June 8, 2008
Just about a month ago, I purchased a Garmin Nuvi 200W 4.3″ widescreen portable GPS system. This GPS system doesn’t have the bells and whistles that a lot of the other Garmin units have, but for basic GPS functionality this unit is a great starter for anybody out there. Some features that this unit doesn’t include: Canada/Mexico maps, bluetooth capability, FM transmitter, mp3 player, and text-to-speech audio. On the other hand, it does come with a nice 4.3″ widescreen and the overall GPS functionality (the basic foundation you need to look for when deciding between a Tom Tom (TOM2.AS), Garmin (GRMN), or Magellan unit) is excellent.
One Minor Flaw
I live in an area that contains many apartment buildings, and when I leave my parking garage, it takes up to 5 minutes for the satellite to acquire. Sometimes I will even drive onto Interstate 5 and it still takes time to acquire signal. This can be troublesome if you don’t know how to start your trip and waiting 5 minutes before being directed in the correct direction can cause problems. The funniest thing is that at times I don’t have signal when I leave my apartment, but when I arrive back from a trip where I’m using the Nuvi 200W, I will have satellite signal around my apartment area.
What Features I Would Pay More For
If I had to purchase another Garmin unit, I would make sure to get the text-to-speech functionality so the portable GPS unit would announce the name of the street to turn on or an exit to turn off from a highway. This is a big upgrade compared to “take a left in .3 miles” or “exit right.” Having the text-to-speech capability allows the driver to keep their focus on the road and not keep shifting their eyes between the streets and the GPS system. At the price I paid for my refurbished unit, it was worth getting the 200W but text-to-speech functionality would be something I would like included in my next GPS unit.
Geocache Add On
By going to the Garmin site, you can load geocaches onto your GPS unit, and you can use your Garmin unit to find objects that other people have hidden in specific locations. All you simply have to do is create a free Garmin account, type in the location you want to look for geocaches, and then just choose what geocaches you want to load into your GPS unit via USB.
Overall Satisfaction: A
Signal Quality: A-
June 6, 2008
We all know the next Apple (AAPL) iPhone 2.0 is coming out soon. Everyone is writing about it and speculating what is the next big thing. Apple’s brand is so strong that people lined up in front of Apple’s flagship store for no apparent reason. It doesn’t matter what the product is, since Apple has not released any details. One can bet that iPhone platform information will be released at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco on June 9, 2008. I’ll add to the speculation and say that the GPS capabilities of the iPhone will eat into the sales of Garmin (GRMN) and Tom Tom (TOM2.AS). GPS units have dropped in price dramatically, almost to commodity prices, so shorting them might be attractive. One may argue that these GPS companies have superior software, but the platform is open to developers, so I forsee excellent GPS software in the works. The internet and GPS will be at your finger tips very soon.
The iPhone will have the same effect on the smartphone market as the iPod had on the mp3 players. The first smartphone was created by Palm (PALM), which still makes them. Palm has had a bumpy ride these past few years, competing with Handspring and eventually buying Handspring back again. Their Treo PDA/phone was popular, but I’ve seen those first adopters switch over to the iPhone. These same first adopters are going to dump their iPhone 1.0s for the iPhone 2.0. The future is mobile internet. Move evidence is the popularity of Asus’ EEE laptop computer and Intel’s development of the Atom processor. Components and devices designed to suit the needs of people on the go. Small, efficient internet-enabled devices are the future. In the past people had simple terminals connected to a mainframe computer. This gave way to personal computers and workstations. Soon it’ll be portable devices connected to the internet.
May 14, 2008
By now, you have probably driven with someone who owns a portable GPS unit and odds are they own a model from Garmin (GRMN), Magellan, or Tom Tom (TOM2.AS). The prices of these GPS units have gotten so affordable that average families can now purchase one without breaking the bank. I even broke down recently and bought a Garmin Nuvi 200. While you can get a brand new one for $203 on Amazon, I opted with a refurbished version for $155 on Ebay. These units have gotten so affordable that it doesn’t make sense to not have one. You can get a basic system without all the bells and whistles for less than $225. Forget the bluetooth options, mp3 playing capability, and maps of Mexico/Canada/other parts of the world. GPS functionality should be your primary concern when shopping around for a GPS system.
What Should You Be Looking For In a GPS System?
On top of basic GPS functionality, the only two options I considered were a widescreen 4.3″ GPS unit and text-to-speech functionality.
- Widescreen GPS Units
You can see a good comparison of the Garmin Nuvi systems on the GPSTracklog site. The Nuvi 200W is the most budget affordable 4.3″ widescreen GPS system by Garmin. The next most affordable 4.3″ model is the 250W which is the same as the 200W but includes maps of Canada (which most of us will never utilize). While driving, you don’t want things to be cluttered in a smaller screen. Giving a little more room to navigate will be worthwhile so you don’t focus all your attention on pushing different options on your Nuvi instead of watching the road.
- Text-to-Speech Capability
This function enables the GPS system to pronounce the names of the streets as you’re driving. It will say “right on Cassanova St.” or “left on 44th St.” whereas the non text-to-speech systems will just say “left in .5 miles” or “right in .3 miles.” While the text-to-speech functionality is the next most important function in a GPS system after the widescreen option, it should not be a requirement when buying a unit. It would come in handy as you can concentrate more on driving, but you have to discern whether the price difference is worth adding this function. The Nuvi 260 and Nuvi 260W are both the next Nuvi systems that offer text-to-speech capabilities while the latter being the one that also has a 4.3″ screen. Based on the Amazon price, you’re paying an extra $70 for the additional feature of text-to-speech.
What Are the Primary Benefits of a portable GPS System?
- Save Gas!!!
Okay so what it really does is give you accurate directions so that you don’t spend time backtracking and getting lost which requires more miles to drive. Extra miles being driven equates to more gas used, and more gas used equates to wasting your money.
Sure you can just type in the address through Google Maps beforehand and print out the directions before departing on your journey. Although if you don’t take the exact route you printed out, you may not be able to easily navigate to your destination. With a portable GPS unit, it will recalculate your route based on your final destination and give updated step by step directions.
- Can’t Be Truly Substituted With Cell Phone GPS
Everyday, GPS on cell phones are becoming more common but at least for now, they don’t suffice as a substitute for these portable GPS systems due to the size of the cell phone screen. It is much too difficult to navigate on your cell phone screen while attempting to drive.
Even though I have yet to try out my Garmin Nuvi 200W, my friends have said very positive things about their Magellan or Garmin units. In general, it’s hard to go wrong with either one of the big three GPS companies. I don’t see them getting a whole lot cheaper (the Garmin Nuvi 350 has dropped from a retail price of $970 in February of 2006 to a current price of $235), and people will get many benefits of owning one.