Garmin StreetPilot 7200
According to Garmin, the StreetPilot 7200 is designed for use in large vehicles such as buses, RVs, and semis, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to drive a big rig to take advantage of this awesome GPS/entertainment system. You do, however, have to be willing to shell out more than $1,400 for the privilege. If you can afford the luxury, this high-end system delivers accurate directions; a large 7-inch, daylight-readable touch screen; multimedia features; and the latest navigation tools, such as text-to-speech functionality, and real-time traffic and weather updates (which will cost you extra). Unlike previous models in the series, the Garmin StreetPilot 7200 is fairly hefty, measuring 7.5 by 4.5 by 2.2 inches and weighing 1.4 pounds. The unit's centerpiece, a massive 7-inch WQVGA touch-screen display, has a resolution of 480x234 pixels, a wide-screen (16:9) aspect ratio, and an autodimming backlight. The daylight-readable screen is bright and easy to read even in the most glaring sunlight, and map colors are rich and vibrant.
A power switch on the Garmin StreetPilot 7200's face is the lone function button; all commands are entered using the highly responsive touch-screen module or via the included 19-button IR remote control. An SD card slot and an audio-out jack are located on the left side of the unit, and mini-USB, A/V-in, and AC power jacks are positioned on the right. The A/V port allows you to connect to an external device, such as a DVD or CD player, to watch movies on the big screen or listen to music through the StreetPilot's internal speaker. An MCX connector on the rear of the unit lets you attach an external antenna.
A 12-volt power adapter is hardwired to the mounting cradle and contains a port for hooking up a backup camera to see what's going on behind your car. The beanbag mounting device and cradle did an admirable job of keeping the Garmin StreetPilot 7200 from sliding around on the dash of our Ford F-150 truck, making it easy to move the unit from car to car. A permanent screw-on mount is included in the box, as well as a USB cable, a user manual, and a driver disc.The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 uses internal memory to store the preloaded City Navigator North America NT mapping program, which includes routable street-level maps and more than 6 million points of interest (POI) for the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Standard navigation features include voice- and text-guided turn-by-turn driving directions, automatic route calculations, quick rerouting when you wander off course, 2D and 3D map views, and text-to-speech technology, which enables the unit to speak actual street names when giving directions.
The navigation software uses easily identifiable icons to guide you through the menu pages. For example, touch Where To? to search for POI locations, such as hotels, banks, service stations, and restaurants or use the onscreen keypad to search for locations by street address, city, or state. Once the Garmin StreetPilot 7200 has found your destination, simply select Go To so that you can make a detailed route. You can also touch a spot on the map and create a route to it from your current location, as well as come up with your own list of favorite places.
A built-in MP3 player lets you listen to your favorite music and Audible books, which you can transfer to the StreetPilot via the USB cable. There's a little more than 850MB of user-accessible memory available for audio files, or you can load media via the SD card slot, but you'll have to supply your own content. While the internal speaker is more than adequate for audible driving directions, we suggest using the built-in FM modulator to broadcast your MP3 tunes over your car stereo.
One of the unit's coolest features (next to the screen, of course) is a pricey optional accessory, but it's one that could save you hours of aggravation. For $267, a GXM 30 Smart Antenna delivers real-time traffic and weather updates via the XM NavTraffic satellite service. NavTraffic shows events such as accidents, construction, and congestion along your route, giving you the option of detouring around the affected area before you get there. In fact, the Garmin StreetPilot 7200 will suggest an alternate route before you head into a problem area. You can also see the current weather conditions and forecast for your entire route, with severe weather alerts for tornados, thunderstorms, and flood conditions. Unfortunately, in addition to shelling out cash for the antenna, you'll have to pay $9.99 per month for the service. A $16.94-per-month subscription adds more than 150 channels of XM Satellite Radio that can be accessed through the StreetPilot's XM-ready Music Player interface.
Alternatively, you can opt for an FM traffic receiver instead. For $214, you get an antenna that picks up data from the Clear Channel network (which is similar to the XM NavTraffic service) and a 15-month subscription to the service. Thereafter, you can opt to subscribe on a monthly basis ($15 per month), or you can save money with an annual subscription ($59 per year).The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 took approximately 4 minutes to acquire a 3D fix the first time we started it up, but once our location was established, it took less than a minute for the unit to initialize thereafter. The GPS receiver did an admirable job of tracking our movements while cruising around Long Island, and the driving directions were clear and concise, but the true test was yet to come.
We created a route through Brooklyn and Manhattan, where tall buildings and snarled traffic are plentiful, and were impressed with the Garmin StreetPilot 7200's ability to maintain a strong satellite signal in the Big Apple. While the XM NavTraffic service was helpful in identifying problem areas along the notoriously accident-prone Belt Parkway, on more than one occasion, we found ourselves sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic while the traffic map indicated clear sailing. We also lost our XM satellite signal a few times, but each time, it was restored within minutes.
The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 was very quick to recalculate a new route when we strayed from the prescribed route or chose to detour around a construction area. We were also pleased with the built-in FM modulator; audio quality was not as sharp as that of a CD player, but MP3s and XM radio stations sounded quite good through our car stereo system.