Garmin's StreetPilot 2610/2620 TouchScreen Car Navigator
GPS Product Review

by Joe Mehaffey
Release 12(*) updated,   29 October 2004

StreetPilot 2610 Kit                                       Day
time Map Colors

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The Garmin StreetPilot 2610/2620 is in Garmin's latest generation of GPS receivers with street level mapping and automatic route navigation for your car. They are their first models with Finger TOUCH SCREEN for data input and control -and- map storage up to 2GByte CF memory cards  -and- USB data interface for map loading and data input/output. The 2GByte CF card  will hold the entire CityNavigator 5 maps (1.44Gbytes) for the USA (including Alaska/Hawaii) and the maps of covered Canada areas.  NOTE:  The difference between the 2610 and 2620 is that the SP2620 comes with a 2.2GByte MicroStore Hard Drive (standard units will not work) whereas the SP2610 comes with a 128 meg CF card.  In addition,  the SP2610 kit comes with CityNavigator Map CDs whereas the SP2620 has no CDs as the CityNavigator maps are already loaded into the Hard Drive unit.     (*)All SP26xx models have implemented a solution to "the traveling salesman problem".  The user can input a series of destinations and the SP26xx will compute a "shortest route" to cover all of the locations in a minimum time or minimum distance trip.  The following comments apply to all SP26xx  models unless specified otherwise.

These sleek units have the GPS antenna integral within the unit and  is designed to fit on top of your dash and provide you with visual and audio directions for navigating your car on unfamiliar streets and roads.  A  battery powered IR  remote control is provided so that passengers can program the unit even from the back seat.   ALL functions of the SP2610 are operable from both the main unit and the remote.  Unfortunately  (for the kids), Garmin did not choose to put any games in this model.

We think the StreetPilot 2610/2620 has the best USER INTERFACE we have seen in a car navigator. There are four push buttons for major functions (PAGE/mark, MENU/route, FIND/recent, and SPEAK/volume. (The first function requires a momentary button press, the second requires that you hold the button in for about 2 seconds.) New to SP-2610/2620 is that it is designed without internal batteries and operates ONLY when plugged into an external 10 to 24vdc  power source. Uniquely (to Garmin equipment), the SP2610/2620 automatically turns ON and OFF with the power application from its external power cord. A switch is provided to turn the unit on and off manually as desired.  SP-2610/2620 was designed from the ground up to economically replace  the   combination   of GPS/Laptop Computer/Mapping Software system that many use to maneuver around cities in the USA. 

Here is a comparison note with respect to the Magellan RoadMate 500/700 which is the direct competitor of the SP2610/2620.  Both have plusses and minuses with respect to features.  The Magellan 500/700 is THE simplist to use of any car navigator we have reviewed. The Magellan 700 and the StreetPilot 2620/2650 are also the only units to have "all USA maps" installed right out of the box.   On the other hand,  the Magellan 500/700 systems have far fewer "normal GPS features" as compared with the SP26xx series.  The SP series has slightly better guidance information in complex expressway interchanges and with optional memory can also be configured to hold the entire USA and available Canadian maps in a single Compact Flash memory card.  Which one is "best" depends 100% on your needs and on your interpretation of what features are "essential".  In this review,  we will tell you about the rich feature set of the SP26xx units.  Our Magellan RoadMate review can be found HERE.

Street priced at about $800 (Can be bought for up to $999), (Check Latest Prices Here.) the SP-2610 is one of the lowest priced Automatic Car Navigator -and- One of the best performers.  The Street Price of the SP2620 is in the range of $1100 to $1200.

With the SP-2610 comes a copy of Garmin's (NavTech derived) CityNavigator 5 mapping program, a user will have the most detailed highway and residential street level maps available for the USA today. The USA coverage area for NavTech maps is the entire USA plus a bit of Canada.  The SP-2610 allows a user to automatically route using both the CityNavigator maps and/or the Base Map. Thus, with a "routable base map", you can automatically route from an address in New York City to San Francisco with only CityNavigator map sections for NYC and SFO loaded. The base map will provide information (and "road lock") for all highway routing between metro areas.  Garmin provides the only autorouting system that I am aware of that can do this sort of intercity routing without the need to load intermediate maps as you go from one NavTech region to another.  (There are 10 NavTech regions in the USA and Canada combined.) Garmin is shipping the SP-2610 with its new CityNavigatator 5/MapSource 5 map system.  (CityNavigator automatic routing maps are only available for the USA, Europe and Australia as of Sept 2003).   Garmin  tells us that they plan to have a City Navigator 5 release available for Europe,   but have no immediate plans for a CN5 version for other areas of the world.   Note that with the huge (up to 2GByte) map memory capability  of the SP2610/2650 there is little reason to worry if your basemap is, say, for the USA and you want to load European maps.  Still,  I would advise those in countries other than the USA that having the basemap of your own area IS a great convenience.  As an example,  European basemaps do a passable job of covering Eastern Europe for which other maps are not available.

SP-2610/2620 comes with  a set of permanent  "base maps" showing all state and federal highways  and major thoroughfares in towns and cities throughout the USA and in fact North America as well.  These basemaps can be used for navigation on interstate and major highways so you do not have to load detailed maps for your entire journey.  In addition,  SP-2610 can be loaded with CityNavigator RESIDENTIAL street level detail maps (furnished as part of the SP-2610 kit) of any USA area and (optional at extra cost) a variety of overseas locations including much of Europe and many cities in Australia. The large CF memory modules (standard/can be purchased locally) coupled with the routable basemap can totally eliminate periodic map loading.  A 256meg cartridge can load detailed maps for about 10 states (varies with road density).  Twice that for a 512meg CF cartridge.  As a rough planning guide, a rule of thumb for calculating storage card capacity is:  4  megabyte for every  million population in North America 

Compatible maps  include: CityNavigator (NavTech Maps, the best GPS routable maps available in areas covered), MapSource MetroGuide USA  (Etak Maps, good maps but not quite as up to date as NavTech and only USA version 4.01 has autorouting capability within SP-2610/2620).   Roads & Recreation, USA Topo, and WorldMap CD ROMs also work with SP2610, but without automatic guidance.   Probably most other Garmin maps will load into the SP-2600,  but Garmin supports only the above.  64, 128, 256, 512, 1GB and 2GByte megabyte CF memory cards are available. Our recommended minimum size is 128megs which is the size that comes bundled with the SP-2610 kit.  

The StreetPilot 2610 is straightforward to use, and the manual is a bit better than average.  Still,  there is no substitute for a few hours of  "playing around" with the unit in consort with the manual for quick learning and  discovery of available features.  

The CityNavigator (NavTech) map offering is necessary for the Automatic Address-to-Address routing to work to street address level. We have reviewed the VDO Dayton, and the Datus RouteFinder A2A/VCO, and the prior StreetPilot III systems, the Garmin iQue 3600 and have used the Magellan 750Nav units. The SP-2610/2620 provides automated guidance on a par with any of these and in fact much more routinely gives routing "the same as I would have chosen".  A number of routing errors noted on the prior SP-III have been corrected.  Sometimes the route generated is "just OK", but after all, SP-2610/2620 is just a machine. The downside for SP-2610/2620 as compared to the $3000 models is that many of the more expensive models have some sort of "dead reckoning" capability to permit navigation to continue for short intervals when signals are lost. Such signal loss can happen in "city canyons" such as NYC, Chicago, LA, and London where high rise buildings can block the satellite signals.  This "dead reckoning" capability will be available in the (coming soon) Garmin StreetPilot 2650.  The 2650 will require a connection to the automobile speedometer output and backup light to be able to function in dead reckoning mode.  Without these inputs, it will function as a SP-2610/2620 so it can be used portable as well as fixed install.  Connections for the speedometer and backup light signals are located on the side of the speaker case.  Note that the SP-2650 will ONLY be sold by dealers who INSTALL the SP2650.  This is because Garmin feels that most people are prone to get into all sorts of trouble if they attempt to find and interconnect with under-the-dash car wiring.

As to CityNavigator map sizes, the four central Atlanta "map chunks" are about 1.5 megabytes each, and other area "map chunks" range from 400 kbytes to 2.0 mbytes. To see EXACTLY what CityNavigator maps look like for YOUR area, click HERE and select CityNavigator on the map viewer. Keep clicking on the map until you get your area in whatever detail you want.  You can route to covered highway intersections just using the basemap.  The SP-2610 comes with a 128meg CF card, but as with many things,  MORE is better.  The latest firmware version for the SP-2610/2620 can load up to 2025 "map chunks" and the entire CN5 takes 1050 "chunks" and 1.44Gbytes.  It seems that the SP2610 will not run out of "map chunk" capacity before you fill up your 2GByte CF card.  Selecting individual "map chunks" when you want to load maps for 10 states can take quite awhile.  MapSource 5 has a new (slightly hidden) feature to make this EASY.  With the map tool selected in CN5/Mapsource 5, simply hold down your mouse button and drag.  You can go to this link and watch the MapSource tutorial, which will explain how the new LARGE AREA map selection feature works. 

Automatic ROUTE GENERATION with SP-2610/2620 with its GWS** mhz ARM processor is the fastest I have seen on any stand alone GPS Car Navigator.  On "better route" the calculation of a 400 mile route  usually takes about 5 to 10 seconds.  This compares to close to a minute with the SP-III.   One trial route from Atlanta to an address in Los Angeles took about 2 minutes with the SP-III and 20 seconds with the SP-2610/2620  which seems extremely fast by comparison.  Offroute, reroute recalculation with the new "Partial Reroute" algorithm typically takes about 1 second and it (generally) tries to take you back as quickly as possible to your ORIGINAL route.  It does this  the first THREE times it goes "off route, recalculating".  On the fourth "off route" it figures out you are serious about not going back to the original route and does a complete recalculate which on a local (25 mile) route usually takes just a few seconds.  (SP-III ver 2.50 is using this same algorithm and it seems to be confusing some folks, but I personally like the speed so much I am willing to put up with the first three reroutes not necessarily taking you the optimum route.  If you do not like the "partial reroute" offered, you can always press the ROUTE key and then press "recalculate".)

CityNavigator offers the capability of generating a route automatically ON THE PC as well as within the SP-2610/2620.  This permits users to generate a series of automatically generated routes and load these into other Garmin GPS receivers as well as the SP-2610/2620.   Frankly,  using the PC is not the thing you will USUALLY do as the SP-2610/2620 is much easier and more convenient to use as compared with generating routes on the PC and then  having to download routes to the GPS navigator.  If you do download routes to your SP2610, be prepared for it to leave your assigned  route and reroute you  the first time you leave the precalculated route UNLESS you turn off automatic recalculate.   The CityNavigator (NavTech) maps offer coverage of the covered USA Metro Areas AND much of the rural areas with superior road detail. Details as to which lane to be in and which way to turn onto exit ramps at complex expressway interchanges is frequently included.   The SP-2610/2620 uses a USB connection for map and data loading.  Note:  Garmin tells us that MapSource version 5 has the capability of loading maps much faster if you take the CF card out of the GPS and insert it into a CF card reader/writer installed in your computer.    CN5 has a total of 1.414Gbytes of Data and 1050 map sections for those curious. 

NMEA data I/O  is NOT available on the SP-2610/2620.  However, it IS to be available on a separate-from-the-USB RS232 serial port on the SP-2650.  This RS232 port is designed to be used with certain OEM automobile applications.  The NMEA data format is to be NMEA 0183 ver 3.01.   SP-2650 also has a TEXT OUT facility giving fixed column ASCII output of position, track, speed, etc.  The 2650 requires a sine wave or square wave speedometer signal for operation.  The older analog speedo signal will not work.  You should consult your car dealer about this item BEFORE buying a model 2650.

Note: As of this date, NO OTHER map products (from alternative vendors) can be uploaded into Garmin GPS receivers except those offered by Garmin for the purpose. This same proprietary relationship exists for other vendor's consumer GPS products as well.

This new SP-2610/2620 is designed principally for automobile use and its size, the high power drain,  absence of an internal battery, and lack of off road or marine features make it unsuitable for hiking or boating use. 

What's new in StreetPilot 2610?

The SP-2610 DELUXE kit contains: SP-2610 GPS, 128meg CF memory Card, Speaker/power cable, USB data cable (for memory and data load and NMEA output), Dash Mount Bracket, "bean bag" portable mount,  AC power module for use in loading memory,  CityNavigator 5 CDROM, and  Manual.  The SP2620 kit contains: SP-2620 GPS,  2.2 meg micro Hard Disk Drive preconfigured with CityNavigator maps for the USA and (major cities in) Canada,   Speaker/power cable, USB data cable (for memory and data load and NMEA output), Dash Mount Bracket, and "bean bag" portable mount.

The SP-2610/2620 gets rid of almost ALL of the error effects of GPS measurement error that bother so many people.  When you use CityNavigator the SP-2610/2620 will "lock" your vehicle track to roads as long as you  travel on the road.  (This feature does not operate with MapSource R&R, USA Topo, or WorldMap.) Automatically generated routes using CityNavigator maps "rubber band" to the roads in the route. Once in a great while, you may find an isolated road segment where the map is so far off that road lock will jump off the road, but it is rare.   In addition, with the 2650, you get  a built in acoustical gyro which (when given an external speed input from your speedometer) can give you precision car guidance even in downtown city areas where buildings, trees, etc. block the signal for short periods.  The gyro recalibrates itself each time you make a turn onto a new street/road so you can go for an indefinite time without the GPS signal.  (Maybe there is a new product hidden here.)

Another useful feature with CityNavigator (and MetroGuide 4.01) maps is that (when not in guidance mode) all approaching cross street names are displayed prior to arrival.   Note that MetroGuide 5.x maps are really not too useful in a SP2610 as they do not offer automatic route generation.

We found the SP-2610/2620 audio and visual guidance directions very satisfactory. SP-2610/2620 automatically varies its "turn here" warning time to give you more warning time at high speed than at lower speed. A typical audio/visual sequence would go something like this:

At all times, the map on the left half of the screen shows your progress and a thick pink line shows your project route on the map. On the right is the text information: speed, time to go to next turn, distance to go to next turn and written directions/information as needed. At any time, you can press the "speak" key and get the latest directions in audio form.  The text information display on the right can be varied from a white background (black letters) to translucent (so you can see the map outlines through the background) to black translucent to black (with white letters).  The size of the text information display can be varied from about 1/3 of the screen to 1/5 to just the upper right corner.  This feature mix should have something everybody can be happy with.    A half screen "pop up" display appears momentarily with information specific to the turn as you approach each turn.

An alternative screen shows a listing of turns to come. Another screen display is the trip computer.

AUTOZOOM zooms the screen in and out automatically as you approach waypoints and turns so you always have time to make decisions.  A blue pop up arrow on the left side shows distance to go and direction of the turn as you approach a turn.  

Route selections for CAR or TRUCK or BUS, Motorcycle, Taxi, Delivery Vehicles, Bicycle, Pedestrian,  or EMERGENCY vehicles are provided so you can be properly routed depending on your vehicle type.

The accessory CityNavigator now features about five million (USA) "points of interest" on board.  These include: Food and drink, Lodging, Attractions, Entertainment, Shopping, Services, Transportation, and Emergency and Government. In our area,  there were a few restaurants we had not known about and a  few  prominent ones  are missing.  Despite some obvious updates and additions,  the restaurant listing (still) appears to be about 2 years old.  Listed "Attractions" include theme parks, museums, schools, parks and such.  The listings were quite satisfactory though the placement of a particular restaurant or gas  station might vary plus or minus a few hundred  feet (once, half a mile) from the actual location.  This feature could be very handy in a strange city.

The user can give the GPS a Street Address or Street Intersection or select one of the, for instance, Restaurants in the accessory map data base module and it will LOCATE this address or location automatically and plot it on the map screen.  The SP-2610/2620 can then automatically create a "turn-by-turn" route to this destination from wherever you are. This is a very useful feature and it has worked very well in our tests. Be prepared for a few well known items (such as my local library) to be missing from the "attractions" list. Still, if you are unfamiliar with an area, what IS included will be quite useful.

Are the SP-2610's 128 megabytes of MAP MEMORY enough?
SP-2610 has a map memory of 128megs "standard".  
We think the 128 megs will be enough for most users--  at least for starters.  And..buyers can purchase CF memory cards up to 1Gbyte (about $100) or 2GBytes ($200)  if more memory is needed.  The fact that the full USA coverage basemap can be used for navigation on interstates and major roads and highways mitigates the need for full coverage of the high detail maps-- but... Personally we do like to have the full detail maps loaded just in case we need services or a good restaurant while on the interstate highway. 
When you need complete detail for a PARTICULAR city or rural area you are going to visit, you can load (from your laptop or other IBM type Personal Computer) high detail maps from CityNavigator 5 into the CF memory card.  Map Memory can be loaded either via the USB cable or directly into the CF memory card using MapSource and a CF card adapter and MapSource version 5.xx or later.

So.. If you are going from, say, Chicago to San Francisco and back to Miami with a stop in Denver, you might load detailed maps for the four urban areas of interest and let the basemap be your guide for other areas and still have lots of empty memory in your user map cartridge for other areas. The unit automatically transitions from the basemap to the detailed maps when the detailed maps are available and back again as you move out of the detailed map areas. While it is quite easy to load new maps from a laptop computer into your SP-2610, you could just have multiple map cartridges and plug in a new (preloaded with maps) cartridge for various areas if you did not have ready access to a computer on a lengthy road trip.
 We may not be able to afford the 2Gigabyte map memory we all wish for, but smaller map memory is quite flexible and the basemap goes a long way toward making 128megs of map memory sufficient for most users. That said, DO NOT expect that the basemap is as accurate as the CityNavigator maps from NavTech. There will be some areas where the map error is larger than 150ft and the SP-2610 will think you are offroute and will claim it must recalculate. This is a minor irritation for some people but if you just ignore the problem when it (fairly rarely) occurs, things work out fine.

  What are the Technical Specifications of the SP-2610/2620?

Specific Questions Answered:

StreetPilot 2610/2650 Feature and Function Highlights 
(NOTE:  all feature statements below apply equally to the SP2610/2620/2650/2660 unless noted otherwise.)

We do not recommend SP for hiking or marine activities due to its reduced feature set optimized for automobile use.

The SP-2610  used for this review includes no basemaps outside the Northern part of the Western Hemisphere.  The unit has has a rudimentary political map for the world but essentially no roads are shown outside Canada, USA and Mexico and Central America.  . The basemap of North America  includes maps of USA interstate,  national, primary and secondary state highways, cities, larger towns, waterways, rivers, and coastlines and high population parts of Canada and Mexico.   (Note: See Garmin Base Maps description for more information on Base Map content.)  Base Maps are included  in the SP-2610's internal memory while USER Uploadable Street Maps on CD ROM provide street level or topo detail of user selected areas which are loaded to the 64meg to 2048meg (2GByte) CF memory cartridges.

Additional SP-2610 features include:

The trip computer is improved beyond the SP-III. With SP-2610, you will notice that, like the SP-III, when you come to a stop, the estimated times do not go to infinity, but hold a realistic value. The GPS calculates estimated times based upon road classes in your Route and modifies the estimation by your actual speeds on the various road classes. It also computes the actual road distance between turns (waypoints) instead of using straight line distances.  The results give fairly accurate estimated time to various points, even when using different road classes, like traveling on the freeway, and then exiting later on some local roads. Your estimates will not only be based upon your current highway speed, but by the combination of speeds you are using, or will be using on the various road classes.  We note that the SP-2610 was within 10 minutes on one 400 mile highway drive we made after it "learned" our driving speed habits.

The GPS has the standard HOST mode which allows  the upload/download of waypoints, routes, tracks, etc., OR use the GPS for tracking with the NMEA output WITHOUT having to change from GARMIN to NMEA mode and vice versa. The SP external power/data cable and active antenna MCX connections are different from other Garmin GPS equipment including earlier StreetPilot models.  It is doubtful that as of September 2003 any third party software is available to interconnect with Garmin's USB data port on the SP-2610..

The data fields, on the main display screens  ARE configurable.  By pressing the MENU button, and tapping Tab Setup, you can select Customer Tabs from the Mapping option as a Tab Style.  While still on that page, you then press the MENU button again, and you can choose which tab data field you would like to configure and chose from a list of optionsthat will be listed. 

CityNavigator's  Find-an-Address feature includes: Recent Finds,  Cities,  Exits, Addresses,  Intersections, Points of Interest, Food,  Lodging, Services,  Entertainment, Attractions, Shopping, Transportation,  Emergency and Government and Waypoints.  However,  some  of  the locations  of restaurants, hotels, etc. are misplaced by considerable distances.  Since the data is at least a year old,  some businesses are "missing" but overall the data is quite accurate and useful.

When not routing,  a "Driving Status" line on the Map display indicates such information  as "Driving South on Roswell  Road  near Sandy Springs".  This can be quite useful in cities where you don't exactly know which street you are on. Also as you are driving, the name of each approaching side street is displayed allowing finding side streets in the dark.

A photocell in the rear of the unit senses ambient light level and automatically dims/brightens the display as needed.

Datums- The 2610 (like the SP-III) only provides WGS-84 so any external mapping program which cannot use WGS-84 directly OR convert WGS-84 to its required datum will give larger than normal map position errors.  

45 ICONS are available in the SP-2610 to identify user waypoints and mark routes.   Icons include airport, bank, boat ramp, car, dam, post office to zoo for a total of 45.

Street pricing of the SP-2610 is about US $800 or less and includes: 128 meg memory cartridge, speaker/power cable, CityNavigator CDROM (full USA/Canada license), Glue down mount, Bean Bag (portable) mount  ( which we find works amazingly well on curved dashboards), USB data interface and cable,  AC 12vdc PSU for indoor use loading maps

Since we wrote the review,  there have been a number of software updates some with major feature enhancements.  Version 2.95 (beta) has some of the more useful updates including:

1) Automatic daylight savings time is now available for the whole world.
2) Time zones by name for the entire world are now available (all with DST support).
3) At tight zoom levels (300 meters or less when set to default map settings) the residential streets are now drawn with a thicker white pen, this makes it much easier for us "over 45" types to read them.  Also, the arrows that guide you through the turns in the "next turn" popup boxes are also drawn with bigger arrowheads and hollow bodies, which makes them much easier to read.
4) SBAS (Satellite Based Augmentation Systems), including the American WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) and the European EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) systems, are now supported.  This feature is actually unnecessary for Car Navigation with the SP2610 due to the availablility and normal use of the roadlock feature,  but enough customers apparently asked why it was not included  so that it became a "marketing essential" feature.  If you know where your car is to within 10 feet or to just 25 feet,  it is not going to make much difference.
5) You can now find waypoints that are "along your route", which means if you are searching for a bathroom on an interstate highway, it will only find bathrooms that are both ahead of you, and on your side of the road.

For a complete list of software enhancements, see HERE.

Features and Operation

The SP-2610 has a direct and easy to use routing system. The user:

The SP-2610 has essentially NO CAPABILITY for off road guidance. It is not suitable for Marine or Hiking use. (You can do a GOTO if you select OFF ROAD as your routing preference.)

 The SP-2610 operates (only) from  external power in the range of 10 to 24 volts DC.   The SP-2610 uses FLASH memory internally and has no memory backup battery.    The LED backlit display lighting has a rated design life of 100,000 hours.  The SP shuts down when power is removed and (uniquely for Garmin equipment) turns back ON when external power is restored. (Assuming the rocker power switch is ON.)

A special Power/Speaker cable is supplied with SP-2610. The  data/power cable used is NOT the same as any prior Garmin cable connector. You will need the (industry standard)  USB DATA cable (furnished)  to load maps into your SP-2610 and/or to upload/download routes/waypoints/tracks to your PC computer.  There is NO capability with the SP-2610 for a standard RS-232 serial cable.  The SP-2650 WILL have an added RS232 data port for special uses. 

The external antenna connector, a MCX coax jack,  is located on the right rear of the unit just behind the keys.  The MCX  jack is powered (nominal 2.7 volts no load in our unit) and has a current limit rated at 25 ma  to protect the unit from shorts on the antenna cable. The normal antenna is built inside the unit and is not removable as in prior StreetPilot units.   The Garmin GA-27C (Garmin part number 010-10052-05) amplified antenna, some from  Tri-M, and other 3 volt rated antennas  work with the SP-2610.  We believe most other 3 volt antennas will work as well.

The SP-2610 does not support NMEA-0183,  DHCP and RTCM.  The SP-2650 will include NMEA but definitions are not now available.  Garmin has included its standard HOST MODE and no other option.

Operating temperature range is specified as -15C to +70C. Unique in their class,  Like Garmin handheld GPS receivers, SP is rated submersible to one meter per IEC529 IPX(7) with gasketed memory door closed. The maximum altitude rating is 60,000ft and speed maximum is 999 knots.

Feature Details:

 The SP-2610 has a large number of features and displays. These include: Subjective Observations of Performance

I have tested the SP on  roads and highways of North Georgia and Atlanta including several interstate trips.  Our SP has worked properly at all times as far as we could tell..  Generally, tracking worked well.   No 3rd party support software or map software is compatible with the SP-2610/2650 at this time. 

The SP performed on a par with other GPS units in every test for lock stability,  multipath performance, re-lock after an underpass, and ability to suddenly change direction without loss of lock. The SP laid down smooth tracks on our highway maps during all tests.  No gaps, jumps, etc. (The SP-2610  has data smoothing like the SP-III.)

We note that all SP models including the SP-2610 have a form of "dead reckoning" for moments when signal dropouts occur. For instance, if the SP-2610 is tracking along and just before a sharp turn you invert it and block its antenna, it will continue to track straight for about 30 seconds.  It also provides a very good data smoothing filter to throw out random fixes that are way off track. This results in an exceptionally smooth track on a moving map display even with the "road lock" option turned off.  Even with this filter,  there was no overshoot apparent during quick stops, sharp turns, and similar maneuvers when normal continuous tracking was taking place.

SP-2610 performance under tree cover and city canyon conditions was about the same as the earlier SPs, G-V, G-II+, G-12XL,  and we rate that as very good.

We found the display controls easy to learn and use.  The overall 2610 system is quite comprehensive and complex.  However,  what the average user has to work with on a day-by-day basis is very simple to understand and manipulate.  Users will find it much easier and faster to use than similar data entry features on the SP-III.  The menu system and arrangement is generally quite intuitive and easy to learn to use.  

Since the SP-2610 and SP-III exhibited essentially identical tracking performance in our tests,  we did not perform the extensive field trials we made with the G-12XL,  EE, and others.  For more information on tracking results with our testing of the G-12XL, and the G-II+, etc., see our reviews at:


Our overall impressions are that the StreetPilot 2610 is a new generation of low cost Automobile Navigation Systems. While it is not the least expensive of the truly automatic self contained address-to-address car navigation systems (SP-III,  Quest, iQue 3600, G-60C, "GO" and some other PDA based systems are less expensive), we consider the SP-2610 to be the best full featured performer in the low price class of Car Navigators.   At about US$800, (Check Latest Prices Here.) we think the SP-2610 is a great product for the money.  In fact,  we think the GUI is the easiest to use of any car navigator we have tested with the exception of the  Magellan Roadmate which has fewer features. With the SP-2610 and its optional 2GigaByte CF Map Memory Card,   I believe we can eliminate having to use paper maps for automobile road navigation (in the covered areas of the world).  The Street Prices for the SP2620  with 2.2Gbyte Hard Drive and USA+Canada maps already installed is in the range of $1100 to $1200.

What DON'T we like about the StreetPilot 2610? 1)  As with other Garmin Car Navigators,  entering street names can be a problem.  You might know a street name as AC Lewis Road, Ac Lewis Road, or A C Lewis Road  or Baywater or Bay Water or Baewater and the spelling may/may not match the local convention.   The user MUST spell it like the Garmin/NavTech database or the address cannot be found.   This can lead to not being able to find a street that you know is there.  NavTech tells us that their convention is to run initials together and use caps, so you might try that if you get stumped with a street name with initials.   2) POIs are often in "groups".  There may be several groups of restaurants by the same name (different franchises I am guessing) and you do not readily know in which group the closest store can be found.  3) POI groups are incomplete (though they are VERY helpful).  I find that some post offices and libraries in my local area are not included, but MOST are.   4)  On occasion, we see the router generate "funny routes" such as taking a busy numbered federal highway instead of a nearby freeway.   Overall,  the SP-2610 performs as well or better than other Car Navigators we have used.  NavTech tells me that these problems WILL be looked at if users will go to and fill out the report form.  Lets ALL do it!     5) During Installation, you MUST install the MapSource software BEFORE you plug in your GPS or things will not go smoothly.   It is also necessary to handle each disk more than once during installation.

Which GPS do I like to use now when I go on automobile trips?  The StreetPilot 26xx. Would I take it hiking or boating? No.

If anyone has any additions, questions,  suggestions,  error corrections other comments, please feel free to Email.

Joe Mehaffey

Notes:   (*) Freshly changed items.
               (**) means Garmin Won't Say.