculate (or re-route) based on these maps is very good. I have been able to use the unit straight out of the box without any updates to the software or the maps.
3. The readability of the screen is very good. Even in bright daylight, the screen can be easily read.
4. The speaker on the unit does the job but should be improved. At the higher volume settings the sound is tinny and the cheap little speaker just isn't as clear as it should be. I'm not trying to compare to built-in GPS units from manufacturers like Honda but for $900 the speaker should be better.
5. The internal battery seems to last about 3 1/2 hours with the screen on full brightness. Seems reasonable considering the manufacturer says the battery should last about 4 to 6 hours and we all know how manufacturers over state battery life.
6. The Li-Ion battery is sealed in the unit and can't be replaced by the owner. I don't like this at all. Since this product is reasonably new, there is no detail on how much the battery replacement service would cost. I expect we will get taken to town like Apple with their iPod battery replacements. However, Li-Ion batteries are well regarded so the they should last about 1 1/2 years. We'll see. If anyone from Garmin reads this: Don't do it again. It's not good. Convince your design team that a battery cover with a screw isn't going to take away from the coolness of the product.
7. The software has worked fine. One time it came up with a better route and asked if I wanted to take the new route. However, it didn't say how much shorter or faster the new route would be so I could make an informed decision. Minor detail but if you want me to make a decision, give me some relevant information.
8. The product comes with a quick start guide which is all you really need. There is a product manual but it doesn't get shipped. You can get the pdf from Garmin's web site for free. At $900, I would have expected a paper manual in the box. If you want the paper manual, it's around $10 from Garmin.
9. It comes with the capability to play mp3s and audio books. With the built-in speaker, that is a painful experience. Better to hook-up headphones.
10. One feature that it doesn't have compared to other top-end GPS units is the ability to tell current position in Longitude/Latitude. Minor and not needed but what's the harm? After all there is a screen showing 12 satellite signal strengths and your current elevation.
Overall, I think this has been a good decision. Maybe some of the software issues will be fixed in the future. It is expensive but tangibly better than other GPS units on the market at this time.
on November 19, 2005
Not cheap but you get what you pay for. Points of interest: (a) very compact but has the same screen size as the Garmin C3?0 series (b) screen readable in bright direct sunshine (c) Navteq US database - the best - and you can fit all of Europe on a single 2GB SD card (card and European map are extra) (d) North indicator on map (missing on C3?0) (e) the GPS is extremely sensitive and locks on very quickly - I've had it work on the second floor of a three floor building (f) intuitive user interface (g) nicely displayed map (better than C3?0) (h) optional traffic capability. I'm finally selling my NavMan! The only two features that are missing to make it the perfect GPS are (a) dead reckoning capability (b) integral satellite traffic capability - given Garmin's pace of introduction of new products I wouldn't be surprised to see those next year...
on January 9, 2006
My wife travels to the homes of several new clients every week, so a GPS was the perfect gift for her. After much research, I chose the Garmin 2720 over the Magellan 760. But I didn't know about Garmin Nuvi until after I bought the 2720. I was torn after reading favorable reviews of the Nuvi, so I bought a Nuvi as well, with the understanding that we would test both and return one to the store.
First of all, it is hard to go wrong with either, both are great products, and I got them both for about the same price.
--Heavy duty construction. Waterproof.
--Very sharp, bright screen that is more like a mini computer monitor.
--Advanced GPS features.
--Ultra compact, light, and portable. A brilliant design.
--Reports of better receiver sensitivity.
--Reports that it draws better routes.
--extra non-GPS features: MP3, picture viewer, audio books, language translater.
--can run on batteries and has a built in speaker
2720 best suited for:
--A motorcycle (it's waterproof)
--Traveling salesmen that would enter many destinations and have the GPS choose the best route between all of them. The Nuvi can handle only 1 via point.
--Mounted in a mini van/SUV for family vacations in rural areas. The 2720 gives you more control to plan your whole route. But the Nuvi would not be bad either.
--The Techie who will use the advanced GPS features.
Nuvi best suited for:
--Your wife. I'm sorry, but a woman will choose the Nuvi over the 2720 almost every time. It fits easily in their purse.
--Traveling by plane and using in a rental car. The Nuvi's ultra compact design makes this the obvious choice.
--People who would use the MP3 player, picture viewer, other Non-GPS features.
--People who travel in downtown areas, it will have fewer dropouts than the 2720.
We chose the Nuvi. The 2720 was nice, but when my wife took one look at the Nuvi her mind was made up. She wouldn't use the advanced GPS features on the 2720, but she liked the MP3 player, etc. on the Nuvi. She loved the compact size, and the ability to run it on batteries in her car without the power cable. The screen is not as bright as the 2720, but it's still very readable.
To see very detailed and technical reviews of all GPS receivers, see gpsinformation.net
UPDATED December 2007:
We've had this unit for almost two years now, and it still works great. In fact we bought a new Lexus with a built in Nav, and we still like the Nuvi better. It has better directions, an easier menu, and text to speech capability.
One thing to note, the touch screen on the NUVI will not scratch easily. Many people are concerned that they need to buy a screen protector. This is not necessary. We've never used a screen protector, and I can't find any noticable scratches on the screen. And I can't count all the times that we've dropped it, or it fell off the dashboard. It still looks almost new.
on June 24, 2006
I'm not Stefanie, but her husband Ed,
Okay, I like techy things, but the Garmin Nuvi 350 is really neat. I am currently on a trip across the US. I have now traveled over 1700 miles and the thing has yet to give me bad directions. I have traveled in town, freeways, rural roads with no signs, and into the mountains. I have lost signal twice, both times happened when I went into mountain tunnels, more on this in a minute.
Out of the box it took about 2 minutes before I was up and running. The window attachement is quite good and I don't think it's coming off my window without help. The interanl battery is good for about 5 hours...the DC adapter has a long cord so you can use it in a secondary DC plug-in.
Small in size it doesn't obstruct the view.
The screen is quite bright.
The speaker and volume are quite good.
Type in address and go. Pretty simple. It held the tracking signal even in mountain canyons, as I was driving I started thinking about how hard that had to be. Anyway, the maps were great as they let me see the turns up ahead before I got there. The voice prompts were absolutely on target. At one point, Nuvi told me to take a named road, but there were no signs. So I ignored the voice prompt. Nuvi recalculated the route in about 5 seconds and got me back on track. Oh, by-the-way, I should have listened as Nuvi was correct.
Nuvi can also provide a list hotels, food places, and gas stations in your vicinity with phone numbers. This was quite handy.
The only thing that I would recommend to Garmin is that when you cross time zones that it should update the time of arrival in the time of the new zone.
This has a been a very good purchase. Oh, and my wife likes it too.
on November 28, 2005
This GPS unit is simply beautiful, and has worked great so far. The display is comparable to the TomTom units when under ideal viewing conditions. However, when the angle changes, or in different lighting conditions, the Nuvi is leaps and bounds better than the TomTom units.
However, this unit is not perfect. The preloaded points of interest are quite antiquated. Alot of attractions, hospitals, and businesses that are included in the POIs (even HOSPITALS, and police stations) have changed name, relocated, or shut down. So I would strongly recommend against solely relying on the POIs when looking for things to do. It works great for large attractions that arent easily moved (ie theme parks, monuments, etc).
In terms of getting you from destination A to desination B, the unit works great. No lockup experiences yet. One selling point of this unit is that it uses SirfIII ultra sensitive signals. This is true, but please be aware that in certain circumstances, even though a signal is still acquired, the accuracy can be quite degraded (ie if you're in a tunnel for extended periods of time, etc etc). However, this is remedied as soon as you come into an area with unobstructed satellite view.
Stay tuned for periodic updates!
*** UPDATE 1: Still VERY impressed, but have found a few bugs **
I've been roadtesting this unit for about 5 weeks now, and have noticed the following:
1) At times, this unit will "Recalculate" the route for no apparent reason. The new route it gives you is exactly the same as the one you were traveling on before, but the user will be distracted and puzzled about why the route was recalculated in the first place.
2) This unit will struggle a little in huge metro areas such as downtown LA. The unit occasionally showed me on an incorrect street but this fixes itself rather rapidly.
3) Relying solely on voice prompts can get you into trouble. For some cities, especially San Diego and Los Angeles, the voice prompts will not give you adequate warning on whether to stay to the left or the right. To avoid this problem just rely on the purple highlighted route which has a white arrow showing whether to turn left or right.
4) At times, the unit will take upwards of 45seconds to 1 minute to acquire a signal lock. Especially if you have been playing with the unit indoors w/ a poor signal.
5) The speaker is virtually worthless if you are playing your radio or cd player.
But overall I'm still impressed with this unit. The display works even at high noon, with blaring sun conditions. The few bugs noticed were rarely seen, and easy to work around. This is by far the best unit i've played with. With the map sent to "more" detail, you can see everything around you as you are driving.
The best part, when you park, and everyone is eyeing your new unit... you can just take it down, put it in your pocket, and not have to worry about theft!
********** Update 2 *************
Version 2.6 of the firmware fixed alot of the issues that were complained about previously. I've had this unit for a good amount of time now, and have tested it on the West and East Coasts. My overall recommendation is this: The only real problem with this unit is the fairly weak speaker. For the non-advanced GPS user, this unit is the best you can get, and the one I would recommend.
Go to Circuit City, Best Buy, Frys, etc and play with other units, then play with the Nuvi. You'll see that the other units look cheap, clunky, slow, and have dull screens compared to the Nuvi. If you're going to buy GPS, NUVI is the way to go. For constant travelers, the portability just can't be beat.
You'll never find the "perfect" GPS unit that meets all of your wants (note, wants, not NEEDS) to a tee, but this one surely comes close.
on January 17, 2006
Purchased in Dec. This is what I have found.
1. No manual with unit. You must print from website.
2. Download of software fixes is not well documented. Does not function on my computer(win xp)using USB connection. I must download to a 32 meg SD chip and insert into Nuvi for update.
3. Often(almost always) when powering up, I will see message that it is searching for satellites. I can wait several minutes and still be searching. I then power down and power up again and often will then find satellites ok. Sometimes must go thru powerup/powerdown sequence several times before success. As a motorcycle rider, this is a pain as you can not really do this while riding as you can if you must, when driving an auto or walking.
4. Status of battery charge condition is poor(in spite of following their instructions to totally allow battery to go dead and recharging). Now after 1 month I have discovered that if you plug into power to charge, the unit powers itself on from an off condition. If you then power off while still plugged into electrical outlet, then you will get a message on screen if battery is charging or if it is fully charged. This is not documented.
5. No longitude or latitude location given by unit. UH??????
6. Have had 5 software updates in one month. From release 2.2 to 2.7 in incremental releases.
7. Not waterproof, or even water resistant. This is very bad for a hiker or motorcycle rider.
8. No lanyard or any other method to affix a cord to carry around your neck. Small leather case does not have a belt attachement. Hint! Not a belt clip, but an actual attachment that requires the removal of your belt to carry it. Belt clips lead to losses. Look at the Canon SD 550 camera case for the proper design.
9. Search arguments for spelling out locations that you seek is poor. Example would be to search for "Harley Davidson" to find a local dealer. In Silicon Valley, the closest find is some 300 miles away. There are actually 5 or more HD stores within 25 miles from my home. This occurs on many searches, fuel stations, fast food places, etc. Very disconcerting if you are looking for Wendys or McDonalds or Chevron or Shell and are told by Nuvi the nearest is 30 miles away, as you are riding down the freeway and see one at the next exit.
10. MPH indicator when driving is not accurate. I have 2 newer autos that will indicate 70 mph and the Nuvi will say 66 to 67. I have checked speedometers in both by driving down the freeway at 60 and timing with a stopwatch at mile posts. The autos are correct.
11. What happens when built in battery gives up the ghost, no indication in documentation from Garmin. Must you pitch the unit(ala Ipod--however now for 75 dollars or so, Apple will install a new one)or does Garmin have plans to replace a failed battery. Somewhat hard to justify throwing a 900 dollar unit away because the battery has failed. Of course would probably function ok as long as your vehicle has a cigar lighter. No so with most motorcycles.
Other smaller lesser complaints. I often wonder if engineers that design these products ever actually come out of their cubby holes and test their designs in the real world. In other words "do they come out to see what us chickens are eating out here"? Some of these issues, I uncovered within 1 day of owning the unit. You see this in virtually every product that you acquire and it is really annoying that the designers failed to consider these before foisting the product on the buyer. No wonder so many returns and they of course wonder why and attribute returns to flaky buyers. For 900 dollars, you have an expectation of near perfection and if not satisfied then you should return.
I will not cover the numerous good and excellent attributes of the Nuvi in my review. These have been well covered by other reviewers. And mind you, there are many good points. I will wait for version/release 2 as most likely will be returning this unit.
Additional problem on Nuvi that I did not note earlier. If you have created a list of "Favorite Places", it will become quite large over a period of time. You may wish to weed out some of the entries that are no longer of interest. You are not permitted to delete individual entries. You must remove the list in its entirety. This then means that you must recreate your "Favorites" from scratch. This is a serious usability defect.
on May 6, 2006
We've owned the Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS system for about 3 months now, and used it in Minneapolis and Boston, the cross-country drive, and on several business trips. There are 3 primary users of the system. We spent a lot of time researching the tradeoffs among GPS systems. We selected this one because it seemed to meet our needs the best.
(Pros) In general we love this gadget. It finds the satellites quickly, has a good database of places to go, finds good routes, announces turns nicely, etc.
We love its form factor - it does fit in your pocket, just as the advertisements claim. The display is bright and large enough to see while driving. The antenna does a great job of maintaining satellite signal. The suction-cup mount works well most of the time, and transfers nicely from car-to-car. The interface is intuitive. When listening to a book/music, it pauses playback before announcing driving directions, & then rewinds a couple of seconds. I love being able to just put my finger on the screen and move the map around, and also to specify "go here" just by pointing to the place without needing the address. We really like the time estimates to your destination.
(Cons) I'm guessing that this list of cons will be true for any GPS system of this size, so take them as a list of suggestions for software enhancements. The fact that software updates are available online is nice; I look forward to seeing what gets fixed.
The biggest irritation is the automatic zoom. It *always* zooms out too far. I think the algorithm decides to zoom out to show the entire next segment (till the next turn). Often that means your car is displayed much, much larger than anything useful on the map. It doesn't seem to matter what distance you're travelling, the zoom-out is too far. For example, I've had a 400-mile segment displayed in a 2-inch wide window. Getting mile-long displays in a neighbourhood means you can't see the upcoming intersections. All of us will consistently hit the zoom-in button 3 or 5 times after every turn. We think the decision should probably be based on the density of roads/intersections.
Occasionally, when a highway splits in two directions, you get a reasonably long distance of them running in parallel before actually separating. The Nuvi algorithm seems to "prefer" to assume that you are on the correct path, and occasionally won't warn you that you are in the wrong lane before it's too late to make the correction. If the zoom factor were corrected, you'd be able to see these nuances in the route, and self-correct... but it would be better to relax the "magnet" factor in these cases. (This problem is much more serious in Boston than the other places we've driven.)
When searching for "where to", the system lists all the locations and approximate distance/direction from where you currently are. I would really like the map to be able to display these icons on the screen... for example, driving on a long highway route, I'd like to know which upcoming towns have gas stations. I don't want the planner to plan a route to these locations, I'd just like to be able to see ones that are "near" my future route.
When you go to "map explore" mode (moving the map around), it is sometimes too quick to assume that you wanted to go to that point (rather than drag the map). Up pops a yes/no window asking whether you want the point added as a waypoint. If you say "yes", then it adds a waypoint while leaving the final destination the same. If you say "no", it makes that point your final destination and recalculates the route. This menu desperately needs a "cancel" button.
I would LOVE to have an "avoid this place" menu item. This would be useful for intersections that you know are bad for traffic, or under (long term) construction. It's really irritating to have it generate the same route over and over again when you know you won't be able to follow it.
I would like to be able to add to (or correct) the main database. The only way to add to the database is to call something a favourite. However, sometimes a store is missing or the name spelled incorrectly, and you really don't want to "clutter" up your favourites list. (I also think that Garmin should use this information to update their maps; users could easily upload data.)
While the database of landmarks is large, the "search" for items is a little weak. For example, I would like it to grey out letters of invalid keys, i.e. I type "Q" and the only available letter is "U". As another example, I haven't found a way to search for wild cards. This is particularly irritating for places like "KMart" (or is it "K-Mart", or "K--Mart")? (There is a hyphen that doesn't match the dash.) You also get strange situations with numbered highways. I've also had a few times when someone said "the restaurant is just a few blocks down, at the corner of Main and Broadway;" I assume (incorrectly) that it's in the same town, and Nuvi can't find it. I'd like it to suggest the "nearby" options.
The estimate of time to destination is extremely accurate for highway driving, but the algorithm isn't too bright about predicting red lights. (We've learned to "round up" appropriately.)
Finally, it doesn't have the bicycle routes in its database. This feature would be a huge bonus.
After 6 months of use, the "on/off" switch stopped working: that meant we couldn't adjust volume or use it without the car's electric system. BestBuy replaced it without question under their extended warranty plan.
The software has been updated since we originally bought the unit. The most significant change that it shows your current lat/long. However, not one of my complaints has been addressed! Rather disappointing.