I recently bought a Garmin Nuvi 200 GPS. This particular model has been discontinued, so I was able to get it for just over $100. It's been replaced by the 200W, which has a wider screen a few extra options.
Some of the features:
- Audio voice prompts that tell you when a turn is coming up. Unlike higher end models, it does not speak the street names. It only tells you to make a left or right turn. It does display the upcoming street name or route number on screen, though.
- Like many models, it has a built in battery, so it doesn't require external power.
- It has a MicroSD (cell phone type card) card slot so you can store photos and other files (it doesn't play music).
- It allows you to add points of interest and choose things to avoid, like toll roads, highways, etc. You can also choose between "fastest" and "shortest" routes.
- It displays your speed and the estimated time until arrival at your destination.
- It logs average speed, maximum speed, time spent stopped, etc.
- It's compact enough to fit in your pocket, so you can easily take it with you when you leave the bike.
- It can automatically switch between "Day" (black and color graphics over a white background) and "Night" (white and color graphics over a black background) modes. You can also select the modes manually. It's very easy to adjust the brightness, volume level and zoom level.
- The unit allows you to view a text list of all the directions in the trip with a single touch.
- You can download a wide range of icons to represent your vehicle. There are options for both a cruiser and a sport bike. I chose the cruiser.
- The unit can automatically rotate the map so forward is always up.
- The unit has 3 modes of operation: Car, bicycle and walking. This allows the unit to choose routes based on the practicality and safety of them.
To start off, I purchased a handlebar mount for the unit. While the suction mount holds very solidly, I wanted a little more confidence that it would stay put. The unit came with a cigarette lighter power adapter. There are optional adapters for connecting the unit to a computer or an AC outlet. However, I had those items already from other devices that had the same power requirements, so I didn't need to purchase them.
The audio prompts, when the volume is turned all the way up, can be heard up to about 45MPH with the shield on my full face helmet lowered. The unit only has a built in speaker - no headphone adapter or Bluetooth. However, most of the times I needed to worry about turns were when I was going less than 45MPH, so I could hear the prompts with little trouble. In fact, when going under 30MPH, the prompts are almost embarrassingly loud - probably audible to pedestrians in town. Everyone in the immediate area will know you're supposed to "turn left now".
The unit is very readable in sunlight with the brightness set at 75%.
The speed listing is very accurate as is the estimated time of arrival. The unit responded quickly to route changes, though a few of those were caused by my turning onto the wrong road when there where two of them close together and the unit was telling me to turn. The unit was giving me correct directions, but I simply misunderstood and turned early. This is where a unit that vocally says street or route names would be very helpful. The couple of times I made a wrong turn were mostly due to the small amount of lag in the satellite data as the united counted down the distance to the turn. Once I missed the turn and two other times, I turned early.
The battery life listings are greatly overstated. The web site indicates up to 5 hours while the manual states up to 4 hours. I topped out at just over 3. However, I found I was able to stretch the battery life by turning the unit off when there were no upcoming direction changes for more than 10 miles. The unit powers up in under a minute, so I would simply turn it back on a few miles before the next turn and the unit would quickly find my location and make all the adjustments. Once powered on, the unit required me to click the "OK" button for the disclaimer and press the "view map" button to get back to the route view. By turning off the unit when it wasn't needed for any length of time, it lasted nearly the entire 5 hour trip back home. By the time the battery was pretty much dead, I was only a few miles from home and well into familiar territory.
The unit seems durable enough. I actually dropped it the second day I had it. I did end up with a small ding in the screen, though. Lesson learned: don't set your GPS on your bike seat when starting it up.
One thing I don't like is how the unit seems to randomly make use of road names and route numbers. For example, it listed route 79 and 206, but called route 10 by its road name. A better system would be to call rural highways by their route numbers and surface streets by their names. That would make it more consistent. It also would make it easier to know when you would be going through town verses out in the open road.
The unit seems to randomly call those Y interchanges "turns". Other times, it doesn't list them at all, even when there is a stop sign. Still other times, it tells you to "keep left" or "keep right". A couple of times, it called a Y interchange a turn, when it was readily apparent that the main route veered one way and a much small road simply branched off. That aspect actually made it more confusing for me since I was expecting an actual turn to continue following a route, like when you enter a town as opposed to simply veering left or right.
You can't program in routes via a computer. This means you have to enter a location to navigate to on the unit. This isn't hard, but it means you can only have one route set up at once. Also, the on screen keyboard is inexplicably an "ABC" style keyboard instead of a "QWERTY" style. It took me twice as long to type with it. The letters were also very small and easy to "fat finger" even with my skinny digits. However, the rest of the touch screen buttons are more than large enough to tap easily with gloves on.
You can't edit the routes. While the unit seems to do well setting up a route according to your preferences, you can't avoid or travel along a specific route. As a result, one turn put me on an oil and stone road to connect to another route. Thankfully, it wasn't fresh. Likewise, the route to NY set me through the middle of Albany while the route back did not. Granted, I don't think I had the "avoid traffic" box checked in the preferences on the way out while I did on the way back. That probably made the difference.
It would be nice to have an option for the screen to shut off after a set amount of time of no directions being given. This way, when you're going to be on a route for, say, 20 miles, the unit can shut off the display. It could then turn it back on a couple of miles before the next turn. That's a potentially handy battery saving feature that would be useful for using the unit without external power. Since the unit has bicycle and pedestrian modes, this would be very handy.
You can't save routes you've programmed in for usage on a later trip. Better models allow this, so keep that in mind when shopping by price. However, programming a route in is not very hard. I can live with that for now, especially based on how little I paid for the unit.
Finally, the unit is not waterproof - or even water resistant. I kept a sandwich bag handy just in case. The clip that holds the unit can easily clip onto it through a bag. On the trip out, the unit had run out of battery power before the rain hit, so it was safely stashed away by then. Coming back, the weather was clear, so I didn't bother covering it. It is harder to read the display with the bag on, though.
So, overall, I give the unit an A-. It got me there with only a few minor "gotchas". Eventually, I'll probably upgrade to something a bit more advanced, but this one is very good for the money.