Garmin’s StreetPilot 2820

 Feature Rich Auto Navigator

Auto Navigator, Touchscreen, MP3 Player,
Bluetooth Phone, Optional XM Satellite Radio
October 24, 2006
Review By: Sam Penrod

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The Garmin StreetPilot 2820 is currently Garmin's top of the line auto navigator.  Similar in features to its predecessors in the 2000 series, including the 2720 and 2730, the 2820 adds the capability of bluetooth cell phone connection that allows for 'hands free' phone calls through the unit.  With the optional GXM 30 receiver, you can receive XM satellite radio and XM traffic abilities, although the XM receiver is not included in the package and is an additional $250 and requires a monthly subscription.  The StreetPilot 2820 lists on the street for $999.  Check discount prices here. The 2820 is a full featured GPS auto navigator, and includes lat/long abilities, the ability to create routes and you can even input numerous destinations and the 2820 will automatically create a route of the shortest distance for all the stops you want to make.  It's a great feature for deliveries, etc.  Overall, the 2820 seems to be a superior unit with a lot of flexibility and allows you to customize more features than in any other new Garmin auto navigator.  It is not as simple to use as the small StreetPilots, however I would rather have the option of using more features and spending a few more minutes learning how to use it, than not have the features available at all. The 2820 also includes other features such as an MP3 player, optional XM radio, and hands free cell phone which are convenient if you do a lot of traveling.  

Included in the 2820 package, is the StreetPilot 2820 GPS Receiver, pre-loaded with Navteq mapping data for all of North America, (it is the latest version released, City Navigator NT 8)  12V cigarette lighter cable, with speaker built into the cable.  An A/C adapter cable for use indoors, USB cable for transferring data, handheld remote control, owner's manual and a hard protective cover for the screen.   There is also a DVD data disk of the preloaded City Navigator Version 8, including MapSource for use of managing waypoints, routes, tracks, etc.  A non-skid bean bag dash mount, as well as a more permanent dash mount is also included.

The Unit

The 2820 is in the same size case as the other Street Pilot 2000 series units.  It weighs less than a pound (.93 pound.)  The screen size is 3.3 inches wide by 1.7 inches high.  The 2820 has a built in antenna and there is an MCX connector for an optional antenna, such as the Garmin GA-25.  There is an on/off switch on the right hand side of the unit, as well as four function buttons on the right side of the screen.  All other controls are made through the touch screen.  There is no SD card slot for additional memory, although there is about 800 MB available on the hard drive for MP3 files or additional mapping.  There is a USB port on the rear and on the left side a 1/8th inch 'mini' jack for headphones or line out, if you want a direct connection to a car stereo system.  Next to it, there is a bluetooth phone microphone input jack used for Bluetooth 'hands free' operation.  The clip on microphone for your visor is included in the package.  There is no built in speaker on the 2820, however the speaker is part of the 12V cigarette cable and works pretty good.

View of 2820 with dashboard mount  Cable on left side is audio out and cables on right side include optional XM Smart Antenna and lower cable is power connector.


There are both external controls as well as touchscreen controls in the 2820.  On the exterior there is the power button, a rocker switch on the right side of the unit.  On the right front there are the following buttons:  Find, Menu, Map and Speak.  These buttons will get you to the main areas, although in most cases use of the touch screen after accessing these main pages is required.  I did find the external buttons helpful, instead of having to navigate through the touch screen exclusively.

The main menu page is where all of the controls are.  Pressing the signal meter in the upper left hand corner will bring up the satellite page.  The bluetooth icon is visible if the unit is connected to a bluetooth phone and headset.  The "Where To" is where you select where to navigate to.  The "View Map" brings up the map page in 3-D.

Find Menu
"Where to?"

The 2820's find menu gives you numerous categories to choose from.  This is accessible by pressing the 'find' button on the right side of the screen or 'Where To' on the main menu.

Most of the options are from the included six million Point of Interest database for businesses, found under "Food, Hotel..."  But there are some important custom find options.  They are Address and My Locations.  Pressing 'address' will allow you to input a street address and be routed to it.  You will be prompted for the state, then the city and then the house number.  You then input the street name, however do not add North or South, East or West to the street name.  You will be prompted for the direction.  The other options include 'My Locations' which allows you to navigate, edit or save favorites.  You can be routed to your home with a dedicated button in the lower right hand corner, save your own favorites, view your recent selections, see your current location (in latitude longitude format) as well as your own created custom Points of Interest (POI's) which are saved in the "Extras" category.  Read our article here on the Garmin POI Loader for more information on creating your own Custom POI's.  

This page shows you what a 'favorite' or waypoint looks like when you select it.  Pressing 'Go To' will create an autoroute and give you navigation instructions.

One feature I really like is that there is the ability to get a GPS coordinate, mark one or navigate to one.  Unfortunately Garmin has cut this feature out of some of the StreetPilot c3xx and c5xx series, but it is available in the 2820.  There are sub categories in most of the options.  You can also try spelling a name of a POI in the 'Spell Name' category, although searching can take a couple of minutes.  

Example of "Browse Map" feature available in 'My Locations' under 'Coordinates' lat/long of cursor location is shown in box

You can also use the "Browse Map" feature, which I really found helpful.  You can drag the screen and zoom in and out to find locations.  And by pressing "Near..." you are given the option of "Search Near..." 1- Where I am Now, 2- A Different City, 3- My Current Route, 4- My Destination.  Here is a breakdown of the Find Options.

You are prompted to enter the city first, followed by the street name and then the house number.  You don't enter in N, S, E or W.  If you are selecting an address outside of the state you are currently in, you can select the state before inputting the city.

Streets & Cities
You can select a City, Street Name, Intersection, as well as Freeway Exits.

My Locations
This is where you access your saved Favorites.  You can also enter lat/long coordinates in 'Enter Position" or you can Browse Map and see the lat/long on the screen.

Food, Hotel, Etc.
This is where you access all POIS, including Search All.  There are several categories and then sub-categories to help you narrow down the search options.  For example in food, there is 'All Food' followed by American, Chinese, Fast Food, Mexican, Seafood, Steak and many more.

If you load Custom Points of Interest into your 2820, this is where you access them to either navigate them or view them on the map.  However with Custom POI's, you cannot edit the information, this can only be done on the computer before they are sent to your GPS receiver through Garmin's POI Loader.  You can save them as a favorite though in 'My Locations."

Recent Finds
This will list your recent finds, to make it easier to navigate them again.  There are also categories you can save them or delete them in.

Browse Map
This allows you to browse the map and even save locations you see as a favorite.  However in this mode there is no lat/long shown, that is only available in 'My Locations' under 'Coordinates.'

Go Home
This will automatically route you to your home (or another location you save in your favorites as 'home') with the single push of a button.  However I also discovered that two quick presses of the Find key will also automatically route you to your pre-selected 'home' location.

View Map

Pressing the "View Map" option will bring up the map.  The default is the 3-D "bird's eye view."  It is set for auto zoom, but you can use the + and - symbols to zoom in/out to the perspective you want.  You can also browse the map in this mode.  Touching the map will automatically throw it into 2-D (flat screen) and allow you to pan the map around with your finger.  It is very easy to pan the map in the 2820.  Once you have selected a route and then used another feature such as the MP3 player, you must get back to the main menu and press "View Map" on the touch screen or the "Map" button to the right of the screen to bring the map screen back up.  When you are navigating, if you press a navigation field on the right hand side of the screen, it will bring up the pop up list of future turns.  When you are not navigating, you can press the speed key to bring up the trip computer.  One observation I did make is that when you are in the 3-D mode, Custom POI's show up on the screen on the 2820.  I have not seen this in any other Garmin unit, Custom POI's in other Garmin's only show up when in the 2-D mode.

View of 3-D map above with wide navigation fields, which are user specific.  The music note specifies the MP3 player is operating, the yellow square signifies a traffic issue ahead and a better route is available.  Pressing this icon will bring up the traffic page and allow you to take the better route.  
The yellow underline indicates a traffic issue on this road.  The blue line shows you the current route to take.  In the 2820, you can customize the color of the active route.

View of 2-D flat view above.    You can save favorites and also pan the map in this mode.

Stop and Detour

When you are navigating, a stop and detour field will show up on the screen on the bottom of the main menu.  If you want to stop navigating, press stop.  If you are stuck in traffic or hear of an incident ahead you want to avoid, press the detour key and the 2820 will give you options of how you want to detour by distance and automatically re-calculate a new route for you, taking you off your current route at the next available option.  You can also hit 'Detour By Roads' and the unit will bring up road options and you can choose which road you want to take.

The 2820 has easy to use settings.  These are accessible from the main menu by pressing 'settings.'  

There are six options and they include: General, Navigation, Screen, Map, Traffic, Bluetooth.
 Pressing "About" will allow you to see which software and audio version your 2820 is running on.


This is where the main basic settings are and there are several categories.  GPS allows you to select WAAS on or off as well as to set your simulated position if you are indoors and set the GPS function to off.  Language lets you select both text language as well as voice.  Audio has several options, such as if you want spoken directions, the attention tone, touch screen tone and key press tones to sound, as well as a feature known as speed adjusted volume.  This is a good feature that will automatically increase the sound of the unit, when you are at highway speed and reduce it when you are going slower.  Audio is also where you specify if you want the audio jack to send out headphone level or "Line Out" if you are plugging it directly into a stereo system.  Other features available include, Proximity Alerts, Tour Guide, Time, Units of Measure, and Safe Mode.  When the 2820 detects you are driving, it prohibits you from making adjustments to the 2820 as a precaution to keep you from being distracted while driving.  You can also set the 'safe mode' to off.  
 The default voice for navigation is "American English Jill."  There is also a male voice known as Jack.  The 2820 will give  you 'text to speech directions' (TTS), meaning it will speak whatever is on the screen.  This includes built in Points of Interest as well as your own favorites (waypoints) you can save. And in our experience, the unit does a great job of speaking even your own custom named favorites.  If you do not prefer to have the speech directions giving the names of streets, etc, you can select  "American English."  It's vocabulary is very limited, but will still give you  basic navigation directions.  It's the same voice in the StreetPilot c3XX series.

There are several options in Navigation.  
 You can also select the type of vehicle, including Car/Motorcycle, Pedestrian, Bicycle, Truck (delivery) or Bus.  I did some experimenting while in the Demo Mode and the unit does calculate different routes for different vehicles.  For example, in the bicycle mode it would not route me on interstate freeways, only medium sized highways.  You can also decide if you want a route calculated for a faster time, shorter distance or even off road.  You can also set up the next turn pop up, and if off route recalculation is automatic or prompted first.   You can also select which 'avoidances' you want to avoid, including traffic (if you are using the optional traffic receiver, discussed below), U-turns, Highways, Unpaved Roads, Toll Roads and Car Pool lanes.

This is where you switch the brightness control to Automatic or Manual.  Automatic uses the built in sensor to adjust the brightness levels.  This is helpful at night as it will dim the screen.  You also calibrate the touch screen here, however once we calibrated it, we had no reason to re-calibrate it again in our month of testing.   Overall the screen brightness of the 2820 during the day is very good and I have never had any trouble reading the screen.

The map options include choosing the map detail, ranging from 'most' to 'least.'  You can also select a 3-D bird's eye view or the more traditional 2-D flat look.  The map options is also where you can select if you want the screen to be 'day' which is light or 'night' which is a dark or negative style screen.  The default is for 'Auto' which means the unit will automatically switch when the GPS senses it is either sunrise or sunset.    You can customize the Route Color as it appears on the screen, options include: Magenta, Red, Blue, Orange.  You can also select if you want all other roads except for the one you are navigating dimmed out.  You can also customize text size, geographic areas, streets, favorites, and map zoom level in this section.  
The map area is also where you can select from other Garmin map products, although it is not recommended to use others such as TOPO.  However you can add the maps and use the 2820 as more of a map viewer, rather than using other mapping products for navigation.  

Traffic/ Weather Capability

The 2820 has the ability to get real time traffic, if you buy an optional traffic receiver.  You can use either the GXM 30 which uses XM satellite signals and also allows you to receive music and news stations.  Or you can use the GTM 12, which uses the subcarrier from FM broadcast stations to deliver the traffic data provided by Clear Channel, which currently services more cities than the XMNav Traffic service does.  Each of these units also require a subscription.  (The GTM 12 includes a 15 month subscription included in the price of the receiver)   Note: You cannot choose to connect the GXM 30 for XM satellite radio and also connect the GTM 12 for traffic, if XMNav Traffic does not service your metro area.  Both receivers
will provide updates of accidents, incidents, congestion, road construction and other issues occurring on interstate freeways and in some cases major highways.  Problems on surface roads are usually NOT included in the data.  The data is updated during the day, typically more often during heavy traffic times in the morning and evening.  Exactly just how often and timely seems to depend on each city and the data provider.

In both traffic receivers, the screen images and the way it works with the 2820 are identical.  Here are some screen examples of what alerts and displays you get with a traffic receiver. The traffic receiver will add a yellow line if there is a slowdown ahead and provide a red line if it is a major incident.  

The 2820 will also bring up a red or a yellow line underneath the roads that are impacted by traffic problems.  It will also offer to detour you in cases of severe traffic problems.

This screen shows you the incident, giving you the option to detour around it.

XM Nav Traffic
The XM  Traffic network currently provides traffic data for 44 major cities in the U.S.   XM traffic is delivered via satellite, so you can receive the data anywhere in the U-S, although the data is only for specific metro areas.   This can help if you are a couple of hours out of a big city and want to know of any major issues ahead.  
When you subscribe to XM traffic, you also get general weather data included.  This gives you basic current conditions from the nearest airports, typically medium to major size airfields.  You can select which airport and can even check out the current conditions in more than 2,000 locations across the country.  You will get temperature, wind, humidity, visibility, barometer, etc.  This is updated generally about once an hour.

I also found that when there is a storm warning such as a severe thunderstorm watch or a flash flood warning, you will get on screen alerts notifying you, when you are in the county that the alert is issued for.  There is also a 5 day forecast available as well for 162 cities, which is a nice feature to have when you are taking a multi-state trip.  

However, unlike Garmin's marine and aviation units which also provide radar images, etc over your map, this detailed data is NOT included in the weather data available in the 2820.   But as you can see below, you will get clouds, sunshine, rain icons, etc. to give you a general idea of what the current conditions are.

You can learn more and see which cities are included in the XM traffic service by following this link. Note:  Even if XM Nav Traffic does not provide service in your area, you will still receive the nearby weather data.

GTM 12
The 2820 is also compatible with the GTM 12, the newest FM traffic receiver made by Garmin, which you can buy for about $150 which includes a 15 month data subscription.  The GTM 12 is self contained and receives data signals from nearby FM broadcast stations, so coverage is linked to the range of the particular broadcast station sending the data.  Unlike other Garmin FM traffic receivers such as the GTM-10, it does not require being physically connected to a built in car radio.  In fact, it is basically nothing more than a short USB cable.  The traffic receiver is powered by the 2820 itself when you plug it in to the USB port.  As far as the GTM 12, it seemed to work very good, however at times the actual traffic data including accidents, construction or other road hazards, seemed to be updated slower than 'real time' but in most cases it was still acceptable.   Renewing the data subscription is only 60 dollars for a year, so it averages out to be a five dollars a month for the traffic information which seems to be reasonable.  Note:  In Europe, this data is provided free and the only cost is to purchase the traffic receiver.  Click here to see the current coverage areas available with the GTM 12.


The 2820 is the first in Garmin's 2000 StreetPilot series to feature bluetooth cell phone capability.  (The bluetooth is only for cell phone use and does not allow you to transfer data, etc.  This must all be done through the USB port.)  We found it to work very well with bluetooth capable cell phones.  You must first "link" your phone to the 2820.  Once the 2820 'learns' your phone, the two will automatically connect thereafter.   A phone icon will appear on the right hand side of the main menu.  When you press this icon, it will bring up the Bluetooth options, where you can set it up.  You must either use the included clip on microphone and the 2820's speaker or you can also link a bluetooth headset.  When you do this, you will hear the GPS navigation directions in the bluetooth headset and not the 2820's speaker.  You will also hear the MP3 player through the headset (although it sounds like when you are the phone and there is music playing while you are on hold)  but you will not hear the XM radio through your bluetooth headset.

This screen shows you the bluetooth options.  It will automatically call your home (if you set your phone number in your 'home' location in the 2820) with the single press of the 'call home' option.  It will also bring up your call history from your phone, including all recent calls made on your phone, not just those that go through the 2820.

When you place a call, the 2820 continues to navigate for you and there is the blue phone icon on the screen.  Pressing the bluephone icon will allow you to bring up the in-call options.  This screen shows the navigation fields in the 'Normal ' mode.

This screen will show up during your call.  It will show a call timer and to end or hang up the call, simply press. "Hang Up."  
The "Transfer Audio to Phone" option allows you to switch the audio (both the microphone and speaker) back to the phone.  This is handy if you want to switch your conversation back to the phone itself.  

Pressing "Use Keyboard" brings up this screen.  It allows you to use touch tones, handy if you are checking messages and need to enter a passcode or have to press a particular number for an extension.  

The main menu page, with bluetooth and bluetooth headset enabled (top line), while you are routing  (stop and detour visible) and have an active phone call (blue telephone icon).

Some phones support "voice dialing" where you can speak in a name from your phone book or speak a number and your phone will automatically do the dialing through voice recognition.  This screen shows what you will see.

You can dial directly from the included Point of Interest (POI) database which lists addresses and phone numbers.  This applies  to restaurants, hotels, businesses, etc.   You just press the dial option and the 2820 will automatically dial the call for you.  You can also hit 'Go To' and be routed to the location.

Overall we found the bluetooth hands free feature to work very well and be handy for travel.  Sometimes people on the other end would say it sounded like there was a lot of background noise.  This likely depends on the noise of your vehicle.  It did not seem to be any worse than any other hands free type headset .  It worked well to dial from the screen and it is handy to be able to actually access your phone's saved phone book through the 2820 to make calls.  I would typically transfer the call back to my phone, after it started to ring on the other end.  

I also like receiving calls through the 2820.  The number of the person calling shows up on the screen and you can select "Ignore" or "Answer"  If the person calling you is in your phone's phone book, it will actually list the name of the caller on the screen.

This screen shows you that a call is active with the blue phone icon.  It also shows the map in 'night' mode with custom 'wide' navigation fields.  Note in the top field it shows my speed, direction of travel, the time of day as well as the current address.  This address keeps updating as I move, a very nice feature that I think is very helpful in the 2820.

Proximity Points

The 2820 supports Custom POI's.  In this area of the options, you can enable whether you can an audio alert for only POI's that are speed cameras or for all of your custom POI's.  You can also select the type of alert you want.  You can also set proximity radius in your waypoints stored in your "My Favorites.'  For example if you want to be alerted if you get within one mile of your favorite restaurant or want to stay away from something else and be alerted if you get too close, use a proximity alert.

Speak Button

The Speak Button will always give you your next navigation point.  For instance, pressing it will give you a verbal direction for example of "turn left in X miles" and also bring up the next pop-up screen.  This is helpful when you are wondering how much longer you need to stay on the road or when your next turn or maneuver is approaching.  When you are not navigating somewhere it will give you a "Ready To Navigate" message.  Holding in the 'Speak' button will also bring up the adjust volume level page.  This is a quick way adjust or mute the volume, especially if you are getting navigation directions from the 2820 and you need it to be quiet.  

Navigation & Routing

The 2820 does an outstanding job in our opinion in calculating routes and getting you to your destination with voice directions including text to speech when the 2820 will actually speak the street names.  In our testing, the 2820 always seemed to calculate the best possible routes and we never were led on an out of the way route.  Of course with all auto navigators, they may not lead you on the same route you would take if you know all the local roads and have favorite streets to drive on, but in all cases the 2820 will get you to your destination.  The processor in the 2820 is fast and typically will calculate an average route in less than ten seconds.  The 2820 will also automatically re-calculate a route for you if you miss the turn you were suppose to take.  It typically would re-calculate the new route, giving you enough time to make the next turn, even if it is only a block a way.  Finding an address and navigating went quickly, and the 2820 typically searched less than ten seconds.  Overall we can give the 2820 a superior rating when it comes to calculating a route and navigating you to the destination.  

Screen example of Active Turn List.  Shows data about current route on the top line, such as distance, ETA and a countdown to your arrival.

Screen example of 'View All' in Active Route list, you can also scroll down and see every planned maneuver.  Pressing a specific maneuver will bring up a map page, showing you what the turn looks like.  A helpful feature when you are in an area you are not familiar with.

This is an avoidance page.  The dotted line indicates a custom area I don't want to travel on.

Route Avoidances
This is one of my favorite features in the 2820.  You can select certain streets and set up an avoidance area.  What it does is help you modify the way the 2820 creates a route for you, if the unit typically wants to route you on a street or road that is under construction, always congested or a street you'd rather not drive on.  The 2820 from then on will not allow a route to be created over this 'avoidance' area.  I use it because on my way home from work, the unit always wants me to get off at the exit before.  I prefer to get off at the exit a mile down the road and with this avoidance selected, the 2820 automatically skips this exit.  Another helpful use for me involves a freeway overpass that was recently demolished, but has not been updated on the preloaded map yet.  So now that I have created this area as an avoidance, the 2820 does not try to get me to take this overpass.

Voice Directions

The 2820 in our testing does give good voice directions.  TTS or text to speech directions are available, meaning the 2820 will give you the street names or exit numbers vocally, as well as on the screen.  The unit will prompt you before a turn to give you advance warning.   For example, it will say: "In one mile, exit right on Exit 272, then turn right onto Washington Avenue."  
You can always hit the 'speak' button to be reminded of your next turn both on screen and through a voice prompt.


The 2820 features several GPS related options as well as other features.  They are listed in the "Tools" on the main menu and include the following options:

This is where you can access the satellite page for current GPS Information, including lat/long and altitude.  You can also get to the Trip Computer, and the Turn List, which will feature the current active route and turn by turn directions.

Pressing weather will bring up several options including a list of nearby airports for current conditions, a five day forecast, a listing of current County warnings such as severe weather alerts and an option where you can view it on the map.  Remember you must have both the GXM 30 XM receiver as well as a subscription to XM NavTraffic to get the weather data.

Through XM, you can also get updated information on stock quotes.  To do this, you add the stock symbol and it will give you the latest quote.  This is updated several times during the day.

My Data
This is where most of the GPS functions are accessed  See all the options below.  

The Routes page will allow you to create, edit and also navigate a pre-determined route.  'Favorites' is the same favorites as in the find button.  Custom POI's in this area only allows you to completely delete all of the loaded Custom POI's.  The track log is where you can turn the log on or off, reset the log, specify at what zoom level on the map you see the track points and see what percentage of the track log is already full. The tracklog capability is one of my favorite features in a GPS, which will log your location (lat/long) speed, heading, elevation, time of your trip.  You can then download the tracklog from your 2820 into MapSource and save it.  This is nice if you wonder where you were at a specific time, your average speed, the route you took, how fast your teenager was driving your car, and where they really went, etc.  There are a lot of things you can do with this data.  And in the 2820, the tracklog has been expanded to up to ten thousand points, which will easily log more than 1,000 miles.  The other 2000 series StreetPilots only has 2,000 tracklog points.  However there is no way to save a tracklog in the extra memory, as you can in some of the newer Garmin handheld units (LegendCx, VistaCx, 60C/Sx, 76C/Sx)  Unfortunately Garmin has not included a tracklog in 3x0 & 550 series and nuvi units.  Home location allows you to review your home location and edit the information such as find from the find menu, find on the map or use your current location.  The mileage log is a nice feature if you have several people driving the same vehicle, such as a delivery truck and each driver wants to keep track of their mileage.  There are up to four different mileage logs that can be used. (See Below)

Music Player

The Music Player allows you to toggle between XM Satellite Radio, the built in MP3 player and the Audible Book Player.

XM Satellite Radio

Having used XM radio for the last couple of years, I really like this feature.  Having it built in your GPS first of all eliminates another electronic device around your dash.  It also makes it easy to hear the navigation directions because the 2820 will 'interrupt' XM programming to give the directions.  To get XM Satellite Radio you must both purchase the GXM 30 XM antenna and then a monthly subscription.  This is in addition to the XM Nav Traffic subscription, however there is a combo package available if you want both services. With the subscription, you get the option of more than 150 channels of music as well as 30 channels of news, sports and other programming.  When you mute the music/radio programming, this does NOT mute navigation directions, only what is on XM.  For more information on the optional XM radio service, follow this link.

MP3 Player
The 2820 has a built in MP3 player and about 800 MB of memory to store music directly in the unit. To get to the MP3 player, you toggle between the XM Radio and Audible Book Player by pressing the "Source" key on the right hand side of the screen.  Each press of the button brings up the next tool in rotation.  The 2820 also has a built in mini headphone jack to listen to the music or book on tape.

Overall we found the MP3 player to work very well.   You can play music at the same time you are navigating and it will pause the song and announce the directions, before resuming the music (unlike with XM Radio where the music is interrupted while directions are given.)  There is a mini jack 1/8th inch on the left side of the unit to allow you to directly plug in an FM modulator or direct connection to your car's stereo.  You can play music through the 2820's power cable speaker, but it is not in stereo.  However for a book on tape, this works okay.

Audible Book Player
Allows you to download 'books on tape' and then play them on the StreetPilot.  There are a few sample files included.

The volume control allows you to customize the levels of voice navigation, XM Radio, the MP3 player and book player as well as the cell phone calls.  These are found in the advanced area of the Volume control.   Again, if your mute the music player, it will NOT mute the voice navigation directions.  I found that I had to vary the output percentages to make it sound the best.  Here is what I found, typically going through the car stereo:  I had music set at 80 percent, but the voice directions worked best at 40 percent. The overall volume level I found to be the best at 80 percent.   You can experiment to see what works the best for you, but it did not seem that running all audio levels at the same level worked as good.  Also remember the speed volume feature, which if enabled, will allow the unit to increase voice direction levels when your speed increases to make it easier to hear.

Satellite Acquisition

The 2820 does a pretty job locking in satellites with its built in antenna.   The unit does NOT have the Sirfstar III gps chip available in other Garmin units such as the c550 and the nuvi series.  In most cases the 2820 did just fine, however I have lost satellite reception from time to time while in a downtown area with tall buildings.  This can be a problem if you are in unfamiliar areas.  Another issue is that for some reason the 2820 does not have a "New Location" option in the GPS Settings as does most other Garmin units.   This allows the unit to get a fresh satellite update.  I found this was a problem because satellitelso, when I did lose satellite reception the 2820 did not automatically get a re-lock of the satellites.  Finally in every case, I would turn the unit off and then back on and then it would re-acquire a satellite lock very quickly. The fact the 2820 won't re-acquire satellites on its own, until re-started is a serious issue in our opinion, however I expect that Garmin can and will correct this problem in a future software update.

Data Pages

The 2820 has a built in trip computer.  You can log your current trip and averages.  You cannot change the data fields however.  This is handy if you are tracking gas mileage or how long you are really stuck in traffic.  And you can see just how much of a delay those restroom stops add to your trip as well. You can access the trip computer by pressing the speed in the data fields of the map page,  or pressing "Navigation" in the "Tools" section.

Custom POI

The 2820 allows you to load in Custom points of interest, speed and redlight cameras and school zone warnings.  

This screen shows you some of the POI's I have loaded in.   They include all airfields in the U.S., as well as the Major League Baseball ball parks and the arenas for every NBA team.

This shows you the nearest MLB ballparks.  Pressing one would allow me to navigate to it.

This screen shows Target Stores I have loaded in for the U.S.  I also created a bullseye custom icon.   I have loaded in more than 23- thousand Custom POI's into the 2820. Again if you want to learn more about Custom POI's, visit our article on the POI Loader by visiting this link on

Tour Guide

The 2820 is compatible with Garmin's new Tour Guide.  It works as a Custom POI file, and uses audio files to announce certain areas of interest.  Basically when you get within a certain radius of a location, it will trigger the audio file to play through the 2820 and for example offer information on a historical area.  While the 2820 is compatible with this new feature, so far there is little information from Garmin to actually use it, but at some future date, there should be third party MP3 files to download into your 2820, which will alert you to points of interest as you get within a certain distance of the location.  You can read more about TourGuide in our POI Loader article here.

Hardware Features

Remote Control
There is a remote control included in the 2820 package which can be helpful if you have the unit mounted out of your reach, such is an RV or semi.  It allows for several basic functions.  There is a small infrared window on the left side of the screen which receives the signals from the remote.  Pointing it in that direction works the best.  

USB Connection

To connect the 2820 to transfer data, connect it to the USB port on the rear of the unit.  The 2820 acts as a "Mass Storage Device" and this means that the first time you connect it to your computer, it will have to recognize the 2820 and install it.  From then on, you will be prompted everytime you connect the 2820 to a computer if you want it to be a Garmin unit, for using MapSource or if you want it to be a USB device to load music, MP3 files, books on tape, etc.  If you use it in USB mode, you must disconnect it ("Safely Remove Hardware")  from your computer.  However if you use it in Garmin mode, this is not necessary.

There is a backlight available.  The unit also has an automatic sensor on the back of it, which will dim or brighten the screen depending on night conditions.  You can also set this setting to manual.

The 2820 is compatible with xImage, which allows you to grab screen images and make modifications and customize your splash screen.   You CANNOT create custom waypoints symbols and send them to the 2820, as you can with other Garmin handheld units.  For a link to xImage from, click here.

External Antenna Jack
There is an MCX connector for an optional antenna, such as the Garmin GA-25.  It is on the back of the unit above the USB connection and includes a rubber weather cover.

Software Updates

Garmin has made some improvements to the 2820 during our testing.  We suggest you make sure you have the latest unit software, available for free from  Use Garmin's WebUpdater or follow this link.  

Comparison with nuvi 360

Having reviewed the nuvi 360 just before the 2820, there are some similarities of both units and I found some pros and cons to each one.  
 I was very impressed with the nuvi 360 and would have thought that was the unit for me, until using the 2820.  From my experience, it comes down to this:  If you frequently travel to other states and use rental cars, I like the nuvi because it is small and very portable and also includes the travel kit features.  If you are in the same vehicle to do your traveling, I like the 2820.   Features in the nuvi that are not present in the 2820 include no Sirfstar receiver, no Garmin Lock and no custom vehicle icons.  While the 2820 has XM capability as well as much more versatility in setting up the unit and many more GPS functions.  You can check out our review of the nuvi 360 to compare the two units for yourself by following this link.  There is also the new nuvi 660 with a wider screen.  You can read more about it by reading Jack's review by following this link.


Can I use the 2820 for hiking or geocaching?
No.  The unit is best suited for semi-permanent installation in a vehicle.

Can you listen to the MP3 player without headphones?  
If you connect the StreetPilot directly to car stereo system.  There is no built in FM Modulator like in the 2730.  You can hear audio through the speaker on the power cable, however it is not really suitable for music (no stereo) however it could work for a book on tape file.

Can I get a latitude / longitude reading and altitude information.
Yes, by accessing the satellite page, by pressing the signal meter on the main menu.  

Is the StreetPilot 2820 waterproof?
Yes, the StreetPilot is waterproof to IPX7 standards, which means in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. However the remote control is not waterproof.

Is there NMEA in/out data capability?

Is there a card slot for additional memory?
No, there is not card slot for additional memory.  The 2820 comes preprogrammed with the mapping.  There is room for 800 MB worth of music or audio book files.

Is there a built in battery to keep the unit on?
No, there is no internal battery.  In most cases this is not a problem, but in some vehicles if you have the unit plugged into a cigarette lighter controlled by the key ignition, it will restart the 2820 when you start the engine.  However, you will not lose any saved waypoints, custom POI's etc, as they remain on the internal memory.

Is the unit powered when connected to the computer via the USB connection?
No, the 2820 does not get any power from being connected to the USB port, it is for data and the traffic receivers only.

Are there Custom Vehicle Icons, such as with the nuvi and StreetPilot c550?
No, the 2820 does not support this feature.

Areas for Improvement

1- The lack of a 'new location' option in the GPS settings to throw the unit into 'Locating Satellites' would be helpful.  I had trouble with the unit at first, because as I later found out, it needed to update through a 'Locating Satellite' reset.  A symptom of this problem was that when the unit would lose satellite reception, either in a canyon or downtown area, it would not automatically re-acquire a satellite lock and I would have to turn it off and then back on. To do a reset, you need to take the unit inside where you can't receive any satellite signals.  (I put some aluminum foil on top of it.)  Eventually I was prompted about where is was in the United States.  I told the unit it was wrong, and it automatically went into 'Locating Satellite' mode and after that, I have had much better reception and no problems re-acquiring when I lose a satellite fix.  Hopefully this issue will be fixed in an upcoming software update.  There is also no 'track up' option in the GPS settings to see you direction of travel on the satellite page.  One other issue is that when you route 'Off Road' the 2820 for some reason gives you only a  'course' heading and not a 'bearing' heading.   That means it shows a colored line from where you began navigating to your destination.  If it gave a 'bearing' reading, it would give a line from your current  location to your destination, which would be much more helpful.

2-  For some reason, the 2820 does not have the built-in FM modulator, like in the 2730.  While some users of the 2730 have said the built-in modulator is not very good, this could be a reason why Garmin left it out of the 2820.  Another possible reason could be because of the bluetooth features it was not possible to include it.  It is hard to say if that is why, but it is a feature I would like to see in a car unit, especially for the MP3 and XM radio features.

3-  I prefer to have a built in speaker and microphone for the bluetooth phone option.  However the power cable speaker did much better than I thought it would, but you can't route the power cord out of sight.  The main reason there is not built in speaker is likely to keep the 2820 waterproof, especially for motorcycle use.  

4-  The manual is briefer than I would prefer.  Obviously no one wants to buy an electronic item and then have to read a manual the size of the phone book to learn how to use it.  The key is for balance, but there are some details, especially about GPS functions that I think could and should have been included.  You can download the 2820 manual from to look it over for yourself by following this link.

Other Observations

The 2820 is by far my favorite GPS unit that I have tried yet.  It allows every possible navigation option available in Garmin's line of auto navigators.  And
the best possible feature also available in any Garmin auto navigator, is that you can always answer down to the minute, the question of "when are we going to get there?" with the help of the ETA feature.   Having tried out the Garmin POI Loader with several Garmin units, such as the Vista Cx, 60CSx, c320 and nuvi 360, as well as the 2820, I have noticed the 2820 does the best at sensing proximity points and speed alerts within the specified distance you can customize in the POI Loader.   The other units sometimes miss the alert until you are almost there, but the 2820 does a great job giving the alerts when it should.   As far as the unit itself, the default settings appear to be set up pretty good, so if you are not interested in customizing everything, the default settings will easily get you started.  Physically, you can adjust the unit's angle to your eye level, by tilting it up or down when it is in the mount.  


The 2820 seems to be a very good GPS unit, with other features such as bluetooth phone capability and an MP3 player all in one unit.   In our testing of more than 1,000 miles, we found almost no problems.  If there is a negative with the 2820, you might say it is the price, because of the additional $250 required to purchase the optional XM antenna/receiver.  What it comes down to in our opinion with the 2820, is just what features you want and are willing to pay for.  The 2820 is certainly the full service model, especially if you enjoy GPS functions, such as multiple destination routes, tracklogs and having access to a lat/long.  There is also the bigger screen size and remote control.  However, If you are just interested in inputting a street address and getting routed there without any real GPS abilities, then the 2820 may be more than you need and you can look at the lower cost StreetPilot c320 or c550 models.  The 2820 is similar to the 2730 except there are no bluetooth features in the 2730 and the XM antenna is not included in the 2820 package.  It is also similar in features to the 2720 and the 7200, which has a much larger screen.  You can read Joe's review of the 2720 here and Jack's review of the 7200 here.

Questions: Visit the Forum

Comments?  Corrections?  Suggestions?

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