As the entry-level model of the Nuvi series, the Garmin Nuvi 200 has a very basic feature set. It does come preloaded with maps of the United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, though it misses detailed maps of Alaska and Canada. You can start planning a trip in a number of ways, including entering a specific address, picking a point of interest (POI), selecting a recently entered location, or choosing a destination from your Favorites list. Of course, if you don't need guidance, you can just have the Nuvi track your movements by tapping View Map. The system can generate directions by fastest time, shortest distance, or off road, and you can instruct it to avoid certain road types, such as toll roads and highways. And don't think you're restricted to only use the system in the car, as there are settings for pedestrian, bicycle, truck, and bus modes.
The Nuvi 200 offers turn-by-turn, text- and voice-guided directions, but it doesn't support text-to-speech functionality. This means the system won't speak actual street names; instead, it will give you more generic directions like, "Turn right in 500 feet." The Nuvi 200 also supports automatic route recalculation and includes a detour function if you want to avoid certain part of the given route. Maps are available in 2D and 3D view with day and night colors, and you can change it so north is always at the top of your screen or the direction in which you are driving. A plus and minus icon on the map screen allows you to zoom in and out, and there's also a trip information page that displays your speed, direction, trip time, and so forth.
The Nuvi 200 has a comprehensive POI database with all the major categories (gas stations, lodging, ATMs, and so forth) and more specific ones; you can even search for restaurants by type of cuisine. On top of the preloaded entries, you can add custom POI, such as safety cameras and school zones.
Of course, part of the allure of the Nuvi series is its travel features. Again, as an entry-level device, the number of travel tools is more limited than other models in the family. You get a world clock, currency and measurement converters, and a calculator. You can purchase additional travel guides preloaded on an SD card through Garmin; prices range from $49.99 to $160.70. Other goodies on the Nuvi 200 include a picture viewer and the Garmin Lock security feature, which prevents the unit from performing any functions until you enter a user-defined four-digit PIN or take it to a predetermined location.
We tested the Garmin Nuvi 200 in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit less than two minutes to get a GPS fix under clear skies, while subsequent starts were almost instantaneous. If the system is having any problems acquiring a fix, a pop-up message will appear onscreen and ask you if it should continue searching for satellites. If you're indoors and tap no, you can still plan trips and get a running demo of your route.
During free drives around the city, the Nuvi 200 accurately tracked our location. We also planned a specific trip from the Marina district of San Francisco to CNET's downtown headquarters, and the system quickly returned with a route. We also missed several turns to test the route recalculation rate, and after a few seconds, the Nuvi gave us new directions, always before our next maneuver.