Top positive review
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Lives up to its promise - update 6/26/09
on July 22, 2006
Update (6/26/09): A week ago, my Nuvi was stolen out of my vehicle (I know, my bad; all I had to do was take it with me, but it was a momentary lapse of reason). I replaced it with a Nuvi 885T. I can tell you that the new 885T is better in every way than the 360, which stands to reason. Nice job by Garmin continuing to update and improve their units. Noteable changes include elimination of flip-up antenna (internal now), much more advance warning of upcoming turns, real-view of on/off ramps at confusing highway junctions, posting of speed limit, with actual speed noted right next to that (VERY handy!), and of course the latest map version, 2009. If you want the best bang for the buck I still heartily recommend the Nuvi 360. But for the very best available right now, the 885T is now the device of choice.
Previous to this, I had the Nuvi 350, which is also an excellent device. Since the function is identical in nearly every regard to the 350, there is little point in covering the basics in much depth, but it's worth re-stating some of them. I will go into great detail on the Bluetooth functionality below.
This is such a handy device, and is so well executed, that you would be hard-pressed not to love it. The first thing I noticed about the Nuvi was its incredibly small size and weight. I could not believe how light it was. I literally expected it to have at least twice the heft when I went to pick it up the first time - it was like picking up a deck of cards, but lighter.
The antenna is a flap that is raised from the back, maybe about the size of a matchbook. When raised the Nuvi immediately starts locking in on satellites, when lowered, the unit knows you are through navigating for a while. Intuitive and effective.
Navigation on the Nuvi is very good, fast, and intuitive. It's no different from many of Garmin's other offerings in that regard. Some buildings and businesses that you would expect to be shown as POIs are not there, but most are. One thing I would suggest: when a route is less than ideal, Garmin should allow you to correct it permanently so that it does not re-suggest the non-preferred route each time.
I had a problem with my old Nuvi 350 that I have not observed on the new 360. Sometimes the 350 would not lock onto the satellite signal. Once it went into this mode of searching for, but not locking in, for over a minute it just never found anything. The only way I found to correct this was to push the small reset button under the antenna. I notice that another reviewer found that his new 360 had the same problem. This must be a bug in some Nuvi units that would be worth following up with Garmin on. I can tell you that my 360 NEVER has required a reboot, and I've been using it continuously.
I did not test the MP3 functionality beyond verifying that it plays back the songs that are pre-loaded for demo purposes. I didn't care about this feature; I'm very happy with my iPod for song management and playback. I can verify that you would not want to use the Nuvi's internal speaker for song playback, though. It's good enough to use as a speakerphone and for voice prompts, but it's not a hi-fi.
Now, for the fun part: Bluetooth functionality. I have been using it with my BlackBerry 8700c with excellent results so far. I had no problems with the initial discovery and mating process. The interface is robust. What happens is that once your phone has made the connection with the 360, a phone icon appears on the Nuvi. You can now use the 360 to call ANY POI directly from the screen! This is truly amazing; you are now walking around with the yellow pages in the palm of your hand, sortable by your current location, or any other location you choose. I just find the Point of Interest, and touch the phone number of that POI, and the phone starts dialing it. The sound comes out through the speaker of the Nuvi, and conversations have been natural so far. It's working like an absolute charm, and this single feature moves the device beyond anything else available right now.
When you select the phone icon from the main screen, several phone-related icons appear. From the phone screen, you can make a call manually, access your address book, call a POI, etceteras. The manual dial function works fine from the touchscreen. The really cool news: Nuvi automatically downloads your phone's address book to its database when it makes the initial Bluetooth link. So, if your phone supports this functionality, you can use it for all dialing functions, since the display is so much nicer than most phones, and the touchscreen works really well. You can always break the BT connection once you get the number dialed if you want a private, non-speakerphoned conversation. I have done that many times already. Once your call ends, the connection to the Nuvi is reestablished automatically. One word of warning: BlackBerry does not support sending its addresses to the Nuvi, so I was unable to test the download feature, but this does not surprise me given BlackBerry's security obsession. I am confident that it would work fine with other supported phones.
Overall, the device is a joy to operate. The battery life is good, although I would not call it excellent. The menus are very intuitive. The accuracy is very high. Even the windshield mount earns my praise. I did a lot of research on the Nuvi, comparing it in excruciating detail to the latest Tom Tom 910, the Magellan Roadmate 800, etceteras. The 350 was a great unit, the 360's Bluetooth functionality makes it even better, and worth the extra money for me.
UPDATE (7/28/06): I just returned from a 4 day trip to Banff, Canada during which I logged another 20 hours of driving. The unit continues to perform perfectly, including comprehensive POIs in the Banff/Lake Louise area. I also discovered an amazing feature I had not noticed before. I was unfamiliar with the Lake Louise area and had three hungry kids in the car. I pressed Where To, then Restaurants, and the list appeared, in order of proximity to my moving vehicle. Each listing showed the distance to that restaurant, with a little arrow next to it showing the exact direction to that restaurant. I just left it on this page and drove around, following the arrows, which moved as I did, until I found a restaurant that looked good. What an amazing device. I also have nothing but praise for the window mount. Seems like a small thing, but it's so solid and well-designed I had to make special mention of it. It has a lever to easily create a large suction force, the ball joints are very solid, and the method of attachment to the Nuvi is just extremely well designed.
Update (9/2/06): I have now owned the Nuvi 360 for about two months. It continues to exceed my expectations in terms of reliability and accuracy. So many nice touches that you don't notice right away but that are executed so well. The auto brightness level, for example, is perfect. The night mode changes the color scheme and the background goes black, highlighting the roads well and keeping the light emissions at a pleasant level, where the day mode would have been too bright. Everyone I demo it for wants one. My next step: buy stock in Garmin?
Update (9/14/07): The unit continues to operate flawlessly. I have now bought this machine for several employees of my company, each of whom love it. I also followed through on my impulse to buy Garmin stock, which has more than doubled since then! I now also own a Nuvi 660; it's fantastic. However, with the wider screen it's a bit bulkier to carry around, so my wife and I trade them back and forth depending on what we are doing. I still say that the 360 is the best bang for the buck if you want the Bluetooth functionality, and the 350, which is now selling for only $370, is every ounce as good if you don't care about the Bluetooth.
One other point - I now drive a BMW 545i with integrated GPS. I bought the car used but I know that the option costs a bundle. I never use it because the Nuvi is so much more user friendly and fast. So for anyone out there who is trying to decide if they should spring for a very expensive integrated GPS system in their new car, here's one vote to save yourself the money and get the Nuvi. It's easier to use and you get to carry it around with you to boot!