Garmin iQue 3000
Garmin puts an end to a drought of Palm-based GPS handhelds with its Garmin iQue 3000 ($426). It's just as useful for keeping a calendar and an address book as it is for finding your way in the world, plus the system's digital maps are precise, routing is efficient, and its spoken directions are easy to understand. On the downside, it's bigger and heavier than some of its competitors, such as the ; it lacks the wireless creature comforts of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; and it comes up short in the performance department. If you're partial to the Palm OS and want integrated navigation features, the iQue 3000 is pretty much your only choice; that said, the PDA/GPS handheld does its primary job navigating and organizing; it'll just require a little patience on your part. Looking more like a leather notepad than a PDA, the gray and silver Garmin iQue 3000 is a beautifully designed and crafted handheld. From its fold-open cover to the flush buttons, it's a device that not only slips easily into a pocket but also is useful and meant to be shown off. It measures a stout 0.8 by 2.8 by 4.7 inches and weighs 5.2 ounces, putting it between the and the Pharos Traveler GPS 525. You can shave off an ounce of its weight by removing the leatherette screen cover. Like the A636, it has a flip-up antenna to capture data from the orbiting network of two dozen GPS satellites, but this antenna folds neatly into the PDA. However, it doesn't swivel like the A636's antenna to grab the strongest satellite signal.
At 3 inches diagonal, the Garmin iQue 3000's 320x320-pixel display is smaller than that of the A636, but it presents a nice balance and has daytime and nighttime viewing colors. On the downside, while using battery power, you can't keep the screen on for more than 3 minutes--a major annoyance when navigating by foot. Even worse, Garmin said it has no plans to change the backlighting time.
Below the Garmin iQue 3000's screen, there's a spacious dedicated writing zone with six instant-launch icons (Home, Brightness, HotSync, Menu, Volume, and Find) around it. During our tests, however, we found that hitting these icons was hit or miss. Sometimes they were extremely responsive, while other times, we had to repeatedly jab at the icons with our stylus--a truly frustrating experience. The bad news continues as the navigation toggle lets you scroll only up and down; we much prefer the five-way joystick found on the Pharos Traveler. On the upside, the four shortcut keys to the main apps--Calendar, Contacts, To Do, and Que--are spacious and easy to use. To get a GPS fix, just open the antenna or hit what Garmin calls the Que button, and the main GPS interface is activated. You can then go right to the maps, enter a destination, or adjust the system's extensive settings, which range from metric or English units to the backlight level. Though the speaker is located in back, the directions come through loud and clear, and you have a choice of 11 languages. Other design elements include a 3.5mm headphone jack, a Micro SD slot, and a MCX jack for an optional external antenna; a recessed reset button is hidden under the fold-out antenna. As with most Palm-based handhelds, you can't remove and replace the battery.
In addition to the iQue 3000, Garmin includes all you'll need to hit the road. You get power adapters for car and home, a USB data cable, and a windshield arm with a mounting disk so that it can be installed any place in the car. There's also a DVD filled with maps and a 128MB Micro SD card, although European editions come with a 256MB card. As with other GPS handhelds on the market, there's no desktop cradle, emphasizing the road-warrior image of the iQue 3000.The Garmin iQue 3000 comes with the latest software for organizing a life or a business. Inside is an entry-level Palm handheld with a 200MHz Bravo 2.0 processor that has a built-in GPS correlator. While its 32MB of RAM and 32MB of ROM are about half that of typical Windows Mobile machines, the Palm OS is more efficient in its use of memory, but this leaves only about 10MB free for added apps and data, which will seem cramped.
By providing maps of Puerto Rico, Canada, and the United States, the included City Navigator North America NT 7 DVD is more complete than that of any of Garmin's competitors. There are more than 6 million points of interest (POI) for restaurants, gas stations, hotels, and the like preprogrammed into the database. On the downside, you'll need to set aside a lot of time for moving maps from your PC to the Garmin iQue 3000; a single state can take between 10 and 30 minutes to transfer to the device. The included 128MB Micro SD card is good for a five-state road trip, but we suggest getting a larger card to hold more maps and a bunch of music, given that the device has a competent audio player.
With accurate and detailed maps, predictive entry, and efficient routing, the Garmin iQue 3000 is perfect for car trips. The main screen shows not only the road ahead but also the vehicle's speed, distance, and time to the next turn. As a bonus for those obsessed with time, the handheld gives you an estimated time of arrival. We like the small compass needle in the upper-left corner, and the unit's up/down button zooms in and out of the action with ease. When planning your route, you can choose between the shortest or fastest route, and you can instruct the iQue 3000 to avoid toll roads, unpaved roads, carpool lanes, and so forth. Garmin also nicely integrates the handheld's PIM functions with its GPS capabilities; to wit, it can plot a course straight from an address in your Contacts list. You get 2D and 3D map views, automatic rerouting, and saved routes, and the handheld even goes beyond the basics by including settings for emergency vehicles, delivery vans, and taxis. On the downside, it lacks a GM-10 radio for getting traffic information.We tested the Garmin iQue 3000 in New York, and it took just more than 2 minutes to get a position fix from a cold start. The handheld constantly updated the onscreen map and never lost contact, regardless of whether we were jogging to an appointment in New York City or driving up and down the East Coast. We were impressed with its accurate plotting, and the routing was efficient. We also like the fact that it reminds the driver of upcoming turns, plus it took only 15 seconds to complete a new itinerary.
One thing is for certain: The Garmin iQue 3000 isn't the fastest handheld on the block. It's a RAM-starved machine, so it took several seconds to call up new applications or to draw maps, but perhaps the biggest drawback is its battery life. In our tests, where we looped a video clip using Kinoma's 3EX player and set the backlight level to 50 percent, the unit was able to run for only 4 hours, 26 minutes on a single charge. By comparison, both the Asus MyPal A636 and the Pharos Traveler GPS 525 lasted almost 9 hours. The iQue's numbers rise to 6 hours, 48 minutes when playing music, but they still fall short of the competition.