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Garmin's NuVi 350 and 300>  Compact Car Navigator
GPS Product Review

by Joe Mehaffey
Release 5 updated,   March 2007

                   NuVi GPS unit                   Daytime Map Colors in North UP 2D mode      Night time 
Map Colors 3D mode            

Click HERE for More NuVi Photographs   (Images and review optimized for 1024 x 768 resolution)

Where does NuVi fit in Garmin's Product line?
The Garmin NuVi is a really neat evolution in small  Car Navigators.  NuVi is billed as a "Personal Travel Assistant" and not just as a GPS Car Navigator.     The NuVi 350 includes complete USA and the best available "all Canada" maps PLUS it has about  700 megabytes of user memory left for other user maps, audio/music/image file storage and other data files.  (The European NuVi 300 edition has 200mbytes of USER MAP MEMORY in addition to Garmin/NavTeq's "all Europe" maps.  See the Garmin website Mapping section for road coverage detail..)  The  NuVi has few vestiges of an off road/hiking/marine GPS unit.  It is strictly designed as a Car Navigator with a pedestrian capability similar to QUEST models..  Track back,  compass page for Off Road routes, and related hiking/marine features are NOT available in NuVi.   The unit has an OFF ROAD mode but basically it just gives you a line from A to B if you put in a destination in off road mode.  The destination still has to be a POI or an address. There is no way to put in a lon/lat directly into the unit but you can "point" to a location and have that "point" be entered as a destination.  HOWEVER... We think the NuVi is an outstanding Car Navigator and "personal travel assistant" and it is not sold as having hiking or marine features.  Please read on.

Special Features

The NuVi continues Garmin's line of simpler to use GPS car navigators.  NuVi will easily fit into your shirt picket and can operate on internal  battery power for 4 to 8 hours.  NuVi recharges automatically when plugged into AC or DC power using the proper adapters.   The NuVi is  functionally more akin to the Garmin QUEST, and SP2720 models than to Garmin's general purpose  handhelds. UNlike the QUEST and StreetPilot 2720 models, NuVi has a speaker built into the unit.  Fidelity on voice is fine for voice and audio books, but on MP3 music, a feed to an external amplified speaker system would be nice.  The NuVi does  not have TrackBack,  or a compass page and other hiking based features  but only a GOTO function which means it has little  offroad and hiking utility.  NuVi  can operate  with Garmin's GTM-10 RDS Traffic radio to provide real time traffic information on the screen of the unit.  NuVi also has a  "Travel Kit" which  includes Language Guide, MP3 player, audible book player, picture viewer, world clock, currency and measurement converters, and calculator.  The 700 megs of user storage can be used for music, books, images, or additional Garmin maps AND the Nuvi includes a SD memory card slot so you can even add additional user memory.  NuVi includes two USB ports, but the one on the rear of the mounting adapter can only be used for external power input.  The USB-2 (full version 2 speed capability) port on the side can be used for map/MP3/Audio Book/image/file loading.  

NuVi GPS, Display, and Mechanical Features

These compact  units (3.87" W x 2.91" H x 0.87" D) have the GPS antenna integral to the unit. The antenna flips out for navigation  and folds flat into the back of the unit for storage.  The unit is designed to snap into a small suction cup mount and attach to your windshield.   and  provide  visual and audio directions for navigating your vehicle on unfamiliar streets and roads.  Unfortunately  (for the kids), Garmin did not choose to put any games in this model.   The NuVi continues Garmin's marketing plan of "Market Specialization" which means to position various models for specific functionality and leave out specific features of interest to a specific group of users.  For example,  our "ideal" general purpose GPS receiver would have a color screen,  CF or SD card memory,  full marine and hiking feature set,  full car navigation capabilities and a rechargeable battery pack with external power capability.   Lets see how the NuVi fits these requirements.

The NuVi's screen is a high brightness and is very  daylight viewable WHEN the backlight  is turned ON.  The screen brightness and readability falls between the brighter SP26xx/27xx models and the c3xx models with less readable screens.  The NuVi has an adjustable brightness and audio level control and no contrast control is needed.   NuVi has no marine feature set and NO features for hiking or geocache activity are provided.  .  NuVi does have a rechargeable battery pack which will run the unit with backlight for several hours and it does have the capability of being run from external 12volt power (furnished voltage regulator/cigar plug cable required).  Note that the NuVi internal battery is charged anytime the unit is running on external 12volt power from either the 12volt power cable OR  by a USB connection to a laptop or other computer's USB connector (Computer must be ON to power or charge the NuVi).  Note: On my Dell 8200, plugging in the USB from NuVi with NuVi having low battery charge results in a "USB Port Overload" alarm on my laptop.  This does not seem to cause any problem except you cannot communicate with the NuVi until the battery is charged enough for the alarm to go away.)   The Lithium Ion battery  is sealed into the package and is not normally user serviceable.  The battery pack is NOT a "snap in" battery pack and replacement requires disassembly.

The  USER INTERFACE is similar to other Garmin units which use touchscreen data  input.  There is only one mechanical switch and this is for power on/off.  All other functions and controls are handled by the touchscreen input.    Like  the SP2610, NuVi automatically turns ON and OFF with the power application from its external power cord.   NuVi seems to be designed  to provide the "road warrior" with a high performance SHIRT POCKET SIZED GPS CAR NAVIGATOR with lots of "Travel Features" as noted above..  This unit (unlike SP26xx and 27xx models) does NOT provide a multiple stop via capability or the ability to solve the optimized multistop  "traveling salesman" problem.  Our version 2.40 firmware does not allow input of but ONE VIA.  We hope this is an oversight!

An Articulated Suction Cup cradle to attach NuVi to the windshield of your car is included in the kit.  The suction cup has a 'snap on" ball joint connection to the NuVi's cradle.  The cradle  has a USB connector for that power cable (no real USB connectivity) which allows use of the USB connection on the SIDE of the unit for data I/O with the GTM-10  while powering the unit via the rear USB connection.

The features of the miniaturized NuVi make it a direct competitor to the Magellan RoadMate units and to the StreetPilot 26xx/27xx models.   Our Magellan RoadMate and Garmin StreetPilot  reviews can be found in the FEATURES section of our GPS INFORMATION WEBSITE.   As stated before, NuVi is NOT a direct competitor to the full featured hiking and marine oriented handheld units and it is NOT suited for geocache hunting..

Street priced at about $450 , (Check Latest Prices Here.) the NuVi, despite its compact size, is a high quality, full featured car navigator with MP3, Talking Book, and Automatic Traffic Information services.  When we drove our usual 600+ mile assorted city/suburban/rural route testing, we were very pleased to note that the NuVi provided the best overall routing score of any GPS tested to date.  It very slightly surpassed our previous high scoring SP26xx models by providing satisfactory routes in every one of our route generation tests.  While NuVi is not  one of the lowest priced Automatic Car Navigator units available, its small shirt pocket size along with excellent route generation capability and MP3 and Audio Books plus Automatic Traffic Information (optional) capability make it "Joe's Choice" Car navigator for 2005..

What about map loading and Map Memory?
NuVi comes "ready to operate" with pre-installed USA/Canada -or- Europe maps.  NuVi uses a  USB data interface for other map loading and data input/output and for loading MP3 and Audio Book files.    It has no standard NMEA input/output capability and it cannot be used to up/download waypoints, routes and tracks to MapSource by conventional MapSource methods  Instead, you can save waypoints in Garmin's GPX Waypoint format or Garmin's GPI Custom POI files by uploading to NuVi memory using special MapSource features or the new Garmin POI loader.  (See NuVi Manual page 51 and 54 for more details.)  The side USB port is also used to connect to the (optional) RDS Traffic Data Radio.  Just for reference, the NuVi 350  700meg user memory  will hold approximately the UK, France, Germany and a bit more in addition to the built in USA/Canada maps.  CitySelect or CityNavigator  maps (including Europe/South Africa/Australia/Middle East maps) are operable in NuVi.  As a rough planning guide, a rule of thumb for calculating storage card capacity is:  4  megabyte for every  million population.   

The USA coverage area for the NuVi's CityNavigator maps is the entire USA and ALL of  Canada.  NuVi allows a user to automatically route using both the built in maps and/or any other Garmin CitySelect or CityNavigator maps. As of December 2005,  Garmin is shipping the NuVi with its new CityNavigator 7 map system.  (CitySelect/CityNavigator automatic routing maps are only available for the USA, Europe, South Africa and Australia as of December 2005.  However, Garmin Licensees are providing maps for a dozen (plus) other areas such as Chile,   etc.)  Check Garmin's Cartography site for a list of countries and vendors to contact.  

Other maps compatible with NuVi  include: CityNavigator (Navteq Maps, the best GPS routable maps available in areas covered), MapSource MetroGuide USA  (MetroGuide 6 uses Navteq Maps.  Prior versions used Etak Maps, good maps but not quite as up to date as Navteq and only USA version 4.01 has autorouting capability within NuVi).   Roads & Recreation, USA Topo, and WorldMap CD ROMs also work with NuVi, but without automatic guidance.   Probably most other Garmin maps will load and operate,  but Garmin supports only the above.   

The NuVi is straightforward to use, and we think the manual is a lot better than average.  Still,  there is no substitute for a few hours of  "playing around" with the unit in consort with the manual for quick learning and  discovery of available features.  

The NuVi provides automated guidance on a par with the very best  of the GPS units we have previously tested.  It is relatively quick to compute a route.    Five to fifteen seconds is typical.  Route Quality is rated "very good"  and NuVi  routinely gives routing "the same as I would have chosen".  Sometimes the route generated is "just OK", but after all, these devices are just machines and they are operating without the local traffic knowledge an individual user has. The downside for NuVi as compared to the $3000 models is that many of the more expensive models have some sort of "dead reckoning" capability to permit navigation to continue for short intervals when signals are lost. Such signal loss can happen in "city canyons" such as NYC, Chicago, LA, and London where high rise buildings can block the satellite signals.  In fact, NuVi/2610/2620/2720 and other Garmin models do have "poor man's dead reckoning" in that when signal is lost, the GPS assumes you continued on your last heading and speed for up to 30 seconds.  The  "real dead reckoning" capability is available in the Garmin StreetPilot 2650/2660 and in a few other units such as the VDO Dayton MS5000.  The 2650/2660 will require a connection to the automobile speedometer output and backup light to be able to function in dead reckoning mode.  Without these inputs, it will function same as the NuVi/2610. 

The SP2610 that we normally use to benchmark route generation quality has a feature that allows the user to select options such as "quick", "better", and "best" routing.  These take increasingly longer compute times.  The NuVi has no such selection like other late Garmin units.  But.. The NuVi (in our experiments) generates as good and occasionally better routes than does the SP2610.  We are very pleased to note this as, in our opinion, the major job of a GPS Car Navigator is to generate good routes from A to B.  .   With NuVi,  the calculation of a 400 mile route  usually takes about 10 seconds.  This compares to up to half a minute with the SP2610.   One trial route from Atlanta to an address in Los Angeles took about  half a minute with the SP2610 and about 15 seconds with the NuVi  which is an improvement.  Off Route, reroute recalculation typically takes a few seconds and it (generally) tries to take you back as quickly as possible to your ORIGINAL route.  It does this  the first THREE times it goes "off route, recalculating".  On the fourth "off route" it figures out you are serious about not going back to the original route and does a complete recalculate which on a local (25 mile) route usually takes just a few seconds.  (SP-III ver 2.50 is using this same algorithm and it seems to be confusing some folks, but I personally like the speed so much I am willing to put up with the first three reroutes not necessarily taking you the optimum route.  If you do not like the "partial reroute" offered, you can always press the ROUTE key and then press "recalculate".)

The NuVi does not permit the download of ROUTES from MapSource to the GPS for execution.  You CANNOT download a series of waypoints and then integrate these into a route since only ONE VIA is permitted.    Frankly,  using the PC is not the thing you will USUALLY want to do as the NuVi is much easier and more convenient to use as compared with generating routes on the PC and then  having to download routes to the GPS navigator.   The NuVi uses a USB connection for user map and data loading for music, talking books, images, etc. 

NMEA 0183 data I/O  is NOT available on the NuVi.

Note: As of this date, NO OTHER map products (from alternative vendors) can be uploaded into Garmin GPS receivers except those offered by Garmin and Garmin LICENSEES for the purpose.  (See Garmin Website's Cartography section for a full list of map offerings.)  This same proprietary relationship exists for other vendor's consumer GPS products as well.

This NuVi is designed expressly for automobile use  and lack of off road or marine features make it generally unsuitable for hiking, or boating use.   There IS an OFFROAD setting in the routing preferences if you want the unit to give you an "as the crow flies" view of the path from A to B.  This would be usable as an indication of which way to travel if you were out hiking but the NuVi really is NOT designed for hiking, marine use.

What's  in the  NuVi Kit?

The NuVi kit contains:
NuVi GPS with built-into-the-case speaker,  12volt cigar plug power cable, USB data cable (for memory and data load), windshield suction cup and mounting bracket,  quick start manual (Download detailed manual from HERE.), glue down dash plate for dash if needed,  padded pocket holster for Nuvi, and a coupon for two free audio books and an an audio bonus program. An AC power module is included  There are no mapping CDs as maps are pre-loaded.   I am not a big fan of  windshield suction cup mounts but the assembly furnished with NuVi  is a) serviceable, b) lightweight, c) folds and packs up "small",  and we can find no problems in using it.  Adjusting the Garmin windshield mount is a bit tedious and unclipping/reclipping the NuVi into the mount can be difficult until you master the technique.

Like all modern car navigators,  NuVi gets rid of almost ALL of the bad effects of GPS measurement error that bother many people.  When you use  NuVi with CN7, NuVi will "lock" your vehicle track to roads as long as you  travel on the road.  (This feature does not operate with MapSource R&R, USA Topo, or WorldMap among others.)  Automatically generated routes using CitySelect or CityNavigator maps "rubber band" to the roads in the route. Once in a great while, you may find an isolated road segment where the map is so far off that road lock will jump off the road, but it is rare.   

Another useful feature with CS/CN maps is that (when not in guidance mode) all approaching cross street names are displayed prior to arrival.   Note that MetroGuide 6.x maps are really not too useful in a NuVi as they do not offer automatic route generation.

Guidance Information Display

We found the NuVi audio and visual guidance directions very satisfactory. NuVi automatically varies its "turn here" warning time to give you more warning time at high speed than at lower speed. A typical audio/visual sequence would go something like this:

Enter the destination (address or select from list) and then you hear/see:

        <audio>Please drive the highlighted route, 
Drive 1.3 miles then turn left on Bannister Road 
      (*)       <screen> shows West on AC Smith Road, Arrival Time, Turn In distance, and your track on the map.  The Route is shown as a pink line along your projected travel route.  Note that the final advice on making a turn occurs at various distances from the actual intersection depending on your speed.  Faster speeds and the distance before the turn when the announcement is made is increased.
     <audio> In 0.6 miles turn left.  
                  <screen display>  As above.
      <audio>Turn left in 400 ft
                  <screen display>  Left On Bannister Rd., plus as in (*) above
 <audio>Continue 2.3 miles then turn right 
                  <screen display> Bannister Road to Matt Highway, plus as in (*) above
      <audio> In 0.6 miles turn right
                  <screen display>  Right on Matt Highway, plus as in (*) above
      <audio> (Then at about 400ft before the turn)  Turn right
                  <screen display>  Turn Right on Matt Highway, plus as in (*) above
      <audio>  (Then AFTER you make this turn) Continue 0.5 miles
                  <screen display>  Left on Doctor Bramblett Road, plus as in (*) above
      <audio>   In 0.3 miles bear left
                  <screen display>  South to Doctor Bramblett Road, plus as in (*) above
      <audio>  (At about 500ft before the turn) Bear left
                  <screen display>  Left on Doctor Bramblett Road, plus as in (*) above
      <audio>  (Then AFTER the turn) Go 1.6 miles, then bear right
                  <screen display> Doctor Bramblett Rd to Spot Rd Conn., plus as in (*) above
      <audio>  In 0.3 miles turn right
                  <screen display>  Right on Spot Road Conn., plus as in (*) above
      <audio>  Turn right
                  <screen display>  Turn Right on Spot Road Conn., plus as in (*) above
     <audio>  In 1.6 miles, arrive at destination on left
                  <screen display>  SW to Old Town Country Restaura, plus as in (*) above
      <audio> Arrive at destination.  

The map on the screen shows your progress and a thick pink line shows your project route on the map. On the TOP line are text information about the road you are on, coming exits and other road data. At any time, you can press the "Turn In" distance key and get the latest directions in audio form along with a closeup map view of the upcoming turn.  (Note: Unlike many  other Garmin car navigators, the NuVi's volume control is handled in software.  You can get to the volume control and brightness at any time by quickly pressing the power button.)   The trip computer is accessed by pressing the "Arrival" time key on the lower left of the display.  If you press the "direction/road you are traveling" line at the very top of the screen, NuVi will display a listing of upcoming turns.  As each turn in a route is approached,  a half screen "pop up" display appears momentarily with information specific to the the upcoming turn if you press the "Turn In" key (lower right) to enable this feature.   Voice guidance commands operate on both battery and external DC power with NuVi.

AUTOZOOM zooms the screen in and out automatically as you approach waypoints and turns so you always have time to make decisions.  The data windows (center top, lower right, and lower left screen)   show details of the turn and distance to the turn as you approach.

Route selections for CAR/Motorcycle, Pedestrian, Bicycle, TRUCK, BUS, Taxi  or EMERGENCY vehicles are provided so you can be properly routed depending on your vehicle type.  Avoidance selection include: U-Turns, highways, unpaved roads, toll roads, carpool lanes,  and traffic.  

CityNavigator now features about six million (USA) "points of interest".  These include: Food and drink, Lodging, Attractions, Entertainment, Shopping, Services, Transportation, and Emergency and Government. In our area,  there were a few restaurants we had not known about and a  few  prominent ones  are missing. Some restaurants that have been closed for several years are still listed.  (Perfection will always escape us as to perfect maps and POIs!)   Despite many obvious updates and additions,  the restaurant listing (still) appears to be about 2 years old.  Listed "Attractions" include theme parks, museums, schools, parks and such.  The listings were quite satisfactory though the placement of a particular restaurant or gas  station might vary plus or minus a few hundred  feet (sometimes more) from the actual location.  This feature could be very handy in a strange city.  Do not be overly surprised at imperfections such as your favorite restaurant being missing or some restaurant that is out of business for 5 years still being in the POI list.  The POIs come from a multitude of data sources and it is simply impossible to insure accuracy with the resources available for the task.

The user can give the GPS a Street Address or Street Intersection or select one of the, for instance, Restaurants in the accessory map data base module and it will LOCATE this address or location automatically and plot it on the map screen. ( Phone numbers as well as street addresses are normally provided for Restaurants, Hotels and other POI.)  The NuVi can then automatically create a "turn-by-turn" route to this destination from wherever you are. This is a very useful feature and it has worked very well in our tests. Be prepared for a few well known items (such as my local library) to be missing from the "attractions" list. Still, if you are unfamiliar with an area, what IS included will be quite useful.

The NuVi has a new SiRF (brand) GPS signal receiver.  It is definitely the most sensitive I have tested to this time.  It is able to 100% of the time achieve lock inside my two story home.  Other receivers would intermittently operate and lock, but this one locks quickly whenever it is turned on and (so far) has never lost lock in the house.  No other receiver we have tested had this sensitivity.  We note that normally lock is achieved in maybe 15 seconds.  But from a cold start after being off overnight, lock may take a minute or two unless you wait for lock before you drive off in your car.  Normally, this is a non-problem.

Does the NuVi have enough map and accessory memory?
Well.. I think so.  The Nuvi 350 has storage for all USA and Canada maps which (my guess) takes up about 1.2 gigabytes or so.  Then it has 700 megs of  user memory for more maps, music, or audio books.  If this is not enough, you can add an optional SD memory card which is now available up to 2GBytes for about $100. 
We think just the built in memory will be enough for most users.. At least for starters!

  What are the Technical Specifications of the NuVi GPS?  (From Garmin)

Specific Questions Answered: 

NuVi Feature and Function Highlights 

The trip computer works similarly to other late model car navigators.  With NuVi, you will notice that  when you come to a stop, the estimated times do not go to infinity, but hold a realistic value. The GPS calculates estimated times based upon road classes in your Route and modifies the estimation by your actual speeds on the various road classes. It also computes the actual road distance between turns (waypoints) instead of using straight line distances.  The results give fairly accurate estimated time to various points, even when using different road classes, like traveling on the freeway, and then exiting later on some local roads. Your estimates will not only be based upon your current highway speed, but by the combination of speeds you are using, or will be using on the various road classes.  We note that the NuVi was within 12 minutes on one 580 mile highway drive we made after it "learned" our driving speed habits.  Usually it slightly underestimates the time principally as a result of unexpected traffic congestion which randomly occurs.

The NuVi does NOT have the standard Garmin HOST mode which allows  the upload/download of waypoints, routes, tracks, etc., You cannot  use the GPS for position tracking on an external computer. The  external power/data cable is different from other Garmin GPS equipment including StreetPilot models.

CityNavigator's  Find-an-Address feature includes: Recent Finds,  Cities,  Exits, Addresses,  Intersections, Points of Interest, Food,  Lodging, Services,  Entertainment, Attractions, Shopping, Transportation,  Emergency and Government and Waypoints.  However,  some  of  the locations  of restaurants, hotels, etc. are misplaced by considerable distances.  Since the data is at least a year old,  some businesses are "missing" but overall the data is quite accurate and useful.

When not routing,  a "Driving Status" line on the Map display indicates such information  as "Driving South on Roswell  Road  to Sandy Springs".  This can be quite useful in cities where you don't exactly know which street you are on. Also as you are driving, the name of each approaching side street is displayed allowing finding side streets in the dark.

Brightness on the NuVi does not automatically adjust for ambient light conditions like the SP26xx models.  However, the screen brightness is changed for night driving and brightness was acceptable night and day.   Automatic changeover from night to day mode as needed is provided.

Datums- The NuVi uses the standard WGS-84map datums but this is not very important  to the user since you cannot read out lon/lat anyway.

Many dozens of  ICONS are available in the NuVi to identify user waypoints and mark routes.   Icons include airport, bank, boat ramp, car, dam, post office, and a host of others.

Street pricing of the NuVi is about US $450 or less and includes: NuVi GPS unit, speaker/power cable, Pre-Installed CityNavigator 7-NT, Suction cup mobile mount,  USB data interface and cable,  AC 12vdc PSU for automobile use,  quick reference guide and other documentation. The complete manual is downloadable from the Garmin website.   Check latest prices HERE.

Features and Operation

The NuVi has a direct and easy to use routing system. The user:

The NuVi has essentially very little capability for off road guidance. It is not generally suitable for serious Marine or Hiking use. (You can do a GOTO if you select OFF ROAD as your routing preference.)

 The NuVi operates from  external power in the range of 10 to 24 volts DC or from its internal LiOn battery.  Battery life on our unit was about 3 to 6 hours of normal use on battery.  The NuVi uses FLASH memory internally and has no memory backup battery.    The LED backlit display lighting has a rated design life of 100,000 hours.  The NuVi shuts down when power is removed and (uniquely for Garmin handheld equipment) turns back ON when external power is restored. (Assuming the power was ON when the external power failed.)

A special Power/Speaker cable is supplied with NuVi. The  data/power cable used is NOT the same as any prior Garmin cable connector. You will need the (industry standard USB type used for cameras and other portable equipment)  USB DATA cable (furnished)  to load maps into your NuVi and/or to upload/download waypoints to your PC computer.  There is NO capability with the NuVi for a standard RS-232 serial cable.  

The external antenna connector, a MCX coax jack,  is located on the right edge of the unit's antenna.  The MCX  jack is powered (nominal 2.7 volts no load in our unit) and has a current limit rated at 25 ma  to protect the unit from shorts on the antenna cable. The normal "flip out" antenna is an integral part of the unit and is not removable.   The Garmin GA-27C (Garmin part number 010-10052-05) amplified antenna, some from  Tri-M, and other 2.7 volt rated antennas  work with the NuVi.  We believe most  3 volt antennas will work as well.

The NuVi does not support NMEA-0183,  DHCP or RTCM.   Garmin has included connectivity for its Custom POI program and for the ability to access the 700meg user memory and the SD card memory as USB hard drives.  There are no other connectivity options as far as we can tell.

Operating temperature range is specified as -15C to +70C.   The maximum altitude rating is 60,000ft and speed maximum is 999 mph.

Feature Details:=============================================================

 The NuVi has a large number of features and displays. These include: Subjective Observations of Performance

I have tested the NuVi on  roads and highways of North Georgia and Atlanta including several interstate trips.   Our NuVi has worked properly at all times as far as we could tell..  Generally, tracking worked well but as is normal, we occasionally lost lock momentarily in cities and in deep mountain valleys.  

The NuVi performed on a par with other GPS units in every test for lock stability,  multipath performance, re-lock after an underpass, and ability to suddenly change direction without loss of lock. The NuVi laid down smooth tracks on our highway maps during all tests.  No gaps, jumps, etc. (The NuVi  has data smoothing like the SP-III.)  NuVi's GPS receiver sensitivity was  the best we have reviewed.

We note that all Garmin GPS  models including the NuVi have a form of "dead reckoning" for moments when signal dropouts occur. For instance, if the NuVi is tracking along and just before a sharp turn you invert it and block its antenna, it will continue to track straight for about 30 seconds.  It also provides a very good data smoothing filter to throw out random fixes that are way off track. This results in an exceptionally smooth track on a moving map display.    Even with this filter,  there was no overshoot apparent during quick stops, sharp turns, and similar maneuvers when normal continuous tracking was taking place.

NuVi performance under tree cover and city canyon conditions was about the same as the earlier SPs, G-V, G-II+, G-12XL,  and we rate that as very good.  We do note that "occasionally" NuVi will lose lock on heavily tree covered streets.  

We found the display controls easy to learn and use.  The overall NuVi system is quite comprehensive and suitable for car navigator use.  What the average user has to work with on a day-by-day basis is very simple to understand and manipulate.   The menu system and arrangement is generally quite intuitive and easy to learn to use.  

Since the NuVi  exhibited essentially identical tracking performance with other Garmin units in our tests,  we did not perform the extensive field trials we made with the G-12XL,  EE, and others.  For more information on tracking results with our testing of the G-12XL, and the G-II+, etc., see our reviews at:


Our overall impressions are that the NuVi (and QUEST) are a new generation of  pocket sized, low cost Automobile Navigation System. While it is not the least expensive of the truly automatic self contained address-to-address car navigation systems (SP2610/20, iQue 3600, G-60C and some other PDA based systems may be less expensive), we consider the NuVi to be "very good"  in its class of Car Navigators.   At about US$450, (Check Latest Prices Here.) we think the NuVi is a great product for the money.  

*Problems and Quirks noted in using  the NuVi?
1) The suction cup mount furnished with the NuVi is much improved as compared with Quest's mount.  It can still be difficult to get in and out of the mount UNTIL you do it a few times and learn that it really does just POP off the ball and socket joint.  You can also press the release leaver under the bottom of the mount and rock it off if your mount is not attached too low on the windscreen.  In any case, the mount  is very serviceable and we had no problems with the suction cup letting loose in 4 weeks of testing in half a dozen vehicles. 
2)  As with other Garmin Car Navigators,  entering street names can be a problem.  You might know a street name as AC Lewis Road, Ac Lewis Road, or A C Lewis Road  or Baywater or Bay Water or Baewater and the spelling may/may not match the local convention.   The user MUST spell it like the Garmin/Navteq database or the address cannot be found.   This can lead to not being able to find a street that you know is there. 
Navteq tells us that their convention is to run initials together and use caps, so you might try that if you get stumped with a street name with initials.  For a street address with a highway number, try just the number such as 32 (not HWY32).    Just put in the MAJOR parts of the street name.  That is key in  PACES instead of Paces Ferry or West Paces Ferry Road and you may be pleasantly surprised.  
3) POIs are often in listed in "groups".  There may be several groups of restaurants by the same name (different franchises I am guessing) and you do not readily know in which group the closest store can be found. 
4) POI groups are incomplete (though they are VERY VERY  helpful).  As examples: I find that some post offices and libraries in my local area are not included, but MOST are.  In Zurich, the Transit Information sent me to the Hertz repair garage instead of the car return office.   (They fixed the Dairy Queen location problem I previously complained about!)
On occasion, we see the router generate less than optimum routes such as taking a busy numbered federal highway instead of a nearby freeway.  This is a problem with the Navteq map priorities and is true of other Navteq equipped units as well.  Overall,  the NuVi performs as well and often better than other Car Navigators we have used.  Navteq tells me that MAP PROBLEMS WILL be looked at if users will go to and fill out the report form.  Lets ALL do it!     Overall, I must say that every edition is better than the one before as to routing problems.

NuVi is a convenient that generates about the best routes of any unit we have used including our "old standby" the SP26xx models.  It is not the least expensive, but overall it performs very well.     NuVi is  ideal for a portable unit for a traveler.  The only missing feature for traveling salesman types is the multiple VIA input with a solution to the "traveling salesman" multistop problem. For that feature, the SP26xx and SP27xx models are preferred.   I really have no problems with the functionality of the NuVi or its performance in almost 2000 miles of driving during the four weeks of evaluation.

If anyone has any additions, Questions,  suggestions,  error corrections other comments, please feel free to Email.

Joe Mehaffey