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Garmin's StreetPilot 7200 offers a huge screen (but low resolution) and very extensive features (but with some disappointing omissions).

It is best suited for semi-professional GPS users, and for people who want to play with all the extra features and options which most users will probably never need.

 
 
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Garmin StreetPilot 7200 GPS review

Very good unit with very large screen
 

The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 has a huge 7" screen, the same type of screen as found on the Plenio VXA-3000.

It is a solid unit and perhaps too large/heavy for many smaller automobiles.

Part of our series on GPS - additional articles to be published in coming weeks - see links on the right.

 

 

The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 boasts the same large screen as the Plenio VXA-3000.  But whereas the StreetPilot 7200 lists for a hefty $1071 had has a street price of around $750, the Plenio lists for $600 and can be found for sale around $370 - less than half the Garmin price.

Is the Garmin twice as good as the Plenio?  It is clearly better, but twice as good?  That depends on how much value you attach to the extra cost and features associated with the StreetPilot.

In truth, most people will probably end up choosing neither unit, but if you have special need of the 'traveling salesman' capabilities of the 7200, you might choose this unit.  There's almost nothing it can't do, and lots that it can do.

A higher resolution screen, easier mounting options, and Bluetooth would change this from a good to a great unit.


The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 - What You Get

The unit comes packed in a nice cardboard box.  The first thing one notes upon opening the box is the massive size of the unit.  Its 7" screen makes it a monster, but a big screen also means it is easier to read than a smaller screen, so if you have the dashboard/windshield space for the unit, don't be discouraged.

The unit has a heavy duty industrial grade feeling to it.  Even the power cable that runs from the cigarette lighter plug to the mounting adapter seems thicker than other cables for other GPS units.

In addition to the unit itself, you get a mounting adapter that is designed to be mounted on the dash rather than on a windshield with a suction cup (probably due to the weight of the StreetPilot 7200).  The 7200 uses a similar type of mounting system as do earlier StreetPilot units, but increased in size to spread its weight over a greater area.

A mains charger and a USB cable also are provided.  A nicely printed color manual (66 pages) and a quick start color guide help you to get familiar with the unit.

A CD-Rom with mapping software that can be used on a PC is also included, and a remote control is provided that allows you to operate the unit without having to reach over to touch the screen controls on the unit itself.

The remote control requires two AAA batteries, which are, alas, not included in the kit.  You don't get much for your $750 these days, do you.

Also not included is an audio and/or video cable to feed audio and video into the unit, nor is an SD card included.  Neither the cables nor SD card are necessary for normal operation of the unit, however.

The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 compared with other Garmin models

The StreetPilot 7200 is partnered by a slightly more expensive unit, the StreetPilot 7500.  The units are almost identical, other than for price (the 7500 lists for $1392.84, the 7200 lists for $1071.41), with the only other difference being that the 7500 has dead reckoning capabilities.

The dead reckoning enables the GPS unit to guess at where you are going when it has insufficient satellite location information.  This is occasionally helpful - for example, going through a tunnel - but most people will find they'd prefer to save on the extra cost of the dead reckoning (and in some cases, the complicated extra installation requirements to link the GPS into vehicle motion sensors).

People who are looking for other units offering a 'traveling salesman solution' capability - ie, a unit which will work out the most efficient route for you to travel to visit multiple destinations - might also consider the Garmin StreetPilot 2820 (list price $1076.91).  This has nearly identical capabilities to the 7200, but has a smaller screen (3.7") although offering almost the same screen resolution (109k pixels compared to the 7200's 112k pixels).  The 2820 is also lighter (15 ounces instead of 23 ounces), making it - in theory - easier to mount.

Unlike the other two units, the 2820 has Bluetooth connectivity - a feature that should be included in all higher end units (and shame on Garmin for leaving this very low cost extra feature out of the 7200 and 7500).  Bluetooth connectivity is particularly helpful when choosing, eg, a restaurant from the unit's list of restaurants - you can then immediately and automatically call them to book a table.

The 2820 has a street price similar to or slightly below that of the 7200.  Amazon is currently selling it for about $720.

If you don't need the 'traveling salesman' capability, then there is no other reason to consider any of these three units.

Which unit should you choose

Few people will find much value in adding dead reckoning to their unit.  An exception could be when using the unit in a downtown city 'canyon' environment, with small blocks and tall buildings on both sides of the road.  This can be a difficult test for any unit, and the dead reckoning can help the unit remain consistently where it should be.

The 2820 has a smaller screen (but similar clarity), but on the other hand, the 7200 lacks Bluetooth.  Both units are very similarly priced.

Perhaps the most distinctive difference is the size.  If you've room in your rig for the 7200, that may become your best choice, but if you have less room, perhaps the 2820 becomes a better choice.  And remember, the only reason you're considering any of these three units is because you need the 'traveling salesman' capability; if this is not essential, choose a different unit entirely.

Using the Unit

It was easy to use the StreetPilot 7200, with the most difficult part being mounting the unit in the vehicle.  Although Plenio, with their similar size and weight, were able to offer a windshield suction cup type mounting bracket, Garmin chose not to do this, and so it becomes necessary to use their oversized and unwieldy dash mounting bracket instead.

But once the unit was installed, using it was very easy.  It turned on automatically when the cigarette lighter power switched on, and - of course (because it has no built in batteries) - turned off when it lost power.

The unit seemed slower to lock on to satellites than the Garmin Nuvi 680 I had installed alongside the StreetPilot 7200, perhaps due to not having a state of the art SiRF chip inside it to receive the satellite data.

It also jumped around a bit while driving in downtown Seattle, making it less reliable and helpful there than my built in Landrover unit (with dead reckoning) and about as bad as the Garmin Nuvi 680 I also had in the vehicle.

The StreetPilot 7200 combines Garmin's latest interface with many of the older more technical features and options that seem to have disappeared from most newer units.  These technical features are not essential to most average users, but a 'professional' or enthusiast type user will appreciate them.

One such example is the ability to select the Map Datum.  If you don't know what something like WGS 84 means, this is of no interest, but if you do, you'll be both pleased to see some options offered, and frustrated to see that - inexplicably - Garmin has omitted many of the options it used to offer in its earlier (and simpler) units.

Another 'industrial' type option would be the choice for the audio output to be set for either headphone level listening or line output (to feed into, eg, your car stereo system).

And yet another example are four distance logs that can be used to track total distance traveled.  You could set these for different expense code categories, for example.

Actually using the unit, while driving around, was very pleasant and easy.  The big screen was not only easy to read, but also easy to use - the space for each of the touch screen controls was much larger than on smaller screens, and when you're quickly reaching over, while driving, the ability to correctly hit the right touch control zone without needing to take your eye and concentration too much off the road is very valuable.

It was easy to work through the various menus to find what was needed, and in general, the unit satisfied most reasonable needs.

Like most (if not all) other Garmin products, it has a good well engineered and almost unbreakable feel to it.

The Bottom Line

The Garmin StreetPilot 7200 is not as good as other units in some respects, and the benefit of its large size screen is as much illusion as reality (due to the lower resolution).  You would only be considering this unit if you wanted/needed the ability to solve 'traveling salesman' type routing.

If you do have this need, then the 7200 is a good choice, with the main omission being its lack of Bluetooth support (something offered in the smaller screened, similar resolution, similar priced StreetPilot 2820).

Feature Analysis
 

Feature

Test Unit

Model

Garmin StreetPilot 7200

Price

List price $1071.41 (what a strange price)
Purchased through Amazon for $750

Review Date/Details

Unit was purchased and reviewed in Aug 2007.

It came with software version 5.00.

After checking the Garmin website and updating, the software became version 5.10 and additional language/voice features were offered.

This continues our unbroken run of always finding updated software for units, even when purchased brand new and then immediately checked for updates.  You should be sure to do the same.

Warranty

One year.

Support

Through Garmin's website or via their toll free support - (800)800-1020, 8am - 7pm Central time, Monday - Friday.

It seems that it takes about 15 minutes to get through to a representative these days, but when you do get through, the person you speak to is invariably helpful and friendly, and all seem to be based in the US.

Inclusions

The unit comes with a complete package of just about everything you're likely to need :

  • The unit itself

  • Remote control (but no batteries)

  • Dashboard mounting adhesive disk and plate (but no windshield mounting device)

  • Car power supply

  • USB cable

  • AC charger

  • User manual

  • Quick reference guide

  • Various other promotional literature

  • CD with map data and mapping software

Runs out of the box

Yes, mount it, turn it on, and it starts working.

Easy to follow menus and screen prompts make the manual almost unnecessary.

Size

The unit measures 7.4" x 4.7" x 1.6".

Weight

The unit by itself weighs 1lb 7oz.  The unit complete with screen mounting hardware and power cable weighs 1lb 15 oz (not including the part that attaches to the dash).

These are appreciably heavy weights, and as a result, mounting the unit is difficult and best done with a permanent type mounting device.

Mounting Accessories

The unit comes with a dash mount metal sheet.  This can be attached to the dash either by screwing it in permanently, or by use of dual sided adhesive disks.

This is a cumbersome and clumsy method of mounting.  It works well if you have a large flat area on your dash, but if - like most of us - your dash is curving and crowded, you'll have difficulty finding somewhere to place your unit.

The dash mount then connects to a quick release bracket making it easy for you to remove the unit from its mount (eg to hide it when parking the vehicle in a higher risk crime zone).

No windshield mounting option is offered.  Garmin advise that they can be purchased through third party aftermarket sources such as www.rammount.com.

Screen Size

7" diagonal screen

3.5" x 6.1" =  9:16 aspect ratio

Screen Pixels

In common with other 7" screens, this has a resolution of 234x480 pixels.

67 pixels/inch vertically

79 pixels/inch horizontally

This is a fairly coarse pixel density, making the image and text less clear - the screen is big, but the resolution - will good as an absolute measure - is low for the size of the screen.

Screen Colors

Unknown but sufficient.

Screen Visibility

The screen is reasonably clear and easy to read in most lighting conditions.

The low pixel density makes the text look unfocused and blurry - like looking at a television too close.

Screen Backlighting

Yes, multiple levels offered, and it also has an 'auto' option to set its own level of backlighting.

Day/Night Mode

An intelligent day/night mode function automatically switches to night mode at sunset and switches back to day mode at sunrise.  Because the unit knows where it is and the day of year, it can calculate sunrise and sunset times.

Night mode has subdued colors, but the screen can be too bright if driving in less well lit areas - you'd probably want to also reduce the screen brightness at night for best effect.

Controls

The unit has only one physical control - an On/Off switch on its front.  This is not often needed because normally the unit comes on when you switch your ignition on and goes off when you switch it off again.

All other functions are controlled via soft menus on the touch screen.

Interactive help files available

No

Limited functionality when moving

Offered as an option.  Most of us will not wish to be 'protected' by this 'Safe Mode' option and will turn it off.

Graphics processor speed

Excellent.

GPS Receiver

Uses a Garmin unit.

Reception is good, but most of the time, it seemed that a SiRF unit powered Garmin Nuvi 680, mounted alongside, would receive more satellites (as much as 50% more satellites, making for better accuracy and more stable fixes in poor conditions).

Max number of satellites simultaneously tracked

Not stated, but believed to probably be 12.

It uses a Garmin proprietary GPS receiver chip.

WAAS enhanced

Yes

Dead reckoning capability

None.  The StreetPilot 7500 offers this as an option, for an extra $320 in list price.

Satellite display

Yes.

A satellite display screen shows the position of satellites in the sky, which ones are being received and the signal strength, plus also latitude and longitude, elevation, and current date and time (which is 100% accurate to the millisecond due to being taken from the satellites).

The satellite display also shows the current position of the sun and moon.

Accuracy calculation

Yes, on the satellite display screen.

This is a 'theoretical' accuracy only based on the geometric solution the unit is capable of computing, and some additional inaccuracy needs to be factored in for other variables such as propagation delays, ephemeris data, etc.

Can the unit show you your current latitude and longitude and compass heading

This information is shown on the satellite display screen.

Can the unit show you your current altitude

Yes, it shows altitude in feet on the satellite information page.

Note that altitude calculations are substantially less accurate than the displayed theoretical accuracy - perhaps they are within a range of plus or minus twice the displayed accuracy.

Can the unit show you the exact time

Yes

External antenna capability

Yes.  The unit uses an MCX type connector.

CPU processor speed

Not known, but the unit performs calculations and screen updates and everything very quickly.

Trip Computer functions

Yes.

It shows direction of travel, instantaneous speed (this is more accurate than your speedometer), average speed (including stops), average speed (excluding stops), maximum speed (this can be embarrassing, and can be cleared by itself if you feel the need to do so!), total time since reset, moving time since reset and stopped time since reset.

It also shows an odometer measuring distance traveled down to 1/10th of a mile and displays time remaining to reach your currently programmed destination (if applicable).

Note that in addition to the odometer, there are also four mileage 'logs' in the unit, giving you in effect five different odometer functions.

Battery Type

There is no inbuilt battery.

Battery Life

Not applicable.

Power Input

The unit can accept power from the car's battery, and also from a computer or other device through a USB port, and a mains power adapter.

Auto Power On/Off

Yes.  The unit remembers programmed destinations when turned off and on again.

 

Mapping

Map provider

Navteq

Countries provided

US and Canada.

Update policy, frequency and cost

Updates are expected every 12 - 15 months, and will probably cost $70.

Other countries also available

Yes.  Many European countries, plus other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Brazil, Malaysia and Singapore.

How is map data loaded into the GPS receiver

Map data is pre-loaded on the unit.  Additional map data can be added via SD card.

Can the entire US be loaded into the unit

Yes.  The unit holds all of the US and Canada.

Speaks Directions

Yes.

Speaks Street Names

Yes, and does a good job of pronouncing street names.

Languages spoken

The system can display prompts in 22 different languages.

It can speak directions in 34 different combinations of languages, dialects and genders, of which 17 support full street name speech, the other 17 are just generic turn type instructions.

2D/3D

Yes, you can choose between these options.

Can you choose between North up or Direction of Travel up

Yes.

Split screen mode

No.

Map Scale Shown

Yes.

Auto-zoom can be switched on or off as you wish.

Number of POIs provided

6 million points of interest.

Number of user POIs that can be added

2000.

Garmin make available a POI importer program to accept POI data from other programs and load them into the 7200.

POI information includes phone number

Yes, both preloaded POIs and also any custom ones you might create.

POI proximity alert

Yes, for some types of custom POI only.

Speed limit warner

No

Does it show both miles and kilometers

Yes

 

Route Planning

How to enter addresses and other data

The touch screen can be configured to be either in ABCD or QWERTY format.

The keyboard doesn't grey out letters as an aid to typing in names.

You can partially type a name and then call up a list of matching places.

Can you build a multi-stop journey with waypoints

Yes

Will it solve the 'traveling salesman' puzzle

Yes

Can you program assumed speeds for different road types, and if so, how many different road types?

No.

The unit's default settings are reasonably accurate, especially on the open road.  They sometimes under-estimate travel times when driving in cities.

Can you choose different settings for different types of vehicles

Yes, there are seven choices - Car/motorbike, truck, bus, emergency, taxi, delivery or bicycle.

Can you program preferences for road/route types

Yes, you can choose to prefer, 'don't avoid' or avoid major roads, medium roads, minor roads, traffic, unpaved roads, U-turns, toll roads, carpool lanes and ferries.

In addition you can also set up 'custom avoids' for either geographical areas or parts of roads.  This can be helpful if you know there is, for example, congestion in an area or road works on part of a road.

The ability to set three levels of preference is very sophisticated and helps the unit to make better choices when planning routes.

Does the unit present you with multiple route choices to choose from

No

Can you choose between fastest/quickest and shortest route options

Yes, each time you select a destination the unit can optionally offer you a choice between faster time, shorter distance, or off-road.

The off-road option simply draws the shortest straight line between where you are and where your destination is and so isn't much use in most normal driving situations.

Will it show breadcrumb trails?

Yes

 

Extra Features

Bluetooth

No

Export data to laptop

Yes - has a USB port for exporting and importing data.

Can it play MP3 or other digital audio

Yes, and also will support line in audio, audio books and XM Radio too (with optional XM receiver/antenna).

Can it play MP4 or other digital video

Yes, it can show DVDs, images from a backup camera, or other video inputs.

No cable is supplied, so you'd need to get a cable for this.

Can it display pictures

No

Integrated with real time traffic reporting

Yes - the unit can work with either XM Satellite traffic and weather services, or with TMC traffic data.

You simply buy an antenna unit to work with whichever service you select and plug it in.

Integrated with other location services

No

Other features

The unit has a remote control that can be used to control all the functions of the unit.  This is helpful and saves you having to lean forward or to the side to reach the unit's touch screen.

It comes with mapping software to run on a PC so you can plan routes on your PC then upload data to the unit (either via the USB cable or on a SD card).

It can be set to transmit its audio over an unused FM channel so you can listen to it through your car's stereo system.  This is particularly useful if you are using its MP3 or audio book features.

If you have the XM service option added, it can also display weather and stock ticker information.

 

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Originally published 24 August 2007, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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