Garmin puts an end to a drought of Palm-based GPS handhelds with its Garmin iQue 3000 (£329). It's just as useful for keeping a calendar and an address book as it is for finding your way in the world, plus the system's digital maps are precise, routing is efficient, and its spoken directions are easy to understand. On the downside, it's bigger and heavier than some of its competitors, such as the Pharos Traveler GPS 525; it lacks the wireless creature comforts of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; and it comes up short in the performance department. If you're partial to the Palm OS and want integrated navigation features, the iQue 3000 is pretty much your only choice. That said, the PDA/GPS handheld does its primary job navigating and organising, it'll just require a little patience on your part.
Looking more like a leather notepad than a PDA, the grey and silver Garmin iQue 3000 is a beautifully designed and crafted handheld. From its fold-open cover to the flush buttons, it's a device that not only slips easily into a pocket but also is useful and meant to be shown off. It measures a stout 20 by 71 by 119mm and weighs 147g, putting it between the Asus MyPal A636 and the Pharos Traveler GPS 525, although you can shave off 30g of its weight by removing the leatherette screen cover. Like the A636, it has a flip-up antenna to capture data from the orbiting network of two dozen GPS satellites, but this antenna folds neatly into the PDA. However, it doesn't swivel like the A636's antenna to grab the strongest satellite signal.
At 76mm diagonal, the Garmin iQue 3000's 320x320-pixel display is smaller than that of the A636, but it presents a nice balance and has daytime and night-time viewing colours. On the downside, while using battery power, you can't keep the screen on for more than three minutes -- a major annoyance when navigating by foot. Even worse, Garmin said it has no plans to change the backlighting time.
Below the Garmin iQue 3000's screen, there's a spacious dedicated writing zone with six instant-launch icons (Home, Brightness, HotSync, Menu, Volume and Find) around it. During our tests, however, we found that hitting these icons was hit or miss. Sometimes they were extremely responsive, while other times we had to repeatedly jab at the icons with our stylus -- a truly frustrating experience. The bad news continues as the navigation toggle lets you scroll only up and down -- we much prefer the five-way joystick found on the Pharos Traveler.
On the upside, the four shortcut keys to the main apps -- Calendar, Contacts, To Do, and Que -- are spacious and easy to use. To get a GPS fix, just open the antenna or hit what Garmin calls the Que button, and the main GPS interface is activated. You can then go right to the maps, enter a destination, or adjust the system's extensive settings, which range from metric or imperial units to the backlight level.