Review: Garmin GPS nüvi® 255W

I purchased the Garmin GPS nüvi® 255W and long story short: I LOVE IT!

I had gone to the TomTom and Garmin sites (the two biggest names in GPS navigation) and done some extensive research on what they offered and what I wanted.

TomTom’s website sucked. I couldn’t navigate through it to sort through all the GPS systems they had, so I gave up.

Garmin on the other hand, gave me some really great information. It gave me all the features and let me check on what I found to be essential.


The ones bolded blue are the only features I wanted:

– Widescreen because the wider the better

– Canada Map because I may need it in Canada some time

– Speaks Street Names because I hate it when they just say “turn left” ugh.

– Where Am I? would be handy for them to locate where the hell I am.. no?

– Europe Map
– Voice Recognition Commands
– Lane Assist (tells you what lane to stay in)
– FM Traffic (x2 Features)
– MSN Direct (x2 Features)
– Bluetooth
– MP3 Player (Internal MP3 player not needed)
– Garmin Locate (to mark where you parked when you remove the GPS unit from the shield)
– Photo navigation (using pictures to navigate)
– Multi-mode (if you walk, bike, take the boat whatever)
– Multiple Point Routing (many stops on your route – Nuvi 750 does this at $400 USD)
– Waterproof

So. That all popped up with the Garmin GPS nüvi® 255W as the cheapest at $249.95 CAD at Future Shop (I checked). (See above image)

If you didn’t want it as a wide screen, you could buy the smaller version of a half-cut screen for almost half the price.

How to upgrade the thing?

For around $50 USD a year, you buy this little SD card, load it into the GPS and it takes something like 4-8 hours to update all of the maps to the current year.

Using it

…was a breeze.

Here’s an overview video of it:

And here’s a really long freaking video of how it worked in real life:

How it worked from my perspective:

The video is pretty much how it worked – clear directions from British speaker Serena, I could see my speed on there, and the time it would take to reach my destination.

It also spoke the street as it came up to it when I came closer to the street, and when I came to the actual street, it told me to turn on there.

That was something I hated when I tried the other Garmin GPS systems when they didn’t speak the street name to turn on and just say “TURN LEFT HERE”.

It had my saved Favourites after I punched them in which was handy when I was travelling from one point to another, and I learned it in a pretty short amount of time (although I’ve used Garmin a lot before).

And the maps were very accurate. It found the little side streets, and it showed all the curves of the car as it traveled.

Holding it to the windshield:

The best feature is the suction cup because there’s a lock and load release snap on the suction cup.

First, you snap in the GPS holding prongs which is on a swivel ball so that you can adjust the angle without having to re-snap the suction cup to the shield.

Snap the suction cup to the windshield and then lock it down with the lever so that it won’t slide or fall.

My friend has a TomTom GPS and she was envious over the suction cup from the Garmin because her TomTom GPS refuses to stick to the windshield any longer.

I then just plug in the cord to my Garmin GPS, and then snap the GPS (easily) into place where the suction cup is.

Then using the swivel ball on the prongs, I (easily) adjust the GPS to angle it to my face without being in the way.

You can see the swivel ball action and what I’m talking about in the first video above.

The screen is also clear even in bright daylight, and it isn’t difficult or annoying to use.

Other Features

Other features I haven’t used are uploading actual pictures of locations so that I can attach it to the address and see an actual photo of where I’m going.

It even has a calculator, trip log and unit converter, plus security features to let you put a PIN number in every time you aren’t in a specific location (like in your garage).

And other fun things would be different icons you can download to use in the GPS as you’re driving (shoes, cars, or wings) and you can download maps, etc but you need to buy a USB cable for that.

What do I hate about it?

Not much.

I guess the one thing I hate that the volume button or switch is on the screen itself and not on the side of the GPS where I can easily adjust it as I’m driving if it’s too soft or too loud.

How much did I pay?

I paid $300 CAD total for the suction cup, charging car cord and the actual GPS. That’s it.

You can buy the smaller version (see the size difference there) if you wanted but I found it to be half the size of the 255W and I was willing to pay an extra $70 for a larger size.

The neoprene case I put it in to carry around is from my Western Digital hard drive, and the case fits it perfectly, so I just use that instead of having to go out and buy a case specifically for it.

I leave the cords and suction cup attached to the car (what a pain in the butt to keep putting it up and down on the windshield!).

I am also not so concerned about them stealing the cords as I am about them stealing my GPS itself. So I put my GPS in the case and carry it around with me.

I would however, like to buy a USB cable cord so that I can link it up to my computer and download icons, maps, routes, etc and update my Garmin that way, which I’ll have to do eventually if I want to update the maps for 2010.

Cord Connector Update:

I found that my hard drive USB cables worked just as well. So no need to buy another USB connector cable. WOO HOO!

I just used my Western Digital external hard drive cable.

Updating maps on the Garmin Nuvi 255W – May 2010:

I bought the lifetime maps update option because I don’t plan on ever having to buy another GPS again (this one works well & should last at least 10 years).

It cost around $140 CAD taxes included for the update.

I would also suggest buying a 4GB SD card and upgrading the memory on it, because the GPS has a small memory (*rolls eyes*), and the new maps take a lot of space.

I bought a cheap 4GN Duracell SD card on sale for $22, tax included.

NOTE: Do not buy the microSD cards, because they run slower than SD cards & will need an adapter.

As for ease of updating, I found it to be a bit stop-and-start.

Here’s the rundown:

First, you have to connect the GPS to your computer, wait a minute until it finishes recognizing it, and then update the software on the GPS so it can download the maps from the executable program you are going to download. Of course, this is all after you fork over your card & whimper at the price of the lifetime update (it was almost the cost of the GPS!)

I decided to do the update rather than buy another GPS, because while it may have ended up being a cheaper option in the end, I don’t want to buy another GPS when mine works perfectly fine and just needs an update. It’s an waste of money & it hurts the environment to not just reuse what you have.

Anyway, I plan on working that lifetime update for all it’s worth.

Second, you have to re-start the GPS, (remember to keep it plugged in) and then do a 2.1GB download of the executable file (a.k.a. program), saved to your computer. This takes about 2-3 hours on a decent connection.

Third, when the download is finished, you run the executable file to install the maps onto your GPS, but should be patient, do not leave any other programs running (it is a HOG) and wait 3 minutes before the executable recognizes your GPS being plugged in & starts installing.

Seriously, I thought the download choked & I’d have to RE-download the whole thing again, but it just took a while to execute, so patience is key here.

Fourth, the actual updating of the maps only took me 10 minutes or less, and I did a quick check for an address I couldn’t previously locate before, and it worked like a charm.

I had read a lot of reviews about how hard it was to update the Garmin Nuvi 255W but I didn’t experience any of those problems. The key is probably to be patient, don’t run anything else in the background when you are updating, and take your time to read the instructions.

Update: Why I don’t want to chuck it for a smartphone

Other than already having paid for it… 😛

Everyone always tells me to chuck my GPS and just get a smartphone, but smartphones use Google Maps for the GPS portion of it, and Google Maps has a 2% failure rate in my experience, of giving wrong directions or miscalculating how far a place really is. :\

I just wanted a product that does its ONE specified job, does it well & does some good hand-holding by talking me through the steps. Plus, the screen is big, bright & clear.

It takes a while to get used to (and to find out how to just read the directions rather than see a visual), but once you get the hang of it, it’s a must-have.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.