Editors' note: The following review is of the Garmin Nuvi 200 series. As part of the 200 series, the 260 has the same design, functions, and features as the unit reviewed below, but adds a text-to-speech function that reads street and POI names aloud. As a result, the Nuvi 260 gets an extra point in the features rating category.
The Garmin Nuvi series of GPS devices enjoys a fair number of fans. The Nuvi 660 and the Nuvi 350 have earned an average of 7.5 and 8.6 user ratings, respectively. And it's not hard to see why. These ultraportable gadgets not only serve as navigation aids but also offer travel-friendly features, such as travel guides and foreign language dictionaries--all while delivering solid performance and ease of use. However, we've always winced at the jaw-dropping price tags.
Well, it seems Garmin heard our cries, as the company has released a new family of Nuvi devices that are more wallet-friendly. The Garmin Nuvi 200 series includes three models: the Nuvi 200 ($428.56) with preloaded maps of the United States and Puerto Rico; the Nuvi 250 ($482.16), which adds maps of Canada; and the Nuvi 270 ($599.99), which comes preinstalled with maps of the United States, Canada, and more than 30 European countries. For our review, we took a look at the Nuvi 200. This entry-level model boasts an even sleeker design and continues to deliver the same intuitive interface and accurate directions. It strips out some of the more advanced travel and multimedia tools to cut costs, but even so, we wish the price was slightly lower--more in the $300 range. Still, with a little shopping around, you can probably find a deal and, for the money, you'll get a solid portable navigation system.
At 3.8 inches wide by 2.8 inches high by 0.8 inch deep and 5.2 ounces, the Garmin Nuvi 200 isn't that much bigger than today's latest smartphones or PDAs; in other words, it's pretty compact. It helps that the GPS antenna is now integrated into the device, unlike older Nuvi models like the Garmin Nuvi 350, which had a flip-up antenna. And while the Nuvi 200 is probably a little too bulky to fit into a pants pocket comfortably, you'll have no problem carrying it in a bag, using it on foot, or transporting it between vehicles.
A 3.5-inch (diagonal) QVGA touch screen dominates the face of the Nuvi 200. The display is bright and sharp, with a 320x240 pixel resolution and an antiglare coating. Unlike the Mio C220, we had absolutely no problems viewing the Nuvi's display in various lighting conditions, including bright sunlight.
Aside from a power/lock slider switch on top of the device, there are no other external controls, so all commands are registered via the responsive touch screen. While we like the minimalist design, we think a volume dial on the side would've been nice. There is an SD card expansion slot on the left side, and the speaker and power connector/Mini-USB port are on the back.
The Garmin Nuvi 200 comes packaged with a car charger, a vehicle mount (dash and windshield), and reference material. The vehicle mount has a no-fuss design and is very easy to install in your car. It securely held the Nuvi in place, and there's a lock mechanism at the base of the apparatus to reinforce the connection between the suction cup and windshield.