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Garmin StreetPilot i3

In the midst of all the home shopping that is going on for the upcoming move up North, I had a thought:

I am not going to have any idea where I'm going when I get there.

This is true. I've lived in the tri-state region of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all my life. I don't know anywhere else very well. As a matter of fact I don't really know the western half of Connecticut that well either, but that's another story. In short, while it's true I know of the major routes like I-95 in the north, the rest is completely foreign to me.

The solution is to get a mobile GPS unit. I have been toying with the idea of getting one for the last year, but haven't because of one reason: Cost. GPS units are very, very expensive. You can easily spend thousands of dollars on one.

Garmin just introduced to the market two baseball-sized automotive windshield mounted (via suction cup) GPS units, the StreetPilot i2 and i3. The only difference between the two is that the i2 is monochrome (black/white with grays) and the i3 is 32,000 colors. Both are backlit and can be read in sunlight (very important). Both will talk to you to tell you things like upcoming turns and whatnot. Both will display maps in 3-D or 2-D. But most importantly, the price is less than half of their bigger units. You can get the i2 for $300.00 and the i3 for $400.00. I decided to splurge and got the i3. I should be receiving the unit sometime in August. I'll be able to write a detailed review of it then.

Here's what convinced me to buy the i3:

1) It's made by Garmin.
There are other manufacturers of mobile GPS units like Lowrance and Magellan, but I've noticed that units made by Garmin last longer and can take abuse. My pop owns a Rino 120 and its as tough as nails. They can definitely take a beating. I also like the fact that Garmin recognized that there are those of us out there that want small, simple (but informative) mobile GPS units.

2) Cost.
Definitely a large factor. Through my research, I could find no other dash or windsheld mountable GPS-only (meaning not PDA) units in the price range that Garmin is offering.

3) Easily transportable.
If I want to move the unit from one vehicle to another, I can do so, with ease - to any vehicle.

4) Data can be easily loaded to the unit, and comes with data.
The i3 comes with a "MapSource City Select North America NT v7 DVD" with the unit - you don't have to buy it separately. Very nice. Data can be loaded via a TransFlash card with USB. This means I can pop the DVD into my laptop and send the data with no fuss, no muss.

5) Comes with a car charger.
I like this because I don't have to buy one separately.

6) Runs on 2 AA batteries.
If the car charger fails or if I lose it, this thing is said to run for around six hours on 2 AA's.

Possible bad things about the i3 (this is strictly guessing because I don't physically have it yet):

1) No touch screen.
You have to use a wheel/click thing. The interface is completely menu driven. This may prove to be difficult setting a POI (Point-Of-Interest).

2) Too small?
The display area is 176x220 pixels. That's pretty damn small. I don't know how readable this unit actually is. We'll find out soon enough.

3) Brightness control?
The description mentions nothing about whether you can set the brightness of the display or not; something I find important, especially for night driving.

4) Volume control?
The description also mentions nothing about a volume control for the talking portion of the unit. I would hope there is one, either by dial, knob, menu-on-screen or whatever.

Stay tuned for my next entry on this one...

Product link for Garmin StreetPilot i3

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