Garmin Nuvi 265W Review

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First drafted: 30 May 2010
Last Updated : 02 July 2012




(Click to see more pictures and explanations.)

This page is my review on the portable GPS navigation unit the Garmin Nuvi 265W.  Once again it is a long term review subject to updates every so often.  It's on one page so the top part contains any updates the the later part contains the entire review.  A comparison between the TomTom One and the Tomtom One vs Garmin Nuvi can be read via the link.

See my review of the latest Nuvi 1390 and 1390T here!

Why choose the Garmin Nuvi 265W to other brands of portable GPS systems eg. TomTom or Navman?  Well, the GPS market has changed significantly since I purchased the last one (TomTom).  Although I would be happy to get a new TomTom I wanted to try a different brand and navigation system. 

Justification to get a new GPS is unlike the decision to purchase my first TomTom - having a portable GPS has proved its usefulness so many times over the years that it's a no brainer to purchase a replacement.

I initially wanted the 255W but none of the stores had them hence the 265W. The 265W is a much better version than the much complained and older 250, 255 and 260 series.  I had also seen and tried the new 2009 Navman Platinum S-series but they hadn't been officially released at the time of this review.  Of note Navman uses Navteq maps - same as the ones used by Nokia.

Note that the Garmin 265WT is the same as the Garmin 265W.  The only difference is that the 265WT has TMC (Traffic Message Channel), which is a feature that gets live traffic data via FM radio waves.  TMC is NOT available in most parts of the world so this is not an essential feature just yet.  Nice to have but honestly until it becomes wide spread there is no point to specifically wanting this feature.  If you want to add to your 265W or any compatible GPS unit then you need the GTM series traffic receivers.  Garmin GTM 25 Traffic Receiver Review

Navigation and Maps: Unlike past models most new GPS units have map data built into the unit's memory so there is no need to activate over the internet or need to insert additional SD cards etc...  The Nuvi is not an exception so genuinely works out of the box.  The Garmin Nuvi models also have a SD card slot but it's not for map data but for personal data such as pictures!  In built memory totals almost 1 GIG of internal memory (RAM) with 366MB for the base configuration and 572MB of free space. (my unit anyway)  Free memory will vary according to the country you're in.

Battery life for the Nuvi 265W is rated at 4 hours - in fact most of the Garmin models are rated for the same amount of time.  Operating varies according to factors like screen brightness, Bluetooth, and whatever other functions you've been using.

Setting up the Nuvi 265W is mostly automatic just plug it into some power and turn it on.  It spent in my case, five or so minutes setting its self up before I could use it.  After that just follow the instructions on screen or in the manual or the website and have a play around with the various features.  It is very simple to use.  Some functions are hidden away but the main ones are easy to find and use.

The physical construction of the Nuvi 265W is pretty good. It's not sleek or particularly good looking but it does feel solid (no creaking panels) and hence well built. The cradle for windscreen mounting is particularly excellent. The suction cap is controlled by a lever - so no more spitting on the cap make it stick. When the lever is activated the suction strength is excellent. Even better Garmin have included a 'dashboard disc' which you can stick to the dash where previously not possible. It's also a security feature so that you won't attract thieves who look for the suction cap evidence of a portable GPS system. Added to security is a PIN which you can prevent anyone else from using the unit should it be stolen.

One of the reasons I picked the 265W was because it had a large wide screen. Nothing wrong with a normal square one but as you get older the bigger the screen the easier to read when driving. The screen quality is very good - the backlighting is bright and has reasonable pixel density thus the graphics are smooth. At 480x272 pixels the screen size is a reasonably big 4.3 inches.

The speaker sound quality and volume are good but not as good as the TomToms. Back to back comparison with the TomTom One revealed that the Garmin 265W wasn't as loud or as clear.  You'll have to wait for my full comparison of the two models - which I'll post later.

The 265W has the additional feature of proper bluetooth connectivity, so you can use it has a hands free system for your mobile phone. It has it's own built in microphone, so you should sound nice and clear to your caller. I have connected my Nokia E71, Nokia 6500 and Apple iPhone 3G without any problems and used it as a hands free whilst on the road. The speaker is loud enough and the microphone is sensitive to work within 50cm to 1 meter of the unit. It picks up the background music so you have to turn down the stereo. Once paired to a reasonably new mobile phone you can dial numbers, receive calls, view call history, use recently dialled numbers and so forth. *See below for problem updates. 

Note: it's very useful if you've got it installed on your motorcycle because you can tell when you have phone call and who's calling.  So you can pull over if you want to talk without taking your helmet off!

The hands free feature is a worthy addition since most cars in 2008 do not have hands free kits built into them.  I haven't had any problems apart from sound quality.  Essentially they could have used a better quality speaker!

The Garmin GPS systems have one of the best trip computers in the consumer grade systems out there.  Trip or travel statistics include average speed, max speed, stop time, total travel time, distance travelled, time travelled, time to arrive at destination and so forth. Sure most are largely informative but useless information - that said it is nice to know if you like that sort of thing.  One thing it did not have was information on the number of satellites it was receiving.

Now the core function of GPS navigation!  The navigation route making system is very good.  The Nuvi 265W worked out routes quickly and accurately.  Unfortunately like most systems the route it calculates is often not the one that you would normally take. It is mathematically the most efficient route based on your selected criteria as opposed to your favourite route.  The 265W had locations of all fixed speed and red light cameras along with the speed limit of the road you are travelling.  It appeared to have automatic over speed warnings!  Garmin uses Whereis maps produced by Telstra - at least for Australia and New Zealand.  In turn the base maps are by Worldwide Autoroute DEM basemap 2.00 AND Data Ireland Ltd.  Fixed Red light and speed cameras are by Cyclops UK Ltd.

The timing of warnings for direction changes is just about right but warnings of speed cameras could probably be made a tad sooner and perhaps a verbal announcement rather than just warning beeps.

There are the usual route calculation options such as fastest, shortest and off road options along with the sub categories of avoiding toll roads, traffic and so forth.  You can even select the form of transport you are taking, eg. car, bicycle etc...  You need to set the options because the default settings may not be suitable.

On the road the 265W acquires satellites reasonably quickly taking less than 1 minute from cold start.  Note that you need to reset the trip computer at the start of the journey if you want the stats for the trip.  It does not automatically reset for obvious reasons. In fact it would be more limiting to have it automatically reset.  The 265W satellite's tracking is updated every second and it holds onto signals with tenacity even inside the house behind wooden venetians as I'm writing this review.

One other reason I choose the 265W was that it had text to speech (TTS) navigation alerts.  So instead of 'turn right in 500 meters' you get 'turn right on Smith Street in 500 meters'.  The annunciation of the street names is occasionally dubious and cause unintentional giggles. For example 'Flinders' sounds more like  'Flanders'.  You can turn Text to speech on/off on all Garmin Nuvi units by selecting a non-TTS named voice.  That said some voices do have better pronunciation.

One other issue I noticed was that for some directions the Garmin only pronounced the highway number as opposed to the highway name.  Most other GPS units do the same thing so it's not a flaw.

Is the Garmin Nuvi 265W easy to use?  Yes just as easy if not easier than other major brands on the market.  You can input addresses, cities and suburbs even touch a point on the map to input your destination.   It keeps the detail fuss to minimum as a priority but still allowing you to view trip technicalities in the sub menus.  The best feature was the ability to touch the map and move it like an iPhone.

As for performance and accuracy of the Garmin can be described as very good - it has not failed me yet with all destinations albeit known ones without misleading directions.  A nice touch is it tells you which side of the road your destination is on. That said I've only had it for 2 weeks!  I'll update the page with more experiences as time goes on. Garmin has not released the GPS chip type or other CPU details but I guess it doesn't really matter as long as it works accurately and reliably.  See the bottom of the page to see updates on its reliability beyond this initial test.

As for general functionality, there are lots of additional things included, like the picture viewer, calculator, unit converter but nothing really essential.  There is a geo-tagging function which allows you to assign pictures to destinations and navigate by picture and a nifty trip log which shows a map of the directions you've taken in the past.  It also plays Ogg Vorbis files! Although it does not have a music player. The Garmin 265W also features a choice of keyboards for typing QWERTY or ABCDE (much better than older ABCDE only for past Garmin models)

Price range (at release late 2008) for the 265W is clearly mid range, between $350-450 AUD. In the current economic climate two devices for the price of one has some justification.

Genuine problems with the Garmin Nuvi 265W (my opinion) include sluggish keyboard output probably caused by it's automatic search and it confuses a computer USB port with a regular USB charger. Software and other extras can be updated but at a cost.

Best features on the 265W include nice wide screen, easy to use navigation system. One touch trip computer information. Voice guidance. Fixed speed and red light camera locations included. The route history display was a great bonus, seeing the routes you have travelled in the past is not essential but interesting nonetheless.

Conclusion

Yes I can recommend the 2009 Nuvi 265W, it works as advertised!  Much better than the prior Nuvi 250, 255, 260 series.  Infinitely better than paper based maps.  Please check out my forth coming comparison with the TomTom One with the updated software.

Note: Shop around for the best prices! because I saw some offers for $395 for the 25W with a bonus GARMIN Etrex H GPS for last week at the usual retail outlets.

Update: April 2009 - Finally experienced a navigation issue! Whilst on an 'unpaved' road the directions became confused - it kept saying to do a u-turn despite being on the map.  I presume that it was due to outdated map information of some sort  for Tasmania.

Update: May 2009 - Like all GPS systems the route the Garmin calculates is often not one you'd normally take if you knew where you where actually going IF there are plenty of options to get to the destination.  But apparently Tomtom have developed something called IQ routes which apparently takes past routes you've taken into account and blends it into its own calculations.

Update: June 2009 - Here's a link to some free Garmin maps from nzopengps.org give it a go if you technically inclined.

Update: October 2009 - Since adding the traffic route module I noticed that it takes longer to get a satellite fix.  The usual minute or so now takes longer when started on the move.

Update: November 2009 - I previously reported that you only get beeps for speed and red light cameras.  When I downloaded the latest camera POI from the Garmin site I now have a voice announcing whether its a red or speed or both types of camera - very good!

Update: December 2009 - I noticed that they are now selling the Garmin Nuvi 1390, cheaper than the 265W! That's good for new purchasers I guess. The 1390 is the replacement for the 265W.

Update: June 2010 - The new eco-route software can be installed on the 265 via the Garmin website. Just update the overall software for your 265 and the application will appear in the menu system.

Furthermore thanks to an email from Greg and my own testing the 265W does indeed have compatibility problems with the iPhone and Nokia E71. The initial pairing and calls seem to only work for awhile then cause a variety of unexpected stability problems for both the Garmin and mobile phone in question. I think its the auto locking features of the phone but then could be anything...

NEXT: Tomtom One vs Garmin Nuvi
BACK: GPS Navigation equipment reviews

EXTRAS: Garmin GTM 25 Traffic Receiever
EXTRAS:
Garmin Nuvi Screen Images

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Instructions and FAQs

Just connect the Garmin to your computer to see all the files and data in the system.  The computer recognises it like a USB drive and you can see all the program and data files.

Also don't judge any GPS unit by hardware specifications alone because as we have all learnt with the Windows XP and Vista experience it is all about the operating system efficiency than hardware specs alone.

GPS navigation is all about mathematical calculations, if you follow the directions you will eventually get to where you want to go.  It may not be the most practical or efficient real life route but if you are unfamiliar with the location then its just as good as a regular map.

Garmin Nuvi 265W - Important Specifications

Part No 010-00575-15

CPU

Not mentioned

Screen

4.3" (10.3cm) 480 x 272 pixels colour TFT LCD

Memory

928mb RAM (1GIG) 366MB used and 572MB free

Memory Card SD Card slot

Battery

Internal Li-Ion

GPS Receiver

Not mentioned

Sound

Internal loud speaker

Connections Mini-USB for power and data
Wireless Bluetooth
Nuvi Software Version 4.40
GPS software 2.38b

How to mount the Garmin GPS navigator to you motorcycle?

Mounting the any Garmin Nuvi to your bike is a simple process. The suction cap on the end of the sticks to the underside of the front screen but you will need to screw it into the screen.  I'm sure you'll be able to find one (Nut and bolt type) around the house.  Mounting it here also provides a degree of weather protection.

That said, it is recommended to you get the weather proof unit but if you're lucky enough to live in a place that doesn't rain often then I can't see the justification for a often a more expensive model.

Use common sense when mounting it! Here some examples I've tried over the years

NEXT: Tomtom One vs Garmin Nuvi
BACK: GPS Navigation equipment reviews - Main Menu

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