The best aspect about the Garmin Nuvi 3597 is, without a doubt, the quality of its build and design. The unit itself has a 5-inch display screen, but it's wrapped in a metal shell that's evocative of the best high-end smartphone or tablet designs.
In a market that's obsessed with cheaper plastic cases and lowest-common-denominator thinking, the Nuvi 3597 really stands out. There's a lot of attention to detail, from the rounded power button at the back to the very secure magnetic latch that also houses the charging port. The screen mount uses a solid ball-and-socket design, and it's nicely minimalistic, which leaves you looking mostly at the pleasant design of the Nuvi 3597 itself.
Aside from cool factor, the real benefit of the Nuvi 3597's magnetic clasp is that it makes docking to the display screen a breeze. It really does snap into place, even with really lazy orientation work on your part.
Garmin's UI design is also nicely simplistic, which means it's very easy to learn. Like the much cheaper Nuvi 52, you're essentially just looking at a display that asks you where you want to go or offers you a plain map view if you don't actually need specific directions. It's refreshingly simple, although that does mean that in some respects it's not quite as seamlessly powerful as competing options.
Garmin sources its map data via Navteq — for some reason the branding remains Navteq despite Nokia rebranding that particular division as HERE some time back — with, as you'd expect in this day and age, lifetime map updates. We're yet to see a conclusive tilt towards either HERE or Sensis' map data as being "better" across all of Australia; there are still gaps in the road knowledge of either provider.
The Nuvi 3597 tracked our on-road progress well, although like the Nuvi 52, the default view shows very few side roads. That may sound fine in theory, but if you get diverted or change course of your own volition, it can take several seconds for the map to load in.
The Nuvi 3597 has a good suite of search options, including quite accurate voice recognition keyed to a specific phrase to start conversations, upon which time the list of acceptable commands is displayed on-screen. This worked well for us even when driving on noisy and wet roads. Garmin's spoken voice is a touch on the robotic side.
It's also technically capable of using real-world landmarks as part of your guidance, similar to the top-end Navman GPS units, although in our testing it was remarkably silent for the most part. Driving through the same areas where we tested the Navman MY450LMT, the Nuvi 3597 only spotted one petrol station it knew, whereas the Navman knew of several churches, fast food restaurants and multiple service stations.
The visual display of the Nuvi 3597 is crisp and bright even in direct sunlight. Like the rest of Garmin's range, the UI is on the bright and somewhat garish side. That makes picking out your route from the displayed roads — you can choose the level of detail you'd like for side roads — fairly easy, but it somewhat detracts from the premium look of the device.
The Nuvi 3597 is an excellent premium GPS, but it does have one stark issue, and that's its asking price. The real-world prices of GPS units have dropped remarkably in recent years, even in the high-end space, but Garmin continues to price its products at a solid premium.
As such, other premium devices, such as the top-of-the-range TomTom or Navman GPS systems, are cheaper at RRP levels and often even cheaper in real-world sale situations. Buy a Nuvi 3597 and you'll get a solid and dependable GPS — but you're paying more for the hardware than for better GPS performance.