Garmin Nuvi 255W GPS Review


The Garmin Nuvi 255W (page 2)

Map View & Driving

Garmin has possibly one of the best map displays out there.


It's simple. The screen isn't cluttered, roads are color-coded quite nicely, directions are easy to see, zones are displayed and well laid out, and really there's not a lot more you could want. Coupled with the built-in Text-to-Speech, it's a very nice system all in all.

Garmin Nuvi 255W GPS - Map

You effectively see 6 things in the map display:
1) The map itself (obviously)
2) The distance until your next manouver in the top left (shown as a nice roadsign)
3) Your current speed in the bottom left (clickable for more trip info like avg/max speed etc)
4) Your ETA to the destination in the bottom right
5) The menu button in the bottom center
6) Zoom keys (plus to zoom in, minus to zoom out) in the upper right.
to look at.

Whoops! Missed the turn.

If you miss a turn (or decide to take a detour), within moments the Nuvi 255W announces it's calculating a new route. I intentionally veered off route, and it reconfigured very quickly and displayed the new pathing, all automatically. I did it again later on, and that time it requested that I make a U-Turn at the next intersection. I refused to make the U-Turn and instead turned off on the next street, and it recalculated again.

It appears that if you miss a turn, what it basically does is recalculate the shortest way to get you to your destination. If that new path starts off with a U-Turn, that's what it asks. If it's another route, that's what you get. If you don't like the option it gives you, just do something else. Once it figures out you're off the new "chosen" path, it'll recalculate. Therefore, if you're in an area where you don't feel save doing a U-Turn and the Nüvi 255W asks you to do one, just turn off the road or whatever. It will recalculate as soon as you "miss" the U-Turn, and hopefully the new route won't start off with one.

Software (hooking it up to the computer)

As easy to use as Garmin's Nuvi 255W is (and let's face it, it's incredibly easy), some may want a manual. Fortuantely, it's available on Garmin's web site, although you may have to look around a bit. It's got about 50 pages of material, and is fairly well detailed.

While the Garmin Nüvi 255W is very intuitive to use, the website is the opposite.

If you buy a mini-USB cable (or have an extra lying around from another GPS or a digital camera that uses that size), you can get updates for the device. That requires a couple pieces of software. Both are available for the Mac and the Windows PC. The easiest way to find them is to try and find what you're looking for on the website (updates for example). You'll get a page that mentions it requires either the Garmin WebUpdater or the Garmin Communicator (or both). Eventually, you'll be able to download those, and start getting software.

Updates - Software updates are free, and basically address minor issues with the GPS device itself. I don't know of any major issues that exist, usually it's tiny tweaks here and there.

Maps - The first (and most important) thing for most is that you can get a free map update within 60 days of using your Nuvi 255W. That means from the moment you first turn it on, you've got 60 days to get the newest map for free. After that, you pay full price for upgrades which is... a little pricey.

If it's been over 60 days and you've got to pay for your map, they come in 2 options (at least for North Americans):
a) nuMaps Lifetime North American - $119.99 - lifetime map updates free - up to 4 updates per year.
b) nuMaps Onetime City Navigator North America NT - $69.99 - one time update, either downloadable or you can receive a DVD in the mail. If you choose to download, you have 30 days to do so after the purchase, and the download link lasts 14 days from your first attempt.
--Both options give maps for the US & Canada, and include Puerto Rico. Maps are pretty large - if you have dial-up, bandwidth limits, or really low-end high speed you may want to opt for the DVD.

Vehicles - The little "vehicle" that shows up in the map display... You can change it. Garmin has just over 100 different vehicles you can download. Anything from cooler-looking cars, to golf carts, to motorcycles, to food, to trains, to planes, to chickens and reindeer... there's really a ton of stuff available, some meant to be cool and others meant to be cute.

Voices - Right now, only 2 additional voices are available - an Elf voice pack, and a "Dr Nightmare" voice pack with a darker and more evil voice. Based on the demo clips offered, I'd imagine either would drive someone insane on a day-full of driving, although "The Elf voice made me do it" would certainly be an interesting excuse when you get pulled over :p In any case, both voices and the vehicles seem to be novelties.

POI Loader - POI Loader software is availble (yikes, even more to software packages to download) which allows you to add Points of Interest. Garmin has 2 POI downloads listed, one being Chinese Sports Arenas, and the other being a listing of Gas Stations in the US that offer E85 gas. They also have links to other sites with POI's (some free some pay) although there isn't a lot of detail for most US-based ones. While there's certainly potential, most of the stuff on there won't be useful to 99% of the people.

myGarmin - The myGarmin section of the website is accessed by creating a username and password. There are 4 main sections - myProducts, myMaps, myExtras, and mySupport. Each are pretty self-explanatory. This is where subscriptions happen (traffic cameras and/or traffic monitoring), games can be obtained, and geocaching info can be found. Aside from those (and the other stuff mentioned above), there's nto really a lot extra here - it's mainly a place to consolidate everything else to your account it seems.

All in all, the website/software available is pretty terrible. It's very mis-matched without a nice central place to really see everything, although there isn't really a lot available anyway. 3 software downloads to get random things isn't exactly ideal. Garmin would be wise to create an installable software package (like TomTom), or at the very least, create a new site and start from scratch putting everything in one place.

The Garmin GPS experience is excellent and intuitive, while the website/software implementation is horrible, unintuitive, and lacking. They need to get some of the guys that work on the GPS interface to redesign the website. That pretty much sums it up.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Garmin Nüvi 255W GPS is really a solid product all in all. Here's how it breaks down in the long run though:

-Very intuitive GPS that's easy to use.
-The Nuvi 255W connects/disconnects quickly and easily to the mount (which is well designed for installation/removal as well).
-The Nüvi 255W has 2GB of built-in memory, with about 1/3 of that being free. This means there's a good deal of room for expansion. You can also pop in an SD memory card for even more memory.
-ecoRoute is a very cool feature. Yes, it relies on you figuring out your own fuel economy, but it's a step in a nice direction.
-The map display is simple and straightforward. It's also one of the best looking map layouts available. Having a mini-road-sign in the top left is excellent.
-People new to the GPS will figure it out very quickly. It's very very very new-user friendly - everything from the map display to the menu system.
-If you're part way through typing a street name and the GPS has already narrowed it down to 1, it automatically shows the result immediately.

-No mini-USB cable. There's nothing more annoying than paying $250, only to find out the manufacturer skimped out on a $1 cable you'll need if you want to hook it up to the computer to get updates.
-Terrible computer-side software and options. This doesn't affect the GPS itself, but anyone wanting to make use of the software functionality is in for... well whatever the opposite of a "treat".

Final Thoughts:

The Garmin Nuvi 255W really is an excellent device. It's solid all around, and while it may lack the extent of software integration and customization available to users who've become accustomed to a TomTom, the average person won't even notice. New users will be thrilled with the ease of use, and those planning to use it for a long period of time have the option to pay once for life-time map updates.

That said, for those who like to hook up their GPS to their computer, or need the degree of options that a TomTom would allow (the option to preview voices before choosing them or to warn you when driving past a school, when driving faster than a certain speed, etc), they may want to look into other devices, although they'd be hard pressed to find something that beats the Garmin's interface and design.

Disclaimer: All information on this page is to be taken as opinion and not as fact.  I disclaim all liability for anything that happens to anybody as a result of this existence of this page, any other pages on this site, or any other companies, people, places, or pages, that have been mentioned, referred to or linked to.  Use this information at your own risk.