The Nuvi 350

Bargain spoken maps

The Nuvi is a superbly designed car navigation device that is comparatively inexpensive. The Nuvi is a no-brainer to set up. You type the street address (it will guess the town) of where you want to go on the touch screen (or hit a place you’ve been before) and it shows you where you are on a driver-view map. It indicates upcoming turns on the map visually and with a spoken voice. It’s generally reliable anywhere in the US even in places you would not expect. When you alter course, it rapidly recalculates a new route.

These are pretty much standard features on car navigation systems. In addition to built-in nav systems in high-end cars, there are lots of manufactures and models for these small add-on units. I checked a lot of research and reviews, but the best advice came from taxi cab drivers I asked. They use these devices a lot and they have experience with different varieties of them. Their consensus was that the Garmin Nuvi was the best deal.

The Nuvi 350 has a street price of $250. The wider screen and added features of the higher models are luxuries. Do you really need a nav device at all? Here’s the thing: it is way better than either a map or directions in getting you to somewhere new. I never get lost now. Also, it does something a map or directions can’t do, which is to find the nearest gas station or park, or ATM. A nav system is also way safer, too. I got one for my daughter at school in a new city; I am beloved and relaxed.

The cheaper nav systems (such as the Nuvi 200 series) don’t talk. The big surprise in car navigation is that you need turn-by-turn spoken instructions. That keeps your eyes on the road and minimizes looking at the map. The Magellen Maestro is a comparable product, slightly cheaper, but with less love from fans. As of now, the Garmin Nuvi 350 is the starter car nav device to get.

-- KK 10/23/08

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