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It works, with limitations
on August 23, 2009
I found it very difficult to find information on how this works and what it does, so I took a little gamble based on the only review here at Amazon. After using it for a couple of weeks, I have to wonder if the other review is a shill--it would have been nice to know what to expect, not just "it's great" sort of thing.
So I'll try to pass along my view of what this can do and why it is limited (based on my experiences with a Nuvi 205)
You simply use this in place of your DC adapter in your automobile, making it essentially invisible to you (nice--no extra wires to run). As you are driving, it is a receiver of publicly broadcast traffic information for the area you are in (thus the service is free) "when available". When your Garmin detects these broadcasts, it somehow compares the information it gets with your location and planned route. Garmin puts a little traffic icon on you display, indicating how traffic will affect your travel.
The icon is color coded--Green for no problems, yellow for some delay, and red for major delay. I think Garmin takes into account the delays on your route in calculating the arrival time. It does look for alternate routes, and I believe that if it finds a better one, it will automatically reroute you.
If you tap on the traffic icon, it Garmin takes you to another screen with some options: 1. view traffic map 2: see traffic on route and 3: see traffic in area. Since there were no instructions provided with the product I'm not sure exactly how you're supposed to use these, but I'll share how I think they work:
1. view traffic map: This simply changes your navigation map slightly so that the bad traffic areas are highlighted (in yellow or red) as you drive. I don't know why this is done as a separate map--why don't they just color code the navigation map?
2. Traffic on route gives you a zoomed-out map showing where you are and where the traffic issues are
3: Traffic in area shows a list of all the major roads in your area for which there are reports and color codes them. I found this to be the most useful feature.
So that's what it does (maybe it does more, but I haven't figured anything else out yet), but how well does it work?
The simple answer is that the device does what it is supposed to, but it is limited by the information presented to it. I've used it now a few times in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, and on a vacation that had me drive up the PA Turnpike, to upstate New York, to Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Watertown, NY. For the most part, the information presented on Garmin was never any better than that which could have been heard on a local radio station.
The coverage did not seem bad--every metro area we were near did have reporting. The only places without reporting were pretty rural.
On the vacation, we encountered 4 separate traffic backups (in areas with reporting), only 2 of which Garmin knew about. The two that it knew about, it estimated our delay as about 1 or 2 minutes, but one was really 15 minutes and one was over an hour. The two delays that Garmin did not know about were significant--one was a half hour, and one was a closed highway that cost us over an hour (and made us miss a ferry we were scheduled for). In the worst cases, had Garmin had the information, I'm sure it would have given us a better route. It's not Garmin's fault, but it does show you the limitations.
So bottom line is that this device works, but it is limited in the information available to it. Is it worth getting? That is up to you--I like having some insight into what is going on around me, even if it didn't change things for me. It's kind of neat seeing the list of different roads and there problems--perhaps this will help more if you are a commuter in a major metro area. If you do get this though, don't expect miracles--you'll have to experiment a little and use it like I do--as a tool that provides some more information to you (albeit not perfect)--and not a say-all, end-all on what you should do.