Garmin iQue 3600
I was fortunate enough for a friend to lend me his Garmin iQue 3600 that just arrived, which he pre-ordered two months ago (thanks Tim!). The Form
The first thing that struck me when I saw the iQue was the size of the screen. Comparing the screen with the hi-res+ screens of the other Clie models, the size is identical. Comparing the brightness and color of the screen, side by side with the other Clie models, it seemed like it has a milky hue and isn't as bright. As for the size, compared with the NX80, it is a bit shorter in length and a comparable width. The iQue is thicker at the top to accommodate the flipping GPS and tapers down to the bottom. Laying it flat on a table makes it easier to see the screen since it is somewhat tilted up because of the uneven thickness. The GPS antenna also doubles as a stand to have the screen tilt forward and see the screen better; of course I don't recommend this. It has a 'ESC' button which is similar to the back button on a Clie, a 'REC' button for easy voice recording and pausing in WAV format, and a jog-dial which is actually a jog-rocker that you just push up or down (not scroll), or press to select an item. It has an SD slot at the top (which Garmin has confirmed that it does not support the Palm Bluetooth SD as of the moment) and as I previously mentioned, an integrated GPS with a flipping antenna. A rubber covered external antenna plug is located at the top in case you need to connect an external antenna for better satellite reception. It also comes with a detachable leather flip cover that flips down, instead of the usual flipping upward, and can be folded to the back.
The following are pictures of the iQue with the Clie NZ90, NX70, NX80, and TG50:
Now, on to the navigation test. The Set-up
iQue comes with the bundled, $117 worth, Garmin's MapSource City Select v5
software that comes in two CD's, which contains all the detailed and partial maps for North America and Canada (or Europe depending where you purchase the iQue). A note though to Garmin GPS users -- the City Select license that comes with the iQue is for it to only work with the iQue, although additional licenses can be purchased separately. Installing the Garmin Palm Desktop (required) will add a new icon in the Palm Desktop application labeled Map Install. This launches the City Select software on your PC.
City Select is divided into zones and a zone is divided into several map regions. It is up to you which regions you want installed as long as you have the space on your iQue or your SD card -- yes, it reads the detailed maps off the SD card (really fast!). The disadvantage though is, it compiles all your selected maps into one file so, if you want to add additional regions, you have to select all the previous regions you have selected before. The total size of the map database, with all the regions selected for the North America map, is around 1.5GB for those who want to know. Anyway, in my test, I installed the region where I live directly on the iQue (just in case I take out the SD card), and all the regions that make up West Virginia on the SD card (a total of 23MB). By the way, I have to mention that during the first hotsync, a 5MB base map (which contains the major roads of North America and Canada) gets installed to iQue, bringing the available space to 17.8MB free out of 32MB where only 22.8MB is user accessible. There is an option to delete the basemap though if you want to and just use detailed maps.
It doesn't come with a car mount or a car charger, but these are optional accessories that you can purchase. Gamin sells the optional Automotive Navigation Kit
for $80 and the 12-volt power/charging adapter
for $30. The Apps
I have been a fan of Garmin when Geocaching
became popular. I own two Garmin GPS': the eTrex Basic and the eTrex Vista. When I first ran the GPS applications that came with the iQue, they were all somewhat familiar already. I have to commend Garmin for successfully porting their screens and applications to the iQue.
Flipping up iQue's GPS antenna will show a warning with regards to not attempt to enter information or adjust the device while driving. The middle part of the status bar will then show a searching for satellites animation. Clicking on it anytime will launch the QueGPS application which is Garmin's standard screen of locating satellites, showing satellite signal strengths, longitude and latitude, satellite date and time, speed elevation, and accuracy. Speaking of accuracy, iQue comes with WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System), which increases the accuracy of the GPS to up to 3 meters when turned on. With a good lock on several satellites, the device is ready to go.
QueMap is the mapping application of iQue. The thing striking about the maps is it the details and color (you can even set the detail level and change colors background color for day and night driving if you want to). Running QueMap while the GPS is on will immediately show a black location arrow where you are currently at. If the GPS is off, it shows the location arrow to as to where you last were before you lost the GPS signal. Using the jog-rocker, you can zoom in/out depending on how detailed and how close you want the map to be. You can both pan through the map and zoom in on specific location on the map by clicking on the corresponding icon on the QueMap toolbar. Clicking on the location arrow on the toolbar centers your location on the map. If you are not on a road, a small blue ring (accuracy circle) appears, which shows the accuracy of your location -- the smaller the circle the better and the more satellite locks, the smaller the circle. Clicking anywhere on the map brings up the Map Pointer and shows information on the point you clicked. If you clicked on a road, it will pop-up a callbox showing the street number and street name. If you click on a point of interest (described more later), it pop-ups its name. On the QueMap tool bar, the information icon can be clicked to show the full address (with city and zip) of the currently selected item. It even shows additional information such as the phone number, if it is a point of interest. The flag icon on the toolbar lets you create a waypoint on your current position. Creating a waypoint automatically creates a contact -- yes, Garmin has integrated waypoints to the Palm Address application. A contact with a GPS address is marked by a flag icon beside where the usual note icon is, when you attach a note to a contact. Finally, there is also a show/hide status window icon to show/hide your current speed, distance and time to the next turn, ETA to the final destination, and the instructions for the next turn.
QueFind is the search engine app of the iQue. It can search for specific addresses from the installed maps as well as from your recent searches, waypoints, and points of interest. Searching by waypoints or by points of interest let you sort based on name, based on the distance from where you are, or based on where you click on the map. The points of interest are further categorized to food and drink, lodging, shopping, entertainment, etc. and then categorized further to, lets say for the food and drink category, American, Asian, Barbecue, Chinese, etc. Of course, Garmin didn't forget the standard Palm OS Find to search the databases of other applications.
QueRoutes is the route manager app. It lets you set the route finding preferences to use Faster Time, Shorter Distance, or Off Road. From my testing, it seems like when set to 'Faster time', iQue will try to use interstates and highways and will try to avoid stoplights if possible. For 'Shorter Distance', it will pick roads and sidestreets that altogether use the least distance to the destination. 'Off Route' is good for geocachers and hikers -- it keeps plotting straight-line directions to the destination (waypoints). A feature that probably differentiates iQue with the other navigation apps id the 'Edit Via' feature. It lets you plan your trip, with multiple stops recalculating your route as you keep adding more stops. It also has a Detour feature, which lets you tell iQue that there is a detour within 0.5, 1, 1.5, etc. miles away and iQue will try to go around from it.
QueTurns shows the turn-by-turn directions in text form, similar to the driving directions you print off from map quest. It is complete with arrow turn symbols, time and distance to the next turn, and remaining time to the next turn. It shows at the bottom of the screen the time you will get to your final destination. It is interesting to note that all the time values are computed based on the speed you are currently going.
QueTracks is iQue's trip recorder. It records all the things you do on a trip, wrong turns, detours, etc., for later playback. I believe this be good for geocachers to log their trails so they can trace it back if needed.
QueTrip is iQue's trip computer. It shows you an odometer, your current speed, heading, stopped time, driving time, average speed, and maximum speed. All of the values can be reset anytime.
QueAudio is iQue's MP3 player. QueAudio can play MP3 files in the /AUDIO folder of the SD card. Although you can't create playlists, you can sort by song title and has a shuffle feature. Amazingly, Garmin has found a way to play the mp3's on the background while at the same time giving voice directions.
Lastly, QueVoice is the voice recorder of iQue. It records in WAV format and recordings can be saved in iQue or by default, to the SD card. If you need to interview someone while navigating, yes, you can. If the GPS is on, your recording gets automatically tagged to the location you are at. The Driving Test
What amazed me is how fast iQue generates routes -- yes, iQue has street routing generation built in. I have to say that it takes good advantage of its 200Mhz processor. From my tests, iQue averages less than 5 seconds to plot a route and just a few seconds when automatically generating a new route if you missed a turn or decided to take a different street from what iQue suggests. Contrary to most navigation apps where you specify the start and destination when you want to plot a route, iQue seemed to stray from the concept of specifying a different address as your starting point. What it allows you to do though is to only plot a destination, and some stops in between your trip. I'm not sure if this is a good idea since if I want to give directions to someone from one place to another, or see a preview of directions going to a certain place after I reach my destination, I can't. Maybe there is a workaround on this to set my starting point to somewhere else, but it wasn't obvious to as to how I can do it. UPDATE:
I found the way to change my starting location. To change it, I had to go to QueGPS (the satellite view), and choose Options->New Location->Use Map, and then point to the new starting location (whew!).
When following the route set by iQue, you have the option under Prefs to set the orientation of the map with regards to your location. You can have the map static, and have the location arrow turn and follow the route, showing immediately what direction you are going. Another option is to have it Track Up when you are zoomed in to the map. This will have your location arrow always pointing up on the center, slightly bottom of the screen, and have the whole map rotate in real time. For me, this is the mode I use so as to easily match on the map what is in front of me. As I mentioned earlier, you can set the detail level of the map as well as the background color (or to auto based on the system time) for clarity of the map when driving during the day yellow background) or at night (black background).
On my testing to have iQue drive me from home to work, I had my routing preference set to 'Faster Time', to compare my usual route to what iQue would generate. I tried to follow its directions turn by turn and found one difference on my usual route. It wanted me to take a turn on a side street instead of using the main road. I followed its request and led me to the same entrance to the interstate. After some analysis, it seemed wanted me to use that street to avoid a stop light from the main road that I was used to using, going to the interstate. Although I still prefer the main road to use, since the side street that it preferred will cross the train tracks twice, I still admired it for giving me that option. Anyway, the next day, I did the same thing, but this time followed my usual route along the main road. A few seconds after I deliberately miss the turn to the side street it suggested, it prompted me with an "Off route, recomputing..." message and plotted my usual way to the interstate.
Here is one more feature I love about the iQue -- the turn previews. When nearing a turn or a major split, it pops-up a Turn Preview window, zooming on the turn, complete with big bold arrows pointing to the direction of the turn. A voice prompt (eg. "In 300 feet, turn right") tells you the distance from the turn and the location arrow shows where you currently are on the Turn Preview window. If there are two successive turns that you need to make, the Turn Preview window shows both turns, again with big arrows, and the voice prompt tells you about the two turns (eg. "In 300 feet, turn right and turn left" -- Listen: win
After a turn, by default, QueMap zooms out to show you where you are from you final destination. It then automatically zooms back in a few miles at a time and keeps going it lets you see the street details. Street names by the way are well marked on the map. It even gives you an option on the text size of street names -- none, small, medium, or large (Garmin has been very detailed on what you can change under Prefs). The jog-rocker, as I have mentioned earlier, can override the auto-zoom and zoom in/out on your location anytime.
If you are about to arrive on your destination, the Turn Preview window pops-up again to prompt you that you are near your destination. Based on the street number, iQue even determines where you need to look (eg. "Arriving at destination on right"-- Listen: win
). ). The Bad
If it seems like I haven't motioned anything bad about the iQue it is because it is indeed an excellent navigation device BUT the main problem is, you've guessed it, battery life. Thirty minutes of use with the GPS on, at one-fourth the brightness, brought down the battery level to almost a half. Maybe because WAAS is turned on feeding continuously my location every second or maybe its the SD card access. An external car charger
is a must, or the Automotive Navigation Kit
accessory, that has an integrated charger plus an external speaker, is another good option. I haven't heard of third party car accessories out yet but I'm sure they'll come out soon. If you will use the iQue outdoors and you think you will use it for more than an hour, you better wait for some battery extender accessories to come out first.
Another problem that I found is an occasional hang. I found that when plotting a route when the GPS is not active, and the antenna is down, at times the small satellite graphic on the status bar at the bottom appears to be looking for satellites and hangs the system. After around a minute, it gives up and plots the route normally. I'm hope Garmin releases a patch for this soon.
I'm sure some will be disappointed that the GPS in the iQue is not NMEA compliant. Garmin released the iQue SDK for developers
to use freely, allowing access to iQue's GPS information such as the GPS status, position, velocity and time, as well as other built-in features in the iQue. Muskoka Tech
, the makers of PathAway
, a popular GPS enabled tracker app, has provided me a beta of PathAway that already works with the iQue -- I guess their product is the first third-party app to successfully integrate with the iQue. Conclusion
All I can say is, for those wanting the best navigation device on their PDA, this is it. Garmin has put so many features inside the iQue and has integrated it with the Palm OS flawlessly. I can't even believe that Garmin created the iQue that would seem kill their other navigation products such as the StreetPilot III
, and GPS V
. For those wanting a hi-res+ device without the keyboard and can't wait for the rumored Tungsten T3, the iQue is a good option. As for the battery problem, I hope Garmin can address it -- maybe by using Sony's speed adapting processor used on the Clie UX? For those who got turned off regarding the iQue not supporting the Palm Bluetooth SD card, I can only say that it is a navigation device aimed for those who need it, and who knows, Garmin might release a patch to support it and other SDIO cards.
The price of the Garmin iQue 3600 is currently $589 although in some on-line stores, it goes as low as $479.
Read: Review: The Clie Car Cradle (PEGA-CC5)