REVIEW: Garmin Nuvi 360 Portable GPS Receiver

Posted by:
Date: Thursday, August 24th, 2006, 14:06
Category: Consumer Electronics

Nuvi-360-where-to.jpgOne of the most indispensable consumer electronic devices in my arsenal is a GPS receiver. Since I got turned onto the wonders of GPS about a year ago, I have come to rely on it so much that it’s hard to get around without it.
Granted, if you’ve been living in the same place your whole life and mostly travel back and forth to the same job each day, you probably don’t need a GPS. But if you’ve moved to a new location, travel for work or just happen to be bad with directions, then a GPS is for you.
Read more for the complete 2100-word review including 18 pictures…


Nuvi-360-where-to.jpgOne of the most indispensable consumer electronic devices in my arsenal is a GPS receiver. Since I got turned onto the wonders of GPS about a year ago, I have come to rely on it so much that it’s hard to get around without it.
Granted, if you’ve been living in the same place your whole life and mostly travel back and forth to the same job each day, you probably don’t need a GPS. But if you’ve moved to a new location, travel for work or just happen to be bad with directions, then a GPS is for you.
GPS is defined as:

A constellation of more than two dozen GPS satellites broadcasts precise timing signals by radio to GPS receivers, allowing them to accurately determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude) in any weather, day or night, anywhere on Earth.

Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1978, the GPS satellite constellation costs upwards of US$400 million per year to maintain. Despite the expense, GPS is made available for free use in civilian applications as a public good.
In the past we’ve reviewed GPS receivers from Garmin (Quest2, StreetPilot 2720) and TomTom (GO 300) and each has their merits. After testing Garmin’s Nuvi 360 for the last month, I think that I’ve found the GPS of my dreams.
The Nuvi is a new generation of GPS receiver from Garmin that comes packed in an unbelievably small enclosure. The receiver itself is barely larger than an iPod video or a deck of cards and features a new snap-in design that easily pops on and off the suction cup windshield mount. When you park your car it takes less than a second to unmount the Nuvi and stow it in the included leather case. Even in the case the Nuvi is easily pocketable.
Nuvi 360 Features:
- Receiver: high-sensitivity WAAS-capable GPS receiver by SiRF
- Display: 2.8″ W x 2.1″ H (3.5″ diag.), 320 x 240 pixels; bright, TFT display, 64K colors, with white backlight and touch screen
- Unit dimensions: 3.87″ W x 2.91″ H x 0.87″ D (98.3 mm x 73.9 mm x 22.1 mm)
- Weight: 5.1 ounces (144.6 grams)
- Battery: built-in lithium ion battery — between 4-8 hours of battery life depending on use
- Bluetooth wireless technology for hands-free calling
- Supports FM TMC traffic alerting
- Includes Garmin Lock(TM), an anti-theft feature
- Voice announces streets by name
- Preloaded maps for all of North America or Europe
- Fingertip touch-screen interface
- Look up addresses and points of interest
- Choose 2D or 3D map perspective
- Upload custom POIs, including alerts for speed zones and safety cams with POI Loader
- Built in Travel Kit includes MP3 player with sample MPs, audio books, picture viewer, world clock, currency and measurement converters, calculator and more
- Add optional software such as Travel and Language Guides to personalize Nuvi
- SD memory card expansion slot
- USB interface for loading data

Nuvi-360-top.jpg

Figure 1: Top view of the Nuvi 360.


The screen is decent in very bright sunlight but there’s no contrast control so dark colors get washed out a bit in extreme sun. Overall readability is very good but the screen isn’t optimized for polarized sunglasses, it appears pink with my sunglasses but is certainly readable, even in sunlight.
Nuvi-360-rear.jpg

Figure 2: Bottom view. The grille on the right is the speaker. On the left is the power button on the top of the unit.


Nuvi-360-rear-2.jpg

Figure 3: Rear view with the antenna extended. The brass connector is the external antenna port, underneath the antenna is the docking connector for the windshield mount. On the side are the SD slot, micro USB port and headphone port.



Nuvi-360-ipod-side.jpg

Figure 4: Side-by-side comparison with an iPod 60GB.



Nuvi-360-with-ipod.jpg

Figure 5: iPod 60GB stacked on top.


In addition to its small size, the Nuvi is also fast. It acquires satellites faster than the StreetPilot 2720, the menus are fast and, most importantly, it calculates routes fast. The Nuvi 360 also found POIs insanely quickly, almost instantly. And with Garmin everything is where you expect it to be, the user interface is completely natural and quickly becomes transparent (as good interfaces do) after a couple days of use.
Navigation performance is good. Voices are clear and it’s nice to hear the street names being spoken (a feature native to the Nuvi 360 not found in other Nuvi’s). Recalculations are speedy.

Nuvi-360-where-to.jpg

Figure 6: The Garmin “Where to?” screen.


The main interface to Garmin GPS receivers is the “Where to?” screen. “Where to?” allows you to either enter an address, pick a stored favorite or select a restaurant, hotel, ATM or other Point Of Interest (POI). Once you select a destination it’s ridiculously easy to follow the Nuvi’s 3D on-screen directions which are supplemented by spoken directions and street names.
The View Map feature simply shows you a live map of where you are. It’s great for when you don’t need to navigate to a particular location but still would like to see where you are. One minor issue I have with the Nuvi 360 is that I wish that it defaulted to View Map when nothing else has been pressed (say, after 10 seconds). Instead the Nuvi stays on the “Where to?” until you touch something on the screen.

Nuvi-360-where-2.jpg

Figure 7: After clicking on “Where to?” the Nuvi presents you with a series of options.



Nuvi-360-route.jpg

Figure 8: Once you’ve selected a destination the Nuvi maps your route. Note the yellow lines next to both sides of Route 76 on the right. This indicates that there is traffic in both the eastbound and westbound directions.


Nuvi-360-settings.jpg

Figure 9: Preferences screen.


Nuvi-360-bluetooth.jpg

Figure 10: Bluetooth connections screen. Once you pair your mobile phone, calls can be answered directly on the Nuvi, you can even take the call using the Nuvi’s speaker and microphone although call quality is sub-par.


The Nuvi paired with Rob’s Samsung T-809 (T-Mobile) the first time and it sounded very good making and receiving calls at slow speeds. However, road noise makes it tough to hear at higher speeds. Rob was able to quickly send his entire address book from his phone into the Nuvi via Bluetooth. 57 contacts transferred in about 10 seconds. Receiving calls from the Nuvi’s screen is a breeze. You see the caller ID with buttons for answer and ignore. Very easy to transfer calls back to the phone if necessary.
Nuvi-360-max-speed.jpg

Figure 11: My favorite screen. When you click on the Arrival Time (visible in the lower left of Figure 8) you get the Trip Information screen which displays all kinds of information about your trip. Pay close attention to the Max Speed in the upper right white box. Yes, I drive fast :)




Figure 12: Garmin’s GTM 10 (US$214.27) FM-band traffic receiver.


One of the single best features of the Nuvi (and the Street Pilot 2720) is it’s support of an FM TMC traffic receiver. From my review of the 2720:
A must-have addition to the 2720 is Garmin’s GTM 10 (US$214.27) FM-band traffic receiver that connects with a car radio/antenna system to provide real-time Traffic Message Channel (TMC) data to the StreetPilot 2720. The GTM 10 identifies problem areas on their moving-map displays. The GTM 10 is a small external adapter about the size of a large box of wooden matches that connects to the 2720 and notifies you of accidents, road construction, police, or emergency activities.
Nuvi-360-traffic-accumulating.jpg

Figure 13: When traffic is detected on your route the Nuvi displays a yellow alert icon. clicking on it brings up the traffic detail screen.


Nuvi-360-traffic.jpg

Figure 14: Here you can see the yellow traffic stripe along some roads. The traffic stripes are displayed on the appropriate side of the road.


Nuvi-360-travel-kit.jpg

Figure 15: The Nuvi’s new Travel Kit is a nice addition.


The Nuvi GPS receiver do much more than navigation, in this revision Garmin has added several new entertainment and travel features that are a boon to frequent travelers. New toys include: an MP3 player, audio book player with optional content from Audible.com, JPEG picture viewer, world travel clock with time zones, currency converters and more.

Language Guide – contains five bilingual dictionaries and a multilingual word bank and phrase bank that support nine languages and dialects. Even get a spoken pronunciation of each word or phrase.
Travel Guide – gives you helpful and thorough reviews and recommendations for restaurants, hotels, shopping, nightlife, sporting events and tourist attractions. Travel Guide for Europe currently available for purchase. Travel Guide for United States coming soon.
Savers Guide – a “geo-coded” coupon book that notifies you of nearby discounts on restaurants, hotels, shopping, and more at thousands of participating Entertainment(R) businesses throughout North America

Nuvi-360-mp3-player.jpg

Figure 16: The Nuvi MP3 player.


The MP3 player and audio book player work as advertised. Optional software packages such as the Language and Travel Guides can be added for language and content support. The optional software is available on SD cards allowing you instantly add new features to your Nuvi without connecting to a computer.
Nuvi-360-words-phrases.jpg

Figure 17: Words, phrases and dictionaries from Oxford university Press.


Nuvi-360-external-power-los.jpg

Figure 18: When you turn off your car Nuvi asks you if you want to keep running on battery power power. The battery lasts about four hours when using the GPS antenna.


PowerPage regular Rob Parker chimes in…
The windshield suction mount is awesome. it works flawlessly and it’s easy to get the unit in and out of the mount. The mount has a small USB jack on the back for charging with the included 12v car cable. Very elegant design.
The Nuvi can charge from USB so the included USB computer cable can be used to charge the unit from a notebook computer on the road. Cable consolidation is key when you’re trying to travel light. The included leather case is also really nice.
The Nuvi 360 is so small and light that it’s just a pleasure to carry. It feels very solidly built and is very easy to use if you’re used to the Garmin look and feel. The SD card slot came in handy on Rob’s trip to the UK later. When he got there he simply slapped in the Euro-maps SD card.
Rob wishes that the display was a little better but only because he’s really, really into screens. His Samsung phone’s screen is spectacular, but it isn’t a touch screen either.
Rob played with the TomTom GO 910 (SU$799) and was close to buying one, especially since it comes loaded with all of North America and Europe, has a larger hard drive, and is Mac friendly. However, after playing with the Nuvi he realized that the Garmin OS is superior. The TomTom felt almost like a Disney product – too much like a toy. After playing with the Nuvi for about a minute I was sold on it. It’s just that much better.
My only real issue with the Nuvi 360 is the lack of Macintosh support but in June Garmin addressed this with the following statement:

The company’s Training Center software is now expected to be compatible with Mac OS X version 10.4 “Tiger” by the end of 2006. Also at that time, we will announce the expected completion date for Garmin’s other hardware and software applications.

In the mean time, you can easily connect the Nuvi to an Intel Mac running either Parallels or Boot Camp.
I was also disappointed that the third-party application for OS X RouteBuddy didn’t work with the Nuvi 360. I’m told that this may have been an issue with the firmware. I’ll keep an eye out on the progress on this very promising application.
The Garmin Nuvi 360 is the Cadillac of GPS receivers. If your looking for something that’s small, portable and well-built then you’ve found it. I am awarding the Nuvi 360 an O’Grady’s PowerPick quite simply because it’s one of the best devices that I’ve ever used and I can’t live without it.

powerpick-2006-rect.jpg

Garmin
Nuvi 360
Part number: 010-00538-00
US$964.27 (US market only)

Recent Posts