Garmin's Nuvi 310 is basically an enhanced version of its 300 series, and is touted as an all-in-one GPS navigator, translator, entertainer and tour guide. For the avid traveller, the device comes with a nifty toolkit that includes a language guide for translating, a travel guide with points of interests for several major European cities, plus an MP3 player and Audible book reader for entertainment.
Our test unit came in a titanium grey finish that is devoid of any features except a small "Garmin Nuvi" label in the bottom left-hand corner. Garmin has chosen a flip-out design for the GPS receiver, which does provide for a stronger signal, but gets in the way of the mounting arm when you're trying to position it on your car's windshield.
There's also a sticky disc for mounting the device on your dash, which provides for improved maneuverability, but not all cars have an ideal surface to accommodate this feature. Otherwise, the mount is strong and attaching and removal is simple. We did find that the bracket that attaches to the rear of the device was difficult and frustrating to remove.
Charging the Nuvi 310 is done via the cigarette lighter adaptor or USB cable that plugs into your PC, though we were disappointed to find no AC charger is included in the box.
The Nuvi 310 is one of the smallest GPS devices we've tested, coming in at a compact 74 x 98 x 22 mm, making it ideal as a handheld navigator as well. It can easily slip into your pocket, and it comes with a handy travel pouch for protection.
Despite its small size, the Nuvi 310 still manages to fit a 3.5-inch, 320 x 240 pixel, touch sensitive screen. The unit wasn't as bright as some competitor models, and in direct sunlight could often get washed out. Strangely, Garmin has decided to handle all of the controls via the screen. This method provides for a neat looking design, with just one exterior power button.
Another highlight is the Nuvi 310's interface, which is one of the best we've come across. Labels are clearly marked with large text, and the 3D maps were pretty and uncomplicated.
The Nuvi 310 picks up the excellent SiRFstar III GPS chipset, in line with most other models on the market. Maps feature text-to-speech technology that pronounces street names instead of simply reading out a direction. Inbuilt Bluetooth allows you to access your mobile hands-free, and answering a call is as simple as tapping the screen, with conversations directed though the Nuvi 310's speakers.
Version 7.0 Australian maps are pre-loaded, with an additional 200MB of internal memory to load up files such as MP3s and photos. Extra storage can be added via the memory card slot in case you want to load some international maps or even more files. Data is transferred via the USB cable or optional SD card.
One cool feature is the trip computer that includes odometers, timers, as well as average and maximum speeds readouts. Our favourite was the fuel usage mode.
Additional features include a JPEG picture viewer, world clock, calculator, plus currency and measurement converters. Garmin has also provided a PIN code safety feature that allows you to lock the device in case it's stolen.
The Nuvi 310 excels in its ease of use; no set-up whatsoever is required. Simply turn it on, enter your destination and you're ready.
The standout feature of the SiRFstar III chipset is how quickly it can acquire a satellite and calculate a route. Navigating using both the 2D and 3D maps is enjoyable, voices are clear with directions very straightforward.
A major problem was the lack of instructions prior to reaching a turn or roundabout. Often we'd be half-way through the roundabout before the Nuvi 310 had even told us which exit to take. This meant that we had to take our eyes off the road and rely on looking at the device's map.
Another flaw was that most of the time the chosen route wasn't in fact the quickest nor the most direct. We'd often be directed down a winding route, when further up there'd be a road leading straight to the destination.
At least the route calculation was fast. Whenever we missed a turn on purpose, the new route would be ready in most cases before the next junction.
The Nuvi 310 could have been very good, but was let down by its slightly poor navigation performance.