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Garmin 2820 GPS Detailed Review

  Posted at 10:24:10 AM
  File under  Product Review GPS
  Author: Michael
  Location: Normandy, France

Only announced yesterday, here's already a very detailed test review (14 detailed photos) of the Garmin 2820 GPS. Thanks to Michael at for the report.

The easiest way to describe this GPSR would be to say that it is the most competent motorcycle navigator I have ever used.

It is the same form factor as the previous 2xxx series Garmin GPSRs, which means it fits right into the Garmin Motorcycle Bracket, and uses the same power cable and other accessories as all the other 2xxx GPSRs. There are two slight differences with the accessories – the remote control is the newer version (same as the 27xx series), and the 12 volt adapter with the built-in speaker – the one you would use in a car, not on a motorcycle – is also the same newer one with the more sophisticated speaker that was first introduced with the 27xx series. The 27xx and 28xx both feature true ‘text to speech’ – meaning, they pronounce the full street names – and that requires a higher fidelity speaker. The older remote from the 25xx series will work with the newer 27xx and 28xx products, but it doesn’t give you all the control that the new remote does.

The big improvement: A fully integrated Bluetooth system. You can pair your cell phone up to it, and also pair a Bluetooth headset (for example, a BMW System V helmet with the WCS 1 Bluetooth system – see the write-up about it here {link}), and voila, you have directional guidance in your helmet, radar camera audible warning in your helmet, phone audio in your helmet, and full control of your phone, including your phone directory, caller ID, even a reminder of phone battery life remaining on the screen of the GPSR.

If you get bored with all that, you can listen to music using the built in MP3 player, although the quality of the music is not the greatest when you are listening to it via the BMW helmet system. But… the 2820 comes with an audio in connector (and a tiny little clip-on microphone, for use in a car) and an audio out connector. I connected the audio out from 2820 to the 12 channel, 270 watt sound system in my Volkswagen Phaeton, and I was pretty happy with the music quality. Installing a 12 channel sound system in a helmet might take a bit of work, though…

Pairing up phones and headsets with the GPSR is very simple. You put the external device into ‘discoverable’ mode, then tell the GPSR to start looking. Once you have paired a device up, the GPSR automatically recognizes it and hooks up to it every time you go riding in the future – no further actions, button pressing, or attention is needed – it’s that simple. I could talk on the phone via my helmet in a parking lot, as long as I stayed within about 25 feet of the motorcycle. However – this is thoughtful – there is a touchscreen control that allows you to transfer the call from your helmet (or other headset) back to your phone, just in case you get off the motorcycle and want to keep talking as you walk into the office, your home, a restaurant, etc.

Satellite acquisition is very fast, and the GPSR appears to keep a lock on the satellite constellation much better than previous models did. I have done about 1,800 kilometers of riding in the past week – Zurich to Dresden to Wolfsburg and back – and I never saw the ‘Lost Satellite Reception’ message, except for when I was in tunnels.

The GPSR comes preloaded with City Navigator NT version 8 software for Europe – I don’t know what the North American users get. Partly because of the newer indexing system used with the NT cartography, lookups of cities, attractions, and addresses are much faster than ever before – there is virtually no delay between entering the search criteria and getting the results displayed.

The 2820 supports TMC (Traffic Management via RDS), same as the 27xx series. I hooked my GTM 10 FM traffic receiver up, and it worked just fine. The software for the GTM 10 has been enhanced quite a bit, and the 2820 now provides a ‘traffic map’ overview of all the traffic in your area. It’s sort of like a decluttered map, in gray scale, with the traffic events shown in color. Quite useful for getting the big picture in a hurry.

The 2820 also supports POI (Ed: Points of Interest) recognition – in other words, you can load a speed camera database into it. I don’t know what the size limitations are on the Custom POI database, but I had no problems loading a speed camera database for all of Europe that contained 12,500 listings, all with individual speed settings and text annotations. When the warnings appear, they show the speed that the camera goes off at, and a one-line comment field (e.g. “westbound only, in front of McDonald’s”).

MP3 storage capacity is dependent on how many maps you have loaded – the MP3s reside in the same area of solid-state memory as the maps. There is 2 gigs of memory available, so, with CN 8 Europe installed, you have about 700 megs available for MP3s. Should be enough for a weekend hop…

The user interface (how you control it) is substantially the same as the 27xx series. It’s easy to figure out, and the rider has quite a bit of control over customizing how the information is presented. I have the remote control that I used with my 27xx stuck on the clutch master cylinder of my motorcycle, and use it for zoom in/out control and for flipping through the main map pages. In theory, the remote is not waterproof. In practice – well, I had the 2650 remote on the motorcycle for well over a year, and never took it off (even when power washing the motorcycle), and it still works, and the 27xx remote has now been on the handlebar for 10 months, suffering the same abuse. It still works great. My personal opinion is that the thing is waterproof.

Here are a few pictures. The software I have been using is pre-release, so, the visual presentation and the feature set will probably get better by the time the GPSR starts shipping.

The same familiar form factor - uses all the same cables and Garmin mounts

NB: You will have to check and make sure that third party brackets (e.g. Touratech, RAM) do not interfere with the USB and new audio in/out jacks! You can see the audio jacks just past the tip of the remote control.

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle

Traffic Information in LIST view

The color codes indicate the severity of the problem - all the way from green (for example, dead skunk on road) to red (road closed)

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Traffic List view

Detail View of a single traffic event

Note that the road sign appears just as it would in real life:

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Traffic detail view

The new 'Traffic Map Overview' screen

Lets you get the big picture, showing where all the headaches are (ed: the red arrows and text were added later, it is not part of the Garmin):

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Traffic map

The main menu screen

Note the icons that confirm what Bluetooth devices are connected at the moment. The helmet is considered a headset (ed: the red arrows and text were added later, it is not part of the Garmin):

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Main Menu and Bluetooth

A convenient screen to sum up what you have been doing lately

Before anyone makes any wisecracks about the maximum speed - I was riding in Germany when I took this picture.

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Trip Summary

The 'Turn List' page. This shows what your route is ahead of you.

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Trip Summary

The main phone control page

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Main Phone Control

What you see if you press the 'Call History' page

If you press one of the categories, it shows you the full details (name, number, etc.) of each inbound, outbound, or missed call. Makes it really easy to dial people you frequently talk to - you can initiate a call with one touch from the detail view of any of these categories.

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle- Phone Call History

The 2820 automatically sucks the phone book out of your mobile phone and remembers it

The level of detail provided -e.g. home, work, mobile, etc. - will be dependent on whether or not your phone supports these classifications. Simply touch a name to dial the number.

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle-Phone Addressbook

Here's a few additional photos showing how the speed camera warning function on the 2820 works. The quality of the photos is poor, because I took them indoors in a dark room (while running the GPSR in simulation mode) - for that reason, my camera could not resolve the contrast properly. It would have been damn difficult to hold the camera in my teeth as I drove past the speed trap - with my luck, the phone would have rung.
Anyway, the pictures should be good enough to give you the general idea.

Approaching the speed camera - not aware of it, riding at 82 km/h

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle-Speed Camera POI Warning

The warning pops up - at whatever distance you have set for advance warning - so you slow down

At the same time, you get an audible alert in the helmet via Bluetooth:

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle-Speed Camera POI Warning

The speed limit icon shows you where the camera is.

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle-Speed Camera POI Warning

As soon as you pass it, the red warning bar and the speed sign icon disappear.

Garmin 2820 GPS on motorcycle-Speed Camera POI Warning

Note: And that concludes Michael's detailed report on the new Garmin 2820 GPS. As you can see, the GPS is very suited for motorcycles. Thanks Michael !

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