Garmin iQue 3600 GPS review

The Garmin iQue 3600 is a portable PDA with a builtin GPS Navigation Receiver. Check the Garmin web site for more information. This page is a review of the GPS operation of this unit. It is intended to supplement the overall review.

GPS Operation

The second question that comes to mind for some users is: "Ok, it is a PDA but is it a full function GPS like other Garmin units?" Again, the answer is yes! This unit has most of the functions of other Garmin units and a few that no other unit has. The GPS can be started by either opening the antenna on the back of the unit or by inserting an external antenna plug into connector on top of the unit. If the PDA is on then the GPS will immediately start, otherwise it will start when the unit is turned on. A lawyer screen will appear which can be cleared when you press the Que button or by tapping the screen. Pressing the Que button will display the map screen by default (user configurable) showing something similar to the display shown at the left. Click the image (and any of the ones below) to see it at full resolution. The size on this screen is meant to provide some idea of the size on the actual unit depending on your monitor settings.

The map shown to the left is depicting the use of the GPS to display your real time location while driving down the road. The unit displays more information in this non-navigation mode than any other PDA program I have seen. It shows a text description of what you are doing at the top. If there are cross streets ahead they will be indicated here when you get close to them. The direction you are traveling is shown as either cardinal letters or actual numeric heading depending on user preference. To the right of the direction indication the unit shows your current speed and a smaller text area shows information about the road you are traveling on. On surface streets this will indicate the street address as well as the street name.

The map itself can be oriented with either North at the top or with your current direction shown as up. When you set current direction as up the small arrow at the upper left shows the direction of North. The detail on the screen display is configurable based on zoom level to provide needed information or to reduce clutter. The large arrowhead in the lower center shows the current GPS position and direction of travel.

Just below the map is a row of special command buttons. The left most box allows toggling the text display on and off to increase the size of the map display area. The flag can be tapped to create a waypoint at your current location (which can also be accomplished by holding down the jog dial wheel for two seconds). Next is the info button. If you tap any object on the map an arrow will appear and some information about the spot will appear. If you want more information the info button can be tapped. It shows a great deal of information about the spot you tapped. If there are poi's (points of interest) near the tap it will show information about each of them including such things as type of poi, type of service that is offered, address and telephone number. Other objects will show similar detail and finally the lat/lon of the location can be viewed. When you tap the black arrow that looks like the location icon the GPS location will be recentered on the screen. This permits tapping other screen locations or dragging the screen around to pan the display without worrying about the GPS location. Tapping the arrowhead will return you to the GPS location and onscreen tracking. If you are panned, then using the esc button on the side of the unit will perform the same function. This is handy when you need to return to the GPS location and don't want to use the stylus, such as while driving.

The next two boxes allow selecting between pan and zoom when you drag the stylus across the screen. When in zoom mode a box is drawn when you drag the stylus or finger and you will be zoomed into the box outline. For fixed level zooming the right most field can be used. It provides an indication of your current zoom level and it can be tapped to reveal a menu of all possible zoom levels. They range from 120 feet to 800 miles. Note that zooming in this way will be centered on the GPS position, on the white arrow if it is visible, or on the center of the screen. Another way to zoom is to use the page up/down keys to zoom out or in.

When Garmin first announced this product I expected that the GPS would be designed in such a way as to be somewhat independent of the Palm OS and that is indeed the case. It runs separately from the Palm OS in background and will continue to run even when other applications are in use. This is a really valuable feature in that you can freely use the PDA for any task and will always have the GPS data up to date and ready to view. What I didn't expect was that the interface to the GPS engine portion would be via a whole bunch of separate Palm executables. These executables provide the user interface to a common data structure that is maintained by the background GPS engine. As shipped from Garmin these executable reside in a new category called "Que" on the launcher. Garmin chose to include all their supplied application here (except for card info) but for our purposes I am going to leave the QueAudio and QVoice application out of the discussion as they have already been reviewed in the PDA section. We are then left with the Clock, Find, GPS, Map, Routes, Tracks, Trip, and Turns applications for a total of eight. This is actually a clean and versatile way to code the product since each piece is somewhat independent. Several of these applications (4) are shown on the bottom row of the display and are part of a permanent menu to the unit. Of these 8 applications QueFind and QueRoutes were changed to verion 1.1 from 1.0 but changes to the GPS engine may cause other applications to behave differently. I was surprised that the QueMap application version was not updated since the fixes include an improvement in Topo line visibility. I find the grid lines still difficult to see on the road maps, particularly with daylight colors. Hopefully the grid color will be changed in the future, or made configurable.

Working from left to right in the picture above, you should see the home icon and the menu icon on the left. These are identical in function to the left side of the graffiti display and may be used in lieu of the these items when the display is turned off. They are identical to the standard Palm launcher and menu icons and serve the same purpose. The next two icons are also from the graffiti area. The first one is the route icon which invokes the Routes application. This function can be reprogrammed by the user to be whatever application they wish (even a different Que application) and is the only button on the bottom row that is customizable. However, even if the function is changed the icon shape remains the same. On a standard palm this is usually pointing to the calculator. The fourth icon button looks like the familiar Palm search function but it is not. Instead it brings up a display that contains the standard Palm search/find function as one of the command buttons. The rest of the buttons are the search menu for various items in the map database. The database is an awesome feature of this product. There are many categories and according to the cover of the CDROM there are over 5 million poi's in this database just from the City Select product. It should be pointed out that the iQue can work with multiple databases loaded and the search function can specify which map database is to be searched. This really is a replacement for the yellow pages. It tells you everything you really need to know and it can be sorted alphabetically, by distance from your current location, or by distance from any location you specify. It not only tells the distance but the direction as well so you will know if it is behind you or ahead. Try that with the yellow pages! And you can look over the location of the place on a map to decide if it is the one you thought it was and then let the unit guide you to it. If it is a poi you use frequently you can also store it in your waypoint list. The search function also keeps track of the history of prior searches and permits you to use them again easily. This is also the place where you can do direct address or intersection searches.

The next icon is in the center and displays a live status report on the satellite reception and battery condition. If you tap it the GPS status page will appear. There is more data on this in the GPS section below. After the large GPS status section comes the clock icon. This is a application that just pops up the time and date and then quits. If you invoke it from the main launcher it displays the same data but stays running. Behind the scenes this the tool that keeps the palm time in sync with GPS time. In version 3 this tool is also an alarm clock.

The next three icons are used for GPS and for other palm programs. The first sets the brightness and you need to use it a lot to help manage the power drain. I wish it would bring up a separate gauge setting when you have external power vs. battery power so that you didn't have to keep switching it. While we are at it this would also be a good place to include the power off timeout adjustment which would also be different for the external power vs. battery operation. Longer times than the palm standard are needed for GPS use including keeping the unit on. I now use a third party utility to do this but it should be built in. The volume control manager has just about every possible setting covered that you may need. The final icon is the one that toggles the virtual graffiti area on and off. If the switch is not permitted then this arrow is grayed out as shown above.

With 8 application plus QueVoice, the address book, and the datebook you have 11 applications to keep track of that can work with GPS. This makes the tool a bit complicated to learn. These are managed with the Que button plus the three hardware buttons usually dedicated to the address book, datebook, and QueVoice. You can program the Que hardware button to switch between the Que applications of your choice but this is not really enough to provide integration. For one thing if you have too many entries then it takes a long time to get back to the map page, and for another you need more direct traversal. It would help if the esc key worked like it is documented and really went back to the previous screen. This way you could go both ways through the list. In addition there is a QUE entry on the menu that is currently only used to provide a way to start a route to something from the address book, etc. I would like to see a list of the GPS applications on this menu as well, particularly the ones that aren't shown on the bottom of the screen, plus the route application since this one can be reprogrammed so it is not on the bottom row.

I would suggest a new user focus on the QueFind and QueRoute applications for route and destination use and reserve the other features for more advanced usage.

More on GPS

Tapping the center bottom GPS status area brings up the main GPS screen shown on the left. This is the most technical of all the screens on the Garmin and provides the most information about what is going on in the GPS engine. Many folks will never see the need to even visit this screen as most of the information they need is in the center display on the bottom. 2 satellites mean a 2D fix, 3 satellites means a 3D fix. The D in the center is present if you have a WAAS fix (WADGPS) and there are little radio waves shown when the unit doesn't have a fix but is trying. And besides if you lose a fix the lady will tell you anyway.

However, this screen shows the full PVT solution (Position in 3D, Velocity (speed and direction) and Time (date). In addition it also presents a guess about the current accuracy and shows the current almanac and ephemeris status for the GPS engine. Most of the data is shown in text but the course direction is shown by rotating the status display. Rotating this display can aid in showing the direction of the various satellites relative to your movement but when stopped in can be misleading. I wish there were a setting to make it North at the top when you wanted it. This display also shows the sun and moon position. In the display you can just see the sun getting ready to set about where the 47 WAAS SV is in the sky. Note that the moon is being show in the North as it is behind the earth at this time. I would prefer it if they didn't show the sun and moon positions when they are not visible as it just adds clutter and confusion. When visible the sun and moon positions are useful especially when you can use their positions as a compass aid to know the direction of North when stopped.

The fact that the sun and moon is shown correctly in the sky and the fact that the unit can automatically switch display colors at sundown and sunrise indicates there is really some astronomical data stored in the GPS engine. For version 3.0 there is a new application called Que Sun & Moon that will display this data and the phase of the moon. A second new application will display suggested hunt and fish time. These application support the current time and location based on the GPS as well as other times and locations.

The altitude shown on this page was not correct in the original release but has been corrected as part of the release 2. Generally the altitude can be set manually if you have a 2D fix on Garmin units, but not on this one, although it can be set before you have a fix to speed up the fix process. Note that while altitude is shown on this page the altitude is not saved in waypoints that you create although there is a field for the data. Nor can you cut an paste the altitude in. As a matter of fact there is no method provided to capture any of the GPS data for other uses. On this screen (or some place) there needs to be a way to capture the lat/lon number and/or the altitude value onto the clip board for use other places on the Palm.

As can be seen from the figure above WAAS is also a feature of the iQUE. It can be a bit difficult to gather the almanac data for the unit. I suggest reading my article on DGPS to see how to go about this. This data is also in my Garmin user manual.

The specifications for GPS reception are the same for this unit as for other Garmin products but I have found the sensitivity to be a bit less on my first units, in particular the TTFF (time to first fix) in the morning took longer than with my other Garmin units. Perhaps in wide open areas like Kansas the unit will lock quickly but where I live it typically takes a minute to a minute and a half while the specification is 45 seconds. My latest unit is much better in this regard and is not comparable with other units. I suspect Garmin must have fixed something and I now view this performance as quite good.

This unit like all other Garmin consumer units from the beginning of time has a dead reckoning mode. If a fix is lost the unit will continue to show that it is tracking for up to 30 seconds by using the last speed and direction to project its position. On the iQue using road lock this can cause it to jump to an adjacent road or even an intersecting road that is 90 degrees to the present road. Garmin really needs to update the algorithm to the 21st century by factoring in the road lock setting into the dead reckoning mode so that it holds the road if was on while dead reckoning is in effect. If a lock is regained in the 30 seconds the unit will quickly correct itself and continue tracking. If the lock is not obtained the unit will announce a loss of lock and back out any tracklog entry for this period.

The unit also includes a Trip meter that shows interesting statistics about the trip. The settings on this screen are independent of any routing so the trip needs to be reset manually. There is only one odometer setting for this screen which is too bad. This screen can also provide for a display in the unlikely event that you are in an area not covered by any of your downloaded maps. In addition to the trip statistics the unit can also generate a tracklog of your trip. This can be up to about 5000 points. The tracks application is used to manage the tracklog which also be saved into a save log of up to 500 points. For some reason the track preferences is not available in the tracks application but must be reached from another application like QueMap. Data collection is automatic and is done as described in my Garmin manual. You cannot control the tracking method except to request more or less points. You can also specify whether a full log is to wrap or stop (presumably with a warning), or turn the tracklog off entirely. You cannot generate a route from the log but you can view the log or saved logs on the map and follow them visually. Currently this is the only data you can easily get out of the Garmin GPS section of the iQue. If you have downloaded and installed the tracklog conduit the data will be saved on the pc each time the unit is hotsynced. It can then be viewed using the MapSource application which can overlay this data on a map.

Automatic Routing

Automatic routing can be programmed to try the quickest or the shortest and can be requested to avoid toll roads , U-turns, unpaved roads, and Highways. Tap the route button and then routing preferences to reach the screen. (While this is the general way to reach the routing preferences you can reach any of the Que applications preferences from any of the preference screen using a pull down menu.) You can also specify off road but this won't really work unless you also specify "Use GPS position" for the display on the map preferences page and it doesn't really route under this setting (more later). In addition there are settings for the kind of vehicle you are using which can take advantage of data in the database to guide the route in an appropriate way. For example it would not be a good idea to send a pedestrian down the freeway. While I haven't previously mentioned it, the preference screen and many other screens do have built in help to explain the meaning of some of the data requirements.

Once you have set your preferences you are ready to use the autorouter. There are so many ways to kick off the router it is difficult to even tell you how to get started but one of the simplest is to tap the find icon and select any of the choices for a find. Once you have the object selected you can tape the "route to" button on the form to kick off a route. The map screen will then look something like the screen on the left. The route will be shown in blue over the top of the map and the upper data has changed. Now the speed, distance to next turn, Time to next turn, and ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) to the destination will be shown on the top line and the next area provides detailed information about the upcoming turn or data about the road you are on it there is no imminent turn. All of the fields of data are coded into the program and are not changeable but they are generally what you would want. I have found the Arrival time to be the best estimate of any program I have tested either on palm or pocketpc devices.

The route is computed quickly and is generally similar to one I would have chosen but if you want to improve it this can also be done from the route "via form". Tap the route button with an active route on the screen and the "add via" will be shown so long as you have a fix. (I am not sure why you need to have a fix for this entry to appear and sometimes it will appear even when you don't have a fix so it is not consistent.) Generally adding one or two vias judiciously placed will cause the router to pick the exact route you would choose. If this route is one you plan to reuse you can save it for future use. This can be especially useful if you have a special way you like to get into or out of your home subdivision. Where I live there is a combination of both public and private roads. Some of the private roads have locked gates to prevent through traffic and most routers, including this one, tend to route right through the locked gates which of course doesn't work very well in practice. There is no support for avoid areas in this product for the current release but you can use the via facility to accomplish a similar function. To do this use a saved route as a starting point rather than the find command. Tap route, saved route, and then activate the saved route that has your preferred route. Once activated you can use the add via command to add the real destination. This also works in reverse if you are heading home but in this case you will add your current location. For the heading home case you may not even need to modify the route since the unit will automatically start using the route once you drive to a place that intersects the route. You can also kick off the recalculate to force it to compute a route from your current location that uses the active route. Be a little careful here as the router will route through your vias even if it would take you out of your way, but this is often not a problem since your vias are at the far end of the route. Vias can also be used to provide a route that goes through multiple locations as intermediate destinations, even if they are off the main route.

While I really like the via functionality the creation of the via was a bit of a pain. Normally I like to add vias graphically on the map and this is a supported option but when you bring up the map the programmer decided to set the zoom to 800 miles. In 3.0 there is a fix for this and the map zooms to the setting that shows the full route. The best method to set a via with the map is to select it before starting the "edit vias" command. If you do it this way there will be a choice to add your previously selected location as a via. In 3.0 you can also have the unit automatically sort the vias for the best order. this would be useful if they are really multiple places you want to visit.

Route guidance both visual and audible (if enabled). As you near a turn the preview screen will appear. This can be set to appear once or twice depending on your preference. While it looks like a snapshot of the upcoming turn it is really a live map as well. It can be zoomed using the page up/down keys and the car icon will move on the map if it is on the screen. It is a simplified map without the clutter of poi's and other distractions. If you prefer to see the map screen itself you can just tap this screen and it will go away. For some reason the distance and time data was moved to the bottom on this screen. Note that this sample is a multiple turn but the written directions only show the first part. The map and the audible instructions tell you about both turns. This screen will go away automatically on its own once the turn is completed.

Route guidance control is also on a preference screen. You can control the use of the Turn Preview screen and the audible settings. One nice feature is that you can set a preference to permit you to press and hold the Que button to bring up the turn preview screen at any time. You can also turn automatic recalculation on or off. If recalculation is on then anytime you go off the route it will provide a new route to guide you back. While it is pretty fast the unit will continue to update your position and provide you with information about your location while the recalculation is going on in the background. If route recalculation is turned off you will need to use the map display to find your way back to the route but once you get there the voice prompt and visual data will tell you that you are back on the route. The unit also have the ability to automatically zoom the main map display screen but I haven't found this to be very useful. It tends to zoom out too far and I am left driving on the blue line and all the roads around me have disappeared. Again the mechanism is an holdover from other units using manual routes and needs to be updated for an autorouting unit.

As mentioned earlier the quick reference card shows how to use the address book and the datebook to provide destinations for the router to use. This is a powerful concept but there is no direct support of these applications within the routing tool. Instead you must set them up ahead of time by using the location option that was added to these applications to create a waypoint for the location. Once the waypoint is created a little flag will appear beside the entry and the router can use this waypoint as a destination target. If you have one of these entries displayed and then jump to the Route application you can use them as a target directly or you can use the find icon and they will be listed with all the other waypoints you have defined in the waypoint list. The reverse is also true in that the waypoints are also shown in the address book. These waypoints tend to clutter the address book and it would have been nice if they would have automatically been placed in a category called "waypoint" (or perhaps a user specified name) when they are created. Since the waypoints are stored as address book entries they can have notes like any other address book entry. This makes the tool perfect for gathering GIS data in the field.

Route Planning

The details about the trip are available on the Route Turns screen which is available from the Turns application. This is a complete turn by turn summary of the entire route and is live so that it tracks your current travel. Any of the entries can be tapped to bring up the Turn Preview screen for that turn so you can familiarize yourself with the entire trip before you start. As with the other Garmin Que tools there is no method for you to share this data with anyone else in your caravan. It would be nice if there was an export command that could copy the data to a memo that could be beamed to the group. Currently the best you can do is to do a screen capture and beam the image to the others in your party assuming they have an image viewer.

There is very little actual support for route planning in this product. Generally it always expects a route to begin at your current GPS location and many of the functions are not present or don't work well when you don't have a fix which is not likely while you are setting at home in your arm chair planning your trip. You can generate an automatic route without a GPS fix and the unit will even offer to provide a simulated run of the route but the simulation is basically real time so it would take a long time to preview a long route. I suspect this feature is really for a dealer to demo the unit rather than for route planning.

You can use the pan and zoom capability to look over locations remote from your current location and can even check out poi's such as hotels in a remote city. You can use the new location feature of the GPS menu to set the simulated location to some other place on the map and then this place will be used to generate routes from. This will have no effect on your next fix unless the GPS is running while the this data is changed. Very precise starting points can be used by selecting objects, including waypoints, when specifying the new location.

The maps and database

Once the decision was made to use NavTech maps there is very little control that Garmin has over the map database. However, from the user perspective the database can make the product useful or worthless so I will give a few comments on it now.

NavTech is the leading supplier of autorouting map databases in the USA. It is used by all of the auto manufactures on their gps systems and most of the 3rd parties as well. They made their name and reputation from offering very accurate maps with good autorouting information for all of the major cites in the USA. In 2001 they decided that they needed to have coverage for the entire USA, not just the cities. This was the correct decision but the implementation seems to have left a lot to be desired. In the country the data is not nearly so accurate as it is the cities and NavTech in their rush to get the product out has really let the quality suffer, in my opinion. Note that some parts of the country are better than others so an individual opinion is likely to be made on a small sample of the overall database. For your area is might be perfect (well almost anyway).

The image on the left shows the 2003 City Select product with the older c. 1995 USA R&R maps to show the relative discrepency in roads and river data for the outlying countryside. This is an area just south of Jolon, CA. The solution for the iQue is to own other maps for outlying areas and 4 wheeling.

Garmin seems to purchase the premium edition and they do quite a bit of work on the resultant data. They have chopped up the maps into more reasonable sizes and provide good coverage of Lakes and other objects on the screen. They are missing some of the creeks and rivers that are present in some of Garmin's other mapping products. As already mentioned the poi database is the most extensive I have seen. While there are some duplicates and missing or incorrect items, overall I am very pleased with the data.

I will say that the roads are pretty much where they are supposed to be although some are missing or don't really exist. I have seen other products where the roads are shown more than 500 feet from their true location and I haven't seen this so far on this database. The time Garmin puts into massaging the data might make this database a bit older than some other products as NavTech releases new databases every quarter.

While the City Select product accompanies the iQue this is not the only mapset that can be used. As a matter of fact all of the Garmin mapsets can be used on the iQue including marine charts and topo maps. Any mix of these maps can be download to the iQue so long as they are all selected at one time. They can overlap or be for a totally different part of the world. You can use the MapInstall program or, beginning, with version 5.2, you can also use the MapSource to manage and create the download (iQue is listed as a target GPS device). However the actual download will not happen until you hotsync the device. Downloads happen pretty fast on the USB port but map creation can take a while depending on how fast your computer is and how much memory you have. It works pretty fast on my desktop unit with a 1/2 Gig of Ram. The iQue engine will only work with two maps at a time, one basemap and one detailed map. As already mentioned these should be stored on an SD expansion card for maximum capacity. On the card they will be in the GARMIN directory and are named GMAPBMAP.IMG and GMAPSUPP.IMG. It is possible to rename these files and thus have multiple files available or to use multiple SD cards to store several maps. Only the files with these exact names will be used by the GPS unit. Normally each map download will overwrite the GMAPSUPP.IMG file. You might also find a Garmin log file in this directory that is used by customer support. Renaming a map with a Palm ulitilty will likely require a soft reset or removing and reinstalling the SD card for the unit to recognize the change similar to the way QueAudio works.

Differing from other Garmin units the basemap on this product is removable and changeable. There are several basemaps delivered with the installation cdrom and they can only be installed from that cdrom setup program. There are basically three areas covered by basemaps, the Americas, Europe/Africa, and the Pacific region. These come in two sizes, one contains basically only the freeway system and a second, more complete larger one, contains all of the cities and most of the roads between cities and well as major roads within the cites. The smaller maps are about 6 Meg in size. The full basemaps are 13 Meg for the Americas, 13 Meg for the Atlantic, and 10 Megs for the Pacific. Each map covers the full world with country outline data. There is also a full world map that combines the three maps into one giant 31 Meg map. Each of these maps include the autoroute data needed to support the autorouter and the USA and Europe maps include some exit data for freeways highlighting roadside facilities. The basemaps can be used by the autorouter even if the other maps loaded for the area do not include autorouting data. This works surprisingly well. I tried loading the USA R&R maps only over the top of a USA basemap and I was able to route successfully and follow the route visually on the R&R maps. When the destination was not on the basemap the unit would just generate a route to a road somewhere near the location and then generate a line perpendicular to the road directly to the destination. The only problem I had was that, while I was traveling near that perpendicular line the autorouter would kick off a reroute which would, of course, fail and then it would do it again, and again. The rerouter should be smart enough to not kick off a reroute when you are not on a road and there is no road to the destination. I haven't checked to see if this behavior was fixed in revision 2.

Off road use

All waypoints are stored at their real location on the map and can be the target for navigation. In addition there is a setting in preference to display the GPS location locked to a road or at its actual position. There is also a setting under route preferences for off-road routes. If you turn road lock off but leave the router running and try and see the actual gps location the unit will turn road lock back on at the first turn. If you turn off-road routing on but leave road lock on then the unit will behave like off-road routing is not set. If you turn both off and generate a route to a destination the unit will draw a straight line to the destination and navigation will be done as a simple goto. Guidance will be shown and an estimate of arrival time will be given based, like the emap, on a filtered moving average using velocity made good towards the mark. There is no support for traditional routes on this unit, however this supported goto mode is certainly adequate for Geocaching.

I have also had the unit decide to use an off-road mode all by itself. Occassionally if I generate a route when I am in a parking lot away from all roads it will generate a route of straight lines between the turns on the route even though I have road lock on. The turns themselves are ok and the navigation is ok but the route lines are straight. The only way I could correct this was to enter the road and then initiate a recalculation from the route menu.

Car use

If you plan to use this unit in a car I would suggest the Garmin portable car mount for the iQue. This mount is well made and holds the iQue better than the cradle. It has special clips to hook into the back of the iQue and a release button on the side of the mount. It also has a power plug that includes an embedded speaker that provides plenty of volume for voice navigation. The mount provides both horizontal and vertical adjustment but not angular. On my Thunderbird there is no straight line on the dashboad. I can use the bean bag mount and it does not slip but the unit ends up tilted so I have to tilt my head a bit to read the screen. This probably does make the antenna a little less sensitive since it is not horizontal. After I looked at the mount I realized I should have also purchased one of the stick-on disk bases that can also hold the base mount. These are only about $12 and would work fine with the iQue, however they are not even listed in the list of iQue accessories on the Garmin web site. Using this mount I can stick the disk to the dash board and had a better upright position. More complicated installations can be accomplished with a third party mount from Ram-mount.

There is a volume control directly on the speaker for the Garmin mount. Unfortunately it doesn't have any indicator for the direction to increase volume or where the volume is setting. I would suggest you get it set where you want it and dap a little fingernail polish or paint on the dial to mark the spot. The voice commands are very clear via this speaker.

If you don't buy the Garmin mount you will need a good palm holder and a power connector that plugs into the Garmin universal serial port connector. These are both readily available for palm devices. You will also need some sort of adapter to your sound system from the headphone jack as the internal speaker is not adequate. You can either use a cassette headphone adapter or perhaps an iRock wireless music adapter to play through your fm radio. You can play mp3 files on your iQue while navigating to make up for the fact that you cannot use your radio. The headphone accessories will also work for the Garmin based solution if you want to listen to your mp3's in stereo while traveling down the road.

The high resolution of this display permits tiny text which is always a problem for Garmin programmers it seems. Road names can be a bit difficult to read whle traveling. Setting the local road names to large is a help and is recommended. What is really need is a full map magnifier option. For vehicle use this option could be selected which would double the pixel values leading to a 4x magnifier. This would make the maps very easy to read at a glance and would be easier than reseting all the preferences for driving and hiking/home use. Adopting the Palm method of providing a choice for large text on the various text screens would also help for the user. For example having large text on the poi selection screen would make it much easier to use your fingers to tap what you want as well as making it easier to see at a glance.

Tips and Limitations

There are some of these mentioned in the text but this section will highlight a few more that just didn't fit in the narrative. They are in no particular order.

  1. This unit was not designed to use without a stylus but a stylus is really pretty dangerous in a moving car. One solution may be a finger stylus as shown on my palm hardware page. Another solution is in the next tip.
  2. To avoid having to use a stylus while traveling you can set the find application in the Que rotation or tied to a hard button. Then preset some of the interesting things so that they will come up automatically. For example you could set the services (reachable by using the down button) to show "auto fuel" near current location. This way, if you get low on gas you can reach this easily without a stylus. Similarly you could preset "Food and Drink" to show "Fast Food" places near your location in case your stomach gets close to empty. Other categories could be preset as well.
  3. The screen on the iQue has a glare in the car when the light is wrong. I suggest you get a screen protector with a anti-glare finish. There are some made specifically to do this and they work well. Screen brightness with the lamp turned up all the way is adequate for car use.
  4. To conserve power or to avoid the distraction of the screen while driving use a low time setting. The unit will seem to shut off but it will wake itself up to announce upcoming turns and display the screen for the turn data.
  5. Waypoints can have icons but there are only 45 provided. However, there may be others available in the poi lists depending on the maps you may have loaded so you can save a poi as a waypoint and then rename and move to to use a poi icon for a regular waypoint.
  6. If you are following a route and decide to take a side trip you can just reset the route to the new location but another method would be to add a via for the side trip location which will automatically continue to the final destination after the side trip. Using this method means that you may not have to touch the unit for the entire trip.
  7. Believe it or not, even though this is the longest review I have ever written there are still features and capabilities I did not cover. Some are mentioned in the manual and some can be gleaned by comparison with other Garmin units. My manual on Garmin receivers may be helpful here. For example the there is full support for Datums and Grids. There is also support for detours around blocked roads encountered in your travels or just when the current route is grid locked due to commute traffic.
  8. This unit supports location awareness in a unique way. The find list includes, not only a list of finds with their distance (as the crow flys), but also includes an arrow pointing in the direction of the item. Thus if you ask it to find gas stations near your location it will list them all with arrows showing the direction and distance indicated. However, this display is not static but dynamic. If you leave the display up it will change as you move updating directions and distances. It will even add and drop locations to keep the close by ones on the screen. This means you can just drive with the display on the screen and watch for the station you want to appear. This dynamic location awareness has lots of uses once you get used to how it works.

    It also supports the ability to show poi's that are close to the active route. This means you can select gas stations or restaurants and watch for one that is within a set distance of the route you are already following.

3rd Party Apps

Garmin has released an API (application programming interface) that permits outside programmers to write code that will access data in the GPS engine. An example of one program is the Cetus tool shown at the left. I chose this application to illustrate the use of the API because it is free and it fills a gap in the main Garmin tools of not providing a compass navigation page. There are other tools already available and I suspect many more to come. Some of them compete with the Garmin in that they are basically mapping programs themselves. Among these are Outdoor Navigator from Maptech, PathAway, GPSPilot and Fugawi, while others are trying to fill in gaps in the Garmin offering. All have their place and all benefit in unique ways by supporting the Garmin unit. For example the GPS status display is always available so they don't have to worry about that, and if the GPS looses a lock the lady will announce the fact so they benefit from this as well. The user benefits in that even if he/she uses the 3rd party app the tracklog is still saved and even waypoints can still be saved by pressing the jog dial for a couple of seconds.

The user sees a unit with almost the same as a full standalone GPS receiver running in the background and no cables to bother with. The user benefits from having applications that Garmin would never write and the ability to have their own maps if they wish.

IQ Booster provides some things that Garmin left out. For example you could use IQ Booster to generate NMEA data for the serial port on the iQue from the GPS engine. If you have a custom serial cable to hook this universal palm connector to a computer you could have real time display on a laptop screen running MapSource or another mapping program of your choice. It can also import and export waypoint data using a simple text format. Unfortunately the author of IQ Booster seems to have dropped support for this product. Some of the featues of IQ Booster and a lot more are now available from Que Ware. There are some very interesting capabilties in Birdwatch and Fastfinger as well as a few other utilities.

PathAway and Fugawi add the ability to suport maps you can scan yourself to cover areas of the world or updates to data that is not available from Garmin. Outdoor Navigator from Maptech provides marine charts and topo maps. The topo maps have better coverage than the current Garmin offering. GPSPilot has several applications that are similar to the above. For a complete list of Palm Navigation apps check my main Palm page.

A Planetarium program has support for the Garmin iQue with a GPS plugin to set your current location. You can even use this program and your Garmin to set up your telescope.

Garmin provides API documentation that covers real time data from the GPS engine and information on controlling the graffiti area and using the jog dialer. They do not provide all the documentation for calls that their applications use to access the GPS engine. Generally the API seems to work well although the Cetus programmer has indicated that the direction data can return both positive and negative angles which are not mentioned in the documentation.


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Revision

2003/10/29 split this page from main review and revised for 5.2.1r2 release.
2003/11/10 revised based on getting a new unit from Garmin.
2003/11/19 added MapTech and discussion on background recalc.
2004/02/16 added tip on dynamic location awareness.
2004/03/06 added 3.0 support.
2004/03/21 added more based on returned unit.
2004/10/7 added planitarium.

By: Dale DePriest - all rights reserved.