The Garmin Nuvi 360 has been out on the market for a while, actually quite a while, but I wanted to get you a first hand review of the product including its Bluetooth Handsfree capability considering that this unit is one of the lowest priced units where you can get a solid map set, optional traffic capabilities and handsfree Bluetooth features. The downward trend in pricing on GPS systems has this unit priced right in the middle of the pack, and increasingly affordable for the mass market. The Garmin Nuvi 360 is an excellent choice for people who are considering models in this price range.
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The Nuvi 360 is simple in design and offers a pretty small footprint while still offering a good 3.5-inch screen. The slim, svelte look is now almost iconic for the GPS world, as more and more models are moving to this minimalistic design (if they aren’t they should be). The Nuvi 360 doesn’t sacrifice functionality in its design choices for the great majority of features that are commonly needed. The unit has a single on/off button on the top right edge, and a flip up antenna that also has a jack for an external antenna. The back has its speakers that are clear and not taxed unless you really crank the volume. Much better than most. On the right side, the unit has a mini-USB plug, which can be used connect it to the computer to get updates, not to power the unit in the car. The mount is also small, and has a mini-USB plug on it too, which can be used to power the unit while driving, thus allowing you to have the mount and power all together. It makes for a quick getaway when you just pop the Nuvi 360 off its mount and your ready to walk away. The mount has electrical connectors on it that plug into the Nuvi 360 and power it. The disconnect process is a nice one handed operation, as long as you don’t have the unit right on the dash, because you need to press up on a button that sits on the bottom of the unit. Mounting the Nuvi 360 is intuitive and easy.
Garmin’s main menu is famously easy to deal with; “Where to?” and “View Map” are the big main options. There is also a “Set up” icon as well as the brightness/volume icon on the right side of the screen (You can also tap the power button once from anywhere to get the volume and brightness menu). By tapping the View Map button you get a quick no-nonsense view of where you are. The Nuvi 360 is pretty quick at pulling in satellite signals thanks in part to its SiRF star III chipset. The map view is clean, and Garmin’s design philosophy is a little more Apple Mac than Windows PC, keeping things clean and uncluttered with minimal potential to trick the system out with tweaks and customizations. This is a choice that makes it trustworthy, easy to use and popular among newcomers.
Finding where to go is easy too. There is a pretty complete listing of POI’s that also come with phone number listings which is a must-have when your GPS features Bluetooth calling. Often times, fields such as phone numbers are dropped to cram all the Map and POI information onto the GPS. It just so happens that North American maps and its POIs happen to come in right around 1GB, which motivates manufacturers to crunch the data down under this industry benchmark, especially for units that have the data resident on an SD card. The Nuvi 360, happily doesn’t do this, and allows you to call that phone number straight from the POI menu, making it easy to call from the road when you have your Bluetooth phone.
Address input is a breeze to as the Nuvi 360 remembers your state, so that if you are searching for nearby addresses it makes data input easy. While the Nuvi 360 does not offer a quick-spell technology that highlights only the letters that are logically available next in the word you are typing, it won’t make you type out the entire town or street name if it can limit you to a few choices. So if you are typing in “Maple St” and you get to the “P”, the Nuvi may just offer you the three streets in that town that start with “M-A-P”, like “Map St”, “Maple St”, and “Maple Lane”. The Nuvi 360 also does this type of “Think Ahead” capability for towns, making fast entry for both.
Setting up your “Home” location is easy too. The first time you tap it, the Nuvi 360 will tell you that the Home location isn’t set, and would you like to enter your address, use your current location or essentially deal with it later. Once you have your Home location set, it’s easy to navigate there, with a tap of your “Favorite Locations’ and then “Home”. From “Favorite locations”, you can also tap on “Favorites” to bring up your address book of locations that you have saved. From here, you can tap on a location and edit it, changing its name, map symbol (dozens of them to choose from) and its phone number, which nicely integrates with the handsfree capabilities.
Bluetooth Handsfree – Nuvi 360
The Nuvi 360 offers the capability to handle your phone calls from your Bluetooth enabled mobile phone. The basic functions of handling the phone call seem like a nice gesture, but in action and implementation, I think it’s a great capability. The pairing of your phone and the Nuvi was not tough; it took me a couple of tries. This was mostly a result of user error and my inability to consult a manual unless I am absolutely stopped in my tracks. I set my Moto KRZR to be discoverable, and set the Nuvi up to search (the first try I had both in search mode, which didn’t work), and within about 30 seconds the Nuvi found the phone, and asked that I type in a keycode to pair them. The two paired, and an unbelievable set of data appeared on the Nuvi 360. The Nuvi immediately had the entire contact list available on it, as well as a recent calls list, and a missed calls list. This sharing is not present on all GPS systems or phones that don’t employ Open Object Push (OOP). It’s too bad, because it really completes the feature, and makes it a very useful capability.
Using the Bluetooth Handsfree
When the Nuvi 360 is paired with a phone (and the phone is in range), a small phone icon appears on the Nuvi Main Menu that allows you to access the phone functions. When you aren’t paired with a phone, the icon disappears. Tapping this phone menu allows you to quickly bring up a calling menu that also includes the ability to tap in a phone number from the screen, and to do voice dialing. Worked in a pinch, but I was concentrating so hard my first few times on this, that it was a bit distracting. After a few uses, I was more confident and it was a big help.
When on the road, calling functions are pretty easy to use, and for me they weren’t terribly distracting. I wouldn’t try to pair the unit and your phone the first time but, for basic functions once the phone and Nuvi are paired, it’s as easy job. When you are on the road, and using menus, a semi-transparent phone icon shows up on the screen to allow you to access calling options like hanging up. It's discreet and allows you to still navigate easily while on the call. Call quality was good, and offers you the ability to hear the person on the other end, and vice versa, without issue. There’s still a tin canniness to the whole conversation, but you are on a mobile phone right? There was no “Can you hear me now?” going on, I could communicate with ease. Again, calling from a POI listing is easy when you have the Nuvi 360 paired, as the phone icon is present at the POI listing level.
The Nuvi was initially launched as a great traveler’s aid and through its lower pricing, it is now a great unit for a lot of people. So while a thin, attractive, highly capable GPS may have only been in reach of the corporate traveler a couple of years ago when the original “Nuvi” was announced, the proposition is really just good for everybody at half the price. So, the unit still offers language aids, currency converters, and more that after the first day of playing with them may never go used, it’s still good to know that they are there. The unit does have MP3, audiobook and picture viewing capability that have a better chance of being used. The implementations of these are better than most, as the interface is classic Garmin, clean and understandable. There’s even a slideshow feature if you want to use it. If you pop in an SD card, maybe fresh out of your camera, you can then select on board or SD card pictures to view, and spark up a slideshow right then and there. You can’t choose all kinds of settings for the slideshow, like transition and duration of the pictures but I like the idea of using it for a quick on the road showing when the small LCD screen on the camera isn’t enough.
I have a new appreciation for the value of Bluetooth Handsfree and will recommend the capability as something that people should consider when shopping for a GPS. You’ll pay about a $50 premium above the Nuvi 350 for the Nuvi 360. The Bluetooth features of the Nuvi 360 are well worth it if you spend time in the car talking on your mobile phone. The Nuvi 360 is a capable navigator and as such got me to where I was going without issue. The clean design and easy to use interface paired with NAVTEQ maps are a good combination that is tough to beat. While the basic Nuvi design is going on 2 years old, the Nuvi 360 has staying power and is not in any danger of becoming a dinosaur any time soon. This is a testament to the forward thinking design of that original launch.
Among the major GPS manufacturers, the Nuvi 360 is the lowest priced Bluetooth Handsfree unit on the market. I don’t have any hesitation whosoever in recommending the Nuvi 360.
What's in the Box - Garmin Nuvi 360
The Garmin Nuvi 360 comes with: