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Problems with Satellite Acquisition and other Issues
on June 7, 2008
I received the Garmin Nuvi 260W as a gift. I have subsequently read comments about many different GPS units and have concluded that:
-a hand held GPS is a complement to, not a substitute for a good road map and some common sense. All GPS units have positives and negatives; none are absolutely perfect. These are not toys, but they are not self sufficient navigational tools either. Given enough time, every owner of every unit will have a story about how he couldn't find a particular point of interest, or was directed down a dead end street or across a 4-lane divided highway!
-considering screen sharpness, ease of use and other features, the Garmin 260W is one of the best in its price class.
-Garmin also has the best customer service of any of the companies.
The purpose of this review is NOT to repeat what others have written but to discuss workarounds for the various limitations of this unit.
COMPUTER ACCESS: To download firmware, software upgrades and maps, access to garmin.com is a virtual necessity. Since a computer cable is unfortunately not included with the unit, the user will need to buy a USB 2.0 A / mini B cable. It can be found on Amazon.
At garmin.com, download the web updater and whatever updates it prompts and also, remember to download the updated TTS (Text to Speech) voices. We find that "British" English is sometimes easier to understand than the American counterpart and suggest that it be downloaded as well.
The USB cable will also charge the Garmin's battery but the unit does not operate when plugged into the computer. The optional AC converter is only required if the user wants to operate the unit on 110 volts.
SATELLITE ACQUISITION: Failure to reliably acquire satellite is the biggest single weakness of the Garmin 260W and the reason for the 3* rating. The user never knows in advance whether, after the 30 second boot up, it will take 15 seconds or 15 minutes to find a satellite.
Customer service suggests that the preferable satellite acquisition position is the top edge (NOT the face or back) pointed straight up to the open sky with the unit held still (which means you should not be driving).
When the unit is powered up out of the box and acquires a satellite for the first time, leave the power ON for an hour to download almanac data.
If the unit is moved to a new location with the power off, powering up the unit is similar to an initial power-on, and it can easily take 15 minutes to locate new satellites.
If all else fails, do a hard reset (see the instructions for "clearing user data"). Note that all user data (favorites) is in the gpx file in the gpx folder so save it to your computer and restore it after the reset. Again, leave the unit on for an hour after satellites are acquired.
POINTS OF INTEREST: Some of the data is not current. If a particular restaurant, etc., cannot be found, enter it by its street address and then change the name.
MODIFYING A ROUTE: This unit is less flexible than some. If a favorite place is selected and the GPS simulator mode activated, the proposed route will be highlighted. "Sliding" the screen with an appropriate magnification will allow the route to be compared with a computer or road map alternative. To force Garmin to select a particular road or direction, add a VIA point (gas station, motel, whatever). Because Garmin only allows one via point per route, several such points may be needed and the driver may have to skip stop between them.
ADD: June 26th. The Garmin 260W will NOT display routes downloaded from Mapquest. That feature is reserved for more expensive units.
ADD: June 26th. Failure to arrive at a specific house number may relate to mistakes on the part of developers, subdivision planners or mappers rather than the GPS. If necessary, give an address TWO favorite places - one labeled (per gps)that has the desired address; and one labeled (actual) determined by touching the car icon when standing in the driveway.
ADD: Aug. 4. Polarized sunglass lens fix: If you have the brightness set low (to conserve the battery when walking or biking, for example), polarized sun glasses may make it difficult to read the display which is also polarized. But, if you turn the display VERTICAL, the polarized settings will align and the display will immediately brighten up.
BATTERY LIFE: We've run two hours on battery without losing a green bar. Battery life can be extended by reducing the brightness level to the lowest acceptable.
In summary, the Garmin Nuvi 260W will do pretty much everything it is supposed to do EXCEPT acquire satellites quickly every time. If the company fixes this problem with a new firmware upgrade, the 260W deserves 4 stars. If the unit were also to allow multiple via points and route selections, then it would, in our opinion, earn 5 stars.