The Lowrance iWay 350c is ready to use right out of the box, and thanks to a user-friendly interface, you can get started without having to study the manual--although it's always a good idea to give it a once-over before hitting the highway. On the main menu page, there are four colorful icons for accessing the Map, Music, Find, and Options pages, as well as a button for entering the picture-viewer program (more on this later) and the gauge page, which displays your average and maximum speed, an odometer, a speedometer, and a digital clock. Map mode is your main navigation page, as it brings up your position on the detailed map and shows which direction you're heading. A small toolbar, located on the left side of the screen, allows you to pan and zoom in and out of maps, and above that, a menu button takes you back to the main menu.
The Find menu lets you search for destinations by category, such as gas, ATM, lodging, restaurants, and other POI, or you can enter an address or use your address book. A pop-up box displays pertinent information about your destination, including name, address, telephone number, GPS coordinates, and distance and heading from your current location. Once you've selected your desired destination, all you have to do is press the Go To icon, and the iWay 350c will create a route with voice- and text-guided driving directions. Maps can be viewed in either 2D (track up or north up) or 3D (elevated) mode.
Other standard GPS features include automatic rerouting (if you miss a turn), autozooming, a GPS status page, a battery meter, and the ability to create routes using your own custom waypoints. The Options page allows you to view text-based directions, change the parameters for creating routes, reset the trip calculator, and change the interface, including brightness, backlight-timer settings, and transparency levels. The transparency slider is a nice tool that lets you increase or decrease the transparency level of navigation information overlaid on the map. That said, we were disappointed by the lack of text-to-speech technology that is showing up in more and more GPS devices.
The latest trend in portable navigation systems is the integration of multimedia features, and the Lowrance iWay 350c is no different. The aforementioned picture viewer allows three levels of zoom and will display photos as a slide show, and the music player features repeat and shuffle buttons and a customizable equalizer. In addition to the usual forward, reverse, play, and pause buttons, there is a visual-effects display that provides synchronized Waveform and Spectrum Analyzer effects. The iWay 350c can play MP3 and OGG files, and it supports playlists.
The Lowrance iWay 350c may be small, but it came up big in terms of performance. The 16-channel receiver did a great job of tracking our progress throughout portions of Long Island and Manhattan, as well as upstate New York, where it's easy to lose signal reception in the mountains. Navteq-powered driving directions were spot-on, and route calculations were quick and accurate.
Also impressive was the audio quality using the FM modulator. There was hardly any station drift, which meant good sound most of the time, but up in the mountains, we had trouble staying tuned to an open frequency at times. Unplugged, the Lowrance iWay 350c gave us almost 8 hours of battery life while alternating between navigation, picture, and music modes, which is double that of the Garmin StreetPilot c330 and the Magellan RoadMate 800.