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Once I got my car I realised that I lack even basic geographic knowledge and could only easily find my way to places I had already been several times. Sat Navs are now very popular and have come down in price, so I decided to invest in the Garmin Nuvi 200 (UK).
I purchased this from Halfords when they had a sale on Sat Navs for £89.99, but they generally retail for £99.99. Although these devices have come down in price since first being marketed, they're still very pricey. I'm sure there will be many more offers on now around Christmas with updated models, so there's even more choice now. I wouldn't have bought one if I felt safe with your bog standard map and road markings, but I wanted the security of knowing I had something to guide me; getting stressed and flustered when you're lost isn't much fun!
The Nuvi 200 comes with pre-downloaded UK & Ireland maps, but other locations are available to download from their website, but this will cost you. It also has preloaded camera safety alerts, but I believe these only last 6 months before you have to reinstall them, but again, this is at a cost for subcription from their website. In the box you get a car charger, dashboard disk, set up guide and a suction cup mount for your car. I prefer to use the windscreen mount as you can place this in a suitable place for you to see whilst driving without obstructing your view. The battery lasts upto 4 hours so the in car charger is great, but if you want to charge it at home before you leave the house, you will need to buy your own adapter. I bought mine from Ebay for under £4.
The device is sleek and small so it's small enough to carry around with you and place on your windscreen, yet a decent size for you to be able to see the screen clearly. The screen itself is touch sensitive and easy to use, even if you don't have dainty little fingers. There's a slide button at the top and once activated, the sat nav takes only seconds to start up. Initially however, you must go through setting up the device so that it's ready to use which can take around 10-15 minutes. Once it's on, you are taken to the main screen. The time is shown in the top right along with the battery life, and the signal quality is shown in the top left. You have two main options here - 'Where to' or 'View Map'. #
By viewing the map you can see where you currently are. By choosing where to, you can select your desired location. Alternatively you change the sound settings or go to miscellanious settings. Here you can get help, view images, ie. photos (you can do this via your computer using a USB cable which you will have to purchase separately). A calculator also features, along with a currency and unit converter and world clock.
Once you are set up and ready to go, 'Where to', will allow you to input an address which can be an area, street or postcode. You can also search for the nearest food/hotels/supermarkets/petrol stations, look through your recently found destinations, save your favourites, or go to other extras (such as locating intersections or look at cities.
Once you have put in your location details, it will last the matches it has found and generate the map. Calculation will take a few seconds, depending on how strong the signal detection is. You can zoom in/out of the map, but the best way to follow the instructions is to have it close up so that you can see the arrow and the path it has chosen. Roads are clearly named and instructions can also be spoken clearly to you. A reminder of your next instruction also appears in text at the top of the screen.
I have found this Sat Nav to be very useful; I wouldn't been further than 2 towns without it but that's because I'm not very good with finding my place around unknown areas. You can't however rely soley on the sat nav to direct you at all times. It definitely gives you good direction, but you still need to pay attention to road markings (it has on occasions told me to go up a one-way street which I couldn't go up). It gives you a distance at which to turn, ie. in 200 yards, turn left. Be sure to look at the arrow on the map. Some small roads may not be listed, or you could take the next left when in fact it was the one after that. I have made that mistake several times. If you do go the wrong way though, it will recalculate fairly quickly and take you in a different direction to get you back on track to your desired location. It also gives you a rough arrival time which is useful, and it does try to take you the quickest way, but it can't know when the rush hour is or which roads are having works done, so if you know the area or see signs of disruption on a road it takes you down, you also need to use common sense. Put together, it can be a lot to pay attention to...the road and other cars/pedestrians, following text, arrow and voice instructions, looking out for road markings, etc.
All in all, I don't know how well I'd cope without one of these. I have found the device itself to be very good with reliable maps and directions, providing you follow them correctly (sometimes difficult when there's lots of little roads around). My only issue is that I have had to have this replaced. I was due to drive to cardiff to stay there for the week. I missed my chance of going however because when I turned on my 'trusty' satnav, it wouldn't work. The colour had faded and the maps wouldn't load. I spoke with Garmin who suggested a few things to try, but nothing helped and they put it down to a 'technical fault which can not be fixed'.
Be aware of the returns/fix policy of the shop from which you buy this product. Although they're good sat navs, they still have many complaints made about them and hundreds of units get returned to the shop and exachanged. With Halfords, I just took the product in along with the receipt, and gave the name of the woman at Garmin I spoke with. They exchanged the unit immediately and gave me a fresh guarantee.
I think that all sat navs have a high possibility of encountering a failure (I don't know anyone that's owned one who hasn't had to get it exchanged to due technical fault). I have tried a NavMan sat nav prior to this, but found the Garmin to be more effective and well laid out. I have also borrowed my friend's TomTom and found the Garmin Nuvi to be just as good. It's a great satnav but just ensure you buy from a reliable shop, get a guarantee and receipt, and check out their returns policy.