REVIEW: Garmin StreetPilot 2720 Portable GPS (Updated)

Posted by:
Date: Friday, January 6th, 2006, 11:34
Category: Consumer Electronics

Garmin StreetPilot 2720As an unabashed gadget geek, there’s one toy that I’ve managed to resist for years: GPS. You see, I have this weird thing about commuting – I don’t like it. No, let me make that clearer, I detest it. Sitting in traffic or spending a lot of time driving across creation is one of my least favorite things to do. So much so that I’d rather move closer to the office than commute.
Because of my short commutes (usually between 10 and 20 minutes) I’ve never really had the need for a GPS system. I know where I’m going because I drive the same route every day. But reading Rob Parker’s review of the Quest 2 from Garmin on 14 November got me thinking that maybe there’s something to this whole GPS thing after all.
Read More…


Garmin StreetPilot 2720As an unabashed gadget geek, there’s one toy that I’ve managed to resist for years: GPS. You see, I have this weird thing about commuting – I don’t like it. No, let me make that clearer, I detest it. Sitting in traffic or spending a lot of time driving across creation is one of my least favorite things to do. So much so that I’d rather move closer to the office than commute.
Because of my short commutes (usually between 10 and 20 minutes) I’ve never really had the need for a GPS system. I know where I’m going because I drive the same route every day. But reading Rob Parker’s review of the Quest 2 from Garmin on 14 November got me thinking that maybe there’s something to this whole GPS thing after all.
GPS works by tracking your location by using several government satellites. According to Wikipedia:

The GPS system was designed by and is controlled by the United States Department of Defense and can be used by anyone, free of charge. The GPS system is divided into three segments: space, control and user. The space segment comprises the GPS satellite constellation of at least 24 satellites in an intermediate circular orbit (ICO) . The control segment comprises ground stations around the world that are responsible for monitoring the flight paths of the GPS satellites, synchronizing the satellites’ onboard atomic clocks, and uploading data for transmission by the satellites. The user segment consists of GPS receivers used for both military and civilian applications. A GPS receiver decodes time signal transmissions from multiple satellites and calculates its position by trilateration.

I got my hands on the Garmin StreetPilot 2720 (US$1076.91) and have to admit that I don’t know how I went this long without one. The StreetPilot 2720 is a portable GPS receiver that sits on top of your car’s dashboard and tells you where you are at any given moment via a bright 3.8-inch WQVGA color, automotive-grade, sunlight-readable TFT display. It will give you precise turn-by-turn driving directions to any address, intersection, city or point of interest that you enter into it. The beanbag mount is great because you can easily move the GPS from car to car. The 2720 also ships with a dashboard mount that car be firmly attached.


Garmin StreetPilot 2720

Destinations and Points of Interest (POIs) are entered via the touch-screen and/or alphanumeric remote control, to get directions you click the “Go To” button. If you don’t want to take your eyes off the road to read the on-screen directions the 2720 will speak them to you, a nice feature. There’s even different voices and accents to suit your taste. You have the choice of using the on-screen map in either a three-dimensional perspective or top-down (track-up or north-up) view.
Garmin StreetPilot 2720

The StreetPilot 2720 comes pre-loaded with City Navigator North America NT maps containing detailed road maps throughout the entire United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. This map database features nearly six million POIs —including hotels, restaurants, gas stations, ATMs, and attractions. If that’s not enough, you can upload custom POIs such as restaurants and safety cameras but this must be done from a Windows-PC because Garmin doesn’t offer Mac support.
Garmin StreetPilot 2720

The 2720 is phenomenal because it saves me time and effort every time I turn it on. I just moved to a new house in a new town and GPS systems are great for learning your surroundings. With just the interactive map turned on (no navigation) I learned the names of all the side roads, towns and geography that I wouldn’t otherwise notice. Who reads street signs, anyway? With a GPS map up, you can’t help but notice that you’re passing a certain street, town or body of water. And since every detail is overlaid with its name, you can’t help but to learn your surroundings over time.
Garmin StreetPilot 2720

Oh, and it’s excellent for navigation too. Over the New Year’s weekend I took a trip up to Connecticut to visit family and rather than get directions, proof them with Google Maps then sanity check those with a real map, I did nothing. I simply put the address into the GPS and departed. This alone probably saved me an hour of pre-mapping. When my host informed me that it was better to come up the Garden State Parkway and come across 287 (as opposed to coming through New York as the GPS was suggesting) I just did it. As soon as you miss your exit the GPS politely says “recalculating” and tells you the next best way to go.
Garmin StreetPilot 2720

The other killer feature on the 2720 is multiple destination travel or tours. I recently went to see several people in Delaware and, again, instead of pre-plotting several locations and the maps between each, I just brought a list of addresses and keyed them into the GPS. It was great! When I had to flip-flop my #3 and #4 appointments – no problem. I just put the new address into the GPS. This would have been a complete mess had I been relying on pre-printed online maps.
Garmin StreetPilot 2720

Now it’s not prefect. There were a couple of times in the woods of Connecticut where I was off grid for a few minutes and the GPS had a tough time finding an address, but it was a tiny street in a very rural part of town. I imagine that this could be remedied by uploading a specific map – but I haven’t tried this.
A must-have addition to the 2720 is Garmin’s GTM 10 (US$214.27) FM-band traffic receiver that connects with a car radio/antenna system to provide real-time Traffic Message Channel (TMC) data to the StreetPilot 2720. The GTM 10 identifies problem areas on their moving-map displays. The GTM 10 is a small external adapter about the size of a large box of wooden matches that connects to the 2720 and notifies you of accidents, road construction, police, or emergency activities.
Garmin GMT 10 Traffic Module

The Traffic Message Channel is a specific part of the Radio Data System that broadcasts real-time traffic update information via FM frequencies. The best part is that using the GTM 10 with the Garmin StreetPilot 2720 GPS provides dynamic routing options that changes with the incoming traffic information. When the TMC information is received by the 2720 and the unit is currently routing, it will display alternate options for the current route in order to lessen the effect of the traffic situation ahead. The GTM 10 module comes with a free 15-month subscription to Clear Channel Traffic. After that subscriptions can be purchased for US$60 per year.
O'Grady's PowerPick 2006

I am awarding the Garmin StreetPilot 2720 portable GPS receiver an O’Grady PowerPick award for 2006 because it’s incredibly useful, portable and has got me out of trouble more than a few times in the short time that I’ve been using it. It’s only shortcoming is the lack of Mac support, but I haven’t had to upload any maps to it, so it hasn’t been an issue. If you haven’t been introduced to the wonderful world of GPS, do yourself a favor and try one today.
Garmin StreetPilot 2720 – US$1076.91
Garmin part number: 010-00408-02
Garmin GTM 10 – US$214.27
Garmin part number: 010-00396-10

Recent Posts