The Garmin Nuvi 205W/255W were announced earlier this year has arrived GPSLodge for review, and are quickly taking their place as solid entry level units in the Garmin line-up. The Nuvi 205W/255W offer a series of new tweaks that I have quickly come to appreciate and enjoy.
The Nuvi 205W/255W feature several upgraded features:
The subtle changes don't sell themselves in any huge way as breakthrough innovations, but these changes add up to a whole lot more in use than the quick read might lead you to believe. If these were houses for sale, the 200W/250W and the 205W/255W may look the same from the outside, and offer the same number of bedrooms and baths, but the think of it like the Nuvi 205W and Nuvi 255W just got kitchen, bath and master suite upgrades that make them stand out as easier and more enjoyable to use.
Let's take a look at what's inside and why these are worth the upgrade.
Update: The Nuvi 2x5 series has the ability to use the Garmin ecoRoute program that helps you drive more efficiently. It's not nirvana, but it can help those interested in being a little more gas conscious.
Table of Contents
The Garmin Nuvi 205W/255W takes the thin design from Garmin's widescreen platform and offers a sleek and solid unit that is easy to pocket or store in an larger purse, briefcase, backpack, etc. The single slider switch on the top allows you to turn the unit on with a quick flick of the finger, while also locking the unit so that it doesn't get turned on by mistake while packing it away. The power cord is a straightforward 12V power cord that comes with the unit, and plugs into the back of the unit with a 90 degree turn down allowing the unit to sit right down tight to the dash which can't be done with those units that have a cord coming out the bottom of the GPS. The mount is a single cam lever mount that offers my preferred method of mounting to the windshield or the disc that's included to adhere it to the dash. The Nuvi 205W/255W itself snaps into a couple of clips on the mount and stays snug once attached.
Interface - Improved Nuvi Ease
The Nuvi 205W/255W come with an improved interface that may seem like a subtle change, but I think that this is a big difference and keeps the Garmin Interface fresh, easy to understand and makes the Garmin's more intuitive than their already excellent interface. The new look and feel is important, a simple update that makes the unit feel relevant but beyond the new skin there is some functionality that really makes sense. A lot of the information is concentrated down the left side of the screen. Distance to turn, turn direction, and speed limit. The zoom in and zoom out buttons are along the right side which make it a lot easier to handle with one thumb, instead of switching from side to side in the old screen - (the older interface had the buttons in the upper left and upper right corners of the screen - making the action of zooming in and out more of a two thumb video game type experience.)
Turn indicator - While navigating in the upper left corner of the screen there is a green arrow and distance indicator that makes seeing where to turn easy. By combining the two pieces of information, a quick eyeshot to the Nuvi gives you an easy assessment of what's going on.
Data Fields - Speed on the left, and on the right, the driving direction (N, NE, E, SE, etc.) when driving normally, or the Arrival Time when actually navigating. A quick tap of the "Speed" readout, and you get a trip monitor screen, offering a data-hound's dream full of information. On a long road trip, This can be useful as a readout itself or something that is easy to quickly check as you are driving along. I like the overall average and the moving average that can tell you just how badly your average rate took a hit as a result of that extended stop for food and gas.
Zoom Fields - Again, the location on the screen has changed. Previously the "+" and "-" buttons were spaced out on the corners of the screen bit they are now conveniently located together, allowing for easy one handed operation to quickly zoom out then back in when you go too far!
Speed Limits - The Nuvi 205W/255W feature speed limits displayed on the unit's screen which is a relatively recent (but not new) movement for Garmin. Net - I think this is a good addition and a good time for Garmin to add it to their Nuvi line. The data is much more reliable and the potential for bad speed limit alerts has dropped dramatically. I have seen this on other units, where the database is plagued by bad data, and offered to have warnings alert you when you were speeding. With a bad database, the warnings are useless. The data captured by NAVTEQ for speed limits was really pretty good in my miles of driving. The speed limits were present on state roads and interstates; the speed changes were also accurate within a few feet of a newly changed speed zone. If you like the feature, the data in my use was really good. An added plus is that the display is very much like a Speed Limit sign making it an intuitive image to understand.
Faster Map Drawing - It's a subtle thing, but the Nuvi 205W/255W have a softer interface that seems to draw maps faster by selectively drawing different layers and fading in detail overtime. So, major roads draw on a background, then minor roads, then interstate markers draw in finally accented by more minor road names and then any texturize detail to the map. It's cool to watch and offers detail at about the rate you can understand it, and internalize it without leaving you with the feeling of thinking ahead of the unit's ability to draw.... you aren't left wanting for a faster draw.
Navigation continues to be very good with the Nuvi 205W/255W, and offers a variety of ways to select your destination, with a very complete POI listing of stores, businesses, and other municipal locations. The approximately 6 million POI's are broken down to 14 categories that make sense, allowing you to look at the category listing by closest proximity. If you had a specific location in mind, you can then search within that category by spelling out the name. Tap on one location and you can see the address, the phone number with the option to see the map of the location and then go there if you decide that's where you want to go.
The Garmin Nuvi 205W/255W also allow you to search by addresses, remembering which state you are in (see right) so that you have an easier time limiting your search for a town and a specific address. You are able to search by intersection, which allows you to type in a road and the unit then offers you the cross roads as a place you can navigate to. The Garmin Nuvi 205W/255W has the ability to navigate you to the city center via a stand-alone button, which is not under the "Address" button; easier searching to get to the center of a city if that's what you need. You can also navigate to a set of LAT/LON coordinates, which I think is very helpful, if you are navigating to a location like a trailhead where the coordinates may have been documented without an actual street address.
Garmin has improved routing so that as you are selecting your destination, the route is already starting to plan in the background - very cool, very smart. A second or two after you select a POI, for instance the store below, the unit slides out a little tab of information from the "GO!" button showing what mode it is using - automobile, the distance and the time it will take. The Nuvi is calculating the route in the background and as a result, when the little tab shows, and you hit "Go" the route is already there - no more waiting. In my torture test of navigating from my house outside of Boston to Dodger Stadium, the Nuvi 205W/255W calculated the route in about 12-16 seconds and displayed it on the screen. That's a bit faster than I have seen in other units, not earth shattering, but the impression is that due to this background calculation the obvious lag after you hit "Go" is long gone.
Overall the routing on the Garmin Nuvi 205W/255W is very good and I have no complaints at all in this area; recalculations are quick when you miss a turn, voice commands are good, and the overall intelligence of the routing is well done.
The widescreen on the Nuvi 205W/255W offers a better point of view while driving, but really the benefits are in the data entry screens and internal menus. The extra room that you get is not just something to overlook and under estimate. The difference is dramatic. In terms of area covered, you get 70% more real estate on a 4.3-inch screen versus a 3.5-inch screen. Shown below, you can have either larger buttons on the Widescreen unit in the "ABC" layout, or switch to an easy "QWERTY" keyboard layout for more intuitive typing of names. The comparison is between the Nuvi 205/255 layout and the Nuvi 205W/255W layouts.
Garmin Nuvi 205W vs 255W
Text To Speech - Says Street Names (Nuvi 255W only)
The Garmin Nuvi 255W offers text to speech (TTS) which says the street names as you approach them. The difference can be a big plus when you are navigating around town or in a semi-urban area where the roads are situated closer together. Not a big help when you are navigating on highways where the off-ramps are easy to see, and are simple straight forward exits from the highway. The real advantage is when the interchanges and roadways start to offer a couple of options and the Nuvi 255W is offering its point of view verbally where to go and which street to take. The result is more confidence and the ability to keep your eyes on the road - always a good thing.
Quality of the Text to Speech - I think that the quality of the Text to Speech on the Nuvi 255W is one of the better systems I have heard, not the best, but very good. There are some rough pronunciations, but it is far from the mechanical pure computer-esque pronunciations of lesser brands. The Nuvi 255W comes with 5 English TTS Voices; Female American English, Male and Female Australian English, and a Male and Female British English. Fun to play with to get the other versions of english, but I would like it to have a male American option. Note: If you select a voice without the "TTS" after it, you will NOT get spoken street names and the unit will revert to saying "Turn in 400 yards" instead of naming the street.
The other difference between the models is that the Garmin Nuvi 205W has "regional" coverage which for a majority of my readers means 48 state coverage + Hawaii + Puerto Rico. When you upgrade to the Nuvi 255W, you get all of North America, adding Canada and Alaska. It's really that simple.
The Nuvi 205W/255W are really entry level widescreen units from Garmin, but hardly feel like it. Let's face it, at the base, you are buying into a quality brand with all of the makings that got Garmin to be the #1 GPS maker in the US even in the Truck GPS market. The routing is solid, the interface is better than ever and the prices are very reasonable. I believe that when you are considering a GPS, a top notch brand is worth the extra money; after that, invest in Text to Speech and a Widescreen. The Nuvi 255W offers both, and for me, the text to speech is a very worthwhile investment for almost everybody. This is sometimes only $30 - $40 more, and it is money well spent. You're going to use this GPS hundreds of times, across thousands of miles, and many thousands of turns; the added confidence that Text to Speech will cost you pennies a trip, it's worth it. Widescreen is a tougher case to make, but the extra real estate is a big plus especially when entering the data, as I showed above. The Nuvi 205W and Nuvi 255W are great choices for the GPS buyers out there interested in solid navigation with great additions like widescreen and text to speech.