December 2, 2005

Review: Garmin StreetPilot C340 GPS Review by GPS Lodge

Update: The Garmin C340 is available on a Black Friday Deal at a good price.

The Garmin StreetPilot C340 arrived for review a few weeks ago, and right out of the box, I knew I would really like this thing. It only got better over time, and I can say I am in love with it. Like Goldie Locks said, "That one's too small, and that one's too big, but the Streetpilot C340 is just right." (or something like that). The feature set is solid, and only left me wanting for a few things, while the text to speech voice commands are crisp, clear and welcome as you are driving. I found myself trusting its guidance, and let myself drive unknown back roads under the supervision of the StreetPilot C340 knowing full well that I would arrive at my destination at the appointed time. It's a powerful GPS that is very easy to use, and comes pre-loaded with maps and millions of points of interest. Just take it out of the box, turn it on and go.

See our Update on the StreetPilot C340

Interface and Navigation
The screen is a bright 3.5 inch touchscreen display that is a dream to use. Overall, it is bright enough to see all day, and auto switches to a nighttime color scheme after sunset that allows you to drive at night without the thing blinding you with the bright daytime colors. This feature is configurable, and the brightness settings are adjustable also.

The interface starts with two big buttons, "Where do you want to go?" and "Show map". Pretty easy, eh? when you want to go somewhere you are given a bunch of options, but the most frequently used ones will be "My Locations", which include "Home", your list of favorites that you can add locations to, and recent selections that you have visited. I found myself going back there time and time again. You can also type in an address with a simple touchscreen keyboard interface. The StreetPilot C340 assumes that you want to stay in your state, or gives you the option of spelling the state out. Next you type in the address number, street, and town. In seconds, you are calculating a route and you are off.

There are tons of other categories for the over 5 million points of interest (POI) that are grouped into categories: Food, Lodging, Fuel, Attractions, Shopping, Parking, Entertainment, Recreation, Community, Cities, Hospitals, Transit, and Auto Services. Under each of these buttons, there are often sub-categories. When you click any of these categories, you are also able to indicate if you want to search to a hotel near your current location, or a different city. This can come in handy if you are traveling to somewhere else and need a hotel near there, or something similar. One plus that is included in this extensive POI database is the phone number of the POI. HUGE plus if you are navigating to a restaurant and need to call while in route. You can always spell a name of a POI to find it, and you can let the StreetPilot C340 search through its database for a match. This can take awhile as it searches, and I sometimes got frustrated as I waited and waited, only to realize that I searched for the store in the wrong town.

When navigating, the text to speech voice prompts tell you when your next turn is coming, while also telling what street to turn onto. This nice added feature announces the turn, and the street name in a fairly normal human tone voice. So instead of "Turn right in 400 feet", you get "Turn right on Maple Street in 400 feet".

When you get a destination in as a route, you can also go and pick another destination to go to on the way to your final destination. So if you need to go to the shopping mall a few towns over by way of bank, you can have it take you on that route. This is a great feature for complex trip planning.

While you are trucking along, don't forget that hidden behind the speed readout on the left hand corner of the screen is a trip odometer with several key bits of information for the data obsessed like: Overall average speed, moving average, max speed, total trip time, moving time, stopped time, compass direction, current speed, a trip odometer and a distance to destination. While you are on this screen you can't see the map, but the voice prompting will still guide you, "Turn left on Maple Street in 400 feet." No problems!

A Turn by Turn direction screen can be seen by clicking on the title bar at the top of the screen. This can give you a simple list of your turns and their respective distances, or by touching on the turn itself, you can see a small frame of the map, the turn instructions and the time the unit expects you to get to that turn.

Tonight when I was coming home from work, there was a wreck on the highway, and traffic was backed up for 45 minutes. I hit the surface roads and navigated through streets and towns that I have never seen, and the StreetPilot C340 performed flawlessly. I was home in no time and they were just clearing things up when I pulled into my driveway 35 minutes later. This totally saved the day because I HAD to be home at a certain time, and if I sat in traffic, I would have never made it on time.

Settings
The Garmin StreetPilot C340 comes with the usual configurable settings that you seem to set and forget about. The settings button is smallish, which is fine since I usual didn't find myself digging through there too often. You can set the map preferences - 2D- North up, 2D- track up, of 3-D, as well as the level of detail that gets displayed. Other settings allow you to set your route preferences (faster or shorter distance), what you want to avoid (highways, U-turns, etc), as well as the language (there are a dozen or so to choose from - want an adventure, turn the thing to German or Suomi for the day and let it tell you where to go! Good luck though and keep your eyes on the road when you can't tell your "Links" from your "Reches" (German for Left and Right).

Traffic
I didn't have a chance to try out the traffic module; the Garmin GTM 10. It's an add-on that pulls in FM radio signals so that the StreetPilot C340 can get real-time traffic feeds. The unit will re-route you around traffic congestion. My opinion is that's where the entire GPS field should be going - it's the ultimate use for a GPS in our traffic congested world. The GTM-10 comes with a 15 month subscription to Clear Channel's traffic feed, and additional subscriptions cost $60. Learn more at our article on the GTM-10.

Mount
I normally wouldn't mention a mount, but they have been a topic of discussion lately, and I have to say Garmin did a superb job on this aspect of the StreetPilot C340 design also. It seems like a standard mount with a big suction cup to stick to the windshield, but the power cable goes into the mount and not the unit itself. This is great if you want to grab the unit out of the car for quick programming or if you want to stash it under the seat (if you feel comfortable leaving the mount on the windshield). The internal battery allows you to pre-plan the route outside of the car, and when you are done, pop it back in the mount and you are ready to go. But wait, there's more! The release on the StreetPilot C340 is a simple push button release that allows you to grab and go with one hand, no fumbles and no drops. The re-mounting is just as easy, and it inspires confidence.

Hopes and Desires
There are a few things I would love to see in this unit, but maybe I am asking for too much. While I can save a destination, I can't save my work as a destination, always routing me via Starbucks. This type of feature is on the higher end Garmin Products, and on the TomTom GO 300. Another thing that would have been nice would be to simply touch the screen to start panning the map. This was a common need as I navigated new roads, and wanted to see where I was going to pop out up ahead. The panning function is buried a few levels down, but it's there. much better to just start by tapping the map.

Summary
What can I say, I love it. The unit is a great size and the touchscreen is a fantastic interface for programming your destination, and it's a perfect size to use. The underlying NAVTEQ maps are great and worked flawlessly for me, and when combined with the accurate navigation of the Garmin system, got me home tonight on time while navigating around a huge traffic jam. The voice directions are clear and accurate, while the interface is easy to understand which is important when traveling unfamiliar roads. I think that Garmin StreetPilot C340 is a winner.


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Posted by Scott Martin at December 2, 2005 6:59 PM

Recent Comments

Agree with the above --in general the C340 is a great unit for the price even with its flaws.

I am concerned about using it with a dash or window mount in the summer. The unit gets really hot which cannot be good for the electronics or battery. Perhaps this accounts for the relatively short battery life (approx 15 mos) I hear about in the various Forums.

I would like to hear if anyone has used this unit with cupholder or AC vent mount. Anything to get it away from my hot dashboard. Perhaps I should repaint it a reflective white?


Posted by: mike moonitz at August 23, 2007 2:28 PM

Donna,
I am a proud owner of the Unit and it simply rocks! The kit comes with a USB cable that you connect to the USB port of the computer to update your maps and also it charges the unit at the sametime it is connected in!
My only cons about this device is-it does not come along with an AC Charger!


Posted by: Nash at July 11, 2007 2:57 PM

Nowadays, a critical factor in GPS portables is usb for all three critical functions (power, charging, and data). Your review didn't discuss these three critical basics; does the Garmin c340 use usb for all three basic functions or not? That is the question!


Posted by: Donna Davies at June 30, 2007 1:31 PM

Great review -- very helpful. Thanks!


Posted by: Adam at November 21, 2006 8:51 PM

Does this C40 have an mp3 player using SD slot for memory or an audio out to plug the gps into my car stereo audio input? Wouldn't it be hard for me to hear direction through it's speaker if I'm the type of consumer that listen to my music loud in my car stereo?


Posted by: tommy lien at August 21, 2006 3:34 AM
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