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Garmin Mobile 20 GPS Kit review:

Garmin Mobile 20 GPS Kit

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The Garmin Mobile 20 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 such as, "Turn right in 200 feet." 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. While you're in map view, you also get your next maneuver presented at the top of the screen, and your speed and estimated time of arrival at the bottom. For a total overview of your journey, there's a Trip Computer that calculates your average speed, total miles and trip time, and more.

Some other cool mobile-specific functions of the Garmin Mobile 20 includes a feature called PeerPoints, which lets you send your current location to a contact via text message. It's great for letting people know if you're running late or if you want to meet up with friends at a certain location. If the recipient of the message happens to be a Garmin Mobile user as well, he or she can even save or route to that location from their device. We tried PeerPoints several times and had no problems sending messages, and our contacts always got the messages--pretty cool. Also, in addition to traffic alerts, you can use Garmin Online (remember, you'll need a data plan to access these services) to find the cheapest gas prices based on your location, hotel rates, weather information, and more.

Finally, you can use the Garmin Mobile 20 as a hands-free speaker system for phone calls. We were able to make and accept calls, but we wish there was better phone integration with the program. For now, to activate the hands-free functionality, you have to press the jog dial on the right side of the cradle. It's located far back on the accessory, so it's hard to access easily. You can get to your Contacts list through the Mobile XT application, but it requires a couple of taps. We were also able to bring up the Treo's dial pad by pressing the Talk key on the phone, but it took a few seconds for it to appear, so we thought it didn't register and tapped it again, causing the device to freak out a bit--oops. Needless to say, it'd be nice if there was a quick icon within the program that we could tap for this functionality.

We tested the Garmin Mobile 20 with the Palm Treo 700p in the San Francisco Bay area. From a cold start, it took about three minutes for the system to acquire a satellite fix under cloudy skies. Though subsequent starts didn't take much longer than the initial acquisition time, it was a bit erratic, as sometimes it got a GPS fix right away, while it took several minutes at other times. The Mobile 20 did an accurate job of tracking our location as we drove around the city running errands, although it did drop the signal as we drove through a tunnel and through the skyscraper-filled financial district.

We also used the Garmin Mobile 20 for a trip from San Francisco to downtown San Jose. The program was able to calculate a route within a couple of minutes, but be aware that if you decide to download traffic information, this will add a bit more time to the overall process. The driving directions were accurate, and route recalculations were timely. Our one gripe is that voice prompts were a bit on the soft side, even when we jacked up the volume on the cradle and handset. That said, it got the most important job done, which was getting us to our destination.

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