Garmin Nuvi 200
The Garmin Nuvi 200 series has started to hit store shelves, and we’ve finally put enough miles on our Nuvi 200 to produce a comprehensive review. As the name implies, the Nuvi 200 series is designed to set a new mark for the entry level Nuvi series. Many have speculated that this new series will be a replacement for the StreetPilot “c” series. Here is what we think of the Nuvi 200, and where it fits into the bigger picture of auto GPS devices.
The Nuvi 200 is almost the exact same size as the Nuvi 300 series. It has virtually the same width and height, but is just a sliver thinner than the 300 models. It also comes in at virtually the same weight.
Like its siblings there is a power button across the top, but the operation of this power button has changed. Rather than a push style button it is a slider. You slide the button to the left and release to turn the power on or off. You can also move the slider to the right that locks input to the device, much like a hold button on an iPod. I’m not really sure why a hold button is necessary on this device unless they have it in mind for the pedestrian mode. Perhaps they will use this on future Nuvi models which include an MP3 player (The Nuvi 200 does not include an MP3 player).
The SD card slot has moved from the right side to the left side. If I had a choice I would prefer it on the right since sometimes I place the GPS up against the left side of the dash, but without an MP3 player it isn’t likely you would use the SD card slot all that much anyway, so no big deal. The right side and bottom have no buttons or connectors. The only other item is the USB/power connector that has been moved from the right side to the back of the Nuvi 200. Since there is no MP3 player there is no headphone jack.
The only other physical difference is that Garmin has finally gotten rid of the “flip up” GPS antenna. As much as I didn’t like the flip up design, being able to disable the GPS did have some advantages. The other Nuvi devices can only calculate routes starting at your current location unless you perform a weird workaround of disabling the GPS, setting a new location, and then calculating a route. Without a way to disable the GPS on the Nuvi 200 series, even that long workaround becomes impossible. I often fly for work and I like to calculate how long it will take to get from my destination airport to the hotel. This isn’t possible with the Nuvi 200 series.
Another interesting change in the 200 series is the suction cup mount. I’ve praised the mount on the 300 series as being the absolute best mount in the industry. Unfortunately Garmin changed the mount slightly in the new Nuvi series. The mount is still easy to assemble, easy to adjust thanks to the ball and socket joint, compact, and a nice simple design. What sets the other mount apart is that the power cord connects to the mount and then the mount feeds power to the Nuvi. That is gone in the 200 series and instead the power cord connects directly to the device. So now when you take the GPS off the mount you also need to disconnect the power cable and have a power cable dangling inside your car. It just isn’t as clean as the mount for the 300 series.
A 3.5″ touch screen display powers the Nuvi 200. This screen is BRIGHT! It is brighter than the screen on the 300 series and is visible from a wider viewing angle. The whites are extremely white and bright sunlight never made the Nuvi screen difficult to read. The screen is one area where the Nuvi 200 performs better than the 300 series. This is one of the best 3.5″ screens I’ve seen.
Under the hood the Nuvi has a very powerful chipset which had no trouble quickly acquiring a signal within my office, kept a strong signal, and never dropped out when near tall buildings.
A few of the menu items have been rearranged a little bit if you are used to other Nuvi designs, but not so much that they make an important difference in function. The “Where to?” menu has been changed to include a separate button for Points of Interest rather than cramming them all into the parent menu. This is a welcome change and makes it easier to access the buttons for intersections, cities, browsing the map, etc. And if you need to use the Nuvi 200 for emergency geocaching events it will navigate to a set of coordinates.
Navigating to an Address
Setting up Navigation to an address has changed very little. The buttons have a little bit of a more modern looking design and are more rounded than the squarish buttons on other Nuvis. When it asks for a state the Nuvi still can’t figure out that when I type in “NY” I mean “New York”. Instead it insists on me typing in “N E W _ Y” before it figures out where I want to go. Likewise the rest of the process is the same as it asks you next for the city, then house number, and finally the street name. After finding the address you click the ‘Go’ button and you are on your way.
Navigation to a POI
As mentioned earlier, there is now a dedicated menu button for POIs. The POIs are still not arranged in alphabetical order, but thankfully there are only fourteen primary categories to choose from. Many of the categories like ‘Food’ do include sub menus. In the case of food you can select from about 20 different categories of food to suit your tastes.
The display of search results has also changed on the Nuvi 200 series. The 300 series shows you five results on one screen, lists the name, and straight line distance from your location. The Nuvi 200 series only displays four results per page, but includes the street address (but not town) in smaller print below the title. Personally the town name might be more helpful than the street here, but the important note is that more detail is shown at the sacrifice of one fewer result per page. Clicking on one of the results will display the phone number as well as town of that particular POI, along with a Go button to route to that location or a save button to save it to your Favorites.
While navigating the next turn information is displayed in text across the top of the display. I’d still like a nice big graphical arrow showing the next turn somewhere, but I’ve learned to live without it on the Nuvi devices. At the bottom left is a field showing you your estimated arrival time. At the bottom right you are shown the distance to the next turn. Clicking on this button will show you a text display of your next instruction, a zoomed in view of the intersection, a voice prompt will read the distance to turn and the direction of the next turn and the estimated time to that intersection. People seem to be split in their preference of wanting to see “distance to turn” or “time to turn” on the primary display, but you only have the option of seeing distance. There is also no way to see the amount of time you have left to your destination!. Kinda sad that this GPS won’t tell you how long (in time) it will take to get there unless you do the math between the estimated arrival time and the current time.
The speaker is plenty loud and I could clearly hear instructions at highway speeds with the radio on at normal levels and the windows cracked. It isn’t quite as loud as the speaker on the Nuvi 300 series, but it performed just fine. There is no text-to-speech option on the Nuvi 200 series, but the voice prompting was timely and of very good quality.
Like the rest of the Nuvi series, the point of this device is simplicity. As a result there are routing features you might want that are not included in the Nuvi 200 series. As mentioned above you cannot set your starting location when calculating routes so you can’t plan ahead unless you are already at your starting location. There is a simple detour function but unlike the detour function on most other devices you cannot specify how far ahead you wan tot detour from the current route.
Likewise there is no ability to specify a group of destinations or multiple via points and build them into one route. You can specify one via point per route, but no more than one.
The Nuvi 200 series is a great simple device. It has an absolutely amazing screen, the voice prompts are easy to interpret, and the map is very easy to follow. If your navigation needs are simple and you just want to get a device that will remind you of turns and take you to new destinations, the Nuvi 200 would be a great choice.
It does have some limitations though. There is no advanced planning function, no multiple destination routing, and a detour function that is too simple to be utilized. But hey, you do get a calculator, currency converter, picture viewer, unit converter, and a world clock. (Slight sarcasm.) It would be worth comparing the Nuvi 200 with the slightly older Nuvi 350.
They both have the same screen size, similar physical size, similar weight, nearly the same interface, similar battery life, and most of the same navigation functions. But the Nuvi 350 offers maps of all of North America (the 200 only has the US 48, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico), the ability to connect to a traffic receiver, an MP3 player, text-to-speech, and small case included. You get all of those extra features and based on current prices you will actually pay less for the Nuvi 350 than the Nuvi 200. I expect that within a few months the Nuvi 200 prices will drop below that of the 350, but for now why pay $40 more for a device that has less features?
If the ability to have more advanced routing features is important, compare the Nuvi 200 vs the TomTom ONE. The Garmin Nuvi 200 isn’t a bad GPS by any means, it is an extremely solid performer, but the pricing is what will make or break this GPS for many people.