Garmin's iQue 3600 PDA plus GPS
The first fully integrated PDA/GPS Package
by Joe Mehaffey (rev A, 8/18/2003)

    The Garmin iQue is based on the Palm Pilot Operating System (OS5).  Basically,  the iQue 3600 (iQue) is a Palm Pilot (PP) type PDA unit with a fully integrated GPS and Car Navigation System included.  The GPS antenna "flips" out of the back of the unit and when not in use, the iQue fits nicely into a shirt pocket. I think of it as being a PalmPilot PDA with integrated StreetPilot  car navigation.  The PP functionality is genuine as Garmin has a licensing arrangement with Palm Inc. for use of the OS and design basics.  Screens and operation of the touchscreen with the stylus will be comfortable for those familiar with PP units.  For GPS users,  the new modes of operation will take some getting used to.


The iQue comes with a USB compatible cradle assembly which also provides the connection for charging the iQue's battery and powering the unit for extended periods.  Garmin tells us that a cradle system for automobile dash mounting is "coming soon".  The iQue comes with 32 megs of memory and an extensive base map of the USA or other "Garmin geographic region" such as Europe.  Of this 32 megs,  the OS requires some, the basemap more and about a maximum of 18 megs is available for user applications including GPS related maps and Palm Pilot software applications.  In addition, the iQue has one slot for a standard SD memory card which presently is available up to 512megs and 1GB SD cards will soon be available.  The CPU is a 200mhz RISC processor and it is FAST!  Map redrawing is considerably faster than on any handheld GPS I have used and route recalculation is about 4 or 5 times faster than the StreetPilot III.  PP features include an audio message recorder, the ability to play MP3 and WAV files,  the usual PP calendar/address book, appointment book, "Word to Go" word processor, Grafitti2 for data entry,  and  HotSync for synchronizing PDA to desktop computer.  Supposedly "most" Palm Pilot applications will run on the iQue, but we did not explore this.

The iQue MapSource 5 and map loading software on our early production unit was still a bit "buggy" but we managed to get 240megs of maps loaded into a (rated) 256meg SD memory cartridge.  I understand that PDA overhead causes only about 243megs to be available (to the user) in a 256 meg SD card.  Unfortunately, if you try and load more than about 240+megs the process appears to go to completion without warnings but your maps do not really get loaded.   I am sure Garmin will correct this glitch in a software update.


The GPS part of the iQue is organized much like a StreetPilot III.  Provides are FIND (intersections, addresses, cities, POI, Food/Drink, Entertainment, Shopping, Recent finds, Lodging, Attractions, Services, Transportation, Govt & Emergency, Man Made Places, Water Features, and Land Features), GPS, Map, Routes, Tracks, Trips, and Turns (when route is in progress). The GPS is automatically turned off and on when the GPS antenna is flipped up in the rear of the unit.  (As of August 2003,  there is no way to transfer  waypoints, routes and tracks to/from  the iQue to MapSource or any other program.  We expect this to be corrected in future.)

Joe is moderately familiar with PPs and I had an early model.  I found the "graffiti" method of inputing letters a challange.  Things have improved immensely and the "new" garffiti 2 is easier to use in its "native" state and it can also be trained to recognize your special way of inputing characters.  Also, you can easily select a typewriter keyboard mode of entry where you touch the stylus to the keys on the screen and type out your address, name, comment or other data.  I like the keyboard method best.  Use of the stylus is almost mandatory and I found this pretty cumbersome (compared with normal handheld GPS units) when trying to use the iQue GPS.

The iQue appears to do everything Garmin promises it will do.  It has a large (up to 512meg SD card memory) which can hold a large quantity of maps.  The screen is good brightness, and washes out in sunlight less than some other models but still can be a problem in direct sunlight.  Battery life is only a couple of hours with the GPS on.  Considering the relatively difficult to operate user interface, short battery life,  limited palm pilot program compatibility and less than full featured GPS system,  we think this unit will be valued mostly by special interest users wanting a lightweight and pocket sized GPS car navigator with Palm Pilot capabilities.  For those wanting a better car navigator,  we recommend the Garmin StreetPilot 2610.

Joe Mehaffey