Although the c320 boasts distinctive and sleek styling, simplicity is the name of the game. The only buttons are a rotary volume knob and an on/off switch. The device is secured by a suction-mount cradle that fastens to the windshield for easy portability between vehicles. You can customize the unit's appearance with an array of colored faceplates that are sold separately.
For navigators who only require detailed maps for a limited area, the StreetPilot c320 features an SD card slot, a 128 MB SD card, and MapSource City Select street data on CD-ROM. To load the area you need, simply select the specific area of interest on your computer and the data is transferred from a PC to the unit via a fast USB connection. The c320's bright, 3.5-inch diagonal, 16-bit color display makes navigation a snap. The unit also features dual integrated speakers for high-quality voice prompts, and an internal lithium-ion battery for out-of-car route planning.
I opted for the Garmin as I've been pleased with their rock solid reliability in the past and the unit looked a bit smaller than the TomTom - but for me the killer was that the unit came with pre-installed maps of the UK AND Ireland - so for my journey from Belfast to London via Dublin, it could handle the whole route in one go. Additionally, you get a CD with route maps for most of Europe and software which makes it a doddle to choose which maps you want loaded on the (supplied) 256MB SD card.
Out of the box, it couldn't be easier. The unit arrives fully charged and so it's a case of turn on, wait for the GPS satellites to be acquired and then bang, up comes a lovely map of where you are. Once you mount it in the car, it actually comes on and turns off automatically with the ignition - but don't forget to lock it in the glove box when you leave the car!
To enter a destination, you can choose from the preloaded points of interest such as fuel stops, shopping centres, visitor attractions, restaurants and so forth. A handy feature, but I suspect 99% of the time you will be entering your own address to navigate to ... and therein lies the Garmin's only real Achilles heal; NO POSTCODE entry.
Now I actually knew this BEFORE I bought, and still went for the Garmin despite knowing the TomTom does have postcode entry for UK addresses. Yes postcode entry would be nice, but it's actually not the end of the world and entering addresses by Country / City / Building Number / Street name is actually pretty fast once you realise you don't have to type the whole thing in and can just use the first few letters and then choose from a list. Once you have selected an address, you can save it in your "Favourites" list for future use and you can rename the location anyway you want - so 93 glenpearce terrace can become "Grandma's" for example.
Once you have selected your destination, the unit calculates a route and then off you go. A pleasant female voice gives you directions in plenty of time and you can choose between distances being advised in metric or imperial standards. Typically you will get instructions such as "drive 5 kilometres then enter roundabout" and when you get closer "in 400 metres enter roundabout, take second exit" and then as you arrive at the roundabout "second exit". The instructions also include minor details such as "keep left" or "keep right" in more complex road intersections.
In conjunction with the voice, you get a moving map which you can view in 3D or 2D (oriented North or ahead) and by tapping on the screen you can get a junction by junction list of the route and a more detailed view of each turn with instructions. In short, you'll never be stuck for information about what to do next. On the main map page, you get a red road showing you when you are "on" the correct route plus indications of arrival time and distance to next manoeuvre. In addition to the navigation screens, you can simply tap the screen to get a full trip computer screen showing current, average and maximum speeds, time on the road, time stopped, total journey time and so on.
On route, if you do go wrong (as I did several times) or simply choose to do things differently because of "local knowledge" the unit seemlessly picks up after a few seconds of going off route - indeed the voice simply announces "off route, recalculating" and carries on. Sometimes it will try to take you back the way it thinks is best by saying "make a u-turn", but you can simply keep ignoring every instruction until it gives in and sees things your way!
My only gribble with the route planning after a couple of weeks use is that on the journey from Holyhead to London, it was rather keen on taking me down the A41 rather than the M6 toll road I normally use. The A41 would have been great if the actual speed on the road was closer to the 60mph it probably assumes, but in reality the hills and freight traffic meant for much of the journey I was going closer to 45-50mph and so at Telford I legged it over to the M6 toll - which was a long way off the Garmin's route, but it was more than happy to automatically recalculate once it got the idea. Basically this means you can drive the route as you would prefer, and just rely on the extra help for the difficult bits - it's a lovely way to drive.
It's a shame you can't add your own points of interest and this is perhaps my own personal biggest issue with the C320, but everyone who's seen it in action so far has gone "where can I get one" and having transformed my driving experience, any minor niggles really are just that - minor. I have no doubt that Garmin will continue to improve the software and indeed the first update I downloaded added a new feature for free, so no complaints on that front.
Score would have been 5/5 with postcodes and own points of interest - but I now just want to drive off randomly into the countryside confident that I can simply hit the "Go Home" button to return me to base without any stress or hassle - brilliant!!