If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the folks at TomTom must be blushing. That's because Garmin's new in-car navigation system, the $964 StreetPilot c330, bears a striking resemblance--not that there's anything wrong with that--to the , which was released last year. Like the GO, the c330 is compact and ready to use right out of the box; it comes with maps preloaded on the device's internal memory and includes some extras not found the TomTom, such as an internal battery for out-of-car use and changeable faceplates, all of which give the c330 a slight edge over the GO. More importantly, the c330 is a solid navigation device that provides accurate directions to help you get to your destination. Alternatively, if your travel plans require only smaller geographical segments, Garmin offers a step-down version, the $750 c320, that includes a SD card slot and 128MB SD card for map data. The Garmin StreetPilot c330 is designed for simplicity, as is evidenced by the lack of function buttons on the unit. Other than a power switch, a volume control, and a USB port on the unit's right side, all user controls are accessed via the responsive touch-screen display. The only thing missing is a remote control. Weighing just 9.5 ounces and measuring 4.4 by 3.2 by 2.8 inches, the c330 is certainly portable, but its black-plastic casing with removable silver bezel feels like it might not withstand an accidental drop, and it's not waterproof, so you may want to spend an extra $32 for the deluxe carrying case that will protect your investment. Garmin also sells a five-pack of faceplates ($25), should you decide you want to change the look of your c330 to match the interior of your car.
Showing off 64,000 hues and 320x240-pixel resolution, the c330's 3.5-inch (diagonal) screen with backlighting is colorful, and the maps show quite a bit of detail. Unfortunately, when viewed in direct sunlight, it loses some of its sharpness. But the built-in speakers are loud and clear, so you won't be left completely on your own to find your way. In addition to an AC power adapter and a PC/USB cable for firmware and software updates, the c330 comes with a lever-activated suction cup swivel-mounting cradle that is easily attached to the vehicle's windshield, giving the antenna a clear view of the sky, while the 12-volt car adapter is hardwired to the cradle. There's also a connector for an optional external antenna for better satellite reception. Designed to work right out of the box, the Garmin StreetPilot c330 comes preloaded with MapSource City Select street-level maps of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and it contains more than 5 million points of interest (POI), such as hotels, airports, eating establishments, local attractions, shops, and more. And of course, powering the whole device is a WAAS-enabled 12-channel receiver and an integrated patch antenna to lock on to GPS satellite signals.
Navigating through the menu screens is a breeze, thanks to the touch screen and the use of big, colorful icons to guide you through the process. After powering up the c330, you're given two choices: Where To and View Map. The Where To icon takes you to another screen, where you can select locations in your immediate vicinity, in another city, or closest to your final destination. You can search by address or use the POI icons to locate hospitals, auto services, transit hubs, and other points. Once the c330 lists the available locations, simply press Go, and a route is calculated from your current position to your chosen destination, complete with text and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. Although the c330 will save only the current route you're traveling, you can save up to 500 destinations or waypoints using the My Locations function. The unit will then recalculate a route to your selection.
The c330 is chock-full of useful features. As with most other vehicle navigation devices, the c330 will automatically recalculate your route if you veer off course, and you can create detours around problem areas, such as construction zones. The View Map icon shows your current location, traveling speed, and heading, while a bar at the top of the screen displays your satellite signal status. If you lose the required satellite fix, a text and voice message alerts you to the lack of reception. The map can be displayed in an overhead 2D view or a 3D-horizon view, and the zoom-in/zoom-out icons are clearly marked on the touch screen. You can also customize certain settings using the tool icon, including map colors and orientation, language, the amount of map detail shown onscreen, and route preferences.
Other standard features include a trip information page that displays your maximum and average speed, travel time, and an odometer. We like the internal lithium-ion battery feature, which is rechargeable and provides up to 4 hours of power, allowing you to use the c330 as a navigation guide while on foot. The Garmin StreetPilot c330 performed admirably in our road tests. The first time we powered up the c330, it took a little more than a minute to lock on to the required four satellites for a 3D fix. After the initial lock, we never waited more than 15 seconds before we were ready to navigate. Locating POI destinations was quick and easy, and route calculations were right on the money. We never once lost an adequate satellite lock throughout our journey on eastern Long Island, New York, although the c330 succumbed to the canyons of lower Manhattan, as is always the case due to a limited view of the sky. Still, the signal loss was brief, and reacquisition was instant. We were impressed by the accuracy of the receiver and the unit's ability to put us back on course after straying from our prescribed route. As promised, the internal battery gave us 4.2 hours of operation while on foot patrol.
The Good Compact; touch screen; preloaded maps; rechargeable battery.
The Bad Screen washes out in daylight; can store only one route; no remote.
The Bottom Line The Garmin StreetPilot c330 may lack some of the features found in its more expensive siblings, but it's accurate and easy to use.