So all fairly standard fare thus far. There are some more handy widgets to be found under Tools. The Where Am I? feature is slickly designed. This reads out the longitude and latitude of your current location, nearest address, and nearest junction. But it also provides icons for listing the closest hospitals, police stations, and petrol stations. This is just another way of accessing a limited subset of the POIs, but takes fewer clicks to get to, which could be handy in an emergency. The local telephone number for the AA is also listed here, which isn't so useful if you're a member of the RAC.
As this is a budget device, however, the extras aren't as extensive as Garmin's premium offerings such as the nüvi 765T. There's a Picture Viewer with a slideshow function, a calculator, a world clock showing three alternative timezones, and a unit converter. But there are no media playing abilities, and no accompanying FM tuner built in to pipe these and routing commands through your car stereo. The 215 does at least have Bluetooth integrated, so you can hook it up to your mobile phone to use it as a hands-free kit.
Similarly, the routing modes cover most everyday bases, without any unique options. You can plan journeys for bicycle and pedestrian as well as cars. Calculations can either be via the usual fastest time or shortest distance methods, or you can route off-road too. Avoidance options include U-Turns, Motorways, Toll Roads, Traffic and Ferries, but you can't dynamically reroute around an obstructed road by clicking onscreen.
The power connection uses USB, however, rather than the clever cradle-based system of Garmin's higher-end devices. This is a standard USB connection, and is also called upon for PC connectivity. No software for managing the device on a computer is included in the box, however. Device updates are performed via a Web-based system, rather than a host PC-based app.
On the plus side, the 215 doesn't appear to have the same problems of some of Garmin's other products with sluggish map display updating. The screen on a few nüvis go blank momentarily as the route scrolls during travel. But this didn't occur at all with the 215. The device also comes with Safety Cameras preloaded, but you will need to shell out £39 a year for updates. Although you can't add live traffic updates to this version, there is a 215(T) alternative which has RDS-TMC built in for around £20 more. So if you find this feature useful in your travels, the 215(T) will be better value than its traffic-less sibling.
The Garmin nüvi 215 may be an entry-level sat-nav, but it's polished and supremely easy to use. Unfortunately, as with other Garmins, the 215 is not as cheap as some of its competitors. In particular, Navman's S30 3D offers broadly similar features, with the exception of Bluetooth, for £40 less. Although the Garmin's overall design and usability are more slick, this can't quite make up the price difference.