A number of portable navigation systems, such as the Magellan RoadMate 800, claim they can be used in the car and on foot, but while they may be compact enough, their odd shapes don't make them ideal walking buddies. The Garmin Quest 2, however, is a different story. Its PDA-like form factor makes it a perfect travel companion, whether you're behind the wheel or hoofing it. Maps are now preloaded on the device, one of several nice upgrades over its predecessor. Of course, there are some trade-offs for its diminutive size. The display is rather small and isn't a touch screen. Voice-guided directions are only available when the unit is used with the included vehicle mount. And, it's a bit pricey at $750. Still, thanks to its portability and accurate directions, the Garmin Quest 2 is a solid choice if you're looking for a versatile GPS device.
At 4.5 by 2.2 by 0.9 inches and 5.5 ounces, the Garmin Quest 2 is roughly the size of a PDA. The device has a solid construction and is comfortable in the hand, but since you can view maps only in landscape mode, you must hold the unit horizontally when traveling on foot. The Quest's streamlined design includes a rear-side, flip-up antenna that stores flush with the system's surface and doesn't add extra bulk.
The Quest 2's face has a 2.2-by-1.5-inch screen that displays 256 colors at a 240-by-160-pixel resolution. It's not the sharpest or brightest screen we've seen, and it's certainly not the largest. Fortunately, the system supports voice-guided directions (via the included 12-volt power/speaker adapter on the windshield mount), so you don't have to rely solely on text directions while driving. Also on the upside, the screen is readable in direct sunlight. Because the Quest 2 doesn't have a touch screen, all functions are handled through the nine rubberized controls to the right of display: power on/off, find, zoom in, zoom out, menu, speak, OK, page, and a four-way navigation toggle. (A keyboard appears onscreen whenever a text entry is required.) Though the buttons are tactile, the menus and interface aren't all that intuitive and require a number of extra steps just to accomplish one task.
Finishing out the Quest 2's design are a USB port and external antenna jack on the back, both of which are protected by an attached rubber cover. Aside from the aforementioned windshield mount and adapter, Garmin packages the Quest 2 with a USB cable and reference material. Unfortunately, you can't use the USB cable to charge the internal battery, and since the Quest 2 is such a portable device, we think a carrying case would have been nice. On a brighter note, the vehicle mount did a good job of holding the unit in place during our test drives. The Quest 2 also meets IEC 60529 IPX7 standards, meaning it can withstand submersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes--good to know, if you're using the Quest 2 for outdoor activities.
The biggest improvement the Garmin Quest 2 offers over its predecessor is that the device is preloaded with maps of North America, including Puerto Rico, so you don't have to transfer maps from your PC. Just power it up and you're ready to navigate to your destination. If you plan to take your Quest 2 off the beaten path, you can download optional MapSource cartography, such as U.S. Topo for detailed coverage of national parks, U.S. Recreational Lakes with Fishing Hot Spots, and BlueChart for all you boaters.
You can route to your destination by address, intersection, or saved locations. When you're planning a trip, use the Find Near feature to locate points of interest along the way, such as lodging, gas stations, or restaurants. You can instruct the Quest 2 to create routes based on whether you're driving, walking, or biking, and it can calculate directions by fastest time, shortest distance, and off road. You also have the option of avoiding certain roads, such as highways or toll roads. If you happen to veer off course or run into a construction zone or blocked road, don't worry: The Quest 2 will automatically recalculate your route or accommodate detours. There's also a nifty TracBack feature that acts like a breadcrumb trail and keeps track of your travels whether on the street or off the road.
The Quest 2 lets you view maps in one of two ways: North Up, where North always faces up, or Track Up, where the direction you are heading is always at the top of the page. When you approach a turn, the Next Turn page appears with a map of your route and text-based directions. Because voice-guided directions are spoken through the power adapter and not the device itself, you'll have to rely solely on the text directions if you're walking or hiking with the Quest 2. Also, unlike newer systems, the Quest doesn't have text-to-speech functionality, so you'll get only generic voice prompts (for example, "Turn right in 100 feet") rather than specific street names. You can zoom in and out of maps and customize the map page to include useful information, such as traveling speed, distance to next turn, and estimated arrival time. The Trip Information page also records useful data about your trip, such as total travel time and average speed.
We tested the Garmin Quest 2 in San Francisco, and the unit took about five minutes to acquire our position (four satellites locked in) from a cold start. Subsequent starts were much faster, but more importantly, the Quest's receiver did a good job of tracking our location. The unit lost its fix a couple of times when we drove or walked in areas where tall buildings dominated the sky, but this isn't unique to the Garmin Quest; most GPS devices experience the same problem.
Directions and route guidance were also accurate. Although we didn't download any maps for hiking, we used the Quest 2 on a downtown walking tour, and it never steered us wrong. The only disappointing aspect of the Quest's performance was battery life. Garmin claims the unit's rechargeable lithium-ion battery can last up to 20 hours, but in our tests, it petered out after 8 hours. Still, this is impressive compared to other portable navigation systems, which typically offer 5 to 6 hours of battery life.