Garmin Nuvi 350 review:

Garmin Nuvi 350

The Travel Kit feature is what separates the Garmin Nüvi 350 from virtually every other GPS system out there, but be prepared to shell out even more money to take full advantage of it. For an additional $75, you can purchase the Language Guide SD card, which lets you translate words and entire phrases in nine different languages. Phrases can be translated from a list of categories such as recreation, food and drink, accommodations, and transportation. You can even have the Nüvi translate common problem phrases such as "Can you get me to a doctor?" and "Have you got anything for a hangover?" The language translations, which include two English dialects, two Portuguese dialects, two Spanish dialects, French, German, and Italian, are displayed in text form and can be spoken by the Nüvi's text-to-speech interface.

Also part of the Travel Kit is an optional European Marco Polo Travel Guide SD card ($160) that offers detailed information on tourist destinations, including restaurants, hotels, shopping, and other attractions. The Travel Guide lets you create routes to each destination and provides reviews and recommendations for each location.

Garmin's SaversGuide is an electronic coupon book for the Nüvi 350, providing more than 45,000 discounts at participating North American FV Entertainment establishments such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, automotive repair shops, and more. The SaversGuide SD card is $50 and includes a membership card.

If all these additional costs have your head reeling, there is some relief in that the Travel Kit offers some great free features, including an MP3 player; a JPEG picture viewer with a slide-show function; a world clock; currency and measurement converters; a calculator; and an Audible Book player. The integrated speaker is adequate for voice commands and audiobooks, but if you want to listen to music, we suggest a good set of headphones.

We were very impressed with the Garmin Nüvi 350's performance. The first time we powered up the system, it took less than 30 seconds to obtain a 3D fix (four satellites). After that, the system was ready to navigate in a matter of seconds. Most impressive was the receiver's ability to maintain a satellite lock when our view of the sky was obscured. For example, we held a strong GPS signal throughout a walking tour of lower Manhattan, where most GPS receivers fall victim to the towering skyscrapers. We even managed to monitor our progress on a 45-minute Long Island Railroad train ride without having to hold the unit up to the window--a testament to the receiver's superior signal-tracking abilities. In the car, the Nüvi worked equally as well. The voice-guided driving directions were easy to comprehend and were spot on in terms of accuracy, and the receiver did an excellent job of pinpointing our location on the map. Route calculations were fast, as were recalculations when we purposefully strayed from our original route.

Garmin claims 4 to 8 hours of battery life, depending on factors such as backlighting and MP3 playback. We managed a solid 6.5 hours of battery time with the GPS antenna active and backlighting set to time out after 2 minutes.

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