I love my Garmin Nuvi!  It is simple, elegant, easy to use, helpful, and effective.  The roads in Seattle are laid out far differently from what I was used to in Texas, and this makes navigating them a breeze.  When we're on trips, it finds us food quick & easy along our route.  No more need to print out maps or get directions to places with this little fella on board (or write down my unique Driving Direction Syntax).  I don't use it all the time, just when going somewhere new, but that happens often enough.  It is slim, lightweight, has an internal rechargeable battery so it's portable and comes with a nice simple car mount and charger.  And maybe best of all, the user interface is surprisingly simple, elegant, and effective.

In my opinion, when it comes to GPS less is more.  The Garmin Nuvi 200 series doesn’t have near as many features as other brands (like TomTom, Magellan, etc) such as Bluetooth integration, automatic map updates, a real fast processor, etc.  But what it does have is it just works, is reliable, super easy to use, and looks nice with a streamlined workflow.  Think Apple iPod vs <insert complicated MP3 player here>, one is simple and stylish, the other, well, you get the point.

Garmin Nuvi 200

Nuvi Series Comparisons

I've personally tried and evaluated the 200, 200W, 260, 270, 350, and 710.

Update (8/9/08):  Amazon.com has a handy comparison chart of the nuvi series.

Here are my notes on the various Garmin nuvi models:

  • 200/200W, a great basic model, $152 on amazon.com (when published), only 48 states, does not speak street names.  I'll probably get one of these to have a second on hand for our other car.
  • Any W model, I'm not a fan of the wide-screen models (200W, 260W, 710, etc) since pocket (or small bag) portability is important to me (that's why they have a 5hr battery) and the normal screen works just fine for viewing directions.  The wide screen also takes more room if mounted on your front windshield and looks overly geeky (IMHO).
  • 250, doesn't speak street names, but includes all 50 states and Canada.
  • 260, just right, my pick!, $216 on amazon.com, I'd recommend the 260 model.  It includes all 50 states and Canada (unlike only the 48 covered by the 200) and speaks the street names (unlike the 200, 250 or 270).  Dawn likes the fact it speaks the street names since you can navigate while driving without needing to look at the unit (and possibly getting distracted), you can just listen to it. 
  • 270, has the most maps including all 50 stats, Canada, and Europe, but does not speak street names.
  • 350 (300 series), these were earlier models than the 200 series and while they may have a few more features in the way of Bluetooth integration, photo viewers, MP3 players, etc, it's just a lot of overkill and complexity that really isn't used much.  Their fun to play with at first, that's about it.  Their hardware and software are older too, the 200 series are slimmer, more rounded, and have noticeably more modern software.
  • 710 (600/700/800 series), like the 350 series, these are feature packed models that just have too many bells & whistles.  They typically include traffic alerts and rerouting which according to reports is more frequently vastly inaccurate than helpful.

Garmin vs Other Brands

Here's my Pro/Con list of why to get a Garmin Nuvi 200 series GPS vs other Garmins or other brands (TomTom, Navigon, Asus, Magellan, etc)


Pros:

  • Garmin has the best maps hands down in the US.  TomTom is a European company and their maps of the US are not as up-to-date as Garmin's.
  • The POI (points of interest) database is invaluable!!  Sure it may lag behind in areas by as much as two years, but more often than not it has what I'm looking for and is super handy for finding food when on trips.
  • Simple interface.  This is truly a beauty of the unit, it is just very easy to use.  Garmin focuses on the basics without too many features to clutter up the interface.
  • The software UI is beautiful.  Rounded corners, smooth maps, a cute little car icon, it comes across as user friendly, not overly technical like many other GPS units.

Cons:

  • Other brands like TomTom have many more unique features, including community driven map improvements, but overall I find these to take more time to use and in the end it's the simplicity of the Garmin that is one if its biggest draws.
  • It does not track/save your route or support downloading pre-determined routes (like a hiking or biking route).  It focuses on vehicle navigation so you can set a single destination.  Consider one of the Garmin mapping handhelds or for training on a bike, the Edge series are cool.
  • Oh yeah, and it doesn't have that much needed Alcohol Breath Sensor of the NDrive unit.

Get a Case

Garmin Nuvi CaseI'd also recommend getting this $25 case.  It does a good job protecting the unit.  I take my Nuvi down from it's windshield mount when I'm not using it to prevent vandalism.  Having the case right under my dashboard to slip the Nuvi into (I leave it unzipped) not only protects it and keeps it clean, but also prevents prowling eyes from noticing I have a GPS unit in my car.

New 2x5 Series Just Released

Garmin just released a new line of 2x5 series models.  The 205 model looks particularly promising.  The new software looks nice.  It may be worth trying one of these new units out.

Don't be stupid!

Never yield using your own brain over to the luring mindlessness of following your GPS unit.  Case in point, a bus driver in Seattle blindingly followed a GPS route under a bridge that was far too small for the bus and copped the roof off (Seattle PI article).  Or like my cousin who travels for his job and "lives by his Nuvi 200".  While out shopping when visiting his parents in Houston, he hit the 'Go Home' button and drove almost an hour before realizing he was headed back to his pad in Dallas instead of back to his parent's place in Houston.  <lol>

One lesson I've learned is wherever you go, use your best judgement with turns, streets, etc.  If another street looks better, take it.  It's fun to try other routes than just what the GPS says, and it'll always reroute and put you back on course if need be.

References

There are many other good reviews out there, including: