Lowrance IWAY 350C




Automotive GPS with MP3 Player

May 30, 2006
Review By: Sam Penrod

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Overview

The Lowrance IWAY 350C is one of the newest auto navigators on the market, featuring pre-loaded maps for North America, color touch screen and text to speech voice directions.  Comparable in price to Garmin's StreetPilot c330 and the Magellan Roadmate 360, the IWAY 350C adds the features of an MP3 player, picture viewer and features "text to speech" directions.  It lists on the street for $499.  Check discount prices here.  The IWAY 350C is similar to the IWAY 500C, however it is much smaller, similar in size to the Garmin c330 series.  The IWAY 350C is fully loaded with detailed auto-routing maps for the entire United States and Canada, using Navteq data.  Overall the 350C seems to be a good competitor for the basic GPS car navigator with some bonus features for the road, including the MP3 player and a built in FM modulator.

The Package

The Lowrance IWAY 350C package comes with the basic accessories needed for operation out of the box.   It includes:
The Lowrance IWAY 350C GPS receiver, fully loaded with detailed maps of the USA and Canada (Navteq data)
A 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter for power inside of a vehicle
A USB cable to connect to a computer for unit operating software updates
A windshield suction cup mount-- gooseneck style
A screen cover
An owner's manual 
SD card slot (card not included)



How it works

The IWAY is easy to use, right out of the box with its preloaded map data.  The only physical button is the power button, which is centered underneath the screen.  On the left is an SD Card slot.  On the right side, there is a USB connection, 1/8th inch stereo headphone jack and a 12 volt DC power jack. All of the other controls are made using the touch screen.  The main menu screen features four selections.  Map, Music, Find and Options.   You can navigate to a location and also listen to music on the MP3 player at the same time.  In fact, the music will pause, while the unit gives voice directions. The unit is very simple to operate, and we believe you will rarely need to reference the included instruction manual.  Here is a breakdown of the features and a brief description of what they do, as well as comments about what we found while using the IWAY 350C.  

Main Menu Screen




Map
The map page is the main page for use while navigating.  You have the ability to zoom in or zoom out.  By touching the left side of the screen, a vertical bar will appear.  The X on the top, will make it disappear, the arrows allow you to create a square for an automatic zoom of the area you choose.  The + and - are for zooming in and out.

Map Perspective
The IWAY 350C allows for North Up, Track Up and 3-D map perspective.  By pressing the icon in the lower right corner of the screen, you can switch between these options.  The N with the arrow up is for North Up, the N inside of teh black arrow is for track up and 3-D is for 3-D navigation.  The 3-D view is very good in our opinion and keeps most of the detail in view, while you are navigating a route.

Location Information
This is found in the upper right hand corner.  Pressing the icon will give you your lat/lon in mm.mmm format.  It will also give you the date and your altitude as well.  You can also create a saved waypoint at your current location.  It will be saved in the the Address Book.

Main Menu
The main menu is accessible in the upper left hand corner.  Pressing it, will bring up the main menu. If you press the signal strength meter in the upper left hand corner, you will get the satellite page.

Options

The options page allows you to customize your IWAY 350C. In our opinion it is easy to use.  It is divided into three pages, accessible by the tabs at the top of the page.  For some reason, some options are for setup, while other options are for actual functions, they are combined on all three option pages.



Page One

Directions List
When you are navigating a route, the directions list will give you step by step directions to your final destination, including time and distances updates.

Auto Zoom
This allows you to decide if you want the map to automatically zoom in or our, depending on your location, to what the unit believes is an appropriate view of the map.  I prefer to have this off, but other users may enjoy it.

Overlay Data Setup
This is an important function, with it, you can customize your screen and what you want to see on the map page.  Selecting too many items will clutter the screen, you will want to experiment to see which data fields are most helpful to you.

Route Via Waypoints
It is here that you can create a route.  For example, if you have four stops you need to make, you can program in each stop in order and get navigation directions for your entire trip.  Select a ‘New Route’ and then name it.  You can then select the points of your trip from the Find menu or by scrolling on the map page.  Once you add these points, you can change the order, if you want to make the stops in a different order than planned.  You can save several routes, if you make the same trips often.

Cancel Navigation
This is an important function, because it seems that the IWAY does not always cancel your route, even after you arrive at your destination.  I occasionally was prompted to "Cancel your route" but not usually.  Before you start a new route or if the IWAY is trying to route you back to your last destination, hit “Cancel Navigation.”  You can then select Quit Route or add a Via, if you want to add an additional stop on your route.

Routing Options
This allows you to select how you want the IWAY to create a route for you.  You have the option of avoiding cross- traffic turns, meaning if you would rather turn right, than have to turn left on a busy street, it will create a route to make it easier.  You can also avoid Toll Roads and select the degree of how often you want to be routed on Interstate Freeways.  This is also where you select if you want the Turn Preview Page to pop up, while you are driving.

Page 2

Categories Drawn
This is a feature that I really like.  Instead of just selecting at what map scale you want to see business or other POI icons, you can actually select what you want.  If you want to see Restaurants, but only certain types such as Fast Food, you can select that.  With all of the included POI’s, you can in this option customize exactly what you want to see and don’t want to see on the map.  I have not seen this feature with any other car navigators.  Be careful with the option however, because you can also make roads and highways disappear.  If this happens, make sure they are checked on Categories Drawn.

My Trails
The My Trails option, allows you to create a trail, commonly known as a track.  You can see exactly where you have been.  In this option, you can save several trails, and can select which color you want.  What is nice about this feature, is that you can select a track and then navigate it, if you need to follow your trail to find your way back, if for some reason you are in an area where there are no roads to route you on.

Trip Calculator
This helps you keeps track of your trip, including time, and average speed as well as trip distance.  You can reset this information, for each time you want to monitor this information.

Safety Mode
This is a common feature in all navigators now.  When the GPS senses you are moving, it disables your ability to make changes to the unit.  This is a safety feature to keep you from being distracted while driving.  With Safety Mode on, the unit will continue to give you voice directions.  If you disable it, a red X will appear over the icon.

Sound and Voice Setup
This is a setup menu, where you can select the sounds you get.  You can select if you want a tone to sound, every time you touch a key.  You can also choose if want any voice directions and if you want the unit to pronounce street names and distances, when you get voice directions.  You can also turn on or off, the FM modulator on this page.  You can also do this in the music page.  Other than the key sounds, I would suggest leaving the defaults for this page.

Interface Options
This is called Interface Options, but it is really the screen setup.  You can select from the Simple, Default or Nighttime screen options.  Unfortunately, they do not automatically switch depending on day or night.  You can also select when the backlight times out and also calibrate the screen.  And on the keyboard for entering address information, you can select either a standard keyboard arrangement of characters or one that is alphabetical.

Page 3

Units of Measure
This is where you can select between miles (Statute) and kilometers (Meters).  You can also change your heading from True North to Magnetic North as well as your preference for military time or standard 12 hour format. 

Reset options
This is where you reset all of the options back to the factory defaults.  You will be prompted once, before this happens to prevent an accident.

Device Information
This is where you see which software version your unit is operating on, as well as the copyright message on the map data.

GPS Status
This is the satellite page.  This is where you can get your current lat/long and altitude, as well as to see which satellites are getting reception and have a satellite lock.  If will also display if you have 2D, lat/lon, but no altitude, 3D, lat/lon and altitude as well as WAAS which means you are getting lat/lon, altitude and correction information.

Transfer Data
This is where you can send information to the data card or retrieve it from the data card.

GPS Simulator
You can select if you want the unit to simulate GPS information.  Helpful if you are inside and want to see the unit give you directions for a trip or want to demonstrate to someone how your IWAY works.

Find Page
This is the menu where you select where you want navigation direction for.  There are three pages, with tabs at the top of the page you want to select. 

The Find Menu includes:

Page One
GAS, ATM’s
Lodging
Restaurants
Recent Destinations
Address
Address Book

Page Two
Search All POI by Name
Attractions
Shopping
Emergency and Government
Cities
Service

Page Three
Intersection
All Others
RV Parks/Services
Rest Stops



With most of the selections, there are then several sub categories to break down your search.  For example, in the Attractions category, there are the following sub-categories: Amusement, Auditoriums, Historical, Marina, Museum, Parks/Zoos, Recreation Center, Sightsee, Sports, Stadiums/Arenas, Theatre Live, Theatre Movie, Tourist, Wineries/Brewery. 

I have noticed the categories are similar in Garmin and Magellan units, however, each company breaks the categories down into different names and groups them a little differently.  However, all companies seem to use the same vendor for the data, so most of the actual data should be close to the same. Overall, Lowrance says that the IWAY includes "more than five million points of interest for the U.S. and Canada."

Finding an Address
This is probably the most important function, where you select where you want to go.  Inputting an address with the IWAY works about average, as compared to other units.  You first select the house number, then the street name.  The state and city are also critical as well.  After all of this information is inputted on the screen, select “Find Address”  The search time was about average as well, before you are given options on which address is the one you were searching for.  Typically you are given a few possibilities, with variations on North, East, West or South, so look carefully to make sure you select the right one.  You then select the right one and will get a screen which will ask you, “Add to Addressbook” “Find on Map” or “Go To”  If it is a location you will go to frequently, you will want to add it to the address book.  If you want to see on a map where this address is located, then press Find on Map.  The IWAY does NOT have Auto Fill or Quick Spell, like other models which will anticipate what you are trying to spell out.

Routing

The IWAY 350 seems to do a good job in determining the best routes for you to travel.  This seems to be an improvement from occasional routing errors in the IWAY 500C.   In the 2000 miles I have logged with the IWAY, I did a couple of times see a route that was different and possibly longer than I would have taken.  However, the unit seemed to be trying to keep me on the interstate longer and was trying to avoid smaller highways, even though the distance of the route using the freeway was longer, by up to ten miles.  I noticed similiar routing issues with the RoadMate 360, although I have never seen this in the Garmin c330.  As far as routing through cities on surface streets, the IWAY did a good job and when running with the Garmin c330, the routes were almost always the same or similar.  The IWAY includes the option of when creating routes, to avoiding left hand turns.  This can be nice when trying to turn left onto busy streets.   I have not seen this option in any other auto navigators yet.  The unit also offers automatic re-calculation of the route, if you miss your turn and will automatically find a new route to get you to your destination.

Voice Directions
The female voice quality is the best in my opinion of any other car navigator.  The voice sounds real and is easy to understand.  The voice sequence, typically follows this standard as you approach a turn:  Announces at 15 miles, two miles, one mile, half mile, then on final approach.  Here are some sample voice commands given by the IWAY:

"Take next left "
"Go straight ahead on South 3 oh zero West"
"Take next right onto Highway 68
"Exit left in point five miles to I-5 South"
"Take next exit left to I-15 South"
"Exit Right in 27 miles onto Exit 282, then take next ramp right"
"Take ramp right in 1 point 2 miles to I-5 South"
"Freeway entrance on the left in point four miles"

The text to speech feature will give you verbally the names of highways and freeways and other streets that are numeric, such as 6800 West.  It does not give you the street names such as "Elm" or "Washington."  However, this information is visible on the screen in the navigation display.

Navigation Display
The unit will provide both voice and some on screen navigation directions.  They will appear in the lower right hand corner.  Your final destination will be listed at the top of the screen in the middle of the page.  There is also a 'pop up' preview page of your upcoming manuver, which will show you the distance to your turn, the direction and the distance to your final destination.  




Music and
Other Features

MP3 Player
The IWAY 350C includes a built in MP3 player.  You must load the music or other recordings onto an SD card and put the card in the SD slot.  You then select Music from the main menu, and you can select the songs you want to play.  Press the Music Note and Binoculars icon in the upper right hand corner, which will list the music files.  I have found no problems in using the MP3 player and found it to be a nice feature in the unit.  You can listen to the music with the built in speakers, which I believe sounds pretty good, considering the size of them.  There is also a 1/8th inch mini headphone stereo jack.  You can listen to the music, at the same time you are navigating.  When the IWAY gives navigation directions, it will pause the music, make the announcement and then resume the music. There is an equalizer, to adjust the tone of the music.  However, I suggest you use the factory settings to preserve the quality of the sound.  You can also select between 'shuffle' and 'repeat.'



FM Modulator
The IWAY also has a built in FM modulator, which will broadcast the music audio along with the navigation directions, onto a close by FM radio.  You can select one frequency from the entire FM band, 87.7 MHz to 107.9 MHz.  I found the audio quality varies, depending on which vehicle I was in. This is probably attributed to the quality of the built in car radio.  To select between the built in speaker and the FM modulator, you select it on the Music main menu, in the lower left hand corner.  If the speaker is selected, there is a volume control you can select.  If the FM modulator is enabled, you can adjust the frequency it will transmit on, using the arrows.  The frequency is displayed on the right side.




Picture Viewer

You can also use the IWAY as a picture viewer.  To do this, insert an SD card with photos on it.  Then on the main menu page, select "Pictures" and you can view images on the screen.  This is a nice feature, if your camera uses a compatible data card.  It makes it easy to view digital pictures, however this works the best if you are not navigating.

Gauge Page
The gauge page, which is in the lower right hand corner of the Main Menu page, is a trip computer. Here you can get data on your speed in a speedometer type display.  You can also see the time of day, your ETA and maximum and average speed.  You are not able to change the data fields on this page.

Skins
The IWAY 350C has the option of "Skins."  Lowarance has software available so you can create and modify your own designs for backgrounds on the screen.  There are also a couple of different "Skins" already  created you can download for a different look.  Once you download them to your unit, you must select either "Cabo" "Default Easy" or Defaut" in the interface section of "Options."  You can find out more and download the Cabo and Default Easy skins from Lowrance by clicking here.

"Cabo Find Page"                                            "Cabo Setup Page"

               


Display
The IWAY 350C has a good display.  I found my self confused at first, because the pressing the power button gently, will either increase or decrease the backlight, there are four steps of brightness.  After I figured this out, it works quite well.  The unit will hold the brightness level you set, between uses.  However when the unit is operating on battery power, it will automatically dim to conserve battery power, but when you touch the screen will bring it back to the previous level.  Overall the IWAY 350C is quite bright and is also adjustable in the brightness control in the options, but the easiest way to do it, is by pressing the power button.  The display does not automatically switch between a "day" and a "night" screen.   I never had any problem easily reading the screen, day or night, and on either cloudy or sunny days.  According to Lowrance, the screen is a 16 bit TFT touch screen, that is backlit, with 320H and 240V resolution, with a 3.5 inch screen size.  For more comparison of car navigator displays, read Joe's evaluation here.   



Touch Screen
The touch screen is where all of the commands except for power must be made.  You can calibrate the screen in the options.  You should do this after you have mounted the unit where you will use it.  I had good luck using the touch screen, except when trying to select a street in an address.  For some reason, it would be un responsive at times.  The other problem I had, was that some of the fields when selecting an address, were too small for my finger and hard to trigger.  

Power
The 350C is powered by either the included 12 volt cigarette adapter or the internal Lithium Battery. The battery lasted for about 15 hours, before it needed re-charging, so far the longest battery life I have seen in a comparable unit.  When the unit is plugged in, it will power the unit and also charge the battery at the same time.

Satellite Acquisition
According to Lowrance, the IWAY 350 has a 16 channel receiver and is WAAS enabled.  Acquisition times are about average, usually less than one minute.  There is a signal strength meter for satellite reception in the upper left hand corner of the main menu..  When you press this, you get a satellite page and can see if your reception is 2D, (location only) 3D,  (location and altitude) and WAAS, (location, altitude and WAAS correction)  You can also access the satellite page in the Options on Page Three under "GPS Status."

Hardware
The included hardware with the IWAY 350C all works fine.  The gooseneck windshield suction mount remained very solid during our testing.  I also like how the unit slipped into the mount and could easily be removed when you want to take it out of sight or out of the car.  The included cigarette lighter cable works well and had no trouble staying connected to the unit.  The plug easily made connection when plugged in.  The included dust cover is also a nice feature, allowing you to cover the face of the unit when it is not in use.



Processor
The processor in the IWAY 350C seems to be about average.  It is slower than the Garmin StreetPilot 330 series, but seems to be faster than the RoadMate 360.  We would say that the processor speed is acceptable.  The hard drive is said to be 4GB.

Questions


Can I enter waypoints?
There is no waypoint category, however you can save "waypoints" in the address book, from either panning the map, or saving your current location, by selecting the "Locate" button and hitting save. You cannot enter a waypoint inputting lat/lon however, only by street address.  The address book will store up to 1,000 locations.  You can also choose from numerous icons, to represent what type of location you are saving and there is also a field where you can store a phone number.  You can also 'edit' waypoints after they are created.

Is there a one button "Home" option?
No, but if you frequently route to your home, it is easy to find in the "recent destinations."

What about the quality of the map data?
The pre-loaded map data available in the IWAY 350C, is provided by Navteq and seems to be the most current mapping data available.  There is good geographic type data included as well, such as rivers, streams, etc.

Does the IWAY 350 have NMEA data in/out?
No.

Is there a Lat/lon readout?
Yes, accessible by pressing the red flag in the upper left hand corner on the map page.  You can then see it on the map.

Which map datum does the IWAY 350C use?
From what we can tell from the lat/lon readings, it is WGS 84, however there is no way to change this setting.

Is there any altitude data available?
Yes, the same way you get the Lat/long readout, the red flag on the map page.  You can also get in in the options section under GPS Status.
 
Can I use an amplified external antenna?
No

Can I enter in Custom POI or speed cameras or proximity alerts?
No, this unit does not have this feature available in many newer auto navigators developed by other companies.

What is the USB connection for?
According to Lowrance, the USB port is for possible future firmware updates and offers the ability to update the mapping data in the future, although likely for a fee.  Lowrance is currently offering an update DVD for the IWAY 500C for $75.  As of this writing, there is no update for the IWAY 350C since it is new to the market.


Other Observations

The map data in the IWAY 350C seems to have more detail, including geographic type details, such as streams, parks, forests, railroad tracks, trails, etc.  It is the most detailed geographic mapping I have seen in a car navigator.  When you are playing music in the MP3 player, you will see an icon flashing in the lower right hand corner.  It is really an icon of the SD card, which apparently flashes to signify it is working.  The internal battery has a very long life and seems to have the longest battery life of any navigator I have seen so far, our testing seems to be in line with Lowrance's estimate of up to 15 hours of use.  So far, there is no software by Lowrance you can use to manage your addressbook in a computer and then save it back and forth on your computer.  Using the IWAY itself is the only way to do this.  The unit does not come with an SD card, however, the additional cost for getting a good size card for use with the unit keeps coming down.

Areas for improvement

1-     The unit while navigating close to an interstate, would occasionally go from the freeway lane you are traveling, to a frontage road or other nearby road that runs paralell and lock onto the street.  This would be annoying, because the unit would think you were now on the side street and then keep recalculating a new route.  I did look at satellite reception and this occured even with good reception, so it is probably and issue with the "lock on road" feature.  Hopefully this can be corrected in a future firmware update.

2-  The touch screen at times was difficult to use because the fields were so narrow, my finger could not trigger the button.  I also experienced times when touching a field would be un responsive, even if I used a stylus to try and trigger the field.  

3-  The speech to text language uses a combination of alpha and numberic wording, when announcing street names that are numeric.  For example, if it has a direction of turn right on 700 West, the unit would say, "Turn right on seven-oh-zero West."  Why it does not say oh oh or zero zero is not known.  

Summary

The IWAY 350C seems to be a good product.  I was pleasantly surprised at what I found while using it. There are a few issues I did not like, but overall we can say it is a good product.  It was awarded the "Best New Mobile Electronics Entertainment Product Award for 2006 at the SEMA (Specialty Electronic Market Assocation) show in Las Vegas.  When you take a look at the price you pay and the features you get, such as text to speech directions and the MP3 player, it seems to be the best value out in the market right now for this type of auto navigator.
  Hopefully some of the minor issues we discovered can be corrected in an upcoming firmware update.  You can download the IWAY manual online by clicking here.


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