Garmin’s nuvi 360
 Personal Travel Assistant

Auto Navigator, MP3 Player, Bluetooth Phone Capability
August 28, 2006
Review By: Sam Penrod

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The Garmin nuvi 360 brings GPS navigation with a lot of versatility for travelers.  Simiar in features to its predecessor the nuvi 350, the nuvi 360 (the European Version is known as the nuvi 310) adds the capability of bluetooth cell phone connection that with its built in microphone and speaker, allows for 'hands free' phone calls through the nuvi 360.  The nuvi 360 lists on the street for $899.  Check discount prices here

Included in the nuvi 360 package, is the nuvi 360, preloaded with Navteq mapping data for all of North America, (it is the latest version released, City Navigator 8)  A/C charger for the internal battery, USB cable for transferring data, owner's manual and a leather carrying case.   There is no CD or DVD of the mapping data included as it is already preloaded on the nuvi itself.  There is also a windshield suction cup mount and 12V battery connector for using the nuvi in the car.  The windshield mount is small, but is very secure and allows for the DC USB style power cable to plug into the mount.  There are connections in the mount that transfer the power into the unit, so you do not have to physically connect the power cable to the nuvi itself.  

The Unit

The nuvi 360 is very thin and lightweight (5.1 ounces) and is similar in size to a deck of cards.   However, the size should not be of a concern as the screen size is 2.8 inches by 2.1 inches and is very close in size to the StreetPilot c3xx series screen.  The nuvi has a built in "flip style" antenna and has the new Sirf made high sensitive GPS receiver.  There is only one button on the unit, the power button on the upper right top of the unit.  All other controls are made through the touch screen.  There is an SD card slot, USB port and 1/8th inch 'mini' headphone jack on the right side.  The speaker is on the back of the unit and a small opening on the lower left of the front, is for the microphone used for Bluetooth 'hands free' operation.  

View of nuvi with optional dashboard mount.  The side view shows the SD card slot, USB connector with optional GTM 12 traffic receiver connected, headphone jack and flip up antenna extended with MCX external jack (brass) visible.

Main Menu

The main menu page is where all of the controls are.  Pressing the signal meter in the upper left hand corner will bring up the satellite page.  The bluetooth icon shows if the unit is connected to its bluetooth phone.  The lightning bolt shows the unit is either charging or connected to external power.  The "Where To" is where you select where to navigate to, the "view map" brings up the map page in 3-D and the Travel Kit allows for several non GPS features, such as the MP3 player, Picture Viewer, Currency Calculator, etc.  The icons on the right side are for the settings, screen brightness and volume, bluetooth phone options and optional traffic receiver.  All are discussed below.

"Where to?" Find Menu

The nuvi's find menu gives you numerous categories to choose from.  Most of them are from the included six million POI database for businesses.  But there are some important custom find options.  They are Address and My Locations.  Pressing 'address' will allow you to input a street address and be routed to it.  You will be prompted for the state, then the city and then the house number.  You then input the street name, however do not add North or South to the street name.  You will be prompted for the direction.  The other important option is 'My Locations.'   Here you can be routed to your home, save your own favorites, view your recent selections, see your current location (in latitude longitude format) as well as your own created custom Points of Interest (POI's)  Read our article here on the Garmin POI Loader for more information on creating your own Custom POI's.  The options for "My Locations" are found below.

One feature I really like is that there is the ability to get a GPS coordinate, mark one or navigate to one.  Unfortunately Garmin has cut this feature out of some of the StreetPilot c3xx and c5xx series, but it is available in the nuvi.  See all the find options below.  There are sub categories in most of the options.  You can also try spelling a name of a POI in the 'Spell Name' category, although searching can take a couple of minutes.  You can also use the "Browse Map" feature, which I really found helpful.  You can drag the screen and zoom in and out to find locations.  And by pressing "Near..." you are given the option of "Search Near..." 1- Where I am Now, 2- A Different City, 3- My Current Route, 4- My Destination.

View Map

Pressing the view map option will bring up the map.  The default is the 3-D 'bird's eye view."  It is set for auto zoom, but you can use the + and - symbols to zoom in/out to the perspective you want.  You can also browse the map in this mode.  Touching the map will automatically throw it into 2-D (flat screen) and allow you to pan the map around.  Once you have selected a route and then used another feature such as the MP3 player, you must get back to the main menu and press "View Map" to bring the map screen back up.  When you are navigating, if you press the "turn in" field in the lower right hand corner, it will bring up the pop up list of future turns.  Pressing the green navigation bar at the top of the screen will bring up a list of the next four turns.  You can also press 'map' and see the entire route and your current location on it.  When you are not navigating, you can press the speed key to bring up the trip computer.  

View of 3-D map above

View of 2-D flat view above.  The purple line indicates the route created by the nuvi.

Stop and Detour

When you are navigating, a stop and detour field will show up on the screen on the bottom of the main menu.  If you want to stop navigating, press stop.  If you are stuck in traffic or hear of an incident ahead you want to avoid, press the detour key and the nuvi will automatically re-calcuate a new route for you, taking you off your current route at the next available option.

The nuvi has basic and easy to use settings.  These are accessible from the main menu by pressing the wrench icon.  There are eight options and when you press the second page of settings, it shows three of the same icons again.  Options include:

The map options include choosing the map detail, ranging from 'most' to 'least.'  You can also select a 3-D bird's eye view or the more traditional 2-D flat look.  The map options is also where you can select the vehicle icon that you want, from the traditional triangle to the new car, monster truck, etc.  See more on custom vehicle icons below.  The map area is also where you can select from other Garmin map products, although it is not recommended to use others such as TOPO.  However you can add the maps and use the nuvi as more of a map viewer, rather than using other mapping products for navigation.  

The system allows you to select WAAS on or off as well as the 'safe mode.'  When the nuvi detects you are driving, it prohibits you from making adjustments to the nuvi as a precaution to keep you from being distracted while driving.  You can also set the 'safe mode' to off.   Switching 'Garmin Lock' on or off is done here as well.  Garmin Lock is discussed later on.  You can also decide if you want the touch tone on or off, for each time you touch the screen.  Pressing "About" will allow you to see which software version your nuvi is running on.

The "Locale" screen allows you to select from several languages for both the screen and the voice directions.  It is also where you set the time zone you are in and if you prefer routes to be calculated in miles or kilometers.  The default voice naviation is "American English Jill."  There is also a male voice known as Jack.  The nuvi will give you text to speech directions, meaning it will speak whatever is on the screen.  This includes built in Points of Interest as well as your own favorites (waypoints) you can save. And in our experience, the unit does a great job of speaking even your own custom named favorites.  If you do not prefer to have the speech directions giving the names of streets, etc, you can select  "American English."  It's vocabulary is very limited, but will still give you  basic navigation directions.  It's the same voice in the StreetPilot c3XX series.

The Color Mode allows you to switch between daytime and nighttime screens.  You can set how long you want the backlight on, this is critical when you are running on the nuvi's built in battery.  You also calibrate the touch screen here, however once we calibrated it, we had no reason to re-calibrate it again in our month of testing.  You can also save a screen shot here, this is discussed later on.  You can also change the splashscreen in the display options.

You can select from Route Preference, either Faster Time, Shorter Distance or Off Road.  You can also select the type of vehicle, including Car/Motorcycle, Pedestrian, Bicycle, Truck (delivery) or Bus.  I did some experimenting while in the Demo Mode and the unit does calculate different routes for different vehicles.  For example, in the bicycle mode it would not route me on interstate freeways, only medium sized highways.  You can also select which 'avoidances' you want to avoid, including traffic (if you are using the optional traffic receiver, discussed below), U-turns, Highways, Unpaved Roads, Toll Roads Car Pool lanes and even Ferries.  The attention tone feature allows you to either turn on or off a tone that sounds before each time the nuvi gives you vocal directions.

See below

See below

Proximity Points
The nuvi supports Custom POI's.  In this area of the options, you can enable whether you can an audio alert for only POI's that are speed cameras or for all of your custom POI's.  You can also select the type of alert you want.

Quick Settings

The Quick Settings page is accessible by pressing the volume/brightness logo, below the wrench for the settings.  You can also quickly access it by gently pressing the power key.  This is a quick way to adjust or mute the volume, especially if you are getting navigation directions from the nuvi and you need it to be quiet.  You can also adjust the screen brightness by adjusting the slider.  This page also allows you to lock the screen.  This is handy if you are using the nuvi for the MP3 player or other application and have the unit in the case.


The nuvi 360's main feature is its bluetooth capability.  We found it to work very well with bluetooth capable cell phones.  You must first "link" your phone to the nuvi.  Once the nuvi 'learns' your phone, the two will automatically connect.   A phone icon will appear on the right hand side of the main menu.  When you press this icon, it will bring up the Bluetooth options, where you can set it up.

When you place a call, the nuvi continues to navigate for you and there is the red phone icon on the screen.  Its location on the screen does vary.   Pressing the red phone icon will allow you to bring up the in-call options.

This screen will show up during your call.  It will show a call timer and to end or hang up the call, simply press. "End Call."

Pressing "Call Options" brings us this screen.  It allows you to use touch tones, handy if you are checking messages and need to enter a passcode or have to press a particular number for an extension.  The "Transfer Audio to Phone" option allows you to switch the audio (both the microphone and speaker) back to the phone.  This is handy if you want to switch your conversation back to the phone.  The "Mute Microphone" option allows you to turn off the microphone in the nuvi.  Helpful if you want to listen to a conference call where you don't need to be talking.

This screen shows your phone's signal strength as well as the battery level.

Some phones support "voice dialing" where you can speak in a name from your phone book or speak a number and your phone will automatically do the dialing through voice directions.  This screen shows what you will see.

You can dial directly from the included Point of Interest (POI) database which lists addresses and phone numbers.  This applies  to restaurants, hotels, businesses, etc.   You just press the blue phone icon and the nuvi will automatically dial the call for you.

Overall we found the bluetooth hands free feature to work very well and be handy for travel.  Sometimes people on the other end would say it sounded like there was a lot of background noise.  This likely depends on the noise of your vehicle.  It did not seem to be any worse than any other hands free type headset .  It worked well to dial from the screen and it is handy to be able to actually access your phone's saved phone book through the nuvi to make calls.  I would typically transfer the call back to my phone, after it started to ring on the other end.  I also like receiving calls through the nuvi.  The number of the person calling shows up on the screen and you can select "Ignore" or "Answer"  If the person calling is in your phone's phone book, it will actually list the name of the caller on the screen.

Traffic Capability

The nuvi 360 has the ability to get real time traffic if you buy an optional GTM traffic receiver.  I used the GTM 12, the newest FM traffic receiver made by Garmin, which you can buy for about $150 which includes a 15 month data subscription.  The GTM 12 is self contained and unlike other Garmin traffic receivers, does not require being physically connected to a built in car radio.  In fact, it is basically nothing more than a short USB cable.  The traffic receiver is powered by the nuvi itself when you plug it in to the USB port.  However, the nuvi must be connected to external power for the traffic receiver to work.  As far as the GTM 12, it seemed to work very good, however the actual traffic data including accidents, construction or other road hazards, seemed to be updated slower than 'real time.'   But this seems to be more of a issue from the data provider than the unit itself.  Renewing the data subscription is only 60 dollars for a year, so it averages out to be a five dollars a month for the data.  The traffic receiver will add a yellow line if there is a slowdown ahead and provide a red line if it is a major incident.  

The color on the left side signifies the significance of the incident.  Green is no delays, yellow is caution and red means a severe problem.

The nuvi will also bring up a yellow line underneath the roads that are impacted by traffic problems.  It will also offer to detour you in cases of severe traffic problems.

Navigation & Routing

The nuvi does an outstanding job in our opinion in calculating routes and getting you to your destination with voice directions including speech to text when the nuvi will actually speak the street names.  In our testing, the nuvi always seemed to calculate the best possible routes and we never were led on an out of the way route.  Of course with all auto navigators, they may not lead you on the same route you would take if you know all the local roads and have favorite streets to drive on, but in all cases the nuvi will get you to your destination.  The processor in the nuvi is fast and typically will calculate an average route in less than ten seconds.  The nuvi will also automatically re-calcuate a route for you if you miss the turn you were suppose to take.  It typically would re-calculate the new route, giving you enough time to make the next turn, even if it is only a block a way.  Inputting addresses into the nuvi worked well and in all of the addresses I entered, it only once could not find it.  Finding an address and navigating went quickly, and the nuvi typically searched less than ten seconds.  Overall we can give the nuvi a superior rating when it comes to calculating a route and navigating you to the destination.  The nuvi does NOT support user created routes, for instance a series of stops along the way.  However it does allow for one "via point." First you must input your final destination and then select another location in the find menu.  You will then be prompted if you want to add it as a via point or make it your new final destination.  

"Travel Kit"

The nuvi has several features in the "Travel Kit."  Some require the purchase of additional software including the Language Guide, Travel Guide and SaversGuide.  Here is a brief rundown of the features.

Language Guide
Allows you to translate basic words from one language to another.   For example you can type in bread in English and then have the nuvi speak that in another language such as Italian.  There are some sample phrases available in the nuvi so you can see how it works.

Travel Guide
Provides more in-depth information on tourist locations, including ratings and more specifics on restaurants or hotels.  There are some examples including information for Las Vegas.

Savers Guide
This is a coupon type program that allows you get discounts.  No sample is included, but more information is available from

MP3 Player
The nuvi has a built in MP3 player.  The nuvi also has a built in mini headphone jack to listen to the music or book on tape.  Overall we found the MP3 player to work very well.   You can play music at the same time you are navigating and it will pause the song and announce the directions, before resuming the music.  When you have the nuvi plugged into the suction mount, there is a mini jack on the mount itself, to allow you to directly plug in an FM modulator or direct connection to your car's stereo.  You can play music through the built in speaker, but it is not in stereo.  However for a book on tape, this works very well.

Audible Book Player
Allows you to download books on tape and then play them on the nuvi.  There are a few samples included.

Picture Viewer
A nice feature in the nuvi is the Picture Viewer.  In an age of digital pictures, the nuvi helps you to show them off.  And the nuvi's picture viewer (found in the Travel Kit) allows you to show your favorite photos.  You can save the images in the space on the nuvi's built in memory, or you can put them on an SD card.  They must be the JPEG format.

World Clock
Allows you to customize the time of four major cities across the world.  Lists current time and date.

Currency Converter
Allows you to convert currency.  You can select from numerous regions of the world and convert it to dollars or euros, etc.  You can also update the currency rate with the latest information.  Certainly a handy feature if you are traveling overseas.

Measurement Converter
This feature allows you to convert distance, speed, temperature, volume and weight between metric and English systems.  Example, miles to kilometers, knots to mph, Fahrenheit to Celsius, pounds to ounces, grams and kilograms, etc.

This is a standard calculator, there are no scientific calculator options however.

Other Features

Satellite Acquisition

The nuvi 360 does a great job locking in satellites with its patch antenna is built in.  The antenna must be extended out from the unit for it to work..  However, this acts as a switch, if you are using the nuvi indoors for the MP3 player or Picture viewer, the GPS mode goes to simulated reception.  If you don't get a lock, a message will appear within a couple of minutes, asking if you are indoors.   The Sirf receiver chip gives the nuvi great reception, I have never lost a satellite lock with it in the car. There is an MCX external antenna jack on the antenna, however, there probably is little need to use it.  Typical satellite lock time is about ten seconds for a warm start, (when the nuvi has been on in the last hour) and thirty seconds for a cold start (when the unit has not been used for a longer time.)

Data Pages

The nuvi has a built in trip computer.  You can log your current trip and averages.  You cannot change the data fields however.  This is handy if you are tracking gas mileage or how long you are really stuck in traffic.  And you can see just how much of a delay those restroom stops add to your trip as well.  This is accessible by pressing the lower left hand field on the map page.  (Shows speed when not navigating, shows arrival time (ETA) when navigating)

Custom POI

The nuvi allows you to load in Custom points of interest, speed and redlight cameras and school zone warnings.  I have loaded in more than 12- thousand Custom POI's.  Again here is a link to our article on the POI Loader.

Tour Guide

The nuvi 360 is now compatible with Garmin's new Tour Guide.  It works as a Custom POI file, and uses audio files to announce certain areas of interest.  While the nuvi is compatible with this new feature, so far there is little information from Garmin to actually use it, but at some future date, there should be MP3 files to download into your nuvi, which will alert you to points of interest as you get within a certain distance of the location.

Garmin Lock

This is a new feature in the newest Garmin units.  It acts as a theft deterrent, to prevent your nuvi from being used if it is stolen.  If you enable Garmin Lock in the System area of the setting menu, you will have to input a four digit code each time you turn on the nuvi.  If you forget the four digit code, you can set up a safe area, such as your home where you can unlock the unit without the code and then set a new code.  Although you might be able to sleep better knowing that if someone steals your nuvi, they won't be able to enjoy using it, the chances aren't very good they are going to bring it back to you either, if they can't unlock it.

Hardware Features

The nuvi 360 has a built in lithium battery, with an average battery life of four hours.  It typically requires two to three hours for a complete charge.  The battery charger is included with the package.  There is a battery level indicator in the upper right hand corner.  A lightning bolt represents when it is being charged.  When no power is connected, the battery bars will disappear as the battery is discharged.  When the unit is off, a message will show you if the battery is being charged or if the charging is complete.   We found the battery only would last about two hours, if you keep the backlight on and use the MP3 player and navigate.  However, if you set the backlight to 15 seconds when you touch the screen, the battery life will easily extend up to four hours.  The battery will also charge when using it in the car with the supplied DC power cable.

USB Connection
To connect the nuvi 360 to the battery charger or to transfer data, connect it to the USB port on the right side of the unit.  Unlike other Garmin units, the nuvi acts as a "Mass Storage Device" and this means that the first time you connect it to your computer, it will have to recognize the nuvi and install it.  I had to restart the computer and after that it would connect just fine.  The nuvi is compatible with MapSource if you already have it, however it acts differently than other Garmin units.  You can create waypoints and then send them to the nuvi.  They will show up as the "Favorites" in the "My Locations" option of the find menu.  When you connect the nuvi to a computer through the USB cable, it will also charge the it.

SD Card Slot
The unit has a slot for an SD card slot, you can use up to a 1GB card.  You can add supplemental Garmin Mapping products such as TOPO, however the unit will NOT autoroute (give you turn by turn voice directions) with it.  You can also use the SD card for additional MP3 files and photos files.  There is also roughly 700 MB of free space on the nuvi's built in memory to use as well.

There is a backlight available.  When the nuvi is connected to external power, it will always stay on.  When you are on the internal battery, you can set it in the settings, to how long you want it to stay on.  Default is 15 seconds.  Once you activate the backlight, it will turn on each time you press any key. You can change the backlight brightness in the screen brightness control.

Unlike other Garmin units, the nuvi is not compatible with xImage, which allows you to grab screen images and import custom waypoints.  However the nuvi does allow you to save screenshots into the internal memory, which you can download to a computer.  You do this by setting screenshot as 'on' in the Display menu of the settings.  Then to save a screenshot, you simply press the power key.  The bitmap image is then saved in the internal memory in the screenshot file folder.  You can then download them onto a computer.  You can also customize the splash screen as well.

Software Updates

Garmin has made some improvements to the nuvi during our testing.  We suggest you make sure you have the latest unit software, available for free from  Use Garmin's WebUpdater or follow this link.  When you do the software updates, they are uploaded to the nuvi, differently from other Garmin units.  First of all the unit will download them and then you have to disconnect the nuvi from the computer, using the "Stop Devices" option in Windows.  Then after that, the unit will on its own update the operating software. As of this writing, it is version 2.90. The Sirf GPS receiver software is different from the operating software.  But if you use the WebUpdater, it will take care of all of the necessary software upgrades.

Custom Vehicle Icons

With the nuvi 360 and also the 350 model, there is the option of customizing a vehicle icon.  Instead of the traditional triangle, visible in these images below, you can select from a sports car, monster truck, motorcycle or mini car.  I still opt for the triangle, which is also now available in a variety of colors.  You can select your vehicle Icon in the 'Display" section of the settings.  You can download the vehicle icons and learn more by 
following this link.   You can also download them by using Garmin's WebUpdater for software updates.  The screen shots below are examples from possible selections, these three screens show a variety of vehicles and colors.


Can I use the nuvi for hiking or geocaching?
No, the nuvi is not meant for rugged adventures as it is not as durable as other handheld devices designed for hiking.  There is an off road page, but no compass page so finding geocaches would be very difficult.  You can use it for walking and there is a pedestriban setting in the routing options.

Can you listen to the MP3 player without headphones?  
Yes, the MP3 player will sound through the nuvi's speaker when there is no headphone plug in the nuvi's jack, however the music will not be in stereo.

Can I get a latitude / longitude reading and altitude information.
Yes, by accessing the satellite page, by pressing the signal meter on the main menu.  You can also get the coordinates by pressing "My Current Location" in the "My Locations" of the Find menu.

Is the nuvi waterproof?
The nuvi is NOT waterproof, because of its open speaker and other connections and it is not designed for marine use.

Is there NMEA in/out data capability?

Areas for Improvement

In our opinion, the nuvi 360 does not have any real issues.  The routing and navigation worked without error.  I would personally like to see a tracklog capability to the data card as in other Garmin handheld receivers and many Street Pilot models, to log where you have been.  But that is more of a wish list item, than a necessity.  Another wish item would be a built in FM modulator to play MP3 files and hear the navigation directions on your car radio, but the nuvi is quite compact, so this may not be an option. Overall Garmin seems to have just about everything right with the nuvi.

Other Observations

I did have a couple of instances when the nuvi would lock up and be unresponsive.  However, this was easily solved by pressing the reset button on the back of unit, under the flip out antenna.  This only reset the unit and I did not lose any of my stored data, such as my favorites, and Custom POI's.  The screen went crazy once as well and simply pressing the reset button instantly resolved the problem.


The nuvi 360 seems to be a very versatile GPS unit, with other features such as bluetooth phone capability and an MP3 player all in one unit.   There is not much to complain about with the nuvi 360.  In our testing of more than 2900 miles, we found almost no problems, those we did, were very minor.  If there is a negative with the nuvi 360, we would say it is the price tag.  However if you factor in the included cost of buying an MP3 player and a handsfree bluetooth headset with what you would have to pay for a Garmin GPS navigator, you can try to justify the cost of the nuvi.  If you travel a lot, the small size and extra features in my opinion would make the nuvi very helpful for traveling.  And with an auto navigator, you can always answer down to the minute, the question of "when are we going to get there?"  The nuvi 360 is very similar to the nuvi 350, except there are no bluetooth features in the 350 model.  Read Joe's much more extensive review of the nuvi 350 here for even more insight into the nuvi.

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