Its not without some quirkstheres no "On button," and its occasionally difficult to navigate the user menus. The small 4" monochrome screen, which displays maps and your relative position, isnt always easy to read, and it plows through batteries pretty quicklya set of 4 alkaline batteries lasted for about 12 hours of continuous use. Youll need a PC to get the most out of it. The GPS V connects easily to a Windows computer, and thats where you load all of the maps from the U.S. or Europe. I made a point of creating what Garmin calls Waypoints, using the software on my PC, of all the hotels, wineries, castles and all the other places I wanted to visit. I also preconfigured "Routes", step-by-step directions from one point to another. I then downloaded the Waypoints and Routes to the device, along with the maps Id need. You can do your route planning with the device alone, but the tiny screen and limited processing power make this much more laborious and painstakingThere are a few really neat features as well. Along with guiding you along in your journey, it also lets you know how fast youre going, and when youll arrive. It cant take into account traffic jamsunlike a system now deployed on Londons highwaysbut it proved fairly accurate on our trip. And it was particularly fun to use the speed feature on Frances high-speed train the TGVI clocked it at over 140 mph. At $500 for the base unit, and $100 or more for a set of maps, its not cheap. But if you cant read the language, and dont like asking for directions, its great. Frankly, its ideal for just about anyone venturing out into a foreign land, even if its just one state over. Its even good for quelling those backseat drivers, who always insist that youre either going the wrong way, or driving too fast. It provides more than enough neat facts to distract from your wild driving.
However, I found the ability to create ad-hoc waypoints very useful while traveling. In Bilbao, Spain, where parking is a mess, we jammed our tiny rental into an illegal spot about a mile from the Guggenheim Museum. I set a waypoint, and used the GPS V in handheld mode to navigate the maze of twisty streets to the museum. After hours of touring Bilbao, wed forgotten completely where wed left our car. Luckily, the GPS V remembered, and quickly guided us back to our vehicleand we didnt even get a ticket!