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'Tis the season for giving

My Christmas present this year is a Garmin StreetPilot c340 from Pop (thank you Pop), but this is not my first Garmin Mobile GPS. Since it was introduced I've been using the Garmin StreetPilot i3 which I'll be giving to my sister since I won't be using it any longer.

(Incidentally, Pop bought himself the Garmin StreetPilot 2720. Holy moly is that thing nice. If I get the chance to use that thing I'll be sure to write about it.)

So this begs the question(s): Why the c340? What's wrong with the i3? I'll answer that as best I can.

As I said a second ago, I've been using the i3 since it was introduced to the market.

Here are the things I liked about the i3:

Rock solid reliable

Always turns on and has never failed. Contrary to some message boards I've read that Garmin GPS' have a problem getting a signal - that is absolutely false. (If any of those message board guys read this, we're not talking about the 2610, okay?) I have never, ever had a problem getting a signal with the i3. As a matter of fact, the only time I've ever lost a signal is when I went through a tunnel that went through a mountain. So if anyone tells you that Garmin GPS' have a problem acquiring signal, take it from me, it doesn't. It does work.

Unfortunately from experience I can say that I've dropped the i3 on the ground a few times (taking it to/from different vehicles), but the fortunate part is that it has never broken. It can definitely take a beating.

I have also used the unit in both extreme heat and extreme cold. It's never complained - and the display always looks the same. The display never needs to "warm up", it's instant-on and stays that way which is good.

Great display

The i3's display is great. Even though it's small, it can be clearly read and the brightness and day/night options can all be changed to personal preference.

"Favorites"

I really like the fact you can "bookmark" anything, even while driving. Just hold the center wheel button whereever you are and it will respond with a beep and save the waypoint - even if it's in navigation mode. Nice.

And here are the things I didn't like about the i3:

Plate mount sucks

The i3 comes bundled with a small black plate which you can stick to your dashboard and then using the suction mount to mount the unit. You also can opt to just mount the i3 on the glass instead of using the plate mount.

If you mount the i3 on any piece of glass (like a windshield), it will stay there.

If you mount the i3 on the plate mount it will fall off from time to time - and it's very annoying. The plate mount itself won't un-stick itself, but the i3 will periodically take a dive to the floor. It doesn't hurt it at all, but while driving in navigation mode it can just ruin your day or at least ruin your trip. I've found that the "secret" to getting the i3 to stay on that mount is to wet the suction mount on the i3 itself and wet the mount before mounting it (such as with a damp cloth or paper towel).

You cannot change the information on the bottom

In "regular" mode, there are two small fields at the bottom display. On the left is how fast you're going (in mph or kph) and on the right is what direction you're traveling in (North, South, East, West or variant like Northeast, etc.)

In "navigation" mode, the fields are different. On one side is your estimated time of arrival to your destination, the other is how many miles (or km's) until your next turn.

You can't modify any of these. What you see is what you get.

On the handheld Rino 130 by Garmin you have four fields and you can change all of them to read whatever you want them to. The i3? Can't change a thing. I don't like that.

What town am I in?

The i3 will tell you how to get anywhere, obviously. That's what it's for. But it would be really nice if it would tell you where you currently are. I'd love it if you could modify the top of the display to read "Now entering (whatever town you're entering)" when entering a town and then simply read "(town and state)" when in that town/state. That would be nice. It shows everything else like roads, streets and highways. Why not the town and state? How hard would this be to implement, seriously?

Even better: The top could alternate (while not in navigation mode) between what road you're traveling on (which it already does) and what town/state you're in every five seconds. That would kick major ass.

Wheel troubles

Before I go off on this one: There is nothing wrong with the scroll wheel on the i3. It's always worked as expected.

My biggest gripe about the wheel on the i3 is spelling anything using it. It just takes a really long time. I understand there is no other way to do it with a unit this size - but it's still time consuming.

Other than that it works fine.

Tiny bit too small

As I've said from the first time I wrote about the i3, it's just a little bit too small. If they added just twenty extra pixels on the display it would be perfect.

In day driving the display is fine. It's only at night when the small size bothers me. I have no real explanation for why this is other than I notice it and the extra size would help.

--

This leads me to my reason for wanting a c340: Size.

I can deal with the i3's fudgy plate mount, lack of modifying fields on the display and the annoying-but-necessary wheel - but a larger display is definitely in order; that's why I'm getting the c340.

The c340 also has touch-screen (no wheels save for volume control) so making input is much easier. There are also some additional features like coming preloaded with the entire USA, Canada and Puerto Rico maps - very nice.

Some notes on data storage in the i3:

In the i3 I had to upgrade the TransFlash card from the existing SanDisk 128MB to SanDisk 256MB because I needed to input a ton of areas into it. At one point I was travling from Maine to Indiana which is a large distance (over 1000 miles). The 128MB card would hold almost all the data I needed in there, but just fell short by a tiny bit. Seriously, it was close. A 256MB TransFlash card bought at Circuit City fixed that problem and it wasn't too expensive.

The i3 will take other data storage cards and I'm assuming it will take a 1GB card, BUT... bear in mind you are taxing its processor with the more data you input into it. When I plotted a trip from Maine to Indiana, the i3 "thought" about it for almost forty-five seconds - and that's a long time for the i3 (it will usually calculate a route in less than ten seconds).

When you load in a new TransFlash card to the i3 it does not lose it's Favorites so you don't have to program them in all over again - but you do have to load in the map data via DVD to the new card (obviously). My i3 very happily accepted the new card and the data transfer to it was easy; just plug in USB, pop in the DVD and off you go.

The c340 also has text-to-speech which is cool. While the i3 would say (in navigation mode) "In one mile turn left", the c340 says "In one mile turn left on Center Street". Nice. Not exactly necessary but nice nonetheless. I'm sure I'll get used to it rather quickly. (grin)

I'll be writing a review on it once I get it which will be real soon.

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