Garmin StreetPilot 7200/7500 Autorouting Automotive GPS Unit, Review -28 Jan 2006
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Return to Home Page   Text by jack yeazel and ron henderson
(27 May 2006 -Add Joe's FAQs)

Out-of-the-box kits (click to enlarge)

The kits in the above picture include:
Set up and go instructions, the box, USB drivers software CD Rom.
7200 owner's manual, 7200 on its Dash Mount attached to the quick-disconnect 'Mount With 12-volt (cigarette) Adapter.'
Remote Control, Garmin GXM 30 radio, 115vac/12vdc 2-amp converter (for working at your computer),
USB interface cable, GXM 30 owner's  manual (over unlock code),
NOTE: An extension cable and mounting flange that comes with the GXM 30 radio (not available for the above picture) can be seen (HERE).

The StreetPilot 7200 (Ver. 2.63 beta) is about $990, and the GXM 30 radio about $210.  Check for latest discount prices (HERE).  This unit has a (very) large 480 x 234 pixel (but less pixels than the smaller nüvi 660) 7-inch diagonal screen.  It is designed to work with XM Radio's XM NavTraffic in order to display traffic and weather information on the maps.  The XM Radio service must be purchased: Basic annual service is $142.45, XM NavTraffic annual service is $47.88, and the activation fee is $14.99 - for a total of $205.32 for the first year if paid annually.  The subscription rate is higher if paid on a quarterly or monthly basis.

NOTE: Ver. 2.60 must be loaded before loading 2.61 beta to preserve the side-street names and Traffic Map.  The only difference between the 7200 and 7500 is that the 7500 has a gyro for dead reckoning and can  provide guidance information when the satellite lock is lost.  Measurements of the battery drain from a car battery are shown (HERE).

XM Radio:
With XM Radio you also get 160 digital channels of 100% commercial-free music, over 30 channels of News, Sports, Talk & Entertainment, 21 channels of XM Instant Traffic & Weather (voice only), the industry's deepest playlists, including over two million titles. XM Radio Online — Over 75 XM channels streamed over the Internet.  The unit has an internal speaker or it can broadcast its spoken directions and XM Radio over an FM frequency to you FM receiver.  Note: When the internal speaker is selected, the unit still broadcasts an FM carrier signal.  Check (HERE) for the Channel Guide.
NOTE about versions: Ver. 2.60 does not have an XM Traffic Map (shown below), but upgrading to 2.61b will activate it.  The 7200 also contains an SD-card slot which can contain other maps, such as USA Topo (below).

The 7200 uses 2GB of solid state memory to hold the highly detailed Navteq turn-by-turn database maps for the continental United States and Canada.  (858 MB of the memory is reserved for other uses, such as MP3's.)  Just select an Address, a specific Point Of Interest, or a Waypoint you have uploaded from your waypoints library.  Uploading waypoints is quite simple, since the USB jack for the XM Radio is also used for the Garmin Protocol data transfer.  You can use Garmin's POI Loader or the shareware program G7ToWin (which can save waypoint data to .gpx files which can be read by the POI Loader) or G7ToWin will upload your waypoints to the 7200 directly.  The addresses can be saved for future use.

Click on Thumbnails

One of the first things you will notice is that this GPS is BIG!  It is even larger that the Lowrance iWay 500C

Examples of the Screen Brightness in Very Bright Sunshine

The unit dimensions are: 7.5”W x 4.5”H x 2.2”D.  The display is 7” (diagonal) WQVGA, 480 x 234 pixel, color TFT with automatic dimming backlight at night and touch screen, but only weighs 1.7 lb as compared to the iWay's 2.3 lb.

The unit comes with an unlock code "To be used  to enable Garmin software products to work on your PC, for future map upgrades, registration issues, or warranty claims."  (Author's note:  This is his first StreetPilot since SP-III considered to have "advanced the state of the art!")

The Streetpilot 7200 has the entire Garmin Mapsource City Navigator database preloaded so there is no need to upload any maps. This includes the complete Navteq database for all 50 U.S. States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  However, the Mass Storage feature allows uploading additional maps, such as USA Topo and MetroGuide (BELOW).  Simply use the touch screen display or the included alphanumeric remote control to enter an address or point of interest and the 7200 will route you there with both verbal and on screen directions. Verbal turn-by-turn directions are provided from the built in speaker.

A very helpful feature is that this unit pronounces (with remarkable accuracy) the street names to turn onto and even the destination name.  With the street names pronounced, you can verify that you are making the correct turn without reference to the GPS screen at all.  This is compared to the iWay 500C which only pronounces numbered highways.

In the Atlanta area, the NavTeq maps are as up to date as any we have seen from the other manufacturers.  However, the maps do not display small streams and lakes, as with the iWay.  The unit is easy to understand, and finding an address is straightforward.  The large letters and numbers on the touch screen make the job easy.  Interrupting the power will not erase your current route, but will continue when power is restored.

If a PC USB cable is connected the 7200 will query the user as to the type of interface to use: Garmin Mode or as USB Mass Storage.  If USB Mass Storage is selected the internal memory of the 7200 will appear to the PC as a disk drive named "GARMIN".

If a Secure Digital card is inserted into the 7200 the SD card will appear as the drive "CARD" or ("Removable Disk").  Both "GARMIN" and "CARD" appear as normal removable drives.  Selecting "GARMIN Mode" will allow uploading/downloading of Routes, Waypoints (termed 'Favorites' in the 7200), and Track data.  In this mode it is also possible to download an image of the display using the program xImage from Garmin.  Selecting USB Mass Storage allows transfer of additional maps, MP3 audio/music files, and/or audio books in the Audible format to the 7200 via a simple "Drag and Drop" operation.  MapSource will recognize Either the Garmin Mode or the SD Mass Storage Device for Map Uploading.

SCREENS: These screens were downloaded with Garmin's xImage.

Main Screen ° Tools

Manage my Data ° Manage my Favorites

The spell function uses "wild cards", so that you see all Favorites containing the search letters.

Traffic Info from the Tools Screen
A List of Traffic Problems ° Special "Traffic Map" Shows Pretty Severe Problems around Atlanta!
(This is the Friday evening traffic: Three accidents, one "incident", and eight construction delays)

Music Player from the Tools Screen
The CATEGORIES are: Decades (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s) Country, Hits, Christian, Rock, Urban, Jazz & Blues, LifeStyle, Dance, Latin, World, Classical, Kids, News, Sports, Comedy, Talk & Ent, Special Evt., Traffic, and All Categories
SOURCE cycles between MP3, Line In, Audible Books, and XM-1 (Emergency Alerts)

The internal volume is adjustable or muted, but the FM transmitted volume is controlled by your radio.
(So Far, we've had no problem receiving the XM Radio -even in some parking decks.)

Weather from the Tools Screens
("No XM Antenna" occurs when you disconnect the GXM 30 radio and connect the  PC USB cable.)

Current Conditions Screens ° When Zoomed in they also Indicate Temperatures
(The weather graphics are only shown near the reporting stations ° The 'pink' is a calculated route)

GPS Information and Trip Computer Screens

From: Settings, Map, Detail Maps, -any Additional Maps can be Enabled/Disabled.  USA Topo Shown Here.

The only button on the 7200 is the power button.  All other features are accessed via the touch display or using the IR remote.  With a few exceptions the response of the 7200 to screen touches or IR input is very quick. The few exceptions all involve complex map display, zooming or moving the center point of the map while the map detail setting is set to More or Most and the area displayed is large.  Zooming under those conditions is an area where the unit can really slow down almost to the point of irritation.  The speed of the display under Normal (or less) detail setting or when the area covered is small is more than adequate.

Points of Interest (POI):
The 7200 supports both 'Map' supplied and user supplied POIs.  There is also an entry in the settings menu to allow the size of the text displayed for both types of POIs to be changed individually.  The availability of the settings is not unusual, however, a method to actually display the text of either type of POI on the map has not been found.  Placing the cursor arrow over the symbol of a POI will display that text of the POI but the size is apparently unaffected by the size setting.  The inability to display POI text is a limitation.  As an entry for setting the text size exists perhaps this is a bug in the firmware.

Loading Custom POIs reverts the map to daylight colors.  You cannot change this until you cycle power.  What else may be affected is unknown, since we started power cycling after loading custom POIs.  When selecting a custom POI to navigate to you face the same limit of 50 entries that is there when reviewing waypoints. You can refine the selection by selecting "Near..." so it is not a major limitation.

The 7200 has one MCX external antenna connector, one 1/8" stereo audio output port, one 1/8" A/V input port, a 12v DC input port and a USB port.  The audio output port can be switched between headphone and line out.  It is not specified just what happens when switching between headphone and line out.  The user is simply directed to chose the one that works best for their particular connection.

The 7200 does not have a serial port, all communication is via the USB port.  The USB port is a multifunctional connection which serves four unique and separate purposes.  The USB port can be used as a Garmin interface -to upload/download user data and maps; to present the 7200 to the PC as a "mass storage" device; as the connection for the GXM 30 XM Smart Antenna; or for use with the GTM 10 or GTM 11 FM TMC traffic antenna.

User Data:
The 7200 supports Upper and Lower case waypoint (Favorite) names with a maximum length of 20 characters.  The name can be edited on the 7200.  The 7200 also supports 'Comments' for upload, display, and download.  Comments can also be be upper or lower case.  Comments are limited to 50 characters in length and can not be created or edited on the 7200.  The only display mode supported by the 7200 appears to be symbol + name.  A limit for the number of routes or number of waypoints in a route has not been determined.  The 7200 as released with firmware version 2.50 appears to support about 3000 track points.  With the release of firmware version 2.61b the 7200 supports about 10,000 track points.

A/V Line in:
The 7200 can be used to display DVD style videos or it can have a backup camera attached.  When DVD video is selected switching of the display from 'normal' data to video can be automatic or prompted. For a backup camera the switching is controlled by the Dead Reckoning (DR) Cable which is available from Garmin as an accessory.

The four line A/V connector (Audio Left, Audio Right, video, Ground) used for A/V Line in is wired for use with a standard camcorder cable.  That is, if a video device is connected to the A/V Line In on the 7200 and the cable used is a camcorder style cable then the color coding (White = Left channel audio; Red = Right channel audio; Yellow = Video) is accurate.

The 7200 can also be used to display video and audio from portable devices such as an Apple iPod.  The Apple 5G iPod was used in testing.  It should be noted that the iPod connector has the right channel audio and the video channel reversed from that of the connector in the 7200.  Using 'back to back' iPod cables with a male to male RCA adapter to connect an iPod to the 7200 will result in right channel audio on the 7200 video input and a video signal on the 7200's right channel input.  In this instance the 'Red' and 'Yellow' connectors should be swapped on (one) of the iPod cables.  If an iPod A/V cable is connected 'back to back' to a camcorder cable using the same male to male RCA adapter the color coding is correct and swapping of the R/Y connector on one cable is not necessary.

Stereo Audio:
The 7200 supports audio from four sources and will switch any of the audio sources to the internal speaker or the FM Transmitter.  There is a 5th source of audio -an internal voice synthesizer which is used to announce navigation information. The 7200 mutes the audio from the other 4 and replaces it with the navigation information as required.

The four switchable sources of audio are:
   an internal MP3 file
   an internal audio book in Audible format
   audio via the A/V line in
   audio from the XM receiver.

Inserting an audio cable into the Line Out port of the 7200 switches the audio from the internal speaker (or the FM transmitter) to the Line Out jack.  Incoming audio, whatever the source, can be sent to the FM transmitter for presentation on an external receiver, for example an automotive radio or a home stereo system or the audio may be directly connected from the 7200 Line out to the AUX input on the remote system.

It should be noted that the FM transmitter on the 7200 is a good one, but use of a wireless FM modulator requires that both the transmitter and receiver be tuned to an empty FM broadcast channel.  Empty channels aren't too hard to find in rural areas, but they are generally impossible to find in medium to large urban areas where it is likely that all of the available FM channels are utilized.

In urban areas better performance can be obtained by using a third party wired FM modulator or by connecting the Line Out jack of the 7200 to the auxiliary input port on the FM receiver.  For testing purposes the 7200 audio out was sent via the FM transmitter and also directly connected to the AUX input on a Pioneer DEH-P80MP automotive head unit.  The audio via the FM transmitter to the DEH-P80MP was adequate in rural areas but noticeably noisy in urban areas where a clear channel was not available.  Using a channel with a 'weaker' FM signal allowed the unit to be used, but the performance was less than optimal.  Connecting the Line out of the 7200 directly to the DEH-P80MP via the Aux port resulted in excellent audio which was sharp and totally noise free for all testing.

The third method of connection, via a wired FM modulator was not tested because a suitable wired FM modulator was not available.

It should be noted that the power to the FM transmitter is NOT removed when the audio is switched from the FM transmitter.  A 'carrier' wave is always emitted.  This can cause problems with reception on local FM radios and did cause problems with one wireless device during testing.  Placing the 7200 in close proximity to a wireless mouse caused the mouse to behave erratically even when the audio on the 7200 was directed to the internal speaker.  Turning off the 7200 allowed the wireless mouse to behave normally.

It is not definite that the FM transmitter was the cause.  It could have been some other RF emanation from the 7200.  Removing the power from the 7200 removed the interference.  Moving the 7200 at least five feet from the mouse/mouse receiver also removed the interference.  The interference is also reduced if the 7200 is not in the mount with 12v adapter.  The power cord of the 12v adapter is apparently part of the FM transmission system and removing it reduces the level of the emitted FM carrier wave.

MP3 -by Ron:
MP3 files encoded by Windows Media Player 10 were tested on the 7200 and found to be unplayable.  GSpot was used to examine differences between a sample file delivered with the 7200 and the unplayable files generated by Windows Media Player.  GSpot indicated one major difference.  The sample rate on the WMP files was found to be 48000 and the sample rate on the files that came with the 7200 was found to be 44100.

An old copy of InterVideo's MP3 XPack, a Windows Media Player plug-in application, was installed and the XPack options were set to encode with a sample rate of 44100.  The files which failed to play were re-encoded using the WMP/XPack combination and the new files were examined with GSpot which confirmed the sample rate was 44100.  The re-encoded files were transferred to 7200 where they played without error.

The inability of the firmware in the 7200 to decode and play MP3 files encoded with an apparent sample rate of 48000 is a limitation primarily because one of the most likely used methods of encoding MP3 files, using Windows Media Player (WMP), produces valid MP3 files that are not suitable for use on the 7200 even though they worked flawlessly with all other MP3 players they were tested on.

This reflects a limitation in WMP because the MP3 files are first encoded at 44100 and WMP then modifies the files changing the header information to reflect a 48000 sample rate while leaving the actual encoded data unchanged.  Unless this 'disconnect' is 'fixed' by either a change in WMP or a change in the 7200 it would be better to use a program other than Windows Media Player to encode MP3 files for the StreetPilot 7200.

Joe's FAQs:
 1) Can the unit do the "traveling salesman problem" solution?  -No, but it does support Via Points.
 2) How many waypoints can a user put in?  -Undocumented by Garmin and unknown at this time.
 3) How does a user put in a waypoint?  -Either by Enter Position, or touch the map.
 4) Is there a MARK key or similar?  -No.
 5) Does it have other screens such as a trip computer?  -Yes.
 6) Does it have a GPS info screen?  -Yes
 7) Can it display altitude?  -Yes
 8) Does it display POIs on the map? -No.
 9) Can you pan the navigation map? -Yes
 10) How do you update the maps when the time comes? -It appears that you can replace the existing map in Mass Storage.
 11) Does it have proximity waypoints to go with the POI loader?  How does this work for things like speed trap locations?
     -The 7200 supports uploading of user POIs with the POI loader in the normal fashion.  All of the attributes of the POI
     appear to be supported, including proximity distance, speed, and icons for the POIs loaded.  We have not been able to
     determine if the unit supports a transparent color for the icon.  The .bmp for an icon should be 24x24 RGB 8
12) Will it play any music formats other than MP3?  MP4? other?
     -The MP3 format for audio is supported.  Audio/Video files do not appear to be supported -they are not mentioned in
     the documentation.  The video input port will accept composite video and/or audio in several formats, specific formats
     are not documented.
13) Does it have a battery? -No.
14) Do you have to press screen buttons on the screen to get to the maps or does it eventually time out to the maps?
     -You have to touch the screen at least once.

Here we have to admit we were puzzled for a few days on how to TILT it.  You humble reviewer completely disassembled the mount and still couldn't figure it out.  But our co-author, Ron, accidentally made it tilt, but the release was so abrupt and noisy that he at first feared he had broken the mount in the process!  (Tilting requires considerable effort.)  Note these pictures to see what to move.  The mount only tilts backward (toward you) from the delivered position.  We suggest you attach the mount to the universal base in order to get more leverage when trying to tilt it.

Mount in Original Position °  Mount tilted Backward ° View of the Back to Show Exactly what is Moving

Map display anomaly when following a route:
When navigating a route with the display in 3-D mode one can touch the map display to switch to a 2-D view with north up.  There is something unexpected with this feature, though.  Normally one would think that the 'switched to' display would show the current location centered in the 2-D map.

On the 7200 this isn't always the case.  If the 'Where To?" sequence used to find the route destination included a search for an item "Near" a location then touching the 3-D map will not cause a switch to a 2-D map centered on the current location, the 2-D map will be centered on the "Near" item that was specified in the search. It is unknown whether this is a 'bug' or a 'feature' of the 7200.

If viewing the "Near" location in 2-D mode is not desired the route can be stopped and a new one created using the "Recent Finds" section of the Where To? sequence thus skipping the "Near" entry.  Touching the 3-D map will result in a 2-D map centered upon the current location.

The two units we have reviewed have randomly been locking up when left on in a car for several hours (but not on house power).  Pulling and reinserting the cigarette-lighter plug restores the unit.  In the Atlanta area (where the XM radio is re-broadcast) the side-street names disappear on a random basis.  This requires the unit to be downgraded to Ver. 2.60 and then upgraded to the current version to restore the side-street names.

Both units' cigarette plugs have come apart.  Apparently moving the swivel loosens an allen screw that holds the swivel together.  Jack almost lost his screw which would have made the unit unusable.  It's recommended that you use a 3mm allen wrench to check the tightness of this screw.  CAUTION: The unit can be mis-aligned in the 12-volt adapter, so that it shorts out the cigaretter-lighter circuit.

The 7200 version of the StreetPilot will cause you to put all your other versions in a box or sell them on eBay.  The routing is as accurate or better than any we have seen, and the features are "extensive."  It seems that since the days of the first monochrome StreetPilots, the screens have gotten smaller and smaller -this model certainly reverses that trend.  Jack's wife says she can "read it from the back seat."

The 7200 is designed for use in a car, truck, or RV and not intended to replace the latest line of color handhelds that have features like: Proximity Alarms, Calendar, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch, Sun and Moon, Hunt and fish, and Games.
jack yeazel and ron henderson