I’m currently testing the Garmin nuvi 3590LMT, which has a 3-axis (AKA tri-axial) compass that allows the screen to rotate automatically. Which is nice, but it also rotates the map and position indicator, orienting them in the direction you are facing. This feature, found on the nuvi 2360 and the 34xx and 35xx series, makes these units ideal for pedestrian navigation.
In testing it out, I found the 3590LMT to be pretty responsive. While there was some lag in the unit orienting itself properly once I changed directions or started out, it usually got it right within a few seconds of when I started walking. All in all, it works pretty darned well.
Here are a few tips to help you use this feature:
Changing to pedestrian mode manually
If the nuvi doesn’t ask if you want to walk or drive to a destination, you can get it out of automotive mode by tapping the top left portion of the main menu, where you see the car icon.
Want to avoid calling attention to yourself as a tourist? Mute that sucker!
All devices with this feature rotate automatically between portrait and landscape view. You might find it more useful to use the former, as seen at right. Also note that it may change orientation faster if you hold it closer to vertical than horizontal.
For the international traveler and mass transit rider
Garmin’s CityXplorer maps are available for a wide range of cities around the world for $9.99 a pop. For that you get highway and pedestrian maps, as well as mass transit navigation. For more details, see my CityXplorer review.
A quick note about geocaching
While you would think these models might help you get into geocaching, my experience wasn’t so great. The first time out, it seemed to perform well, although a preponderance of muggles kept me from completing the cache. The next couple of times, I couldn’t get the unit to update the distance once I went off road, no matter what combination of settings I tried. And there’s no compass screen (at least not on the 3590LMT), so you’re relying on the position indicator to point you in the proper direction. So while I found this to be a great tool for pedestrian navigation in urban areas, for geocaching it wasn’t so hot.
I’m recommending the nuvi 2360 or 34xxx series for those of you wanting to explore the city on foot. The five-inch 35xx series is just a bit too wide to be comfortable to use as a handheld. The picture below compares it to my 4.65″ Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which is about as big of a device as I’d ever want to carry.
Here are all the nuvi models with a triaxial compass: