Let me come clean from the very start and say that I have used satnav's for a very long time, I was an early adopter and so it's been a little over 12 years since I first owned my own GPS and a few more years on top of that since I first used one, a briefcase sized military model. Although the first GPS I bought was a Garmin, the venerable GPS8 handheld (the 8 = 8 channels compared to 24+ these days), and I owned a Garmin II, III, V and a couple of Streetpilots after that, I've favoured TomTom ever since the Classic was launched. That was the first truly effective, self contained, street routing device to appeal to the mass market.
Since then I have used and reviewed a great many satnavs, with a goodly number of Garmins amongst them and whilst they have been capable navigators, for me, the user interface and design of TomTom's products suited me best.
But I always put my such matters aside when reviewing a product. It's important that our reviews are honest and not clouded by personal preferences for one manufacturer or another. And so it is all the more worthy of comment that I try and convey how impressed I have been with Garmin's new nüvi 2360, reviewed here. It's not the very best device possible, and it does not offer a myriad of endless features and extra cost services. But it does offer all the features that are important to the task in hand - navigation, and it does so in a design that is well considered, sturdily built and practical.
The nüvi 2360LT is a voice-activated satnav that supports use in landscape AND portrait modes. It comes bundled with lifetime free traffic updates via RDS-TMC, has a 3-axis compass, hands-free Bluetooth phone support, lane assist and ecoRoute amongst a long list of features. Garmin list this as an entry level device with some premium features.
Maps are of course, by NAVTEQ and as supplied here, the unit comes with Full mapping coverage of Western Europe, major roads of Belarus, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Albania and Kosovo and urban area coverage for Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. So a very comprehensive map set!
Bluetooth hands free needs little explanation but the ability to use this nüvi in portrait mode is to be applauded. Despite all the research that suggested we should prefer landscape mode, many of us feel more comfortable with seeing the display in portrait where we can see more of what lies ahead. The display auto re-draws as you rotate the device as well, no need to choose your poison via some hidden menu.
ecoRoute is another feature worthy of comment. As well as offering fuel efficient routes, ecoRoutes also scores you on your driving style. It also allows you to record the fuel you buy along with prices to produce a detailed record of vehicle economy and provides a mileage report function as well.
Navigation directions are provided via a Text To Speech (TTS) voice that can read out road names and whilst a picture viewer is provided, along with the ability to navigate to a geo referenced image although the usefulness of this feature is somewhat negated by the use of a microSD card. To use any photos from your own camera you would need to copy them to a microSD card, no cameras uses microSD although some camera equipped smartphones do. I'm still unconvinced as to the genuine usefulness of being able to navigate to a photo. And finally an MP3 player is absent from the feature list.
There are only so many ways to skin a chicken so they say, and when presented with a satnav I'm guessing the designers don't have a huge amount of room for manoeuvre and flair in the end product. So many satnavs end up looking, and feeling cheap and plasticky that it's reassuring to see that Garmin have not cut corners on cost here. The device feels solid and well constructed. A rubberised coating adorns the back cover and aids grip and a grey bezel around the display adds a little design flair to the otherwise anonymous black box.
Simply and classy
The only button present is that dedicated to switching the device On/Off. On the bottom is the multi-way connector that mates with the supplied cradle, a micro-USB port for PC connectivity (microUSB is the new standard that will be adorning all your mobile phones moving forward) and on the left is a microSD slot (for memory expansion, user POIs, extra maps etc) but unoccupied as supplied. It's all pretty unremarkable but in a good way. It's not flash, but it's not cheap looking either. So full marks there.
The cradle/windscreen mount strikes the balance between simplicity and connectivity perfectly. It's an active mount, which means that power is supplied to the cradle such that, when the nüvi is docked, it mates with the cradle for power and any other data connections.
In the case of this model, 'other data' means RDS-TMC traffic data. The 12v car charger also contains the FM receiver for Traffic data and the cable forms the antenna.
This lead has the standard cigarette lighter socket on one end and terminates in a right-angled miniUSB plug on the other (vertically oriented as well so works equally well with right or left-hand drive users).
It's a little odd that the nüvi has microUSB whilst the mount uses miniUSB but I'm presuming that the mount is common to other models and has, as yet, not had the design changed to standardise the use of microUSB. It's not a big issue as Garmin bundle the microUSB-USB lead that you need for connecting to your PC. Also included in the box is a dash disc, handy for those of you with people carriers and other cars where the windscreen can be quite a reach. The disc attaches to your dash using 3M adhesive tape and provides a more convenient mounting option for some.
And finally, in the box is a 1m long antenna extension for the RDS-TMC receiver. This plugs into a jack on the dongle located on the charge lead and can be used to improve reception of the FM Traffic channel. Although I have had very little luck receiving traffic data over FM in the past, I can report that it all works perfectly on this model and I haven't even needed the extension. In fact, I was so surprised that RDS-TMC worked that I had to refer to the manual to see what the strange icon on the screen meant! I simply did not expect it to work as I seem to live in a black spot for this service and every other satnav has failed.
The 2360 boots to the menu screen familiar to most Garmin users. With the two main options of Where To? and View Map and underneath them, buttons for volume, tools, and stop/detour which come into play when a route has been programmed.
The map display is clear and strikes the right balance of detail. You can choose between a 'Standard' information panel setup with a single data field in each lower corner or a 'More Data' view that provides you with an information strip positioned vertically along the right hand side that contains four data fields.
The information fields can be customised to display your preferred data. This has been a bug bear of mine in previous Garmin models and other manufacturers devices. I want to choose which data fields I can see on screen and so I'm pleased to see that options for customising the data that is displayed.
In 'Standard' mode, only the left hand data box can be customised, the right hand box always displaying speed, and in 'More Data' mode, the top three out of the four boxes can be customised to display your preferred data.
Simple and Advanced Data Views & Customisation Options
With a route programmed, route guidance is provided visually via turn directions at top left, and a strip across the top with the name of the current road you are travelling along. You route is highlighted on the map as well and the navigation voice, whilst computerised and a little robotic, is clear and easily understood.
Map Examples. Note 'green' traffic icon and exemplary eco driving scores!
Programming a route is also well catered for and simple to perform. The usual array of options is presented including selecting a destination by address, from recently found locations, favourites and POIs. Entering an address is done via the on-screen keyboard which is large and clear. Begin typing and once the possible address matches reaches a manageable number a selection screen pops up. This saves on the typing and speeds up the process even more. Route calculation can be a little sluggish on occasion but not so slow as to be irritating.
Lane Assist with Junction Views is particularly impressive, The junction views are photo-realistic and certainly help orient you quickly and ensure you are in the right lane.
RDS-TMC traffic is free for the lifetime of the unit and worked well, much better than past experience of the service had lead me to expect. Reception was solid and, whilst the data is not as accurate and current as those services that deliver live data, it is useful and reliable. And did I mention free?
There is also a well thought our pedestrian mode with detailed directions for use whilst on foot. This lends itself superbly to the portrait display.
Lane Assist (portrait & landscape) and Pedestrian Mode
Voice command is another feature that is well implemented. Unlike the system as used by other manufacturers, Garmin use a command keyword to initiate voice command. I've never understood the point of a voice command system that requires a button in order to trigger it? Garmin even allow you to customise the keyword which is set to "Voice Command" by default. I tested this extensively and it worked 90% of the time, even in the noisy environment of a car. Garmin helpfully display the list of commands that can be used when the system is initiated and requesting a new address and starting navigation is simple and intuitive.
I really liked this feature. Again it is one that I have seen before on other devices but which has worked so poorly that I could never rely on it. But here it works as designed and being able to initiate it with a keyword is great, especially as the voice command system works so effectively.
Triggered by a command keyword - Voice Command works superbly
In common with previous Garmin's, the on-screen icon for your vehicle can be customised. A small sample are pre-installed including arrows and a selection of vehicles but there is a huge selection of novelty options available for download from the Garmin Garage area of their web site.
There are a great many little features that I haven't covered here. Garmin's speed camera service is provided as a trial but, as we have our own competing speed camera service, and one which is rather more comprehensive than theirs, I shall not spoil the neutrality of the review by extolling the virtues of ours any more.
Some of the utilities available
Do I need to say I am a fan of the nüvi 2360LT? I fear I will have to spend some of my hard earned income and buy one when Garmin inevitably ask for it to be returned. It offers all the features that are core to navigation and some ancillary ones that are truly useful such as ecoRoutes. The display is simple enough that it provides all the information you need, at a glance, without any of the fluff and decoration that adds nothing to the task.
The menu system has been well designed and thought out with all the most commonly accessed features close at hand and within one or two taps of the screen. There is a manual which may be needed for some of the less used options but for 90% of the everyday features you won't need it, all are intuitive and need little explanation. I've dropped 1 point from the perfect 10 owing to the sometimes slow route calc and the slightly robotic TTS voice but it earns a deserved 9/10 score.
This is a brnad new model, street pricing for the nüvi 2360LT is running between £200.00 and £230.00 so buyers are advised to do some research before laying out the cash. There is also an LMT version which adds Lifetime Map updates.
So if you're looking to enter the market, or it's time for an upgrade, grab one of these now. And don't dawdle else I mow you down in the rush to grab the last one, you can do a lot worse than spend your hard earned cash on a Garmin nüvi 2360.
All thumbnail screen-shots and images in this review are clickable
||121 x 76 x 15mm
10.9cm (4.3") 16:9 wide screen
||480 x 272 pixels WQVGA - dual-orientation
||Lithium-Ion (capacity not stated) up to 2.5hrs duration
8GB Internal flash
microSD Card Slot