Pros Better than Ovaltine!
Cons Price, slowness, rushed to market and some basic functionality left out.
Summary I've read, "the only thing missing on the 5212 is buttons!" This isn't entirely true as their were some serious oversights when writing the firmware for this unit.
After speaking with Garmin tech support several times (confirming the story I got across multiple people) it became evident that this item was rushed to market in time for the Holidays and they are playing catch up with the software on the unit.
Luckily Garmin has pretty good reputation for version control and I believe them when they say that the necessary features [that I identified with them] will be implemented in the next release of Firmware for the unit.
An example of just a few of these features would be:
1. When a weather alert is received the unit beeps and a dialog box appears but only let's you cancel the alert - it should also have a shortcut to view the alert.
2. No XM control from your main nav screens. You actually have to go back to the home screen and select "configuration" to alter your XM channel.
3. Clunky XM interface that doesn't even allow favorites (ironically the Garmin 3210 I own has a brilliant XM interface with all the trimmings).
The processor they chose to use for this device is adequate at best. I would not classify it as "terribly slow" but it's certainly not particularly fast, either. Granted, the unit is doing a lot of work with the sat feeds, image overlays, SONAR, RADAR, etc...
Again, it's not painfully slow switching between the screens but it's not as fast as I'd like after spending $5 Large on the newest GPS Chart plotter (and SONAR/XM units that go with it) out there!
The hardware is put together very very well and is indeed waterproof to IPX7 standards (don't ask how I know this. It's embarrassing).
I also purchased the G2 Vision chip and I'm still trying to figure out why I spent that $300. So far the Fish Eye 3D view is fairly inaccurate, inconsistent, and has shown little benefit. I understand that this is also what provides the aerial photography (think: Google Earth) and I suppose this is nice if traveling in unknown areas and you need a bird's eye view. Is it worth $300? You make that decision. Also, in reading the literature that came with the chip, you do not get free software updates for it when you purchase it. This seems a little short-sighted in my opinion because I am PAYING for DATA that I expect (and need) to be up to date. In the literature they basically tell you that you will have to pay big bucks for updates.
If I had it to do over again (and I'm very tech-savvy/geeky with new tech toys) would I purchase the Garmin 5212 over any of it's existing competition?
Yes, I would - but remember to phone Garmin every couple of weeks and remind them to release a firmware update so we can get some of the most basic functions that were overlooked in the hurried preparaion of the firmware (I installed the latest version as of this review - V. 2.70 - 11/28/07).
If you are reading this review sometime after I wrote it, then I encourage you to go to a West Marine Store and really step through all the functions to make sure it's well-suited for your needs.
Admittedly, I would be very disappointed if Garmin doesn't rectify some of the issues I've spoken with them about (shortcuts and basic software additions that will be very easy for them to integrate into the unit [with a firmware update]).
Overall I give this unit an 8 out of 10 for usability and functionality. It is pricey but so are it's competitors!