Full Review of Garmin nüvi 255W



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Over the past several months GPS (Global Positioning System) prices have dropped significantly. Vendors such as Garmin, TomTom and Magellan now offer GSP devices that come in under the $150 mark. Obviously these units lack the bells and whistles of their more costly brethren; yet feature wise they are appreciably more robust than previous generation models which cost sometimes twice as much.

Today I will be looking at the nüvi 255W which is a widescreen model in Garmin’s entry line of GPS units. This GPS can be found online for under $200 and includes text-to-speech (TTS) which is usually found in more expensive devices. TTS allows the device to announce directions with street names instead of the generic turn left/right at a certain distance. The nüvi 255W comes preloaded with Navteq data of North America + Hawaii + Puerto Rico and includes 6.5 million searchable points of interest.

Other notable features include HotFix (Long Term Ephemeris Prediction) which helps locate satellites faster, Digital Elevation Model (DEM) Basemap shows 3D shaded terrain features, Photo Navigation allows uploading of geo-coded photos from a phone, geo-coding camera or photo site and navigate to them, and the ability to send addresses directly to your Garmin from Google Maps or Mapquest via PC.



The Garmin nüvi 255W arrives in a white cardboard box with the unit pictured on the top and a map of the GPS’s coverage for the United States on the back. For the Green folks, Garmin uses recyclable cardboard for packaging thus no plastic blister material.

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Opening the box reveals the nüvi 255W protected by a cardboard insert with the accessories resting underneath. In the package we find the nüvi 255W, a vehicle suction cup mount, vehicle power cable, dashboard disc and a quick start manual.

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The Garmin nüvi 255W is composed of a slate grey plastic. It measures 4.8″W x 2.9″H x .8″D (12.2 x 7.4 x 2.0 cm) and weighs 6.1 ounces (172.93 g). In terms of size the nüvi 255W has about the same width and height dimensions as an iPhone and it thickness is equivalent to a standard deck of playing cards.

The front of the unit is primarily comprised of the 4.3” screen with the Garmin nüvi name embossed at the lower left hand corner. The display resolution is 480 x 272 pixels and the display type is WQVGA color TFT with white backlight.

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On top of the unit is a slider power switch which locks (to prevent accidental powering while storing the unit) and a notch for the dashboard mount bracket. The left side has an opening for the SD card reader, while the bottom has another mount notch. At the rear we see the speaker and the mini-USB port for charging the GPS.

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For just its outer appearance the Garmin nüvi 255W is a thin, sleek looking GPS that appears well constructed and designed.


Garmin nüvi 255W

Go wide and get peace of mind with nüvi 255W. This affordable, widescreen navigator leads the way with voice-prompted turn-by-turn directions that speak street names and optional MSN Direct services to get you there on time and keep you informed. It’s packed with millions of destinations and maps for North America or Europe. Like the rest of the sleek nüvi 2×5-series, this portable navigator is priced right and ultra-easy to use.

With nüvi 255W’s widescreen display, you’ll always get the big picture. View map detail, driving directions, photos and more in bright, brilliant color. Its sunlight-readable, 4.3-inch display is easy to read — from any direction.

Navigate With Ease
nüvi 255W comes ready to go right out of the box with preloaded City Navigator® NT street maps, including a hefty points of interest (POIs) database with hotels, restaurants, fuel, ATMs and more. It even announces the name of exits and streets so you never have to take your eyes off the road. Simply touch the color screen to enter a destination, and nüvi takes you there with turn-by-turn voice directions, 2-D or 3-D maps and smooth map redraw rates as you navigate. Its digital elevation maps show you shaded contours at higher zoom levels, giving you a big picture of the surrounding terrain. In addition, nüvi 255W accepts custom points of interest (POIs), such as school zones and safety cameras and lets you set proximity alerts to warn you of upcoming POIs. With HotFix™ satellite prediction, nüvi calculates your position faster to get you there quicker.

Take It With You
Like the rest of the nüvi 2×5-series, nüvi 255W sports a sleek, slim design and fits comfortably in your pocket or purse. Its rechargeable lithium-ion battery makes it convenient for navigation by car or foot. With its “Where Am I?” emergency locator, you always know your location. Simply tap the screen to get your exact latitude and longitude coordinates, the nearest address and intersection, and the closest hospitals, police stations and fuel stations.

Go Beyond Navigation
Navigation is just the beginning. nüvi 255W includes many travel tools including JPEG picture viewer, world travel clock with time zones, currency converter, measurement converter, calculator and more. With photo navigation, you can download Google Panoramio pictures via our Garmin Connect Photos website and navigate to them. The 255W is compatible with optional enhanced MSN Direct content (subscription and receiver required) and our free Garmin Garage where you can download animated vehicles that show your location on the map. It also comes with Garmin Lock, an anti-theft feature. Enhance your travel experience with optional plug-in microSD cards such as Garmin Travel Guides for detailed data on attractions.

nüvi 255W: Simple navigation at an affordable price

What’s in the Box:
nüvi 255W
Preloaded City Navigator NT for North America or Europe (full coverage)
Vehicle suction cup mount
Vehicle power cable
Dashboard disc
Quick start manual


Initial setup requires the nüvi 255W to be in clear line of site with the orbiting satellites for the GPS to detect them. This process takes about five minutes and is a one time procedure. Now the Garmin device is ready for use. Since most people will use the GPS in a motor vehicle the next step is set up of the mounting system. Setting up the suction cup mount took less than 30 seconds. The power adapter for the GPS connect to the rear of the GPS and connects to the vehicle’s cigarette lighter.

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The Garmin nüvi 255W powers up quickly and is ready to use in less than a minute. Satellite acquisition takes anywhere from one to three minutes depending on line of site to satellites.

The main nüvi 255W screen is comprised of two main icons – “Where to?” and “View Map” with Volume and Tools options underneath. Immediately the user will notice that the interface is sleek and intuitive. It is so intuitive that Garmin does not include an instruction manual, just a quick start manual. If needed, additional instructions can be found online. Garmin takes advantage of the widescreen to provide plenty of information without creating the sensory overload on non-widescreen units.

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On the main navigation screen turn direction, distance to turn, speed, speed limit and arrival time are around the periphery of the display with the map taking up the majority of real estate. The zoom in/out buttons are on one side of the display making access much simpler than GPS devices which split them on the left and right sides of the display.

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All this peripheral data can provide more detailed information by tapping the touch screen over the item. For instance hitting the speed tab will give a more extensive trip information screen. Tapping on the road name, vehicle, speed and distance to turn will call up various other info screens.

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With the nüvi 255W, Garmin upgraded the processor speeds which makes map drawing much faster. Detailed maps appear much quicker than on previous GPS devices that I have tested. This made the GPS screen appear less “jerky”, not that it makes a difference in function; it is still a nice aesthetic upgrade. Font size is automatically adjusted by the nüvi 255W allowing long text to be easily displayed and read.

All this capabilities are secondary to the main function of the GPS – Navigation. How does the Garmin nüvi 255W fare? After driving around the metropolitan New York region I found the nüvi 255W functioned very well. Selecting one’s destination can be done via direct input – searching for an address, transferring addresses from Google or Mapquest via a PC connection, through longitude/latitude coordinates, and even via photo navigation using Garmin Connect Photos website. Besides these, Garmin provides numerous additional ways to find destinations.

Garmin also features six million POIs (Points of Interest) which helps the user locate stores, municipal locales and other areas of note. The POI screen is divided into fourteen sub-categories which helps make searches more specific. Routing speed was quick, route recalculation was done within seconds of missing a recommended turn. The Garmin maps cover all of North America including Canada and Alaska.

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Text to speech (TTS) allows the announcement of street names as the driver approaches them. This is key feature as I have missed several turns in the past with the older GPS units which did not differentiate streets by name; instead recommending turns at certain distances. Additionally TTS allows the driver to keep their eyes on the road and away from the GPS. Safety is always a nice bonus. Just be aware that there are only five English speaking TTS Voices; female American English, male and female Australian English, and a male and female British English. What happened to the American English voice is my question for Garmin.

Looking at other reviews online, people have complained about the voice commands as being to low or too robotic. I found this not to be the case. The volume was loud enough to be heard even with the radio playing a moderately loud level. There are several built in voice styles with additional ones available on the Garmin website. I think the voice style is a matter of personal preference and to me is not a deal breaker.

Garmin offers additional downloads for the nüvi 255W on their website. At the Garmin Garage users can download different vehicles such as rocket ships, walking feet and my favorite – the Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean. Additional voices can also be freely downloaded, but Garmin does not offer any cool ones such as the Homer Simpson available from TomTom. I think Garmin should get Stewie from Family Guy, don’t you? Additionally, there are also travel guides and other paid downloads on the site. However the nüvi 255W is a lower end unit and does not have as many download choices as its more expensive brethren.


Garmin’s WebUpdater software installs onto a PC and allows the user to install maps, updates and firmware as needed. To use the Google Maps send to GPS feature, a web browser add on needs to be installed. Other features that may or may not be used include a picture viewer, SD card slot for expansion maps, calculator, measurement converter and currency converter.

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There are a few things that I found to be irksome about the nüvi 255W package. The first is the lack of an included mini-USB cable. As someone who reviews tech products I have plenty of these cables laying around but for the average person this type of cable may on hand. Garmin should package a mini-USB cable with this bundle.

While charging the nüvi 255W there is no charge indicator. This is not a big issue since the unit can be charged in the vehicle but it is always to nice to know when the device is fully charged. Battery life according to Garmin is about four hours with the rechargeable Lithium battery. During use I found it to last anywhere from three hours and fifteen minutes to three and half hours.

Finally the Garmin has a deep menu system which to some people may be a bit intimidating. The less technology inclined may not use all the features of the “entry” model GPS because of its expansive menu. Luckily they will still get plenty of function from this device.

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The key to a good GPS is the interface and the Garmin nüvi 255W’s is one of the best ones that I have dealt with in comparison to other GPS models. It is well designed unit from both the out casing to the software within. Garmin has been regarded as the leader in GPS technology and they continue the trend with the nüvi 255W.

While it is sold as an entry level unit in terms of price, its features and function make it act like a more expensive GPS model. Routing works great and that is the most important feature in these devices. TTS and the widescreen helps the nüvi 255W standout over other similarly priced models. If you are looking for a deep starter GPS unit, then the Garmin nüvi 255W is the one to get


+GPS works terrific
+Widescreen provides ample information in clear format
+Map locations via Google Maps and PC
+TTS enabled
+Rapid start up
+Quick satellite detection

-No charge indicator light
-Does not include USB cable

Overall score-9-10
Design score-10-10
Performance score-9-10

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