I bought the Nüvi 255W GPS a little bit more than a month ago. I am pretty good with directions and maps and I like to know the entire route before I go and therefore I have never had a big interest in GPS devices. I typically use google/yahoo/bing maps or Microsoft Streets and Trips to look up directions. My wife who is not as good with directions has a GPS device in her car which is difficult to use and is pre-mounted in a spot that makes you take your eyes off the road when you look at it. I bought the Nüvi 255W GPS with the intention of setting it up, add locations, try it out, and learning how to use it and then transfer it to her. However, I found that it to have so many useful features that I did not expect it to have that I am keeping it for myself. I should add that I am getting her another one soon (well probably the same one).How the Nüvi 255W GPS is useful to me
Have you ever heard the words, "dad I need to go to the bathroom now", while driving? You look around but you don't see any gas station and you don't know how far it is to the next one. Those times are behind me. If you have this device all you do is press "Menu", then "Points of Interest" and then "Fuel" and you get a list of nearby gas stations and the distance to them. Click the one you want and the GPS device will guide you to it. How about "I'm hungry, yeah me too, and me too"? You look around and you don't see a restaurant that all of the kids would like if any at all. What you do if you have this device is press "Menu", then "Points of Interest" and then "Food" and then "All restaurants". From the probably long list you that will see you can pick something nearby, or not so close, that all your kids will like and the GPS device will guide you to it.
My speedometer is pretty accurate. However, sometimes I don't know what the speed limit is on the road that I am driving. Luckily this GPS device displays your speed just as accurate as my speedometer and next to it is the speed limit of the road. So if the speed limit says 60mph I drive 70mph and if it says 35mph I drive 42mph. I don't need to worry about a ticket. If you want to avoid Toll roads, heavy traffic, ferries, U-turns, or highways you just configure it to do that for you. If fuel cost is more important to you than time or distance then you type in your city mpg and highway mpg and it calculates the best route for you, on the fly. If you just want to look at a slide show of your family while driving (or other things) you can do that too (you need to down load the pictures). It turns out that modern GPS devices, even cheap ones like this one, have a lot of useful features that people with good a sense of direction and a good map can use. The good thing about this GPS device is that getting acquainted with all these features is a breeze due to its simple and logical organization.
That finally brings me to getting lost. Even people with a good sense of direction can get lost, but a GPS device never gets lost. I have found the GPS device to be particularly useful when I encounter an unexpected traffic jam and those happen all the time in the Dallas Fort Worth area. Just get off the road as soon as you can and turn on the GPS device and click home or your work address (if home/work is where you are going) and then the GPS device will guide you to the next highway entrance. If the highway is still bad at that point continue and the device will say "recalculating" and give you new directions to the next one instead. Even though I have a good sense of directions I think it is difficult to drive on back roads that I am totally unfamiliar with. However, the GPS device has been surprisingly helpful in these situations. This was something I did not consider before. I did not know I needed one but I did.Mounting and configuration
The box comes with suction cup mount and a cradle. You place the suction cup on your windshield. I put mine slightly to right and a little bit up compare to the wheel. That way I can look at the GPS device and the road at the same time. In fact if I want to check my speed limit it is quicker and closer to check my GPS device compared to my speedometer.
You put the cradle that holds the GPS device on the suction cup and this is how you attach the GPS device (or take it off). You could pry off the suction cup and move it to another car but the best thing is to buy more suction cups and move the GPS device between the cars if you need to. The suction cup is stuck pretty hard to your windshield (which is actually a good thing). You can also buy a bean bag portable mount that you can with you when you travel or rent cars.
Then you plug in the included vehicle power cable to the power outlet in the car (the cigarette lighter) and the device turns on. You click yes to a couple of questions and the device acquires satellite signal and upgrades to the latest maps and information. The first screen you see is main menu screen. On this screen you can click "View map" to see the map or "Where to?" to add a destination. It also displays battery status, GPS satellite strength a clock a small adjust volume button and a small Tools button. You use the Tools button to configure the GPS device.
I should add that you also mount the Nüvi 255W GPS device on a bicycle or carry it around. You use Tools to change the mode. You buy an AC adapter cable that you can use to charge the GPS device from an outlet in the house and you can use a USB cable to download more stuff for the GPS device as well as photos to the device.Operating the Nüvi 255W GPS
You turn on the Nüvi 255W GPS by pressing the "On" button or by connecting it to a power source. If it is not connected to a power source it runs on a battery which lasts four hours. However, as mentioned you can power the Nüvi 255W GPS (and charge the battery) by inserting the included vehicle power cable into the cars power outlet in one end and to the GPS in the other end.
The Nüvi 255W GPS features a touch screen (there are no mechanical buttons). The two main screens that you will be switching between are the map and the main menu screen. The main menu screen has a few nice looking buttons that you use to navigate to more specific screens. One of the buttons is "View map" which takes you to the map. To go back to the main menu screen you press a blue button below the map that says "menu". On the main menu screen there is also a big nice looking button that you use to select a destination "Where to?" as well as a Volume and Tools button. All screens that are shown when you press these other buttons will have a big "Back" button that you use to navigate back up to the main menu screen. That is essentially all you need to know to use this device. There are no menus that are difficult to see and all screens only have a few intuitive buttons on them. It is overall a super simple concept that still offers a lot of configurability. Below I am going to give more details on how to operate the Nüvi 255W GPS, however, you could skip that if you so wish.
The map displays a map (3D is the default mode) of nearby streets and the street that you are on. It also displays the names of selected nearby streets, the speed limit of the road you are driving on, and your speed, time, and there are small "+" and "-" minus buttons for zooming in and out. If the device is guiding you somewhere it will also display an an arrow showing you where to turn, the distance to the next turn and estimated time left to arrival. A female voice will also tell you every now and then what to do. As mentioned at the bottom in the middle there is a blue button stating "Menu" and that's where you press to switch to the menu screen.
As mentioned the menu screen shows you two large nice looking buttons "Where to" and "View map" and two buttons a Volume control and a Tools button. You use the "View map" button to navigate back to the map. If you click on "Where to" you will see ten buttons, "Address", "Go Home", "Points of Interest", "Recently Found", "Favorites (a big heart)", "Intersections", "Extras", "Cities", "Browse Map", and "Coordinates". If you press Address you can enter a specific address (city, state, street name, house number). If you just enter the address and press "Go" it will be your next destination. If you save the address it will be placed in the Favorites list. I should add that when you add an address you will be shown a keyboard (default QWERTY) which you use to type in the address. The GPS device features a form of Intellisense which will use your current location to guess what city and street you are typing in. In most cases I only have to type two or three letters and the first guess is right.
The "Go Home" button only contains one "Favorite" which is meant to be your home address (you need to enter it). If you press "Points of Interest" you can select from "Spell name", "Food", "Fuel", "Transit", "Lodging", "Shopping", "Bank/ATM", "Parking", "Entertainment", "Recreation", "Attractions", "Hospitals", "Community", "Auto Services". If you, for example, press "Food" you can select from types of cuisine or "All restaurants" and you will be shown a list of nearby restaurants. You press "Go" to get directions for this point of interest and/or save it to your Favorites. The "Coordinates" allows you to type in coordinates and the "Browse Map" feature allows you to browse the map so that you can see your entire route before hand.
If you press "Tools" in the top menu screen you are shown nine Tools, "Settings", "Where am I", "Help", "ecoRoute", "Picture Viewer", "My Data", "World Clock", "Calculator", and "Unit Converter". The Help tool is very similar to the Help menu on software application and this is where you can read about the Nüvi 255W GPS, its features, menus, options, and various concepts. Since the GPS does not come with substantial printed instructions this is your main source of documentation. I should add that the interface is so intuitive that it is unlikely that you will use the Help tool a lot. The "Picture Viewer" can be used to show photos and slides shows. If you are not using the GPS map you could always use it to look at your family (or maybe girlie pictures). You use a USB cable to download pictures. The "Settings" tool is used for adjusting settings for the "System", "Navigation", "Display", "Time", "Language", and the "Map". The "Systems settings" can be used to set the GPS in Automobile/Bicycle/Pedestrian mode, the keyboard layout, units, etc. The "Display settings" you use to set things like color mode, brightness, and the "Map settings" you use to set type of map, map detail, vehicle icon, and trip log. The "Navigation settings" you use to set how you want your route to be calculated (time is default) and things you wish to avoid (U-turns, toll roads, traffic, ferries, etc).
As you can see navigating up and down the menus is quite straight forward and you can do a lot of things. In my opinion it cannot possible be designed in a more intuitive and straight forward way than this. My wife's GPS is a lot more complicated despite the fact that it has fewer features (well it is six years old) and I have seen other GPS system that did not look that easy to operate. In summary, this GPS device you operate by just start pressing the buttons and it becomes obvious what to do. Every feature and every settings and configuration and all documentation is accessible via quite visible buttons which you instantly will understand how to use.Microsoft Streets and Trips
One thing I had in mind when I bought this GPS device as opposed to another cheap GPS device was that it supposedly was compatible with Microsoft Streets and Trips 2010. Using Microsoft Streets and Trips 2010 you can plan your own routes the way you want them to be and download them to the GPS device. You can also get free updates and add points of interest that the GPS device may be missing. This sound like it can be somewhat useful except that I had a really hard time getting this work. For this to work you need a driver that does not install with Microsoft Streets and Trips 2010. With difficulty you can find on-line instructions for how to do this, however, I was unable to complete the task because the driver would not install properly despite the fact that I followed all instructions and all trouble shooting instructions. Microsoft Streets and Trips 2010 wanted $35 for any customer support so I decided to forget about it. So my suggestion is that if that is why you are buying this device you may want to think twice.Miscellaneous experiences and opinion
I've noticed that the GPS device have an inaccuracy of about 10-100 feet. If you drive on a street that is parallel to another nearby street and the distance is 20-40 feet it might miscalculate what street you are on. If you add the delay of a couple of seconds that you seem to have in the communication updates you get an even larger discrepancy in the direction of travel.
It is also may not have some of latest updates. This threw me for a little loop the other day. I was driving in an entirely unfamiliar neighborhood when the device told me to make a left onto S. Industrial Blvd. I did not see that street but I saw a street called River Front Street. On the map it looked like River Front Street was S. Industrial Blvd but I was not sure. When I was about 10-20 feet from River Front Street the device told me it was 100 feet to S. Industrial Blvd so I assume it must be the next street. Then when I arrived at River Front Street it suddenly dropped to 30 feet and after I passed it I was told to turn left even though there was no street there. As it turned out River Front Street used to be called S. Industrial Blvd a few months ago and the location inaccuracy made this harder to figure out.
The map screen is easy to read and the features bright colors (configurable). The screen resolution (480X272) is enough for a display of this size (3.8 X 2.25 inch). The map is "cartoon" looking and the same pixels are repeated over and over. The only time you really use the resolution is for the nicer looking buttons and the photographs. Even though many people like the slightly wider display I think that the display might be a little bit too wide. You don't need the width for the map and not for the menu screen. You might need it for the photographs but that is a minor feature. What is wrong with a wide screen is that it takes up some real estate on your windshield.
The voice comes on every now and then. If you are not making many turns it may be quiet for a long time. In fact if you are not making a turn for an hour it will be quiet for an hour. I did not find the voice to come on too often and the female is quite pleasant in comparison to many other GPS voices I have heard in other people's cars. The device turns on quickly and I typically receive a satellite signal in Dallas within a couple of seconds and the device turns on quickly. I can add that unlike some other GPS devices it is not Bluetooth compatible.
If I were to pick my favorite feature I think it would be points of interests. As far as I can tell it features every single restaurant and ATM machines nearby where we live and I where I work. I believe the same might be true for most places. It is very complete and all you need to do is select a point of interest and press Go when you think you might need one.
One thing that I did not like was the fact that the power plug goes in the back of the GPS device. When you are plugging in the power cord it is so difficult to do that with the device in the cradle that you end up taking it out of the cradle and putting it back. This would not have been an issue if the power input had been located on one of the four sides or on the front frame.
A feature that I would like to see in GPS devices is the ability to see the entire route before you start and the ability to make adjustments to the route itself. You were supposed to be able to do that using Microsoft Streets and Trips but as you know I could not. Perhaps having satellite TV on the GPS device would be nice too (well maybe not a good idea).Final recommendation
In my opinion this GPS device is very easy to use and it still has a lot of useful features. I don't really need it much for directions. However, it is great for unexpected events and for finding nearby points of interest. The Microsoft Streets and Trips feature turned out not to be usable (for me) and I don't like that the power plug is in the back. However, it is a cheap, simple and useful GPS device so it should have at least four stars.
Below are some other electronics reviews I would like to recommed.
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