Garmin XT PackageThis review is a big one. Because I
want to be as thorough as possible, I dive into all the settings and options
I can find. If you’re thinking of buying, you will have as good an idea as
possible after reading this review.

Pricing is as follows-

  • For UK and Ireland maps, it’s around £60.
  • For Europe, around £90.
  • For North America, $99.99 USD.

 

The software comes on a microSD memory card (size dependent on maps bought) with miniSD and standard SD adapters. Quick start
manuals are included, but no in depth manual. There is a web address in the
quick start manual to a more detailed online version.

The newest version of the software is
4.10.60. The maps I’m using is the City Navigator Europe NT 2008. This takes
almost 1.5GB.

 

For a list of map coverage, see the following
link: http://www8.garmin.com/cartography/ontheRoad/

 

 


Click through
for the complete review…
 

Installation

Once you insert the
card, Garmin autoruns. That’s about it really, installs as easy as any other
sis file, although it takes a bit longer than most.

 

The UI

There have been a lot of complaints about
the UI on Garmin’s mobile XT. I did moan at first, but I have gotten used to
it. Once you think about it, it’s a logical layout. Not as good as TomTom, but
once familiar, you won’t have any trouble. It’s not nice, but perhaps more
importantly, it won’t have you scratching your head wondering where an elusive
option is. And best of all, it allows very good control over your data, such as
your favourites (sorry – ‘My locations’!), routes, contacts etc.

The main screen – 

Garmin Main Menu

You can actually select almost everything
displayed on here. On selecting the signal bars at the top left, you get the
GPS information, such as unit ID, options to disable, etc. You can also select the question mark,
which brings up the help menu. The help menu is actually very well done, with
almost every aspect covered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Then there’s the ‘Where to’ option. Where to?

On selecting this,
you are given the many ways of selecting your destination. There’s the
following:

  • Home, rather
    obviously does a direct route home, assuming you have predefined it already. If
    not, it will ask you to do so.
  • Addresses,
    which brings up the option which will be most used. It’s here Garmin
    falls down
    some. The first option, it asks you which country the address is in. Now this
    is more annoying than it sounds. For some reason, it often doesn’t remember the
    country you are in, or last used. It is just a matter of putting in a few
    letters and choosing it from the list, but I find this pointless. There should
    be an option to have a default country. It’s an unwelcome extra step. After the country has been chosen you can
    either search by postcode, or by address. It could however, be worded better.
    To go by address, you have to choose
    ‘Search all cities’. Which then brings you
    to house number (optional) and then street.
  • My Locations,
    (or favourites, as most people would think of it).

Where to?

  • Recent finds,
    which is any location you have been to recently.
  • Extras,
    which is any custom POI sets you have installed, and travel guides which you
    can buy and download from Garmins website.
  • Cities,
    which when selected searches for all nearby (based on current or last known GPS
    position) towns, cities and villages nearby. Seems to be within an 8 mile
    radius.
  • Intersections, which brings you to the search for an address routine.
  • Peerpoints,
    a function becoming increasingly popular with satnav phones in where it sends a
    text message to a contact of yours with the same software, and displays where
    you are on their device. So if someone has text you a peerpoint, it will be in
    here.
  • Position, in
    which you can enter GPS co-ordinates.

 

Coming back to the main screen, there’s the
option to view map. This will go to the GPS position, or if not available, the
last known one. All the usual options are there, zoom in, zoom out, scroll the
map (which isn’t as easy as I’d like) and various options from there. You can
click on a point using the cursor and add it to my locations. Which is very
much a must for satnav in my opinion. You can also view the trip computer from
the map, which gives overall averages, such as speed etc.

 

Tools
 

 

Going into the tools menu from the main
screen brings up 8 options, all with various submenus.
 

Garmin Tools

Garmin online – gives you access to traffic, weather, hotel rates, fuel prices and
safety cameras. It also allows you to see your subscription status. It’s worth noting
at this point that although you can buy Garmin camera subscription, you can
also use your own POI for speed cameras.

Peerpoints – lists
your recent peerpoints. There are a lot of options associated with these, which
I’ll go into later.

Route details – lists all the instructions you will follow in order (assuming you
don’t deviate). Each one has the distance to, and ETA on. If you select any,
you see the point on the map where the instruction would come. At any point you
can add a ‘via’ stop-off. That’s to say, you can select a point in your journey
where you have to drop by somewhere on the way. Handy.

Browse map. 

 

 

Where am I? – obviously dependant on GPS signal, displays the nearest address,
current location, and the nearest major intersections.

  • Manage my data – Brings up a whole lot of submenus. It’s fairly obvious stuff, so
    I’ll just say what you can edit rather than go into detail.
  • My locations – Rename, change location,
    delete
  • Routes – Rename, edit points, change route
    preference, delete, and create new
  • Tracks – Save active, clear active, or edit
    saved tracks.
  • Contacts – Can assign GPS locations to any
    contact in your phone book.
  • Map sets – Able to choose which map set to
    use if you have more than one.
  • Custom POI sets – No options here, just to
    view them, which is where they are on the memory card, and how much space they
    use.

Trip computer lists the following:

  • Overall Avg
  • Driving Avg
  • Max Speed
  • Total Time
  • Driving Time
  • Stopped Time
  • You can reset these.

Simulate route – you must deactivate GPS, and have an active route.

Back into the main menu, and we have:

 

Settings

 

A huge list of settings, which can go into
detail, but I’m a fan of fine tuning things. More options the better, in
general. They generally lead to submenus.

 

Map –


  • Map detail, in which you have 5
    settings ranging from ‘most’ to ‘least’. Go with whatever you find gives the
    best performance for your phone, i.e. allows it to move smoothly onscreen while
    navigating. On my 6110, which has only 17MB of free RAM for running
    applications, ‘normal’ runs fine.
  • Orientation, offers 3D, North
    up, and track up options.
  • Auto zoom, enabled means it
    zooms on the map according to your speed. The faster your going, the further
    out it zooms. A very good idea for phones due to the smaller screen size.
  • Vehicle, is an option to change
    the image of you/your location, which is by default an arrow. You can download
    news ones, cars as well apparently.
  • Dim roads, with the options
    ‘While Routing’ and ‘Never’. I couldn’t see what it did. Supposed to dim roads
    while giving an instruction?
  • Metro areas, enabled or
    disabled.
  • Show location, an interesting
    menu option. You can choose ‘On roads’, or ‘At GPS location’. So rather than it
    automatically putting you on the nearest road, it will put you exactly where
    the GPS says you are.
  • Outline detailed maps, yes or
    no.
  • Lat/Lon Grid, enabled or
    disabled.
  • Map features, which bring us
    into yet another submenu! I’m not going to list these, as its just choosing
    what label to give things such as cities and POI. None, small, medium, large.

System –GPS - Internal/External

  • GPS, here you find options to
    select either Bluetooth or internal, and to enable or disable either/both.

  • Distance/Speed, allows you to
    choose how it’s displayed in either Statute, Metric, or Nautical.
  • Direction, displayed in
    Cardinal Letters, Numeric Degrees, or Mils.
  • Elevation, in Statute or
    Metric.
  • Depth, in Statute, Metric or
    Fathoms (!!).
  • Temperature, in Fahrenheit or
    Celsius.
  • Location format, which I am not
    going to list as there’s 33 of them. A few examples are India Zone IVB, MGRS,
    British Grid and various hddd.ddddd type formats.
  • Datum, again lots of these too.
    There is Ordinance Survey GB, and WGS 72 and WGS 84 among them.

Routing –

  • What type of vehicle you use,
    bike, car, truck, emergency (what difference would that make I wonder?) and a
    few others, including pedestrian.
  • Off route calculation, and some
    good options here. There is prompted, which mean you have to approve any
    deviation from the original course. Automatic, announced which will
    automatically reroute but tell you it’s doing so. Automatic silent, which is
    obvious, and off, which presumably means no recalculations at all.
  • Route preference, of faster
    time, shorter distance and off road. Needless to say, I haven’t tried the off
    road one.
  • Turn preview, which if enabled
    brings up a still screen of the next turn. In practice this is very annoying,
    as your not sure what your current position is, which I much prefer to see when
    about to make a turn.
  • Avoidance set-up, gives a nice
    little list of do’s and don’ts. You can tell it to avoid many things, such as
    carpool lanes, ferries, toll roads, traffic, u-turns and major/minor roads.

Display –

  • Backlight override, gives you
    various options, one of the best is ‘On when charging’. Small things like this
    make a satnav good for me. The other options are Always on, On when navigating,
    On when speaking, and None.
  • Text, allows you to choose from
    many languages.
  • Font size, gives you 5 sizes to
    choose from.
  • Colour mode, Day, Night and the
    default, Auto.

Audio –

  • Volume, which you adjust by 20%
    each time
  • Voice, choose which voice you
    want for instructions.
  • Voice prompt, should you wish
    to turn off the voice prompts for some reason, you can here.
  • Attention tone, which I must
    admit I don’t know what qualifies as an attention tone. The options to disable
    and enable are here though.

 

Garmin online access, allows you to allow always, disabled, or prompt for connection. This
is for downloading traffic data, speed cameras and checking your Garmin online
status.

Proximity points, has the options to enable custom POI sets, Garmin’s own safety
camera sets, and adjust the audio notifications for them.

About, contains
such information like your IMEI number, IMSI (product ID), Card ID and version
number of the software.

Restore Defaults, enough said. It will bring up a confirmation box to ask if you’re
really sure.

 

Location
input

As with many other satnavs, Garmin offers
various ways of inputting data. I always test using the following addresses, to
see how well it fares on finding them. I try by postcode, and then full
address. If it gets the full address, I then try shortening it, to see how lazy
I can be on inputting addresses.

First address – Which is my new address, a
house built less than a year ago in a medium size town. As such, I’m not
expecting any satnav to have it in, even if I have the latest maps.

  • Result: Postcode – not found.
  • Address – gets the right town, but all
    suggestions are different house numbers.

 

Second address – Which is my old address,
less than 5 minutes away but has had the same postcode and address for many
years. This should therefore be on all satnavs with recent maps.

  • Result: Postcode – found.
  • Address – found.

 

Third address – An address which is really
out in the wilds, but should still be on any decent satnav as it has remained
the same for years.

  • Result: Postcode – found.
  • Address – Failed. I say failed because
    there is a real problem with the address search. You cannot search for house
    names, numbers only. This needs to be rectified by Garmin.

 

Forth – The nearest
supermarket.

  • Result: Not bad. Got
    the nearest one, and quite a few others, but not all.

 

Fifth The
London eye. Not an address input, but more of a landmark search, or POI if it
doesn’t allow general text input.

  • Result: Found, along
    with phone number. Just had to put ‘London eye’ into the spell name selection
    on POI.

 

 

Navigation

 

For navigation, I always use the same
settings for whatever satnav package I use. Always the fastest route, and warn,
or if not available, avoid tolls. Transport method by car, and all major and
minor roads acceptable.

This I feel is the most common settings
people use on satnavs, so should give a true indication of how good the
navigating is.

 

 

Route
1.

 

[Link to KML file ]

 

Is a route from my work to home, a short
journey of about 10-15 minutes depending on if I catch the traffic or not. It’s
a good little test, as there various routes to take, although I know clearly
which is the best so it’s a good comparison to see how well it compares with
local knowledge. 

It starts off well, but after a while sends
me down an extremely narrow road. A rather scary drive ensues, even with my
small car. However it soon gets me back onto the main road and I’m off on my
way. The rest of the route follows the way I normally go.

A few notes about this journey. The small
lane it sent me down was not really appropriate, but then distance wise it
obviously thought it was the fastest route. Its part of the reason I chose this
route, to see if it uses roads like that.

Another small note is that turning into
Nailsworth didn’t give any instruction, the next one being to turn left (for
the upcoming mini roundabout) rather than right onto the road I was facing. This is common with a number of satnavs I use, so it’s most
likely a map issue rather than fault of the software.

So, for that journey, not bad but a bit
concerning about the very narrow road taken. Time taken was around 16 minutes.

 

 

Route
2.

 

[Link to KML file]

 

This route goes from my home to an address
in my old home town. It’s not long, around 15-20 minutes drive in rural areas.
Shouldn’t be any deviation from my usual route.

And I don’t have much to say about this at
all. It followed exactly the route I would have taken naturally, and there was
nothing bad about it. Was pretty much flawless. One small thing to note was
that it didn’t take me down a narrow road in my starting town, which some other
satnavs do. It took me right down the hill, and then onto a main road which was
definitely the faster way.

Time taken was around 15 minutes.

 

Route
3.

 

[Link to KML file]

 

This route goes from my home to a rural
address in Wales, around an hour’s trip. It’s a very good test to do, as there
are 2 main routes, one over the second Severn crossing which has a toll, and
the other through Gloucester which in itself should give an interesting insight
in the routing.

The navigation was flawless for this route.
It certainly selected the best route possible (avoiding the Severn bridge toll)
and didn’t give me any problems whatsoever.

Plenty of warnings for motorway turnoffs,
and I don’t have a single complaint of the whole journey. I got to see the
Garmin speed cameras on this trip. While they work ok, it would have been
better if they gave a distance, rather than just a warning that you’re in a
speed camera zone.

Worth noting that it bypassed Ross-On-Wye,
even though it would have been a shorter distance to go through. Definitely a
correct choice as it saved time.

 

Garmin Turn

 

Instructions

 

Not wonderful. The instructions themselves
are not too bad, but the timing is often too slow. Oddly, despite the huge
range of options and settings Garmin XT gives you, changing the distance for
voice instructions is not one of them. In some instances, I would have missed a
turning had I not glanced at the screen. Not what you want to do when in busy
traffic in a town centre.

Apart from the timing issue, it’s a
satisfactory fare. The volume was loud enough for me on 80%. At 100% it would
be loud enough to be heard over most music, or the window down. 

 

 

 

 

Navigation
in general

 

All in all – good. I would certainly trust
it (as much as you can trust a satnav) and currently Garmin is my satnav of
choice out of copilot, Navigon, Navicore, and Nokia’s maps. No satnav is infallible, and of course it
makes some mistakes and there are some instances that make you ask it what the
hell it’s doing. But Id happily let it plan a trip and follow it.

It’s worth saying here that previously I
used older maps. These had some sort of issue with roundabouts in the UK. So if
you do go to buy a copy of Garmin, make sure it’s the latest maps included. The
difference is huge.

 

Navigation
display

 

Display is reasonable, night colours and
day clear enough to navigate by with giving any problems.  The data onscreen gives you the distance to
the next instruction, the next instruction, your speed, and estimated arrival
time.  It’s OK, but I am surprised at there isn’t
any option to change this layout. Personally, I’d like a satellite signal
strength bar, and a battery bar on there. There’s room on the bottom bar.

 
 

 

Features

 

  • Custom POI are an option, many people will
    be relieved to hear. They do however have to go through a POI loader downloaded
    from the Garmin website. I’ve had mixed results with this. Every time I load a
    new set of POI, it wipes any I had on there previously. Certainly not ideal.
    The POI file types are CSV and GPX.
POI Loader

 

 

  • Peer points. These are Garmin’s answer to
    friend finder type functions the other satnavs have. Someone with the same
    version of Garmin can send and receive peerpoints. Simply, someone with Garmin
    XT can
    send their location to someone else with Garmin XT, savable as a
    location or to navigate to right away. And it’s free apart from the SMS cost.
    I tried it with a friend. It’s easy enough
    to send, simply go into peerpoints and send, which you search through your
    contacts, and boom, text sent. Clever thing is, when you receive one, it
    tells you it’s a peerpoint and asks you if you want to start Garmin. When in
    Garmin, you can either start navigating to that point, see it on the map, or go
    to options and save it in my locations.
Garmin PeerPoints

 

  • Traffic for Garmin is free. Apart from data
    charges of course. Depending on your settings, it can check at the start of
    each journey. I didn’t encounter enough traffic to warrant an opinion on how
    good it was.
     
  • Garmin also do their own speed cams,
    downloadable over the air. I did this and got an unexpected 30 day trial.
    Otherwise you have to create an account at my.garmin.com and pay. However after
    checking, its an expensive £29.99 per year for the UK, though it varies
    depending on region. It would be far better to sign up to pocketGPSworld or the
    like.

 

 

Plus
points of the software

 

  • Settings, there’s lots of them. I also
    really like the peerpoint function, I think functions like this will become
    much more prevalent now that GPS enabled phones are soon to be reaching the mid
    range level, think Nokia 6220 classic and 6210 navigator. Both set to be
    reasonably priced phones, rather than N series higher priced phones for
    enthusiasts.
  • Best thing however, is that it succeeds on
    your basic navigation. Just, due to the late instructions. This should be
    rectified by Garmin, a speed based time to instructions would be much better I
    feel. For motorway driving, Garmin seems to rule the roost for now.
  • The ETA has been extremely accurate.
    Scarily so. On several long journeys it hasn’t been more than 9 minutes out. A
    pretty impressive feat.

 

Bad
points

 

  • The main issue which is going to put most
    people off is that it’s locked to the memory card it comes on. This is a very
    bad idea, as it means you either have to put up with very little space (less
    than 200mb when you get the UK maps, as it’s a 512mb card), or take an extra
    memory card around with you. Technically, this means you cannot use
    Garmin XT on a Nokia N95 8GB, as it doesn’t have a card slot. Make a form of online activation, lock it
    to IMEI. Quite apart from the N95 8GB users, I’m sure having it locked to one
    card puts off many others as well. Although a plus point of it being locked to
    card rather than phone is that you can easily change it to another phone if
    need be.
  • The address method of input needs improving
    as said. 
  • Late instructions, as mentioned. This seems
    to affect navigation in urban areas rather than motorways.
  • A bug, which affects the edit key when
    doing an SMS. It’s a bit random, but it’s definitely down to the Garmin
    software. Often the key just doesn’t work.

 

 

Overall
impression, value for money, usability

 

Aside from the locked card issue, I’d
recommend it to anyone looking for a solid satnav program. A novice might get a
bit confused with all the options, but the defaults are all sensible, as are
the menu layouts. It will also satisfy most advanced satnav users, with options
to tweak almost everything.

 

Overall, it’s worth it. They have clearly made a
good effort with the Symbian version, and I hope they continue to update it.
It’ll get you there without much problem.