Garmin’s pocket-sized nuvi 350 is a portable GPS unit that aims to be more than just a GPS. This little unit wants to be your personal travel assistant, and has the capability to do so thanks to the availability of add-ons such as foreign language guides, e-books and traffic guides. If you forgo the extra add-ons, you’re left with a fantastic GPS unit that is very responsive, easy-to-use and a pleasure to have either in your car, or in your pocket.
Features and Design
The nuvi 350 is much smaller than most GPS units we’ve seen. It fits in your palm of your hand and is about the size of an iPod; though a bit wider and thicker. It’s designed to be big enough to offer decent visibility while driving, but small enough to be extremely portable.
The bread and butter of the nuvi 350 is of course its navigation, and the 350 offers both 2D and 3D navigation with turn-by-turn directions. You can select from a variety of voices for the navigation ranging from an Australian woman to a British guy, and you can also opt for a voice done by an American. The nuvi 350 lets you add detours to your route, and has an optional add-in for traffic alerts too.
A bright pink line illustrates your path, with white arrows showing upcoming turns.
There is no stylus to use, as it’s a touch-screen device. There are also no knobs or even buttons, aside from the on/off switch, which contributes to the unit’s sleek look. The GPS antenna is on the back of the unit and flips out for use, then folds in flush with the rear of the device.
Aside from navigation, the stock unit also features a few extras. The first is an MP3 player, which can be used with the built-in speakers or the headphone jack. It also features a currency converter, calculator, picture viewer, world clock and a measurement converter.
The nuvi 350 also features an MP3 player, and given its size can double as a portable music player.
If you don’t mind paying extra, the nuvi 350 has the ability to support several interesting add-ons. The first is a language guide that offers verbal translations in a variety of languages. Next is the travel guide, which is an SD card you pop into the side of the unit. It’s made by Fodors, so you get their travel advice for North America (other locales are available, including Europe). Third, there’s a SaversGuide add-on that will alert you to places nearby where you can save money on items, restaurants, and such. Finally, you can use the device to listen to e-books if you get a subscription from Audible.com.
The nuvi 350 supports several paid-for add-ons including e-books and language and travel guides.
There’s also a traffic kit add-on that can warn you of upcoming construction or other traffic issues before you get to them.
The nuvi 350 includes a USB cable a charging cable for your car, windshield mounting apparatus, a carrying case and an AC adapter.
The nuvi 350 is tiny, and is about the same size as an iPod Video.
Use and Testing
We plugged the nuvi 350 in, unsure what to expect, and were surprised to find we were using the navigation features just a few minutes later. It turned on, came to the main menu, and once we tapped the “View Map” button then boom, there was our car driving down the street. It accurately told us every street that was coming up and was easy to see from our viewpoint in the driver’s seat.
If you just want to see where you are, the “View Map” function is handy.
From there, we decided to try some addresses. Unlike the ponderous Delphi Nav300, the nuvi 350 was very responsive. Once you tap a key the screen changes instantly or at the most takes one or two seconds, but overall we were very impressed by its responsiveness.
The main screen offers six options: addresses, favorites, food, lodging, fuel, and spell name. The lodging, fuel and food options provide you with a list of those places, starting from closest to your location to farthest away. We used this option several times and the lists are all-inclusive, meaning it was able to find everything that was around us, including off-the-wall or newly built restaurants.
The main navigation menu offers several preset groups, or you can type your own.
The most interesting feature of the main screen is the “spell name” function, as we were at first disappointed to not see a list of book stores, or banks in the main menu. But we found that by typing out whatever we wanted to find, the nuvi 350 was able to find it, including parks, book stores and banks. We were never unable to find a location with the nuvi 350.
Once we had our address entered, the nuvi 350 calculates the route in a few seconds and we were on our way. A bright purple/pink line on the map showed us where we were headed and an Australian female voice guided us to the address. We were surprised to hear the voice at first, and found the option for voices and were surprised to see a long list of options including a British voice, US Americans (both female and male), Spanish, German, Italian, etc.
A bright line shows you the path, with white lines indicating upcoming turns.
One very nice feature of the nuvi 350 is that rather than just telling you, “turn left in .1 mile” it actually tells you the name of the street, which gives you greater confidence that you’re on the correct route. You can also change the car icon from a big car to a dune buggy – which is kind of fun.
We unplugged the unit from our car’s cigarette lighter once it was fully charged, and were pleasantly surprised to find it ran for six hours on its battery.
About the only thing we didn’t like was the lack of a volume dial to change the volume on the fly. To adjust the volume, you have to enter a sub-menu and change the volume from there which is not very efficient.
Our overall impression of the navigation is that it’s pretty much flawless. Easy to use, very fast and responsive, and always got us to our destination.
We plugged the nuvi 350 into our computer with the USB cable and it came up as a storage device. We were able to add music and pictures just by dragging and dropping them into the appropriate folder, which is great since it’s so simple. Windows Explorer told us we had about 500MB of free space, which is enough for a small music library. Supposedly you can add more storage by putting in your own SD card, but we didn’t have a card on hand to test this. The included MP3 player works okay via headphones, but using the onboard speaker to listen to music isn’t very enjoyable. The picture viewer is okay too but since the screen is so small we don’t think it’s a particularly useful feature.
The calculator works as advertised, and the currency converter is easy-to-use as well. We didn’t sample any of the paid-for add-ons since they didn’t come with the unit.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use GPS that is literally plug-and-play, the nuvi 350 should be high on your list. Having never sampled a Garmin product before we were very impressed by how easy it was to get up and running. The UI is very easy to navigate, the unit is extremely responsive, and it was truly a pleasure to have it guide us all over town. It’s a shame that many of the included add-ons are not actually included, but their presence does give the nuvi 350 the potential to be much more than a portable GPS device. We didn’t like the lack of a volume knob, however, as it makes adjusting unit volume a lot easier while driving.
• Very responsive and fast
• Lots of add-ons available
• Most add-ons cost money
• No volume dial