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April 22, 2007

Garmin nuvi 250 Review

GPSmagazine Rating: 3 of 5
Buy this GPS from Amazon

Verdict: Great Entry Level GPS (But Kinda Pricey)

The nuvi 200 series is Garmin's latest offering in the highly successful nuvi product line, and is targeted at the budget conscious consumer who is looking for basic navigation without all the bells and whistles of the higher end nuvi's. The nuvi 250 ships with pre-loaded NAVTEQ maps of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, has a 3.5-inch color touch screen display, turn-by-turn guidance, 6 million Points of Interest (POI) database, photo viewer, calculator, currency converter, unit converter, and a world clock.

This week I put the nuvi 250 through GPSmagazine's rigorous testing criteria and found out how the newest, budget-friendly nuvi stacks up against the competition (and other nuvi's!).

TOC

  1. Specifications
  2. Making Sense of Garmin's nuvi Product Line
  3. What's In The Box
  4. nuvi 250's New, Internal Antenna
  5. Screen Brightness
  6. Mounting the nuvi 250 in the Car
  7. The Map Page
  8. Finding an Address
  9. Finding a Restaurant
  10. Expanding the Search Scope
  11. Setting the Home Address
  12. Using Longitude/Latitude Coordinates
  13. Adding a Stop to the Route
  14. Stopping the Route
  15. Garmin's Maps - How accurate are they?
  16. Custom Vehicle Icons
  17. Configuring Preferences
  18. Routing Engine Performance
  19. Pros
  20. Cons
  21. Conclusion

1. Specifications

  • Receiver: high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled GPS receiver (SiRF for now, although Garmin says that might change in the future)
  • Display: 2.8"W x 2.1"H (7.2 x 5.4 cm); 3.5 diag (8.9 cm), 320 x 240 pixels; QVGA color antiglare TFT with white backlight
  • Unit dimensions: 3.8"W x 2.8"H x .8"D (9.7 x 7.1 x 2 cm)
  • Weight: 5.2 ounces (147.42 g)
  • Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, up to 5 hours of battery life depending on use
  • Includes Garmin Lockā„¢, an anti-theft feature
  • Pre-loaded with NAVTEQ maps (City Navigator NT) of the US, Canada, & Puerto Rico
  • 6 Millions Points of Interest (POI) database
  • Upload custom POIs, including alerts for speed zones and safety cameras with POI Loader
  • Built in Travel Kit includes picture viewer, world clock, currency and measurement converters, calculator and more
  • SD card slot
  • USB interface for loading data
  • Retail Price: $535.70 / Street Price: $430

2. Making Sense of Garmin's nuvi Product Line

Figuring out which nuvi is right for you has become a daunting task. With 14 different models to choose from, even the most savvy consumer can find themselves confused. Let's take a look at Garmin's growing nuvi family, and examine the differences.

The 200-series represents the entry level market and are the least expensive nuvi's to date. The nuvi 200, 250, and 270 are identical in every way, except for the map coverage. The nuvi 200 ships preloaded with maps of the 48 U.S. continental states (no Alaska or Hawaii), the 250 ships preloaded with maps of the United States, Canada, & Puerto Rico, and the 270 includes maps of the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Europe. All three nuvi 200's use the same NAVTEQ mapping data, share the same high-sensitivity GPS receiver, have the same weight, size, screen, and features.

What's missing from the less expensive 200 series nuvi's? These nuvi's don't have text-to-speech, Bluetooth, traffic, an mp3 player, or a headphone/audio out jack. For a complete overview of the nuvi offering, take a look at the comparison chart below:

Garmin nuvi Feature Matrix

200

250

270

350

360

370

650

660

670

680

Screen Size

3.5"

3.5"

4.3"

3.5"

3.5"

3.5"

3.5"

4.3"

4.3"

4.3"

4.3"

Map Coverage

US (48 states)

NA

NA

NA & EU

NA or EU

NA or EU

NA & EU

NA or EU

NA or EU

NA & EU

NA or EU

Text-to-Speech

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Bluetooth

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Receiver

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

SiRF

FM Transmitter

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Live Traffic

N

N

N

N

Opt

Opt

Y

Opt

Y

Y

Y

Battery Life

5 hrs

5 hrs

5 hrs

5 hrs

8 hrs

8 hrs

8 hrs

3-7 hrs

3-7 hrs

3-7 hrs

3-7 hrs

Weight

5.2 oz

5.2 oz

6.1 oz

5.2 oz

5.1 oz

5.1 oz

5.1 oz

6.2 oz

6.2 oz

6.2 oz

6.2 oz

MP3 Player

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Photo Viewer

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Travel Assistant

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

3.5mm headphone jack

N

N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

MSRP $

$428

$482

$589

$642

$969

$965

$899

$749

$799

$1099

$999

Street Price $

$230

$280

$299

$399

$370

$425

$475

$425

$550

$660

$640

Buyers looking for an integrated MP3 player, travel assistant, traffic, or integrated Bluetooth functionality will need to look to the more expensive nuvi 300 lineup:

  • nuvi 300 - Europe-specific model that ships with map data for a single European region or country.
  • nuvi 310 - Same as the 300, but adds Bluetooth functionality.
  • nuvi 350 - Least expensive nuvi that includes text-to-speech technology (the unit speaks the names of streets and highways when announcing maneuvers). Ships preloaded with maps of North America (US, Canada, Puerto Rico).
  • nuvi 360 - Identical to the nuvi 350, but adds Bluetooth and an integrated microphone for hands-free calling when paired with a Bluetooth enabled cell phone.
  • nuvi 370 - identical to the 360, but adds maps of both North America and Europe.

Those interested in a wide-screen display, built-in FM transmitter (for using your car's stereo to hear nuvi's audio prompts / music), and real-time traffic will need to look to the more expensive nuvi 600-series. All 600-series nuvi share the same 4.3" wide-screen (480 x 272) display, and have the same travel features / mp3 player as the 300 series nuvi's. Here's how the 600-series nuvi models breakdown:

  • nuvi 600 - Europe only (regional maps), text-to-speech, no Bluetooth or FM transmitter
  • nuvi 610 - Europe only - same as the nuvi 600, but adds Bluetooth, and lacks Text-to-Speech
  • nuvi 650 - Least expensive U.S. nuvi 600-series unit. Preloaded maps of North America or Europe, has Text-to-Speech. No Bluetooth, FM transmitter. Traffic receiver is not included.
  • nuvi 660 - Same as the 650, but adds Bluetooth, FM transmitter, and includes FM TMC traffic adapter for real-time traffic data
  • nuvi 670 - Same as the 660, but includes maps for both North America and Europe

Confused? Don't be. The simple way to view the nuvi matrix is this: 200-series are basic navigation. 300-series include travel features, MP3 player, and Bluetooth. 600-series mirror the 300-series nuvi, but are offered in wide-screen, and offer the FM transmitter option.

3. What's In The Box

The nuvi 250 includes the following items in the box:

  • nuvi 250
  • Vehicle suction cup mount to mount the GPS to the windshield
  • 12v cigarette lighter power adapter for charging / powering the GPS
  • Dashboard disk for mounting the suction cup mount on your dashboard instead of the windshield (some states prohibit the mounting of anything in the windshield, so Garmin includes the Dashboard disk for alternate mounting on the dashboard).
  • Set up and go guide

The nuvi 200-series units don't include a leather carrying case, as the more expensive nuvi's do.

Garmin nuvi 250, Front
Figure 1: Garmin nuvi 250, Front

As mentioned previously, the nuvi 200, 250, and 270 all use identical hardware. Looking at the front of the nuvi 250, there are no visible controls. All operations are performed via the 3.5" touch screen.

nuvi 250's Updated Design
Figure 2: nuvi 250's Updated Design

One of the first things you notice about the nuvi 250 is that it's the first nuvi hardware re-design in almost 2 years. The 300 and 600 series nuvi's all share the same light gray, squared plastic case design. The 200-seris nuvi's sport a two-tone look, and have a more streamlined case that narrows at the edges. *Note that the photo above may not be shown to correct scale - both the nuvi 250 and 350 share the same 3.5" 320-by-240 QVGA antiglare screen.

The second thing you notice about the nuvi 250 is that unlike the 300 and 600 series nuvi's that use a fold-out patch antenna, the nuvi 250 has an internal antenna that isn't visible and does not need to be opened when navigating.

The nuvi 250 feels more solid than previous nuvi's. Although the nuvi 200 is almost identical in weight to the nuvi 300 series devices, the plastic feels more sturdy. The 200-series nuvi's are also slightly thinner than the 300-series nuvi's