Saturday, September 1, 2007

GPS devices head-to-head: Garmin vs. Delphi (should you buy either one?)


By James Booth

In our current age of gadgetry, one of the more in vogue devices is a GPS receiver. A lot of people want a GPS device, need a GPS device, or think they need one. But how well do they actually work? In this head-to-head comparison, I'll be examining the Garmin Nuvi 350 and the Delphi Nav 200. Both devices are entry-level units, geared toward the new-to-GPS consumer.

"Neither device found the shortest, the fastest, or the most direct route."

Garmin is a GPS-related name that most will find familiar. Delphi is a name most will associate with automotive entertainment systems, in particular the XM satellite radio, and not with GPS. Taking advantage of their satellite association, Delphi is now tossing their hat into the GPS arena. Both units are shown below in Figure A.


The Garmin Nuvi 350 (left) and Delphi Nav200 (right). (click for larger image)

The Garmin Nuvi 350

Garmin's Nuvi 350 in Figure B, is promoted as a portable GPS navigator, traveler's reference, and digital entertainment system, all in one; a pocket-sized personal travel assistant ready for adventure.


Garmin's Nuvi 350 GPS device. (click for larger image)

Out of the box, the Nuvi 350 comes preloaded with the City Navigator street maps for North America. These maps include a POI (points of interest) database containing hotels, restaurants, ATMs, and gas stations. It can also accept user-created points of interest.

"The Garmin points of interest, on the other hand, were flat-out wrong."

The Nuvi will give you turn-by-turn voice directions to any destination, announcing street names and exits. Navigation, like that shown in Figure C, is presented on the user's choice of a 2D or 3D map with configurable, car-shaped, vehicle icons.


The Nuvi 350 provides turn-by-turn voice directions. (click for larger image)

As well as being a GPS location and navigation device, the Nuvi 350 also features a range of travel and entertainment options. Included are an MP3 player, a JPEG viewer, and an audio book player, which requires a membership to On the travel side, the Nuvi offers a world travel clock, currency converter, calculator, measurement converter, travel guide, and language translator. These last two are additional purchase subscription options though.

Finally, Garmin offers an FM TMC traffic receiver and traffic services for the Nuvi 350. The traffic receiver and service can notify you of accidents and road construction on your route, allowing you to reroute and avoid traffic.

The specs

The Garmin Nuvi 350 is a pocket-sized device, measuring 3.8x2.9x.87-inches. It has a 3.5-inch diagonal, QVGA, 320x240 color touchscreen. It weighs 5.1 ounces, and is powered by a non-removable lithium-ion battery for eight hours of use. It can also be powered by your vehicle's power outlet. Finally, it comes with an SD expansion slot for add-on maps, services, and multimedia content. The Nuvi 350 from Garmin retails for $535.00.