So if you've been around me much you've probably already seen my Christmas toy--the Garmin nüvi 350.
This guy is probably my favorite gadget at the moment, and that includes the iPod. I'd never heard of it, nor did I ask for it, so my parents are even ahead of me in the technology department. Despite not having dropped any hints for it (having never heard of it) nor any kind of similar product, it's something I use every day.
What is it? The slickest GPS product I've ever seen. I've got a GPS unit I can plug into my PowerBook and run a navigation program called Route USA 2004. That's got multiple problems. First, I've always got to bring my PowerBook with me, and
- I don't want to leave my PowerBook in my car
- The battery only lasts for a few hours
- It's a massive tangle of wires with an extra GPS device, an inverter, and my charger.
- The GPS device isn't very sensitive and has to be mounted in dashboard.
- It's not exactly easy to see a PowerBook screen while driving.
Then, there's the software itself. It's dog slow, even on my 1.5GHz PowerBook, and the navigation features while driving are pretty much non-existent. It sucks down the battery while doing its processing, and the interface is completely unresponsive while it's doing something. Accidentally do something that's going to take awhile? Good luck trying to cancel it. It's easily beat by Microsoft Streets and Trips (yes, I can admit it) but of course, that won't run on Macs, and VirtualPC would make it horrifically slow.
Basically, it's better than nothing but not by much. It also required a co-pilot to navigate, so if you're solo and lost, forget about it.
So that's where the nÃ¼vi comes in. (I don't get the German name either.) It's a sleek little handheld device that fits nicely into the palm of your hand. It also easily mounts in your car, either with a suction cup or a piece of adhesive.
The best part is the touch screen. There is only one button, the power button, and everything else is controlled by on-screen buttons that you just touch. Everything is responsive, and when you touch something, there's audible feedback and then the interface responds. You never feel like you're waiting for it.
It's also got a sweet 3D view that updates and you drive, and perhaps the sexiest part is the voice that navigates for you. I've got mine set to a British accent (her name is Emily) and she lets you know of turns coming up. Unlike previous units I've read about, this one actually announces the name of the street as well as the distance, meaning you don't even need to take your eyes off the road for a second.
It's got a built-in directory of businesses, and an easy way to search for them. If you're in the middle of nowhere, and you get a hankering for Italian food, it's two button presses and it will start to list off the closest restaurants. I've been to more fish and chips shops since I got it than the last twelve months.
It's got an SD card slide on the side so you can view your photos, as well as load extra maps on it. You can get traffic information on it with a optional card, too. It's got an MP3 player that you can load via USB, plus the built-in speaker. Too bad all of my music is in AAC. The other problem is that it seems that music plays insanely loud, and when Emily starts to talk to you, it's really soft.
All in all, I dig it. I didn't know I needed it, but it would be tough living with out now. When people start to give me directions, I can safely ignore them and have Emily guide the way. And since it's handheld, I can take it with me when I go to London and use it on foot!
Give me a call if you want a demonstration.