While planning for a recent cross country trip, I started to think about getting a GPS unit. I was wavering because I could get by with free maps from AAA and a bit of preparation before each leg of the trip. Finally, I decided that at $150 it would be worth buying a Garmin Nuvi 260W (with Costco's liberal return policy, I could alway take it back after my trip if I did not like it). The similar Nuvi 260 (not W for wide) has been on the market for about two years. Originally, it had a list price of about $500, so you can see you get a lot more for your money now.
The Nuvi 260W is easy to use, but allows a fairly high degree of control by the use of easy to change settings. It uses different logic depending on whether it is set to automobile, pedestrian, or bicycle mode. The controls and settings are pretty intuitive, but it is probably a good idea to become familiar with its operation in familiar surroundings.
Garmin has a large number of GPS models. The Nuvi 260W is towards the low end of the cost and features range, but more than meets my needs. There are a number of enthusiast sites which help you get the most from your GPS unit, this one is focused on the Garmin Nuvi .
After buying a new GPS unit, you will generally want to connect to the internet and make sure that your firmware and map data is up-to-date. The Nuvi 260W connects to your PC with a USB-A to USB Mini-B cable. While the cable is not supplied with the unit, most people probably have one from a digital camera or MP3 player (otherwise you can probably find one for about $5).
The Nuvi comes preloaded with literally millions of Points Of Interest (POIs) such as petrol stations, hotels, restaurants, attractions, banks and hospitals. You can also load Custom POIs to your unit using a special program. On my cross country trip loaded about one hundred Custom POIs, which I found primarily at roadsideamerica.com .
The Nuvi 260W has a 4.3 inch touch screen. It comes with a suction cup and cradle mount for your dashboard or windshield. Since California Law limits mounting a GPS unit to the extreme left and right sides of the windshield, I placed mine on a low dashboard surface in the center of the car - this allows right hand operation of the unit without obstructing the view.
The unit comes with a cigarette lighter charger for use in the car. It has long battery life between recharges if you use it on foot or bicycle. The Nuvi's size, weight, and profile seem to make it suitable for casual Geocaching.
The Nuvi 260W has Text-To-Speech technology, which depending on settings (and voice selected) will announce street and exit names. I think this makes the instructions much more clear. My voice of preference is 'American English - Samantha'. Her pronunciation is fair. She does say some funny things: Some places, she pronounces 'Drive' as 'Doctor', and 'Street' as 'S, T'.
The voice instructions and text for controls can be set to English, Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese) Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, and Thai. This would seem to be very helpful for visiting drivers who are not comfortable with English (or are blind).
The charger attaches to the unit with a USB Mini-B Plug. Although it does not come with an AC charger, I use the AC adapter (5 Volts) from my Motorola RAZR - this allows me to use it without the cable to the cigarette lighter on trips up to several hours.
The Nuvi 260W can be used as a photo viewer, and since there is an SD card slot for this purpose the unit could hold a very large number of JPEG photos. I use this to hold back up copies of my car registration, insurance card, AAA card, etc.
A minor glitch with my Nuvi, which does not really impact me but is curious, is that some of cummulative information on the trip summary screen is incorrect. It shows that on my recent trip I drove more than 22, 000 miles when I actually drove less than 7, 000, and shows my Moving Average Speed as 182 MPH.
After using the Nuvi 260W for a month on 6700 miles of mostly unfamiliar roads, I must now say I am a real believer in the value of GPS. It allowed me to easily change my course without referring to maps and helped find hotels, gas stations, shoe trees, and muffler men. My Nuvi made my trip much less stressful.
I am very very happy with my Garmin Nuvi 260W.