Garmin Nuvi 1350T Lightning Review

Garmin Nuvi 1350T, a reasonably affordable, full-featured, ad-supported portable navigator from Garmin—possibly the last PND we'll ever review.

The Cost: $350 list; $310 online

The Verdict: Portable navigators are great, but they've reached equilibrium: Prices have never been better for the functionality you get, but if the 1350T proves anything, it's that there's nowhere they can go from here.

Garmin Nuvi 1350T Lightning Review

I hope you recognize that's not a complaint: Forget all those frilly features like voice command and Bluetooth, stuff that you love for a short while but (I fully admit) never use later on in the product's life. It's the basics that count, and the 1350T has basics, plus a slightly tweaked interface that improves on the old Nuvi experience without changing it too noticeably. It's faster than even the higher end Nuvis I've looked at, and has a streamlined main navigation screen that proves that, unlike TomTom, even when you have a winning formula, you have to keep tweaking it. Overall use is still the best in the business.

The "T": It's for "traffic" and it can be helpful if you use it correctly, though that's one of my only gripes: Delays show up in minutes, but there are times when you're sitting still for 5 to 10 minutes and you just see "0:02," and other times you are stuck only momentarily and it shows "0:07" or more. The problem is, it's a moving average. It's not saying you'll be stuck there for that long, necessarily, but that the overall trip arrival time has been changed. It's a bit heady, I think. That or it's simply inaccurate.

Garmin Nuvi 1350T Lightning Review

The real trouble with traffic is that the best way to deliver streams of information is via a cellular data connection—on demand. (The 1350T has a receiver, but it's not a communicator.) As it happens, nobody is willing to pay for a separate cellular connection to get traffic (and local search) data, because they already have phones that cost a load in monthly fees. Phones aren't yet ready to inherit the GPS world from the portable navigators, but the newest raft of iPhone apps, the latest SiRF GPS chip announcement, and Garmin's own dabblings in the cellular market, prove that it's just a matter of time.

The Ads: The weirdest part is that the 1350T is ad-supported. It's not annoying yet—there are only two ads that I've seen, for Best Western and Walgreens, and they tend to hover in the peripheries. But they could get a lot more frequent and more visible. At the moment, these national chains aren't really targeted to your route, but eventually, this system could suggest stuff at every turn along your route. Is that cool? Maybe, if it comes with like Big Mac coupons and stuff. But most likely not.

The End?: As I mentioned, what the 1350T represents is the logical end of the PND, a highly functional and almost comfortably limited device. We now face an unknown transition, during which time an awful lot of people will buy an awful lot of old-school priced-to-move navigators. [Garmin]