- Well designed user interface
- can be used as a USB mass storage device
- built-in music player, picture viewer, calculator and other utilities
- very loud and clear instructions
- maps of Europe included
- live Traffic information is an optional add-on
- full printed manual is not supplied (downloadable from the Web)
Garmin, a well-established vendor of personal navigation equipment, has added the nüvi 350 and 300 to its stable. The primary purpose of these devices is navigation, but Garmin has added a range of extra features that we’ve not seen before in a standalone device. We reviewed the more expensive nüvi 350 (£540.57 ex. VAT), which comes with 700MB of internal storage and maps for the whole of Europe. If this is beyond your budget or requirements, consider the £324.34 (ex. VAT) nüvi 300, which shares the core navigation capability but comes with maps for one of eight European regions and just 200MB of internal memory.
The nüvi 350 is surprisingly small. Weighing 144g and measuring 98.3mm wide by 22.1mm deep by 73.9mm high it's neat enough to tuck into a pocket or secrete in a vehicle glove compartment The windshield mount is also very small, so the whole setup can be easily stowed away when it's not needed.
Where most mounts have a long ‘goose neck’ that allows you to twist the navigation device to see its screen clearly, the nüvi 350 has a mount with a rigid 5cm-long neck. This can be adjusted on one plane at the windshield end, and around a ball joint at the device end. We found this slightly more fiddly to set up than goose-neck-style systems we’ve used before.
The nüvi 350 has a flip-out antenna for its GPS receiver. You can’t fix the car mount with the antenna laying flush against the back of the device, as its recess forms part of the cradle housing. When the antenna is flipped out, the GPS receiver immediately starts to search for satellites and fix your position.
The cradle offers a power jack, and there's a second jack on the nüvi 350 itself, so you can charge its internal battery when you're away from a vehicle. On the same edge as the mains power jack is a 3.5mm headphone connector and an SD card slot. There are no buttons on the front of the nüvi 350: the device relies entirely on its touch screen for all software interaction.
As well as the car mount and power adapters, Garmin provides a USB cable for connecting the nüvi 350 to a computer, a protective carrying case and a printed Getting Started manual. The full manual is not included in the box, but you can download it from Garmin's Web site if need be.
The nüvi 350 can handle real-time traffic information, but you need to purchase an add-on, the GTM 10, to take advantage. This FM-band receiver costs £167.07 (ex. VAT) is compatible with a number of Garmin products, and comes with a lifetime subscription to the TrafficMaster service.
Features and performance
The nüvi 350 is more than just a navigation device. Its 700MB of memory can be accessed via the supplied USB cable. Both the internal memory and any capacity on an SD card becomes available, and files can be copied across from the hard drive on a Windows XP computer.
Files copied in this way can be used by some of the applications available in the nüvi 350's Travel Kit: this includes an MP3 player, a player for Audible-format e-books and a JPEG image viewer. Some sample files are included on the device in all three formats. Equipped with just a mono speaker, the nüvi 350's audio output isn't up to the quality of a dedicated MP3 player, but some will find it useful nonetheless.
The Travel Kit includes a world clock that supports five different time zones, a currency converter, a measurement converter and a calculator. It can handle additional add-on software in the form of language dictionaries and travel guides. These use the nüvi 350’s features intelligently -- for example translating dictionaries offering spoken word examples, travel guides allowing you to navigate to locations in the guides.
The user interface in all of these applications has been designed with large fonts and big icons that are both highly visible and easy to tap with the finger. These user interface elements continue into the navigation software itself. The 320-by-240 resolution screen is relatively small at just 2.8in. across the diagonal, but its matt finish reduces reflectivity to a minimum and on-screen information is crisply presented.
The level of detail shown on maps is user definable; distant street names are shown in part, the full name becoming visible as you approach. This is a nice touch that provides the detail you need as required while avoiding on-screen clutter.
The map zooms automatically depending on the situation: for example, it zooms in at junctions, and out as you travel along long stretches of motorway. You can force a zoom using transparent fingertip-sized icons overlaid onto the main map; this is most useful when you want to discover the general flow of a route, but it can take a while to zoom out far enough.
Unusually, during a trip there are no diagrammatic representations of the next turn on the main screen. Instead, the information on the main screen is clear, uncluttered and minimal. But detail is easy to get to if you need it.
The top row of the main screen provides information about the road you are currently on. Tapping it brings up the turn-by-turn instructions for your current trip.
The bottom row is occupied by three tappable buttons. One of these, labelled Menu and takes you to the device's main menu. Another is labelled Speed and shows your current velocity; tapping this provides an array of odometer-style information such as average speed, maximum speed, total time on trip. The third button is labelled ‘Turn in’ and gives the distance to the next turn; when this button is pressed, the screen transforms to show a mini, live-updating map of the next turn, a written description of the turn and a repeat of any spoken instructions.
Full postcodes are supported for travel destinations. You can choose either to start with these or with a house number and street name, allowing the software to narrow down choices via tappable lists. With a destination entered, route calculation is speedy. We were particularly impressed with the ease of re-routing around traffic problems. On the main map screen, you simply hit the Menu button, and then choose Detour, whereupon a new route takes you off the current path.
Spoken instructions were extremely loud. You can choose to have an audible alert sound before an instruction is given, and we found we needed to turn the volume down when using this option. In fact, at their loudest the spoken instructions become a little distorted.
Overall we were impressed by the nüvi 350. It's an expensive device, but it has been very well thought out -- particularly as far as the user interface is concerned (and destination entry in particular). Even the more general features, which may at first seem a little gimmicky, could add a lot to the travel experience, while the USB mass storage capability allows the nüvi 350 to double as a general data transfer device for some users.
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||98.3x73.9x22.1 mm|
|OS & software|
|Software included||navigation software, Travel Kit (Language Guide, MP3 player, audible book player, picture viewer, world clock, currency & measurement converters, calculator)|
|Processor & memory|
|Display size||2.8 in|
|Native resolution||320x240 pixels|
|GPS receiver||High-sensitivity integrated GPS receiver (SiRF)|
|Claimed battery life||8 h|
|Number of batteries||1|
There are currently no prices available for this product.