These Venders support The GPS INFORMATION WEBSITE.  Click on BANNER to check PRICES.

Garmin's StreetPilot 2720 TouchScreen Car Navigator
GPS Product Review

by Joe Mehaffey
Release 3 updated,  24 September 2005
(Note: New revisions  in RED type)

StreetPilot 2720 Kit                                       Day
time Map Colors

(NOTE that the actual size of the screen images is 3.8 x 1.8 inches.)

More StreetPilot Photographs>   (Note: This photo image file size is 2.5 megabytes in size.)

The Garmin StreetPilot 2720 is in Garmin's latest generation of GPS receivers with street level mapping and automatic route navigation for your car. This new offering has an optional GTM 10 RDS Traffic Radio Data receiver.  With this option, the user can be automatically advised and rerouted if congestion occurs on your programmed route in covered metro areas.  Another feature is the ability to upload CUSTOM Point of Interest (POI) points such as speed camera locations, red light cameras, or other interesting landmarks.  An optional proximity alert can warn when approaching a custom POI.  

Like the StreetPilot 26x0 series, the SP2720 features a TOUCH SCREEN for data input and control -and- map storage comes loaded with CityNavigator maps for the USA and Canada  -and- it also has a USB data interface for map loading and data input/output. The memory map memory in the SP2720 is Flash RAM.  750 megabytes of  additional memory is available for other user loadable maps. Like the SP26X0) models, the SP2720 has
implemented a solution to "the traveling salesman problem".  The user can input a series of destinations and the SP2720 will compute a "shortest route" to cover all of the locations in a minimum time or minimum distance trip. 

The 2720 is similar in appearance to the SP26X0 series but without removable memory feature.   Note: Later production models of the SP2620 have been changed and do not have removable media same as the SP2720.  The GPS antenna is integral within the unit and  the unit  is designed to fit on top of your dash and provide  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.   Functions of the SP2720 are operable from both the main unit and the remote, but many features are more easily operated by the remote control unit.   Unfortunately  (for the kids), Garmin did not choose to put any games in this model.

We think the StreetPilot 2720 has a good user interface but not quite as nice as the SP2610/20/50/60 series. There are four push buttons for major functions (PAGE, MENU, FIND, and SPEAK/volume. (Only the SPEAK key retains the dual function capability found in the SP26X0 units.  We particularly miss the ability to easily MARK a location with a waypoint by pressing and holding a key.)  Like the  SP-2610/2620, the 2720 is designed without internal batteries and operates ONLY when plugged into an external 10 to 24vdc  power source. Like the SP2610/2620, the SP2720  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.  Unlike the SP26X0 series, the screen does not time out to the map screen automatically.  The SP2720 was designed to replace  the   combination   of GPS/Laptop Computer/Mapping Software system that many still  use to maneuver around cities in the USA. 

Here is a comparison note with respect to the Magellan RoadMate 500/700/760 which is the direct competitor of the SP2720/2610/2620.  Both vendor's units have plusses and minuses with respect to features.  The Magellan 500/700 is THE simplest to use of any car navigator we have reviewed. Many car navigator units now offer complete USA and Canada maps already loaded "right out of the box"  SP2720 continues that welcome feature addition.   On the other hand,  the Magellan 500/700 systems have far fewer "normal GPS features" as compared with the SP2720 and 26xx series.  The SP series has slightly better guidance information in complex expressway interchanges   Which one is "best" depends 100% on your needs and on your interpretation of what features are "essential".  In this review,  we will describe the rich feature set of the SP2720 unit.  Our Magellan RoadMate review can be found HERE.

Street priced at discount GPS dealers for about $895 and less, (Can be bought for up to $1000 and up), (Check Latest Prices Here.) the SP-2720 is a medium priced Automatic Car Navigator -and- One of the best performers.  The 2720 is perhaps $100 more than the SP2620 model which also comes out-of-the-box with complete USA and Canada maps installed.

With the SP-2720 you do NOT receive a copy of the NavTeq CityNavigator 7 CD. (Note:  This is being changed soon and you WILL receive a version of firmware and the necessary CD software to allow route creation on the PC and download to the SP2720.  My review unit does not have this feature.)  Instead, the maps come already loaded in internal Flash Memory.  (CityNavigator automatic routing maps are only available for the USA, Europe, South Africa, and Australia as of August 2005).   The CN7 in the SP2720 is "permanent" and not erasable by the user to use for loading other maps.  However, these "permanent" maps can be updated/upgraded with newer CityNavigator maps in years to come as Garmin provides ongoing updates..  In addition to the fixed USA/Canada map memory, there are 750megabytes of additional "user map memory" into which you can load maps from Europe or other parts of the world -OR- you can load USA Topo maps from Garmin or other Garmin furnished maps.  Note:  Garmin does NOT recommend Topo Maps for use with the SP2720.

The concept of a "base map" for the USA is not relevant to the SP2720 as it has complete USA maps installed when purchased in the USA.  Or if purchased in (say) Europe, it will have complete European maps (see Garmin website for coverage information).  For loading CityNavigator maps into user memory for areas OTHER THAN those included with your GPS, as a rough planning guide for calculating storage card capacity is:  4  megabyte for every  million population.  The 750 megabytes of user map storage is thus able to store large areas of Europe, Australia, and/or South Africa using Gamin's available overseas map products.  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 StreetPilot 2720 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 SP-2720  routinely gives routing "the same as I would have chosen". I will say that in our testing, the SP2620 model with CN7 at odd times would give a superior route as compared to the newer SP2720.  I attribute this to the fact that the SP2720 uses a new algorithm which is different from that used on  the older SP26X0 series.  I believe that as a result, the SP2720 fails to consider as many alternative routing options as are considered by the algorithm used in the SP26X0 units.  I place the routing proficiency of the SP2720 on a par with "industry norms" but with the routing ability of the SP26x0 slightly superior.  Sometimes the route generated is "just OK", but... the SP-2720 is just a machine. (Note: If you will be upset when a GPS Car Navigator fails to generate precisely the route YOU would have picked, then expect to be disappointed from time to time.  The SP2720 routes generally very well, but not exactly as a human would.)  

Automatic ROUTE GENERATION with SP-2720 is about average for a  GPS Car Navigator.  There is no "Quick, Better, Best" route selection on the 2720 as on the 26X0 models.  On the calculation of a 400 mile route, the 2720  usually takes about 15 to 20 seconds.  This compares to close to a minute with the SP-III and to 5 to 10 seconds on a 2620..   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 and SP2720  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 rerouting  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 by the SP2720, you can always press the FIND  key, then RECENT FINDS and then select your address again and press GOTO.  I note here that this is more than twice as complex as the same function on the SP26X0 units.  I have also found that when the SP2620 us set to "better" or "best" routes, it often generates superior quality routes as compared with the SP2720. )

The early version of SP2720 offers no capability to generate maps on the PC and download such a route to the GPS.  Software available about 10 Sept 2005 now offers this feature.   Frankly,  using PC for routing is NOT what you would normally want to do with the SP-2720 in any case.  It is much easier and more convenient to use the SP2720 itself to generate and mold the route to your needs as compared with generating routes on the PC and then  having to download routes to the GPS navigator.   The CityNavigator (NavTeq) maps offer coverage the entire USA and major metro Canada as well.  Details in rural Canada are not complete, but are much better than in CN5.   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-2720/2610/2620 uses a USB connection for  data loading. 

NMEA data I/O  is NOT available on the SP-2720. 

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-2720 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.   It does have an OFFROAD mode that can be used to advantage if TOPO maps are loaded.

What's new in StreetPilot 2720?

The SP-2720  kit contains: SP-2720 GPS, Speaker/power cable, USB data cable (for memory and data load and Garmin HOST MODE data output), Dash Mount Bracket, "bean bag" portable mount,  AC power module for use in loading memory, and  CityNavigator 7 comes already installed in the 2720.  Also included are a quick start guide, detailed manual, and a plastic cover for the faceplate. 

The SP-2720 gets rid of most effects of GPS measurement error that bothered many people in years past.  CityNavigator 7 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.   

Another useful feature with CityNavigator is that  all approaching cross street names are displayed prior to arrival.   

We found the SP-2720 audio and visual guidance directions very satisfactory but the voice was not quite as understandable as with the SP-2610/2620.  This was especially noticable in the pronunciation of odd street names.   The SP2720 uses a text-to-speech technology for voice generation and there is some "distortion" in the pronunciation of many street names and town names.  But, all in all, it works satisfactorily.  The voice guidance system automatically varies its "turn here" warning time to give you more warning time at high speed than at lower speed.  We are told that  Garmin will offer a website download for the following languages:  American English, Australian, and British English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch.  A typical audio/visual sequence would go something like this:

There are some options in guidance display for the SP2720.  The one I like has the map on the left half of the screen which shows your progress and a thick pink line shows your projected 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 using several fixed options which can be suer selected.  See screen image photo page for details.   Unlike the SP26X0 features, the size of the text information display cannot be user adjusted on the SP2720.

An alternative "turn list" screen shows a listing of turns to come. Another screen display is the trip computer which is accessed at any time by pressing one of the numeric displays on the map screen.  Data displayed on the trip computer screen is fixed and  not user selectable.

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.  I generally found the route turn advice timely and not confusing.

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.

CityNavigator7 (USA) now features about seven 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. One of my favorite restaurants (Longstreet's/Gainesville, Ga.) is  not listed  despite being in business for more than 25 years.  Even so, the listings are large, varied and very useful.    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 is very handy in a strange city on on the highway.

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-2720 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 and on trips we have made.  That said, the classifications and selection process used in the SP26x0 models has proved more reliable at finding items in the "attractions" listings.  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.

  What are the Technical Specifications of the SP-2720?

Specific Questions Answered:

StreetPilot 2720 Feature and Function Highlights 

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

The SP-2720  used for this review includes no basemaps or other substantial maps outside 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 CityNavigator Map of North America  includes highly detailed  maps of roads down to the residential street level in the USA and Canada.  In addition, major roads in Mexico, Central and South America are included 

Additional SP-2720 features include:

The trip computer has the most needed features but the data fields are not user changeable. With SP-2720, 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-2720 was within 12 minutes on one continuous 500 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 and tracks, OR use the GPS for tracking with the NMEA output WITHOUT having to change from GARMIN to NMEA mode and vice versa. 

The data fields, on the main display screens  ARE  configurable.  By pressing the MENU button, and tapping SETUP, then MAP, then MAP DATA FIELDS, you can select NORMAL, WIDE or THIN as an option.  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 optional data fields that will be listed. 

CityNavigator's  Find-an-Address feature includes: Recent Finds,   Streets,  Cities,  Addresses, Food,  Lodging, Services,  Entertainment, Attractions, Shopping, Transportation,  Emergency and Government and Waypoints and other options.  As is usual in current state of the art  in mapping,  there are 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 2720  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.  

80 ICONS are available in the SP-2720 to identify user waypoints and mark routes.   Icons include airport, bank, boat ramp, car, dam, post office to zoo for a total of 80.  Unfortunately, there is no EASY way to input a waypoint such as pressing a MARK button.  Instead, there are two "work-arounds" that will work to get a waypoint "MARKed".  a)  On the remote, press and hold the thumb stick down.  Basically a long
enter press.  This brings up the map with the pointer on it.  If you are in a location that pop up information exists, tap the review button in the
lower right corner.  This brings up the review page, tap the advanced button, then Add to Favorites. - Or- b) Tap the map page to initiate a pan.  This brings up the map with the pointer on it.  If you are in a location that pop up information exists, tap the review button in the lower right corner.  This brings up the review page, tap the advanced button, then Add to Favorites.  Garmin tells us that they have received VERY few requests from users to add a MARK key to the SP2720 so unless the pressure from users picks up the SP2720 will not have this feature (which I consider VERY useful).

Street pricing of the SP-2720 is about US $900 or less and includes:  speaker/power cable, CityNavigator pre-installed (No CD)  (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 planning routes and destinations.

Features and Operation

The SP-2720 has a direct and easy to use routing system. The user:

The SP-2720 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-2720 operates (only) from  external power in the range of 10 to 24 volts DC.   The SP-2720 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-2720. 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-2720 and/or to upload/download routes/waypoints/tracks to your PC computer.  There is NO capability with the SP-2720 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-2720.  We believe most other 3 volt antennas will work as well.

The SP-2720 does not support NMEA-0183,  DHCP and RTCM.  

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-2720 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 first version of (prototype) firmware did occasionally "lock up" and we had to recycle power to restart.  Since we received the latest beta firmware version 2.43, we have had no further problems.  Generally, tracking worked well.   No 3rd party support software or map software is compatible with the SP-2720 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-2720  has data smoothing like the SP-26xx series.)

We note that all SP models including the SP-2720 have a form of "dead reckoning" for moments when signal dropouts occur. For instance, if the SP-2720 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-2720 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 but not perfect.  Expect dropouts in places like downtown NYC, Chicago, etc., and in mountains when multiple satellite signals are not available.

We found the display controls easy to learn and use.  The overall 2720 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.  We especially like the touchscreen for data input.  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-2720  exhibited essentially identical tracking performance in our tests compared to other models tested over the last 3 years,  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 2720 is a high quality GPS unit with a few features we liked in the SP26XX models left out but with some added features that the SP26XX did not have.  The most notable of these is the new automatic traffic data system which (potentially) offers automatic display of current traffic problems in major metro areas along with automatic detour recommendations when traffic problems get severe.   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", SP2610 and some other PDA based systems are less expensive), we consider the SP-2720 to be a great and  full featured performer in the medium price class of Car Navigators.   At about US$800, (Check Latest Prices Here.) we think the SP-2720 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-2720 and its built in 750megs of map memory for additional maps,   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 SP2720   USA+Canada maps already installed is in the range of $$850 to $900 at Internet discount dealers..

What DON'T we like about the StreetPilot 2720? 

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/NavTeq database or the address cannot be found.   This can lead to not being able to find a street that you know is there.  NavTeq 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 getting larger all the time and are VERY helpful).  I find that some post offices and libraries in my local area are not included, but MOST are.   The latest CityNavigator 7 has over 7,000,000 POI listings.  

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-2720 performs as well or better than other Car Navigators we have used.  NavTeq 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)  With the SP2720, there were a few small towns that could not be found (such as Highlands, NC) but addresses in Highlands could be found.  This has been reported and hopefully will be fixed soon.

 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 in RED.