Garmin nuvi 300
- Compact and lightweight, Easy to use interface, Touch screen operation, Solid navigational experience overall
- Window mount, Address searching order, No external volume controls
If you are after a compact and simple GPS system, then the nuvi 300 should fit the bill. Overall, a solid navigational experience on the whole is enough to cover for some small deficiencies.
Price$ 649.00 (AUD)
A simple, yet effective user interface and touch screen operation are the main features of the Garmin nuvi 300. Directly comparable to the popular TomTom ONE (New Edition) due to its small size and full touch screen operation, the nuvi 300 also offers a traveller's guide and entertainment features including an MP3 player. The only real let down is the window mount, which makes in-car use extremely troublesome.
In terms of design, the nuvi 300 is an amazingly compact device, measuring just 98mm x 74mm x 22mm and weighing 144.6g. Although it doesn't function as a PDA, the nuvi 300 will still easily slip into any pocket or bag without weighing you down. If you plan on using this GPS in multiple vehicles, then its size is definitely an advantage and of course, for security reasons, it's always wise to remove your GPS when your car is parked. The nuvi 300 definitely makes this easy to do.
Like the ONE (New Edition), the nuvi 300 includes just one button on its exterior (a power key) and thus, unfortunately, there are no external volume controls. Instead, you'll have to navigate away from the map screen to the menu and adjust volume from the quick settings.
What we really liked about the nuvi 300 though was the user interface; it's simple, bright and extremely effective. Menu icons are accompanied by large, colourful boxes, while more specific sections, such as when searching for an address, are clearly labelled with large text. The display is adequate, although not as bright as some other models on the market. Sunlight glare can be a significant problem; on a bright day, we struggled to see the screen, and the poor viewing angle didn't make things any easier.
Our major complaint with the nuvi 300 is the window mount. No matter what the weather conditions, during our driving testing, we just couldn't get it to stick onto our window for a long period of time. We tried cleaning the window and finally made some head-way, but it only lasted ten minutes before the unit fell into our lap while driving. This is a major disappointment, as mounts like the one seen on the TomTom ONE (New Edition) were flawless during our tests in the same vehicle.
The nuvi 300 software is quite intuitive and street names are filtered by suburb, meaning you avoid confusion by only getting a list of streets in the particular suburb you are searching. Unfortunately, you are locked into a search order of suburb, street number and then street name, which seems a little strange - the street number would be better positioned as an option after you select the street, rather than before it.
The main menu is very simple, with icons for Where To, View Map and Travel Kit. Here you can also adjust settings such as brightness and volume levels. Tapping the 'Where To?' button allows you to navigate to a specific address, a food outlet, accommodation within 5km of your current location, your saved locations (including favourites and recent selections) and even the nearest petrol stations. You can also find intersections, attractions, shopping centres, parking, entertainment and recreation, hospitals, airports and auto services using the nuvi 300. Furthermore, you can enter a specific GPS coordinate and have the unit navigate you straight there without any address or city details - obviously quite useful for James Bond and the like.
While the general navigational experience of the nuvi 300 is notable, with solid maps and fairly quick re-routing times, we did notice that the time to find and maintain a GPS signal is a little slower than some other units. At one stage the nuvi 300 took about two minutes to find a signal, despite clear skies. The nuvi 300 uses the popular SiRF Star III GPS chipset seen in many other units currently on the market, so it was disappointing that it took longer than expected to find and maintain a clear signal.
Voice commands were a mixed bag as well; they did the job quite well, but the speech just didn't sound as natural as that on some of the newer TomTom or Navman units. Furthermore, when changing the voice options (English only has two options - American English or British English), you can't listen to a sample before selecting it. On the up side though, the nuvi 300 is extremely loud at its highest setting, so you shouldn't have any problems hearing the voice instructions.
The nuvi 300 maps are simple and fairly easy to read and can be zoomed in and out of easily using the large + and - controls on the touchscreen. You can select either a 3D or 2D view, with the map oriented with either north up or track up (with the direction you are going facing upwards). Tapping the speed button on the map brings up a small trip computer. Here you are able to see data about your trip, including overall average speed, max speed, total time and moving time, amongst others. The nuvi 300 uses WhereIs maps in Australia and these are preloaded onto the unit. For extra maps, an SD card slot is located on the left hand side of the unit, alongside a mini-USB port for charging and connecting to a PC (for transferring MP3 files), and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The nuvi 300 also offers a variety of tools for long journeys. These include an MP3 player with 200MB of space (although this can be expanded using an SD card), audio book player from audible.com, a picture viewer, world travel clock with time zones, currency converter, measurement converter and calculator. In addition, optional packages including a language guide and travel guide are sold separately on SD cards. The MP3 player is fairly basic with only repeat and random play options and no equaliser, but it is simple to use thanks to large, easy to tap controls on the touchscreen. There is even a section in the top right hand corner for album art, as well as ID3 tag information in the left corner. Overall, while these features won't be for everyone, they could be a nice addition for those on a budget who want a multifunction device in their car.
Battery life is rated between four and eight hours by Garmin, depending on usage. On average, we experienced between four and six hours, which is a fair result, especially when compared with units like the TomTom ONE (New Edition). Garmin doesn't include an AC charger in the sales package, but you can charge the nuvi 300 via the included USB cable on in-car charger, which plugs into your cigarette lighter.
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