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Product Review: Garmin Nüvi 350

I recently leased a new car, an Acura RSX Type-S, and got it fully loaded. The only thing that I wanted that Acura couldn't deliver stock was a navigation system. My wife took care of that this Christmas and bought me a Garmin Nüvi 350 portable GPS device.

The first thing I noticed taking it out of the box is that it is very small. It is just a tad bit bigger than my iPod, and noticeably lighter. I like the size of the 350 when compared to the Nüvi 660, or one of the baseball sized Garmin units. The 350 comes with a small carrying case, and fits nicely in the inside pocket of my jacket.

The dash-mount stuck to the windscreen of my RSX easily, and hasn't popped off. The dash-mount has a quick-release button on the bottom to allow you to easily bring the unit off the dash, and into your pocket.

Enough about the aesthetics already, how well does it work as a GPS? The GPS functions work beautifully. It takes it about 30 seconds to "acquire satellites" when it starts up cold, and only about 5 seconds starting up warm. WAAS isn't enabled by default, but a few quick menu clicks on the touchscreen and WAAS comes on easily. I can't tell the difference with and without WAAS, but it's there ... The unit is sensitive enough to know which lane you are in on the road, and even shows you if recent construction has moved the road over by as little as a few feet.

The touchscreen is very responsive, and the UI is quite responsive with no sluggishness. I added a 1GB SD card loaded up with a selection of MP3's and JPG's. The built-in MP3 player works well, although it will never replace my iPods. The JPG slideshow feature works extremely well, and digital camera shots look very good on the Nüvi 350's screen. I don't have any Audible audiobooks to try, but the included sample played well.

Being the geek that I am, I just had to download and install the latest firmware update. The update process was extremely simple, and worked without any issues. I didn't notice any glaringly obvious differences, but now I have the latest and greatest.

My only gripe with the Nüvi 350 is the included maps. It's a little unfair for me to complain about the maps, as I live in Austin which has a whole series of new roads. I have the North American V8 maps, which do not include any of the new roads in Austin. The new toll road is extremely convenient for me in Pflugerville, so I am already used to driving it quite often. The unit handles it well enough when I drive somewhere it does not have a map for. In fact, the unit is very adept at re-calculating the route when you ignore it's directions.

Just for fun I asked the Nüvi 350 to take me home, knowing it didn't have the new toll roads in the system. When I made it to the toll road, it simply said "return to the highlighted route" and the words "Driving North" appeared at the top of the screen. Once I made it to a road that it had in the system, it immediately re-calculated and got me home.

I would recommend the Nüvi 350 to anyone looking for a portable GPS navigation system. The simplicity of the system, and easy portability means it's a gadget you will like to use, and use often.

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Rating: 3/5 (7 votes cast)


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Comments (4)

Thanks for the infomative a... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the infomative and comprehensive review! I am faced with a cross-country jaunt in the next few months, and have been toying with the idea of getting a GPS unit to help me along the way... My parents managed three times with just "real" maps, but I figure that if the technology is there, why not use it? How does this particular unit fare with finding points of interest, like gas stations, restaurants, hotels, etc.?

The "yellow pages" feature ... (Below threshold)

The "yellow pages" feature works very well. It breaks things down into categories or you can search by company name. It will also show you nearby businesses, or let you directly enter an address if you already know where you want to go. One cool feature I noticed when you pull up a list of businesses, is that it shows you how far away each on is, what direction it is, and updates the distance in realtime as you drive.

I don't recommend searching through the unit while you're driving, but if you have a co-pilot it works very well.

One thing I forgot to mention in the review is that you can use the unit with the GPS off by simply keeping the antenna folded down. With the GPS off, you can choose a destination, and when you fold up the antenna, the Garmin will start delivering directions.

I think the bast part about... (Below threshold)

I think the bast part about these devices is they don't ask you to stop to go to the bathroom or remain silent until "that was the turn back there!"

Thanks for the update. Ver... (Below threshold)

Thanks for the update. Very seriously considering snagging one of these widgets.