The Garmin Nuvi family of portable navigation devices (PNDs) is growing constantly, and the GPS manufacturer has added a new line called the Nuvi 2x5 series that focuses on providing high-end features for an affordable price. The flagship model of this line is the Garmin Nuvi 265WT, and it offers text-to-speech functionality, integrated Bluetooth, and free traffic service for life--all for a reasonable $349.99. On the road, the PND offers accurate driving directions and clear audible prompts, but there were some minor performance issues. Still, there are very few, if any, other GPS that provide such a value. If you want the most bang for your buck, the Garmin Nuvi 265WT fits the bill.
The Garmin Nuvi 265WT looks like the latest Nuvi models, which is a good thing since we like its slim and simple design. The unit measures 4.8 inches wide by 2.9 inches high by 0.8 inch deep and weighs 6.1 ounces. In addition to a compact size, the PND has a nice solid construction that makes it a nice travel companion and easy for multivehicle use.
The main attraction of the Nuvi 265WT is the spacious 4.3-inch WQVGA touch screen. It has a 480x272 pixel resolution, so maps and text look vibrant and clear. You can adjust the screen's brightness through the Settings menu and as with all the latest GPS, maps can switch automatically from day to night colors so you get the best viewing experience.
We've always liked Garmin devices for their easy-to-use interfaces, and the 265WT is no different. The main menu screen presents you with two clear choices: "Where to?" and "View Map." It also features large icons with clear identifications, so even when you get deeper into the menus and various functions, everything's pretty intuitive.
The touch screen was responsive to our commands, and the onscreen keyboard is available in QWERTY or ABC format. The keyboard is a bit on the smaller side, so users with larger fingers might have some problems. The good news is that it has predictive text, so it will automatically pull up possible search results as soon as you start inputting a couple of letters. We also like that the number keys are included all on the same keyboard, and you don't have to switch over a separate number screen.
As we mentioned earlier, the Nuvi 265WT is pretty simple and doesn't have many external controls. There's a single power/hold switch located on top of the system. The left spine holds an SD card slot, and a mini USB port is located on the back where you can connect the car charger. The only thing we'd like to see are some external volume controls. Though you can adjust the volume onscreen, some buttons on the outside for easy access would be nice.
The Garmin Nuvi 265WT comes packaged with a car charger with an integrated traffic receiver, a USB cable, a vehicle mount (windshield and dash), and reference material.
The Garmin Nuvi 265WT offers quite a number of features for the price. First, there's a new HotFix functionality that automatically calculates and stores important satellite information for faster satellite acquisition. The system comes preloaded with City Navigator NT street-level maps of North America and more than 6 million points of interest.
The POI database contains all the major categories (gas stations, lodging, ATMs, restaurants by cuisine type, and so forth) and more specialized interests, including golf courses, gyms, and nightclubs. On top of the preloaded entries, you can add custom POIs, such as safety cameras and school zones, and it's compatible with MSN Direct services. The latter allows you to get more location-specific information, such as movie times and weather, but it requires an additional receiver and subscription fee.
To start planning a trip, you can enter a specific address, choose a POI, or select a location from the Recently Found or Favorites list. The Nuvi 265WT supports multidestination trips, and you can add waypoints on the fly. You have your choice of three route preferences (faster time, shorter distance, or off-road) and three usage modes (automobile, bicycle, or pedestrian). You can avoid certain road types if you choose, such as toll roads and highways.
The Nuvi 265WT has a detour function for avoiding certain portions of your prescribed route, but the system also now comes with an FM traffic receiver that's integrated into the body car charger. Even better, you get free traffic alerts for life. Traffic information is provided by Navteq Traffic Network and can alert you to any upcoming congestion or road construction. The system will give you audible prompts when there's upcoming traffic. You can also tap on the traffic icon (green button with two cars) on the map screen to see color-coded traffic along your route or see specific incidents.
There is a slight catch about the complementary traffic subscription, though. In order to keep it free for you, the service is supported by advertisements. The advertisements won't appear while you're driving a route, but if you're stopped for more than 10 seconds, they (usually the company name and icon) will appear onscreen. We noticed it a few times, and it caught us off guard and annoyed us at first. However, the ads are pretty small and unobtrusive, and in our opinion, a small price to pay for free, lifetime service.
Maps are available in 2D and 3D view, and you can change it so either north is always at the top of your screen or the direction in which you are driving is. A plus and minus icon on the map screen lets you zoom in and out, and there's a trip information page that displays your speed, direction, trip time, and so forth. If you'd like, there's also a trip log where you can view data, such as distance traveled and total trip time. In addition to the visual aids, you, of course, get voice-guided turn-by-turn directions with text-to-speech functionality.
For some peace of mind, the Garmin Nuvi 265WT has the "Where am I?" feature, which gives you the coordinates of your location, the nearest address, and intersection, and lists the closest hospitals, police stations, and gas stations to your position. You'll be able to call any of these services or other businesses or POI directly from the unit since it has integrated Bluetooth. We're happy to report that your phone's address book and call history will automatically synchronize with the GPS for easy data transfer.
Finally, the Nuvi 265WT comes with a number of extras, including the Garmin Lock antitheft feature, a world clock, currency and measurement converters, and a calculator. There's also a picture viewer as well as something called Garmin Connect Photos. With this feature, you can log onto the http://connect.garmin.com, choose from a selection of millions of geolocated photos, download them to your Nuvi 265WT, and then navigate to them.
We tested the Garmin Nuvi 265WT in San Francisco, and from a cold start, it took the unit about 3 minutes to get a fix on our location, while the subsequent starts took less than a minute--perhaps the handiwork of the HotFix feature. The Nuvi 265WT did a good job of tracking our position as we drove around the city. It managed to keep its lock while driving through the Financial District, even though skyscrapers tend to block a clear view of the sky in that part of town. As expected, the Nuvi 265WT did momentarily lose the connection when we drove through the Broadway tunnel.
As our standard road test, we plotted a course from the Marina District to CNET's downtown headquarters. The system calculated a route quickly and we checked the list of text directions and found them to be accurate. On the road, voice-guided directions were loud and clear, and the text-to-speech pronunciations were pretty spot on. We missed several turns to test the route recalculation rate, which was mostly on target. There were a couple of occasions where we would have liked quicker notice, but in the end, the Nuvi 265WT was able to get us back on track and to our destination.
The traffic alerts were somewhat helpful, but along a route the audible alerts are somewhat slow. On the way to San Francisco International Airport, we ran into some congestion as a San Francisco 49ers game let out, and we were already bumper-to-bumper when the Nuvi 265WT alerted us to "Traffic ahead." I had to laugh as my passenger said, "Traffic ahead? Try traffic now." The feature was definitely more beneficial for preplanned trips, since you can check for incidents before heading out.
We were able to pair the Nuvi 265WT with the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8310 for AT&T, although it took a couple of attempts. Once connected, our phone's address book was automatically synchronized with the Nuvi, and we were able to make calls right away. Call quality on our end sounded pretty good. There was plenty of volume, but we could hear a slight background hiss. Unfortunately, the results weren't so good on the other end. Our friends said they could hear us, but one reported distracting background noise, while another said we sounded just plain horrible.