The Garmin Nuvi 200/250/270 has shown up to extend the Garmin line into the value end of the market just as this end of the market is exploding. Late last year, the holiday shopping spree on value GPS systems blew the doors off the retailers, and catapulted the GPS onto the mainstream stage.
Garmin is too big and too smart to let an opportunity like that slip past. I have been using the Nuvi 250, and from my travels with it, Garmin has a winner on their hands and they will put a lot of pressure on the value end of the market to bring on their “A” game; a demand that a many won’t be up to. Garmin has brought to the market a true Garmin GPS, no big corners cut, no big misses in their design. I am pretty happy to be able to bring the first full review of the unit to you; so let's take a look.
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The Nuvi 200/250/270 design is an easy-on-the-eyes, elegant one, oozing simplicity with its deceivingly small appearance. I have to tell you that when I got it, I HAD to put it face to face with a StreetPilot C340 to make sure it had the same size screen (it does). The beveling on the front makes it appear diminutive, and that’s a good thing. When it’s on the windshield, it stands tall and gives you clear direction just like any other Garmin.
The Garmin Nuvi 200/250/270 has a slider on/off switch, which also has a “lock” position to keep the unit in the off position when traveling. Other buttons? Nope, that’s it. The unit has a small speaker on the back that is clear and plenty loud without being tinny like some other units I have used. The unit does have a small reset button on the lower beveled edge that isn’t obvious, but it’s there. The power inlet is smartly placed on the back, and the power cord has a 90-degree bend in it so that the cord comes out and immediately comes down the back. This allows you to place the Nuvi 200/250/270 right down onto the dashboard if you would like to.
The Nuvi 200/250/270 has a simple cam lever action mount that is smaller than other mounts that Garmin uses, and it keeps with the minimalist design of the unit. The mount goes onto the windshield easily with the cam lever action just like other mounts, and has a cradle type holder for the Nuvi unit itself. With two clips on the bottom and one clip on the top of the cradle, the unit can snap in and out with relative ease, and most importantly with one hand. With more and more GPS units getting stolen, easy mounting and dismounting is something you should be doing frequently, and easy operation here will make your life a lot better. The other advantage of this compact design is that when you do travel with the mount, it’s not going to take up a ton of room in your suitcase.
The Nuvi 200/250/270 is a Garmin, and it comes with the navigation trust that a lot of people have come to expect. This new line doesn’t disappoint. In my testing the directions were sound, and the routes logical. In comparing route calculation times to other value models, the Nuvi 200/250/270 handled the task very quickly. In a torture test of generating directions from my house in Massachusetts to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, The Nuvi 250 did so in about half the time of other units. In more reasonable day-to-day calculations the advantage was not as obvious, but generated routes with a very short time; in about the time you need to get to the end of the driveway.
Garmin won’t confirm the chipset in the Nuvi 200/250/270 line, but will say that they have moved their recent generations of units to what we all refer to as “High Sensitivity” chipsets, including the Nuvi 200/250/270 line. I was able to get and hold satellites with ease and once I had them, I didn’t lose them. I even took the unit inside my house, and walked to the basement holding satellite reception with ease. So, with two stories of wood framed house above me, the unit still held reception. In older generation GPS units, even driving into the garage would be enough to lose reception. It wasn’t so quick to re-grab the satellites when I actually turned it off and then back on while in my basement (on par with other GPS units), but 1) I don’t need a GPS to navigate my basement, and 2) I think the ability to grab the satellite and hold it through intermittent clutter is well demonstrated by walking into the basement.
The Nuvi 200/250/270 greets you with the classic “Where to?” or “View Map” Garmin interface that is both easy to understand and easy to use. For people familiar with the Garmin interface, you’ll notice that the Nuvi 200 series has a more rounded design with a friendlier design treatment. The edges are more rounded, and the icons are softer. I think that it fits with the place as an everyman’s GPS. It’s something that is on the Nuvi 200 series, and is not currently planned for the rest of the line. The minor up-version of the design can also be seen in the favorites screen and the “Home” button.
Previously, the Home Icon was its own icon on the main “Where to?” selection, but Garmin brought the icon one menu deeper (a minor inconvenience) but it now headlines your “Favorites” folder in a green background. Still a logical place for the often-used button.
How do I set the Home Location on my Nuvi?
The first time you tap the "Home" button, the Nuvi will walk you through setting that location, but sometimes you may need to change this, especially if you use "Home" as a relative place, like your hotel that you are staying at for a week while traveling. To Delete/Change your “Home” location, you can go to favorites, tap on home, tap edit, and then tap on "Delete" which will allow you to reset the location in the original dialog. Just tap the Home button again from the favorites menu, and the Nuvi will walk you through the dialog again.
Nuvi 200 vs. 250 vs 270
The differences between the Garmin Nuvi 200 line ONLY lie between the maps that are pre-loaded onto the units. The Nuvi 200, Continental US Only, Nuvi 250 North America (adds Canada, HI and AK), and the Nuvi 270 adds maps of Europe. Again, these are all pre-loaded and ready to go out of the box. Going to Europe and need to navigate? Grab the Nuvi 270, or 370 or 670, as they have the maps you need. To be clear, I used the Nuvi 250, but what I observed should be applicable for the Nuvi 200, and the Nuvi 270, at least domestically.
Like all Garmins the unit gives you plenty of notice when approaching a turn in a clear concise voice. The Nuvi 200 line does not have Text-to-speech capability that says the road name, so instead it tells you to “Turn in 400 yards” instead of “Turn on Maple Street in 400 yards.” That capability is reserved for higher end units.
The unit also sheds any ability to use TMC traffic, which is optional at the Nuvi 350 level (an extra $150 for the antenna) and standard on the Nuvi 660 (about $400 more than the Nuvi 200), so it’s not cheap if you want the capability. It’s not a value feature anywhere at this point that I know of.
I enjoyed using the Garmin Nuvi 250 and think that it’s a well-designed unit, with a design aesthetic that invites rolling it around in your hands. The list prices are fairly steep at this point, but I think (hope) that they will drop quickly in the market. I like the Nuvi 200 unit at the $300+ range for the summer. We will see the Nuvi 200 selling for $200 - $250 by the Holidays; it will be a door-buster special somewhere. This will certainly bring hesitant shoppers to the GPS market in droves.
The Garmin Nuvi 200/250/270 series is a good line-up that should set the bar high for performance at the value end of the market. I thought it was solid through and through, and am looking forward to seeing it on the market and people enjoying a trusted GPS device from a company like Garmin.