Garmin Nuvi 300 personal travel assistant

24 May 2006

Normally when asked to review a global positioning system (GPS), I hesitate. This is because reviewing such systems can be a hit-and-miss affair: the device works but the software doesn’t because the mapping software doesn’t have information about Ireland.

To my delight — and relief — the Garmin Nuvi 300 personal travel assistant brought the potential of GPS as a potential business and consumer phenomenon to life.

GPS systems for vehicles have been around for a while. Mostly they are built into cars and trucks or are massive dashboard-mounted systems that are both expensive and unwieldy. Ownership of GPS devices was the privilege of a few — a yacht owner or a tech savvy taxi driver perhaps.

However, the worm has turned and research out last week by Gartner revealed that 40pc of car owners are looking for in-vehicle navigation technology and that the devices are heading in the direction of commoditisation.

Certainly the Garmin Nuvi 300 proves that this is possible. About the same size as a BlackBerry email device, the Nuvi 300 can be attached to your car’s dash or popped in your pocket.

Within a minute of turning on the device I was able to pinpoint my exact location on the map. As I motored down the M50 I could track the exact movements of my car on the map and even see how the satellite could track how fast my vehicle was moving.

The real long-term potential and accuracy of GPS came alive on a wet and windy Monday morning down the country when after checking the air on my tyres I entered the device’s touchscreen menu and did a search for ‘fuel’ and the device matched up to the very metre the precise location of the petrol station I was standing in.

You can search for addresses, food, lodging and fuel and having selected a place nearest to you the device will plan a route and help you get there as quickly as possible, also calculating your journey time. Just imagine tying in a GPS product like this with a Google Map-like service and the commercial implications are massive. You can also search through address databases and plan a route to a specific location.

Another aspect of the device that surprised me was the Nuvi 300’s ‘travel kit’, which includes a language guide, a travel guide to most European cities and which ties in with satellites so you can find a restaurant or hotel in Paris or Milan. The device even boasts an MP3 player and audio book reader.

All in all the Nuvi 300 has brought GPS to both a price and usability point that ordinary consumers can appreciate. The device is available from Dixons in Ireland for €429.

Handling ****
Features ****
Performance ****
Value for money ***

By John Kennedy