The Garmin nvi 205 feels like the kind of GPS navigator you get for $10 a day when you rent a car: small, extremely simple, and no-frills. We'd like to see the market leader put a little more innovation into the budget category, but the $189 nvi 205 provides basic, reliable navigation at an aggressive price.
Design and Interface
As is standard for a sub-$200 navigator, the nvi 205 offers a 3.5-inch screen. It comes with a ball-joint window mount that's easy to store, and it's dressed in a flat black casing that feels sturdy, if not elegant. The only external control is the power switch. The microSD Card slot can be used to store photos to view on the device, as well as additional maps and custom POI databases.
The nvi 205's menu is so simplified and the icons so kiddie-cartoony, it feels like Fisher-Price created My First GPS. The opening screen offers two large icons that let you choose a destination or view a map of your current area. Two smaller buttons let you change the volume or access tools, which include the settings. Entering addresses is simple and quick, although the nvi 205 doesn't offer a spell-assist feature like the Navigon 2000S (which shows only the letters you might need). The database holds more than 6 million POIs, which is good for a budget model, and it seemed up to date.
Maps and Navigation
The maps on the nvi 205 are boldly colored and easy to follow, but they look blocky and clumsily drawn, lacking the refinement of those in higher-priced models. The map screen displays the name of the street you'll turn on next and the distance to it, the local speed limit, your speed, and your estimated arrival time.
The nvi 205 has only one voice, and it doesn't pronounce street names, which is the device's biggest drawback. Even if it's inconsistent, the Motorola TN20 at least attempts to provide this feature. You can't create multi-segment routes with the nvi 205, although you can include a detour on your current route. On the plus side, you can switch to pedestrian or bicycling modes, and an SOS feature uses your current location to find the nearest hospitals, police stations, and gas stations. Curiously, you can change your car's icon into a hawk or a giant beach ball, if you'd like.
Rerouting on the nvi 205 was strangely inconsistent: On one occasion, creating an updated route after a missed turn took six seconds, and another time it took well over 30 seconds. Results could be anywhere in between, but were usually less than 10 seconds.
The nvi 205 can receive live traffic data, as long as you have an MSN Direct Receiver and a subscription (the receiver costs $119 and includes 12 months of service; after that, an annual plan costs $49.95). Other extras on the nvi 205 include a photo viewer, which is under the Tools menu with a calculator, unit converter, and world clock. The photo viewer can show pics stored on a microSD Card, which you'll need to supply yourself. Also, no USB cord is included for connecting the nvi 205 to your PC. The nvi 205 can even navigate to geotagged photos, which the manual tells you to download from Panoramio. It's hard to imagine anyone planning a trip that way, but it's a fun extra and worked well with the preloaded images.
The $189 nvi 205 is a reliable model to have on hand. However, we were expecting a bit more out of Garmin, even if this is a budget device. If you're looking for the best value, the Navigon 2000S is the smarter buy.