Garmin 2610 vs. 2720 Comparo (long)
My 2610 starting exhibiting video tourette's syndrome with the screen during cold weather. As tempertures got cold, I think the case was putting pressure on the touch screen, causing the display to jump all over the place. Fortunately I had purchased an extended service plan when I bought the GPS last year, as I suspected using it on a motorcycle might present a problem.
Upon returning it to the store, they replaced it with the latest comparable model that they stocked: the 2720. "Yippeeee!"
Now that I have had a couple days to play with it, and must say that I miss my 2610. I think the same software engineers that designed BMW's "I-Drive" went on to program the 2720. Here's the scoop on the two models:
The 2720 has some new, ahhhh, "features:" FM Traffic Avoidance, 3-d navigation and text-to-speech being some of the "new and improved" capabilities. These features may be new, but they are no improvement. To whit: The FM traffic avoidance is a great idea, but requires an additional $200 FM antenna and receiver, plus a $60/year subscription (Euro users get a lifetime free subscription to their version of this service). Well, its just not worth that much to me, so that feature adds no value to my situation.
The 3-d navigation is ok, but kinda gimmicky in my book. It looks good at first, and is useful when in navigation mode, but I still prefer the top down, north-up map view for planning routes and identifying my position when in non-navigation mode. Ever try to figure out where you are when the map is sideways? Try doing that with the map turned sideways and tilted! Fortunately, you can revert to top down, and north up modes.
The text-to-speech (TTS) feature is worse than useless, its annoying. The TTS feature attempts to announce upcoming turns by using the street names. For example: "In .2 miles, turn right onto W 120th Avenue." But the problem is that it isn't smart enough to know that W means West, so it says,
"In .2 miles, turn right on DOUBLE-U 120th Avenue."
Listen to that enough times and you'll want to kill the GPS, no matter how sexy you find her voice. I turned the feature off and returned it to the mode that the 2610 uses:
"In .2 miles, Turn Right."
Simple and effective.
The first thing you notice when you power-up the 2720 is that instead of starting with a map view, it starts with a menu screen. This is an ominous sign that the GPS is now using more software menu's, instead of pre-programmed button functions. From the start-up menu, you must hit a button on the screen or the new "map" hardware button to get to the map. The 2610 just started up at the map. Additionally, two of the four buttons on the right side have changed. The "page" button was replace with the "find" button, and the "route" button is replaced with a "map" button. But the biggest travesty was the removal of the secondary and tertiary button features. The 2610 used multi-function buttons. If you "double-clicked" a button, it would take you to a feature. If you pressed and held a button, it would activate a different feature. This was really useful for gloved fingers. This multi-functionality is now gone. Each button only performs one action. You must navigate to the secondary and tertiary features using the menu buttons on the screen. This adds extra steps to reach some of the most useful screens.
The loss of the page button is really annoying. On the 2610, the "page" button was used to toggle between map view, turn list, and instrument panel modes. I used this frequently on long trips to identify distance to final destination and waypoints along the way, and view max speed and trip odometer readings on the fly. Now you must access these screens by clicking through the menu driven buttons on the screen.
The screen has better resolution and is more vibrant, but the designers even found a way to ruin the usefulness of this significant improvement. On my 2610, I used to overlay the map screen with a "transparent" display of information, such as speed, heading, altitude, address, etc. The 2610 would display this information as floating text on top of the map, allowing you to use almost all of the screen area to show the map. The 2720 lost the "transparency" feature, and now half of the screen is a blacked-off to show the information. They effectively killed the usefulness of half of the screen. You can turn off the information to get more map-space, but you lose the information.
The case is now sealed, without a door to access the CF card. That means you can't change the memory of the unit, it's fixed. I haven't ascertained if the 2720 uses a micrdrive a la 2620, or a CF card, like the 2610. I hope its CF or other form of solid state memory.
Custom Points of Interest (POI) is an interesting feature, which allows you to download online databases of traffic information points, such as red-light cameras, speed cameras with fixed locations, speed traps, etc. I haven't yet used this feature, but it sounds interesting. There is a free download on the Garmin website for managing these POI's.
Bottom line: Garmin dumbed the 2720 down to make it easier to use, but also lost so many nice features for more experienced users. If I were buying a new GPS, I would take pass on the 2720 and look at a different model, such as the 376c. The 2720 is another example of how a great product can be ruined by over thinking the improvements. I suppose it is now better positioned for the casual user, but it certainly loses its appeal for those of us engineering / technical / aviation types that use it for cross-country treks, or wish for more information.