TomTom XL, Garmin 265W, and Navman S200 Review

During the Summer break, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of test driving three quite similar GPS navigation devices. The devices differ in implementation and usability, but they all do the same thing at a high level.

Understand this: a GPS device will never replace local knowledge, and probably not even a good hard look at a map. The overview you get from a map – especially when travelling long distances – helps you to get a general idea of the direction you need to go in. “Turn left in 300 metres” on the other hand doesn’t offer much information about the journey.

I did find the devices useful in a couple of scenarios though:

  • When setting a destination address with a street number, the GPSes were always pretty good about letting me know exactly where on the road the destination was. This is really good for long roads and stops you driving along slowly for ages looking for the correct street number.
  • The TomTom’s map layout was excellent in the way it showed the next few streets on each side of the current road. This way you could see street names several hundred metres before the street signs were visible.
  • The ‘ETA’ feature on all the devices was reasonably accurate. It gives you some idea of how long the trip will be, especially when travelling somewhere new.

tomtom Of the three devices, my pick would be the TomTom XL. It lacks some of the features of the others (more on that later), but if you want to actually have a usable device for your money, the TomTom is the way to go. The Garmin Nuvi 265w is a close second, but I found the cartoon-ey look of the Garmin maps a bit distracting, and the on-screen info on the TomTom was more informative.

I’ve talked about the Navman already, and the less said about it the better.

All the devices can be loaded with speed camera locations, and the TomTom and Navman offer constant road speed warnings. The Navman is over-aggressive however, bleeping the instant you touch the speed limit, which can get super annoying if you’re sitting very close to the limit. The TomTom on the other hand gives you a few seconds’ grace period before bleeping. I would also note that on both units the road speeds are not completely accurate, especially when travelling through small towns, but overall it can do a good job of warning you when you are travelling too fast.

If you like your information tabular, this should do the trick:

TomTom XL Garmin Nuvi 265W Navman S200
Price (NZD) $499 $499 $649
Screen Size 4.3″ 4.3″ 4.3″
Map Coverage NZ only NZ and Australia NZ only
Bluetooth No Yes Yes
FM Transmitter No No Yes
Spoken Street names No Yes Yes
Other TomTom Mapshare Garmin Connect Photos MP3 player and photo viewer
My Rating 4/5 3/5 1/5

Don’t read too much into the feature list above, other than the map coverage if you plan to travel to Australia.

  • The Bluetooth speakerphone on both the Garmin and the Navman was largely pointless. Sure you could pair up with your phone and make a call, but in both cases the recipient of the call could barely hear what I was saying. I think a dedicated car kit would be a better option if you need hands-free calling.
  • The FM transmitter (oh how I hate the things) in the Navman is beyond pointless. With it turned on, you only hear turn and warning information from a tuned-in radio, so the choice becomes turn warnings, or any other form of musical entertainment in your car.
  • Spoken street names are available, but always poorly pronounced and to me were more irritating than useful.

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14 Comments

  1. Great review! I agree that a GPS can never replace maps, you don’t really get a sense of direction with maps. You could have no idea that you were going north, south, east or west. What I find amazing is that in certain countries the GPS can read the traffic forecast and give you the quickest route possible. Amazing!

  2. Its true.Traditional Maps can hardly match the potential that GPS has. Its not a mere path finder, but the gadget is loaded with many high-end features. it can be a perfect travel assistant, your fitness trainer, source of entertainment and many more!

  3. TOMTOM XL,GARMIN 265W is an amazing and helpful device for the travelers, especiallythose who travel long distances and extensively to interior places. This device lets you know and calculate the exact distance you covered .It also provides the street number, location, exact address and all information what you expect through this device. Cool one for any discerning gps device fanatics.

  4. Great review, am looking at going in for TomTom XL. Would any one know what is the differece between XL ONE and XL. Just wondering as the diff is of arround $100 + !

  5. As a purchaser of a TomTom XL (8 moths ago) and with a friend who purchased the TomTom XL ONE at the same time, I can only say that we are both completely satisfied with our purchases. The XL comes with the NZ map and no memory card, the ONE has NZ and Aus maps and has a memory card (?2G). Download price of the Australia map is €50 (say, NZ$110). POI’s, a fairly good range and easy to add; Google maps can even save business addresses direct to your TomTom Favourites menu. Totally agree, no way does it compete with local knowledge, but has never yet sent me to the wrong place…

  6. according to a recent report on BBC news website, where the interview expert who claim in the years ahead, the satellite navigation system will completely wipe out local knowledge. I totally agreed with the experts, but the advantage of using a SatNav system is unquestionable.

  7. that last comment’s statement – “GPS will completely wipe out local knowledge” – is pretty ridiculous (even for an expert).

    Sure, GPS will make me forget where the dairy around the corner is.

    people will post any old tripe in a comment just to get their worthless rel=nofollow backlink, don’t you think?

  8. when you look at all the features above , surely garmin wins hands down !!!
    as well free uploads of maps can be made from a nz site

    http://gwprojects.org/forum

    as opposed to $ 179 for navman & you have to join mapshare for tomtom, so ongoing update costs come into the equation !!

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