Garmin nüvi 360T: First impressions

Filed under: Lotus — iain @ 17:30:21

The very very first impression of the nüvi was favourable. The first thing you see when you open the box is the unit itself. It’s a slim and sleek device and fits neatly into your pocket. Furthermore – although I wouldn’t discover this until later – it attaches and detaches from its windscreen mount assembly quickly and easily. If you’ve ever pulled in at a motorway service station and been faced with the choice of trying to squeeze the TomTom and mount into your pocket or just leaving the damn thing in the car and hoping no one steals it, you’ll appreciate the Garmin’s design.

Besides the satnav itself there’s a fair amount of kit packed into the nüvi box. The obligatory cigarette lighter charger is accompanied by a mains charger (sporting both 2- and 3-pin connectors) , USB cable, FM traffic receiver and manuals in seven languages. The latter aren’t really needed; the nüvi’s setup menus are straightforward enough.

Having said that I did soon find myself missing the TomTom’s UI. Adding, editing and saving routes and locations feels clunky compared to the TomTom and it seems to take a few more taps on the touchscreen to get things done.

For example with the TomTom you can navigate to your home location by clicking the map to open the menu, clicking "Navigate To" at the top left and then "Home" at the top left. Three clicks including what can effectively be thought of as a double click. In comparison the Garmin requires you to click to open the menu, then hit "Where to?" at the top of the screen, "My Locations" at the bottom left and finally "Go Home" at the top. It’s one extra press on the touchscreen and your finger has to jump up and down to do it.

After having admired the unit and been impressed with the various paraphenalia that came with it, I suddenly felt somewhat underwhelmed. Not only was plotting routes more cumbersome than with the TomTom, as soon as I did get out on the road I saw to my dismay that the nüvi had no idea at all where I was. It sat in "Acquiring satellites" mode for several minutes. Luckily I knew where I was going and after it warmed up and acquired a signal I had no further issues on the journey.

A few minutes later I approached the first turning and the nüvi correctly informed me that I should turn left. It even told me the name of the road to take, thanks to its Text To Speech software. Unfortunately the TTS voice sounded synthetic and absolutely horrible. I immediately switched to a non-TTS voice in the hope it would sound better. While the regular voice was an improvement I found it vastly inferior to the stock TomTom voices. It also seemed that the nüvi’s vocabulary was limited compared to the TomTom’s. At one point I found myself leaving the motorway and approaching a roundabout, at which I needed to turn right, in the lefthand (ie wrong) lane because it wasn’t until I looked at the screen that I saw the turning. The TomTom would have told me "take the exit then after 100 yards turn right at the roundabout, fourth exit" but the nüvi was much less verbose. Worse, it was very quiet. Even at maximum volume I could barely make out what it was saying when I drove at 50mph or faster. Voice quality scores a big win for the TomTom.

The rest of my journey passed uneventfully. I arrived without getting lost, without being told to take an exit I was already on, without being told to take a turning I’d passed and more or less on time. My only other observation on this first journey was that the nüvi doesn’t display your speed on the map view. You can press the bottom left of the screen to access a display showing current, maximum and average speed and various other stats (but no view of the map) but there is no such indication on the map view itself. By contrast the TomTom tells you your speed and, if it knows it, the current speed limit directly underneath the map.

I’ll make some more observations when I have some more journeys under my belt. It will be interesting to see if the quality of the maps and the speed of the GPS live up to my expectations. They’ll need to if I am to convince myself I was better off with the Garmin than a new TomTom ONE Europe.

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