Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The well-designed Garmin StreetPilot 2620 is more compact (2.0 by 3.2 by 5.6 inches) and lighter (14.9 ounces) than its predecessor, the StreetPilot III. And while its 256-color screen is slightly smaller (3.3 by 1.7 inches) than that of its older sibling, the 2620 offers touch-screen technology for easy page and menu selection and an automatic backlight dimmer that adjusts the display according to available light. The crisp, clear display is easily viewed from any angle.
Housed in a metallic-silver casing built to IPX7 standards (which means it can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes), the 2620 includes an integrated 12-channel WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System)-enabled receiver and patch antenna, four backlit function buttons (Page, Menu, Find, and Speak) to the right of the display, and a remote-control IR sensor to the left. A power switch is located on the right rear of the unit and a CompactFlash slot, which houses the included 2.2GB Magicstor hard drive, is located behind a flip-up panel on the left rear side. A mini-USB port and an external antenna jack are positioned on the rear beneath a waterproof flap.
We were generally pleased with the bean-bag-style mounting apparatus, which allows you to swivel the unit vertically and horizontally for an optimal viewing angle, although it tends to slide around a bit on a curved dashboard. Adding a few more beans would help stabilize the mount when driving on rough or winding roads. Garmin also includes a dashboard mount, and although we weren't able to test this unit, it provides you with an alternative means of installing the 2620 in your car. In addition to the two mounts, you get a 12-volt power adapter with a built-in speaker and an AC adapter for home use, a USB cable for upgrading firmware (when necessary) and updating the mapping software (via a fee-based CD-ROM) as new maps become available, and a wireless remote unit. The remote is particularly handy, allowing you to scroll through menu screens and perform search functions using the alphanumeric keypad rather than the onscreen touchpad.As with Magellan's Roadmate 700, the Garmin StreetPilot 2620 is ready to use out of the box and requires no additional downloading or programming. In the past, Garmin's in-car navigators included street-level maps for a single district; additional maps could be unlocked and downloaded for a fee. However, the StreetPilot 2620 comes preprogrammed with base maps for major roadways and interstates and MapSource City Navigator detailed maps (for street-level navigation) for North America or Europe, which are stored on the tiny, 2.2GB CompactFlash drive.
The StreetPilot contains all the usual vehicle navigation features we've come to expect from a device in this class, including voice- and text-guided driving directions; the ability to create and store up to 50 routes using specific addresses or more than 5 million POI, a trip computer with an odometer, a timer, and a speed gauge, and storage for up to 500 customizable waypoints. When you're using the touch screen, the function buttons, or the wireless remote handset, the intuitive user menu lets you search for streets, addresses, cities, and popular attractions; customize map detail and colors; zoom in and out of maps; measure the distance between two points; and plan trips using multiple routes. For example, if you have several stops along the way, the StreetPilot will sort through the various destinations and calculate the most efficient route to take. You can even tell the device to avoid certain roadways if you know there will be construction or rush-hour traffic jams or to avoid major highways altogether for a more scenic drive.We always have high expectations when testing Garmin GPS devices, and the StreetPilot 2620 didn't disappoint. Installing the StreetPilot couldn't be easier: Simply plug in the 12-volt adapter, position the bean-bag mount in a convenient location for viewing, and hit the power switch. We acquired a 3D fix (four satellites) in less than 30 seconds and were ready to roll. In fact, we lost satellite reception only twice on a road trip that took us from the canyons of Manhattan to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Both times we were in a tunnel, where satellite tracking is virtually impossible using commercial GPS receivers. The receiver tracked our location accurately, and both the voice- and text-based driving directions were spot-on, alerting us to upcoming turns and quickly recalculating our route when we veered off course.