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.