Garmin Nuvi 260W

A good, easy to use GPS, with great verbal speed and red light camera warnings which, unfortunately, aren't installed by default.

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Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.

With its mix of dark grey plastic and silver finish for its screen bezel the Garmin Nuvi 260W is a pleasant looking, if not particularly outstanding, GPS unit. Initially we had trouble distinguishing it from the more expensive Nuvi 760 that we were testing at the same time. There's a 4.3-inch touchscreen — there's also a cheaper 260 sans W suffix that features a smaller 3.5-inch screen — that drives all of the unit's functions bar power, which is controlled by a dimpled slider switch on the top left corner of the device. Out the back there's a moderately sized speaker which has a good volume range — from mouse quiet to Denis the Sadistic Nut loud — but tends to crackle a little when the volume is cranked up.

Although not without its quirks, the Garmin's interface is a generally snap to use. Once the device has been booted up, and you've whizzed past the safety warning replete with American legalise, you're presented with the main menu featuring two large icons "Where To?" and "View Map", as well as two smaller icons for the configuration and volume screens. Entering destinations is hampered by the fact that there's no option to change from the ABC on-screen keyboard to the QWERTY system we're more familiar with. If you've dived deep into the menu system, it can take quite a few clicks to get back out to the map display — annoying, and potentially dangerous, if you have the need to fiddle with settings at the traffic lights.

Our other gripe centres around the map display that by default will omit some streets and details. This leads to streets popping in and out of view as you're driving along, making it difficult to determine how many streets away your next turn is. Upgrading the unit's firmware via PC or bumping up the detail level up to maximum fixed that problem. The latter also works around the issue of streets suddenly disappearing when you arrive at your destination.

The map screen is uncluttered with next turn instructions along the top, and a bar down the bottom featuring a Menu button, current speed/arrival time and compass heading. Clicking the speed/arrival time display reveals stats on the current trip, clicking the either compass direction or turn instruction brings up the various views of the turn-by-turn instructions.

Setting the 260W up in the car is a simple affair: there's a small cradle that snaps onto the back of the Garmin, into which you insert the compact windshield mount. The mount's ball joint allows the screen's viewing angle to be adjusted easily, while the levered suction cup sticks like a limpet to the windscreen but is also easy to remove for storage.

Seeing as Garmin has denied 260W owners of an on-screen QWERTY keyboard, it's not surprising to see a fairly bare features list. There's text-to-speech, which reads out street names in turn instructions, but no Bluetooth hands-free. We like Garmin's red light and speed camera warnings except for one thing, they're not preloaded on the device — a real shame for a device being marketed on its ease of use.

To get these warnings you'll have to go to Garmin's website, find the special Points of Interest (POI) files and install them onto the 260W. Finding these files is a far from trivial exercise — there's no link from the home page, for instance — so, if you already own a Garmin device, check out our step-by-step guide on installing Garmin's speed and red light camera warnings.

Once installed you'll get some underwhelming visual markers on the map — a red dot for red light cameras, a camera icon for speed cameras — but also some great audible alerts. Instead of the generic chime that most GPS makers opt for, Garmin uses a verbal alert, such as "red light camera ahead" and "40km school zone ahead". However, the pre-recorded male voice used for these alerts can be a bit of a shock at first if you're using a female voice for spoken instructions.

Starting up the 260W takes a languorous 24 seconds which, when coupled with the sometimes lengthy wait for satellite lock on, can mean speedy getaways are difficult to do. At times the 260W selected routes more circuitous than we're used to from GPS navigation devices, but otherwise it's generally the same old deal with satellite navigation performance. As expected the 260W's usefulness in guiding you around downtown is marred by bounced satellite signals which often leads the Garmin to think it's on a dank, dark city alleyway instead of cruising down a thoroughfare.

And, as is the norm, routes are far from optimal but they'll get you to your destination. More annoying, however, is the inability to specify roads or areas to avoid; the best that can be done is ask for a detour, which may or may not have the desired affect, or ignore the 260W for a while and wait for it to re-route you along a more sane route.

In ease-of-use terms the Garmin loses in a points decision with TomTom's, primarily because of the missing QWERTY keyboard and the safety camera warnings which have to be loaded manually. At the RRP we'd still plump for TomTom's second generation XL — thanks to its user map correction and sexier design — but you won't cry tears of pain if you go with the 260W instead.

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charlie posted a comment   

I did my homework before buying my first GPS unit. I did not want nor need the top

of line units with all the bells and whistles. I had rented a couple of cars with

GPS units and found out what I liked and what I didn't like. First off, do not but

any unit without the text to speech feature. Without this feature the unit will tell

you that your turn is approaching but not the name of the street. The text to speech

feature will speak the name of the street that you need to turn on. This feature is

a must have. Without it you will staring at the screen waiting for the update to see

if you are nearing your turn. With this feature you can listen without the need to

be looking at the screen. The wide face is very easy to see. I knew that it did not

come with a carrying case but since it never leaves my car that was no big deal. I

also bought the bean bag holder and I have not even used the suction cup. I was

warned that thieves may target cars with a suction cup ring on the windshield as

they assume that the unit is in the car. I stow the unit in my center console when

not in use and put the bean bag under the seat. This unit starts up in about 30

seconds and I have not opened the user manual once. It is so easy to use right out

of the box. If you are looking for an easy, accurate GPS this is a very good pick.


gomez posted a comment   

The Good:simple interface with large icons easy to read and use as compared to my previously owned navigon 7200 which I had to use a stylus with.

The Bad:the 260 should also include the fm traffic updates

I have used several types of gps units, none offer the ease of use and convenience of the garmin, its easy to attach and detach from the windshield mount. And thin enough to carry along with you if you happen to be on foot.


Aussie John posted a comment   

The Good:easy to use with nice large icons with quick response. Screens great with plenty of options to play with.

The Bad:Downloading safety camera data is no easy task. Need compatible PC with HP xp users not able to download.

Neat unit with all key funtions provided. Routes are sometime questionable but then again most GPS units have similar issues.

Ian B

Ian B posted a review   

The Good:Easy to use.

The Bad:Maps at least two years out of date. To download updated maps will cost a third of the original price.

This is my first GPs so I am pretty neutral. It's fun to use with one major annoyance, outdated maps.


irod posted a review   

The Good:widescreen, thin

The Bad:gave route to my home thru a deadend street that has been that way for 10 years....

used on a 600 mile trip and was decent ,would announce street names in city as opposed to hiway route. Prefer my Magellan 3200 Maestro over this!

John nz

John nz posted a review   

The Good:Very easy to use with excellent menus. Has bright and easy to read screen. Excellent windscreen mount. Points of interest directors are a very handy feature (not apparent when you test in the shop as you have to be moving).

The Bad:Web site a bit confusing. Still haven't worked out why after installing the "Garmin Communicater" it takes you to a web page and not to a software package. Can be a bit slow to lock on to satellites. The manual is a bit too cut down in detail for my liking however the help function on the machine itself is quite good.

Compared with other machines I tested, it has a fast and accurate screen touch response. It is a sleek and compact design for its screen size. Doesn't have bluetooth, camera or a FM transmitter but I would never use these features anyway.

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User Reviews / Comments  Garmin Nuvi 260W

  • charlie


    "I did my homework before buying my first GPS unit. I did not want nor need the top

    of line units with all the bells and whistles. I had rented a couple of cars with


  • gomez


    "I have used several types of gps units, none offer the ease of use and convenience of the garmin, its easy to attach and detach from the windshield mount. And thin enough to carry along with you if..."

  • Aussie John

    Aussie John

    "Neat unit with all key funtions provided. Routes are sometime questionable but then again most GPS units have similar issues."

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