The enhanced navigational capabilities of the latest smartphones have started to give dedicated automotive GPS units some serious competition. But for motorcycle use, these special phone models still have several weaknesses. They’re not waterproof, vibration resistant or glove friendly, and using them costs money, particularly for premium A-GPS or GPS network services. Meanwhile you can access the Global Positioning Satellite system for free using a waterproof, motorcycle-specific GPS unit.
Garmin is still at the top of the GPS heap when it comes to navigation and routing software, points-of-interest databases and features, which are supremely functional yet so numerous in its latest zumo 350LM you’ll just have to trust me on this. The 350LM improves upon its 660 predecessor in several notable ways, not the least of which is free lifetime map updates. Firmware updates for Garmin units have always been free, but in the past you had to pay a hefty fee for map updates. Although both the 350LM and 660LM are waterproof down to 1 meter underwater and have fuel- and UV ray-resistant cases, the 350LM also breaks away from the 660’s boxy, hard plastic shell and gets a rugged black hard rubber case with a more rounded shape, similar to the original zumo 550.
The zumo 350LM still has a large 4.3-inch touchscreen, but it’s easier to read in sunlight now and the display is even more glove friendly. Most importantly to me, Garmin has simplified the quick-release, RAM ball-compatible motorcycle mount by doing away with the tangled mess of accessory connections that were hardwired into the zumo 660’s, leaving just the DC power cable on the mount—and even that can be removed and the unit run standalone on its rechargeable battery. Battery life is up to 7 hours from 5 now, though it’s a non-removable lithium-ion unit vs. the 660’s removable one. An external headset jack, mini USB port and micro SD card slot are on the body of the 350LM, and its Bluetooth connectivity is compatible with all of the latest helmet headsets, so you can listen to voice direction prompts with a wired or wireless headset instead of the built-in external speaker.
GPS reception is also improved compared to the 660—the 350LM is usually even able to get a signal indoors as long as it’s near a window—and routing calculations and the map refresh speed are much faster. I even like what the 350LM does not have, namely Bluetooth cell-phone connectivity, an MP3/audiobook player and picture viewer, all of which have been rendered redundant by the capabilities of smartphones and newer multi-connection Bluetooth helmet headsets. If you want those things and/or satellite radio and traffic information, stick with the zumo 660LM or 665LM.
The $699.95 retail price of the Garmin zumo 350LM includes both a mini USB-to-USB computer/charging cable and mini-USB to accessory outlet (cigarette) charger, as well as everything you need to mount it to a handlebar or car windshield, so you can use it both places. Make sure that you download and install the latest firmware upgrades before you use it. Several apps like a world travel clock, trip planner and calculator are built-in, and you can use Garmin’s Base Camp software to plan trips on your computer and load them into the GPS. In short, the zumo 350LM has everything you need and nothing you don’t, and gets you there even more efficiently than the exceptional zumo 660.
For more information: See your dealer, or visit garmin.com
(This Gearlab article was published in the February 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)
Looks great, but the PRICE!! I understand the economics of production cost vs. expected revenues, but a $500+ premium over a somewhat similarly featured standard auto GPS seems to be a bit much.
If it were offered at a lower price point, say $350, the units would literally fly off the shelf. As it is, only a limited percentage of m/c riders will pony up that kind of money.
Price point is way too high and the screen to small. I can buy 3 + larger screen auto units and still walk away with change. I currently ride with 2 larger auto units and haven’t had to use my spare yet. I would love to have the waterproofing, but can live with what I have as that is the ONLY advantage I see. Additionally, I could easily replace the auto unit while on the road and the motorcycle units are not widely available.
Oops! I love Rider Mag and Garmin!!!
Unit has reduced features vs. the 660, MP3 player was a plus in my opinion, and cost $50.00 more. Garmin is not giving you free Life Time Maps, they are charging you the additional $50.00. You can get a 660LM on Amazon for $649.00. Appears to me that it is the better deal.
Once again, Garmin seems to be either making a calculated gouge, or has no clue what market opportunity they are missing. Count me as another, who bought two auto models on last clearance (765t) that have just as much capability (bluetooth, SD, speaker jack, bigger screen, etc). Both units combined were only half the price of the m/c specific Zumo and I have yet to encounter a problem that would require switching one out (even got rained on.)
Been using a standard auto model for years and also ride in light and breif hard rain. Still works.
Couldn’t understand why people would spend that much more for the waterproof option.
True, you could use a automotive gps for a lot less money. But, they don’t have an ability to view in sunlight, like the 350LM does. I know this because I’ve used several different automotive GPS systems on my bikes. On a bike, you also cannot get Bluetooth directions thru your headset using an automotive GPS. Since you cant see an automotive gps in direct sunlight on a bike, you need to be able to hear the turn by turn directions. Automotive GPS’s are not waterproof, vibration proof and their not glove friendly either. I’ve also used my smartphone as a gps system and could listen to turn by turn directions on my headset, but when you lose your signal in the mountains or anywhere else, you lose your GPS. Using the Zumo 350LM in conjunction with my Sena SMH10 Bluetooth headset allows me to make and receive phone calls using voice command, listen to my music or internet radio, or bike stereo system and receive turn by turn voice directions from the Zumo 350lm without any problems, and I can see the screen. This makes the Zumo 350lm superior to auto GPS systems for use on a bike. For all you get, its well worth the price to me. I shopped around online and found mine at the GPS Store for $499. and this includes the cables, car mount system, Ram motorcycle mount, software and a few very useful Apps like the bike maintenance log. Like I said, after using automotive GPS systems on my bikes, its like night and day and no comparison.