Garmin nüvi 360T: Further thoughts

Filed under: Lotus — iain @ 12:07:06

It’s been over a month since I posted my first impressions of the nüvi 360T. Although I haven’t used it an awful lot in that time I have had a chance to get more familiar with it and I have done one "proper" journey: from Cambridge to Blackburn and back.

It would seem sensible to revisit my initial criticisms of the unit. I mentioned that it was slow to acquire its position when first started. Sadly this would appear to be a feature of the device rather than an unfortunate coincidence. You can’t just jump in the car and drive off unless you know at least vaguely where you’re going. That’s fine if you’re setting off from home but would be annoying if you were pulling away from a hotel, shopping centre carpark, garage etc and came to the end of the road with no idea which way you should turn.

I was also unimpressed with the volume of the voices and warning tones. At this point I’ve practically given up on them. Unless I’m in an urban area with a 30mph limit there’s almost no way that I can hear what I’m being told to do. I found myself glancing periodically at the “Time to turn” marker on the right of the display, which counts down the distance to the next intersection. The nüvi is telling me that I need to turn after 300 yards but if I can’t hear it then I need to look for myself.

The alert that sounds when you approach a speed camera is also quiet, though the fact that it is high pitched and accompanied by a warning message on a bright red background does help to attract your attention.

Sticking with the subject of speed I complained that the nüvi didn’t show my current speed in the map view, as TomTom does. It turns out that your current speed is displayed … when you aren’t following a route. If you’re just driving around you can see your current speed. If you’re following a route, on the other hand, your ETA is shown instead. TomTom manages to fit both stats on to its display and that is a big plus point.

That said, the nüvi’s virtual dashboard, accessible by clicking the speed/ETA section of the screen, is a nifty feature. It hides the map, which is annoying but unavoidable as it does display a decent amount of data. Namely: direction of travel, current speed, distance to destination (if you’re following a route), distance travelled, total journey time, total moving time, total stopped time, overall average speed, moving average speed and maximum speed. The counters can be reset and … enthusiastic … drivers will want to do so after every journey.

While understandable, the inability to have the map and stats shown together is a sore point. Sadly, the UI just isn’t as nice to use as the TomTom’s, which either boasts features that the nüvi simply doesn’t have or implements them better. I mentioned before that it takes more taps on the screen to choose a destination with the nüvi. Once you’re on your way it takes longer to plan a deviation from your route.

TomTom allows you to "Avoid part of route" whereby you can see a list of all the roads along your journey and pick one to navigate around. Don’t fancy the M25 this morning? Pick a detour. In contract the nüvi only has a Detour button. Press it and you get diverted … somewhere. You have no way of knowing where you are being diverted to – and how soon, if at all, you will pick your original route back up – short of scrolling through the intersection list one turn at a time. TomTom’s route summary is available at any time, not just for planning diversions; the nüvi doesn’t have one at all.

The nüvi does make up for this a little with its FM traffic receiver. This works well, showing an alert symbol to indicate that it has updates to the traffic on one of the roads along your route. You click though to get a list of updates, choose the one you want and get more details and the option to avoid the route. I don’t know how good the higher spec TomToms are in this regard as my ONE didn’t have a traffic receiver. The Garmin is certainly good.

Another failing of the UI is the insistence on displaying popup messages that you have to click to dismiss. If you thought popup windows obscuring your view of a web browser were annoying, try having your view of your GPS obscured by a message telling you – in case you hadn’t noticed – that it is sunset and that the nighttime colour scheme has been activated. And then having to reach across to dismiss this message when you are trying to concentrate on driving. The nüvi will also interrupt you to tell you about speed cameras (if you are watching the dashboard) and incoming phone calls. I found them distracting, annoying and potentially dangerous.

The nüvi isn’t without its good points. The ability to select your vehicle, for instance, is nice. Switch it to Pedestrian mode and it will give you a fairly accurate ETA for walking pace. And because it’s small enough to carry around in your pocket this is a feature you can actually use rather than just a gimmick. The maps – one of my complaints against the TomTom – are good. I’ve yet to find myself on a road the Garmin didn’t know about. The display is clear and easy to read, even if it would benefit from zooming in when you approach a turning, as TomTom does.

It’s by no means a bad piece of kit. If I hadn’t used TomTom before I would probably be singing its praises. Unfortunately, although I actually quite like it as a device and will continue to use it, I can’t escape the conclusion that it is inferior to the TomTom in almost every way.

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