I tried searching for my old address, which is on Eagle Lane in East London, but after typing Eagle and a space, I was presented with Eagle House, Eagle Lodge and Eagle Wharf Road. After contacting Garmin I was advised to enter just Eagle and press Done – then at the top of the list I was presented with “Eagle (Close, Court…)”. At first I thought that I still hadn’t been successful, but pressing the “Eagle (Close, Court…)” button then brought up a list of pretty much every road in London with Eagle in the name, including Eagle Lane. This is hardly intuitive, and the idea that entering data as accurately as possible will result in bogus results seems bizarre to me.
Looking for my current address was even more difficult. Trying to find St Mary’s Road, proved to be an impossible task. Typing “St Mary’s” resulted in a list that didn’t include my road. While typing “St Marys” brought up another list, where my road was conspicuous by its absence. Just when I was starting to think that my house didn’t exist, I searched for St Mary’s Road on the map itself, and sure enough, there it was!
But it was when I had to attend the CTS Show at the NEC in Birmingham that things really came to a head – yep, that’s right, the StreetPilot couldn’t find the National Exhibition Centre. I searched for both “NEC” and “National Exhibition Centre” in Birmingham, but to no avail. I then noticed that the StreetPilot has a Halls/Auditoriums section under the banner of “attractions” – “this is where I’ll find it” I thought to myself – but yet again no. Again I contacted Garmin and was told that the NEC was indeed in the database, but that I had to select the “Near Birmingham” setting, and then search under the Halls/Auditoriums section. With a heavy pinch of scepticism I tried this, but it worked.
It’s this completely unintuitive interface that ruins the StreetPilot, which is a real shame since this device has such potential. Take the quick links for example – you get shortcuts to Food, Lodging, Fuel, Attractions, Shopping, Parking, Entertainment and Recreation. I found out just how good these categories can be when I had to attend a press event at a hotel in Hertfordshire – I simply typed in the hotel name and not only did the c320 find it instantly, it also presented me with the hotel's phone number! Now that’s the kind of functionality that shows the potential of the StreetPilot.
As I’ve already mentioned, when the StreetPilot knows where you want to go, it works brilliantly. The voice commands are loud and clear, and the 3D maps give you a great “at a glance” overview of where you’re going – there’s even a text note on the screen reminding you of your next action, in case you missed or forgot the last voice command.
The StreetPilot is also very quick at calculating routes – this is especially useful if you go “off route” and you need an alternative, although it does sometimes insist on making you turn around and go back the way you came. This brings me onto another strange and somewhat disappointing aspect of the device – it has an unhealthy obsession with the M25.
It seems that no matter where I want to travel in the area surrounding London, the StreetPilot wants me to use the M25. Driving home from the office in Ascot means heading past Windsor and onto the M4, but the StreetPilot wanted me to head to the M3, onto the M25 and then onto the M4. But more amazing was when I was when I was returning from the NEC in Birmingham – I was driving along the M40, which heads directly into West London where I live, when the StreetPilot told me that I had to exit the M40 onto the M25, I was then supposed to follow it round to the M4 and take that into West London instead. Of course I ignored the suggestion to take the M25, but the StreetPilot still tried to make me turn around and head back to the M25 for the next three junctions!