Hang on a minute, isn't everyone and their dog releasing widescreen format 4.3-inch GPS systems? Well, at least according to Uniden, no. The older square 3.5-inch form factor would still appear to be very much alive and well, as evidenced by the budget-level Uniden Trax 350, and the similarly entry-level .
Screens that are 3.5 inches have the obvious drawback of not presenting as much screen real estate, although it does make it mildly more portable for those moments when you want to chuck it into a bag. A friendly reminder here: remove your GPS from your windscreen when you get out of the car, unless you don't want it to be there when you get back.
The Trax 350 has only a single button — for power — as well as an SD card slot on the base, and a very stiff windscreen mount. It's a touch fiddly to actually place in the mount, although nowhere near as bad as the terrible mount used on theand , such as the . The one thing we would have liked to see in the Trax 350's box is an AC charger. With an AC charger you at least have the option of utilising your car's cigarette lighter for other purposes but, as it's missing, the Trax 350 is likely to hog the thing every time you travel — or force you to buy a double adapter, which can clutter up some cars.
As GPS systems go, the Trax 350 is relatively basic, and it revels in this by offering the choice between Advanced and Simple modes. If you only want a bare-bones GPS experience, Simple will get you going, whereas Advanced mode will let you set up track logs, route planning and warning status settings.
One of the big features that Uniden pushes with the Trax 350 is 3D landmarks, which you can rotate and zoom by at will. It's a cute kind of feature, but ultimately pretty pointless in the grand scheme of using a GPS. If you're a tourist and you're driving past, say, the Opera House, you're better off looking at the real thing. If you're a commuter, you already know that it's there.
It's not sufficient to just take a GPS for a spin round the block in order to test it. For a start, with CNET's Sydney offices being smack dab in the middle of the CBD, just getting a reliable signal can be a challenge in itself, with so many high office towers. So we took the Trax 350 out on the tracks, driving it from Sydney to Adelaide and back again. This meant that it experienced everything from inner-city navigation, as well as nice long routes and with plenty of country roads, which aren't always well mapped in our experience.
The first thing that struck us about the Trax 350 was, not surprisingly, the fact that the smaller 3.5-inch display gives the Trax 350 less space to display information. The default colour layout is high contrast and very easy to discern in terms of where you should drive, but a lot of the supplementary text is on the smaller side, and might not be entirely clear from just a brief glance. Supplemental screens do offer up more information based around a rotary speedometer, but again this distracts from the main route guidance.
The Trax 350 fared well in getting initial signal lock, and mapped out where we were with a very good level of accuracy at both low and high speeds, and through complex city roads, as well as more sedate country paths. Our co-driver did note that being touchscreen-only created problems for those with long nails, although she did admit that this was a common problem with many touchscreen interfaces.
In addition to spoken street names (or text-to-speech), the 350 offers one interesting safety feature: a spoken warning when you exceed the speed limit. Plenty of GPS systems will beep at you when you do this, but by having a voice inform you, the Trax 350 is rather more assertive in getting you to slow down. Or at least, getting us to slow down. For the record, if any legal authorities are interested, the Trax 350 warns you the moment you go 1km/h over the limit, which was what we did.
The one genuinely irritating thing about this is that the Trax 350's GPS map information from Whereis didn't accurately reflect the real-world speed limits on some of the country roads we travelled on. So we found ourselves being nagged for doing 80km/h in an 80km/h zone, simply because the Trax 350 was convinced it was a 40km/h zone.
We can't really fault the Trax 350 on too many levels, simply because it's a good example of older technology getting cheaper. Yes, you could spend twice this much on a GPS system that does a heck of a lot more, and on a larger screen to boot. But if all you want is a system for getting from A to B, and can live with the smaller, slightly cluttered screen, it's an excellent choice.