Every now and again you catch a lucky break….and so it was with my recently acquired Garmin nuvi 260W GPS receiver. We had a department Christmas celebration at work. The management had picked up a couple of “door prizes” such as a digital camera, iPod, etc. One of the items was a Garmin nuvi 260W GPS. A random drawing of names from the hat was done….I got very lucky and ended up with the Garmin 260W. The folks that knew me said “Hey, he already has a GPS.” They were right, I have a Garmin 60CS that is dedicated to the TJ. It is an outstanding off-road GPS but is nothing like the nuvi series for navigating city streets and highways. Now I have one to take care of running around town and Donna can use it in her car too.
So, here is a product review on a nuvi 260W “Personal Travel Assistance” GPS.
A few of the specifications are as follows:
The “W” part of the model number indicates it is a wide screen model. It provides you with more viewing area with a 3.81″ x 2.25″ screen. If you are kind of a techie person, the TFT backlit touch screen has a pixel count of 480 x 272. Its size reminds me of that of a PDA. It fits nicely in a shirt pocket if you want to take it with you.
While intended primarily as a vehicle mounted unit, the 260W comes with a internal lithium-ion rechargeable battery. I’ve not conducted a run down test on mine yet, but Garmin says I should see about 5 hours of use. That should be enough for you to wander around the down town area of any big city without getting yourself too lost.
The text to speech capabilities of the 260W allows it to speak the street names. While this may not seem like much of a feature, those units without text to speech leave you with a verbal command of “turn left in .1 miles”. Text to speech means you hear something like “Turn left onto Georgia Avenue in .1 miles”. When you are in heavy traffic, its nice to know what street you are turning on versus trying to catch a quick glimpse at the screen to see the actual street name. Nice it is! How loud is the speech coming out of the speaker which is mounted on the rear of the unit? Loud enough to be easily heard with a soft top and big tires cruising on a city street. I can also hear it on the highway but I have to listen carefully for the directions. The increased wind and tire noise means the volume setting is at 100% and you need to be paying careful attention. Running with no top on the freeway would render the speech useless.
I spent some time online reading through some of the GPS forums and also at the Garmin web site. One common complaint about the 260W was the slowness with which it acquired the satellite signals. As I write this, I’ve only taken a few trips around town with it in the TJ but I’ve yet to experience this problem. Even stone cold out of the package, where the GPS receiver would need to first download a fresh copy of the satellite almanac, it was up and running in short order. Since hooking it up to my laptop, I’ve also performed a refresh on the firmware. It is possible that this problem has been eliminated (or greatly reduced) via the updated software too.
Speaking of downloads and software, the 260W shows up with a 2GB of storage memory when you attach it to a PC. Of that 2GB, about two-thirds of it is in use. That means you have ample room to download (from garmin.com) different vehicle icons and speech voices, if you are so inclined. I found a suitable Jeep on the Garmin web site and so I know view a Jeep navigating the city streets instead of some generic car. (sweet!)
Garmin added a somewhat, in my opinion, useless feature on this GPS…..a slideshow function. Yes, you can upload your favorite jpg files to it via the USB port. However, I’ve yet to figure out why you would need to do so. I guess if you were really hard up to share your photos with your friends, you could load them on the 260W but I just don’t see that happening. You can do many things in expensively with firmware and I believe this is simply one of those “things”.
And since we are on the firmware subject, there are a handful of other “tools” that are, in my opinion, a bit more useful when compared to the slideshow viewer. There is a very useable calculator and a converter. Why do you need a calculator? Hey, I don’t do long division in my head all that well and so figuring MPG now will be much easier. There is also a currency converter and a world clock. If you travel outside of the country, that might be handy as well.
The map display allows for both 2D and 3D viewing. I’m using the 3D view right now and find it works well for city street navigation. The touch screen makes it super easy to quickly zoom in or out to change map resolution. If you switch out of 3D mode to 2D, you can then specify either a North up or a track up display. I’ve used North up for so long that I am quite use to that format.
I found a few items on the net that was not in the user manual. You can charge the battery from a USB port assuming you have the cable (not supplied). I had a cable for my other Garmin and was glad to see it worked equally well on the nuvi. The 260W will not display any routes downloaded from MapQuest. The 5 hour battery life may be closer to 3.5 hours. Some folks state it takes upwards of 10 minutes to acquire satellites….I’m beginning to think mine is very special or Garmin has resolved this issue. Some people that own the 260W should probably sell it and just stay home…..they would have a much happier existence!
The 260W comes with a suction cup mount that works quite well on the windshield. It also has small circular metal mounting plate with adhesive tape on one side. It is intended to stick this to your dash and then use the suction mount to stick to the metal disc. These can be purchased for a few extra dollars making it easy to move the 260W between several vehicles (assuming you don’t want it on the windshield). The 12 volt power cord, which plugs in the vehicle cigarette lighter outlet, is plenty long. If I had my way, it would be a coiled power cord that stretches to the needed length. It makes for a cleaner installation, in my opinion.
Once I get some more road time with the unit around time, I’ll update this review with more info.