MO Tested: Garmin Zūmo XT2 GPS Review
Updating the flagship zūmo GPS in a couple of key areas
Since early 2020, the Garmin zūmo XT has been the GPS maker’s flagship motorcycle-focused model, bringing the best that the company has to offer riders. As an XT owner, I am quite familiar with the GPS, and when Garmin announced the zūmo XT2, I couldn’t wait to see what changes were made. As good as the XT is, there are still areas in which the device could be improved for motorcyclists. After spending a couple of months testing the Garmin zūmo XT2, I’ve found it to be a worthy successor – though the original XT is still available. Since I will be comparing the two generations of zūmos in this review, I highly recommend reading my extensive review of the XT.
Garmin zūmo XT2
The Garmin zūmo XT2 builds upon the strong platform of the XT, and the XT2 is worth the $100 premium for first-time buyers. However, I don’t feel the changes offer XT owners a reason to upgrade.
- Bigger, brighter screen
- Visual route creation
- USB-C charging (goodbye Mini-USB)
- Screen a little small for visual route editor
- Limited power from XT mounts
- Tread app missing features compared to BaseCamp
The XT2 has several hardware changes that are immediately apparent. First, the overall size has grown to accommodate a 6-in. diagonal TFT screen. While I never had any issues with the 5.5-in. screen of the previous generation, the additional real estate is welcome, and although the entire unit is slightly larger, the dimensions, now 6.15"W x 3.5"H x 1"D (15.6 x 8.9 x 2.5 cm), only changed in length by 0.35 in. and 0.04 in. in depth. So, the size is noticeable but not a dramatic change, and the 1280 x 720 pixel count remains the same. In addition to the new screen size, the screen is significantly brighter and has a slightly different color cast that I find easier to read. As before, the screen is quite responsive to touch even when wearing gloves.
Turning the XT2 over reveals several changes to the back of the unit. The rubber protective covers that help keep the elements away from the unit's internals have been relocated from the back to the lower edge. A microSD card slot still allows for the storage of media, satellite images, and maps. However, the Mini-USB port has, thankfully, been replaced with a USB-C port, bringing the XT2 into the 21st century. This means faster file transfers and charging when connected to your computer’s USB-C port. Also, while the mounts are comparable in size, and the XT2 will fit in the XT mount, the XT2 requires 12V to charge, and the XT mount only delivers 5V. So, upgrading owners with multiple mounts who want to experience the full-charging capability of the new mounts will need to upgrade them, too. Additionally, you can’t run the unit from the USB-C port using a standard USB-A port that only delivers 5V (like most included on motorcycles).
I'm pretty sure it will work with a dedicated USB-C port, but none of my bikes have one, preventing me from testing this theory. Garmin replied to my query about the power issue with the following: “The zūmo XT2 cannot be fully powered through a USB port. USB A and C cannot provide enough power for it to charge and be operational with the display at full brightness. The XT2 must be powered through the powered mount/harness that’s connected to a 12V vehicle system, such as a vehicle/motorcycle battery.”
[Update: A couple of readers have reached out to me to say that their XT2s work fine with the XT mounts. However, my experience was that the XT mount couldn't support full-brightness without slowly draining the battery. Garmin said to me that XT mounts are compatible, but user experience would be better with the XT2 mount.]
What you can’t see from the outside is that the XT2 now uses 10 Hz multi-GNSS positioning in addition to the standard Galileo satellite tracking. How the tracking differs is that the position is updated 10 times per second instead of just once, providing a more accurate location at higher speeds. Since the screen is larger, it makes sense that the battery has changed. Though the capacity change is unspecified, it is more than enough to account for the increased power draw, yielding “up to 7 hours (up to 5 hours at 100% backlight),” which is 1 and 1.5 hour increase, respectively. The new battery is most likely responsible for the bulk of the XT2’s 2.8-oz. increase in weight.
Other than the increased brightness and new color temperature, the home screen is an immediate clue that the software has changed. The screen is instantly recognizable, but the layout has been tweaked a bit, and some icons have been removed. The biggest change for experienced users is the loss of the Display Modes icon to the left of center on the menu bar. The reasoning for that is simple, there is only one mode now, but it still features all of the customization opportunities of the system. You just can’t set up one for on-road riding and another for off-road treks. Although I used this feature extensively when testing the XT for my previous review, in the real world after the article, I found myself using the feature less and less and simply adding or removing map layers as needed.
Several databases were removed in the update. The motorcycle and powersports-specific listings are not installed, but during my testing of the XT, I found that some of the entries were out of date. So, I ended up using my phone anyway. The silly helmet law notification that popped up at state lines has also been dropped. Foursquare points of interest were removed, but I never used them anyway.
The big deal change with the Garmin zūmo XT2 is the inclusion of a visual route planner. While the XT allows you to plan routes, the visual route planner makes it possible to create much more complex ones with both stops and shaping points (to prod the route to include specific roads). These points within the route can be rearranged. Also, you can save the route to follow or edit again later. That’s the good news. The bad news is that even the larger screen feels a bit cramped with all the tools required to make the route.
The problem can be solved by creating routes in the new Tread app on either a smartphone or tablet. With the switch from XT to XT2, Garmin has changed the apps you will use to connect your smartphone/tablet to the GPS. Instead of the Drive app, the Tread app is now used. Tread is easy to use, and shares the same functionality as the XT2’s visual route planner. If you look at the interfaces, they are remarkably similar. Consequently, I planned all of my larger routes on my iPad. Since the XT2 is capable of connecting to both my iPad and my iPhone, the routes would automatically sync with the GPS when the Tread app was open on my iPad. When I was traveling, I kept Tread open on my iPhone to get traffic warnings and other notifications. This proved to be an extremely workable solution.
For fans of Garmin’s dated, difficult, but powerful BaseCamp computer application, you can be cautiously optimistic. Although it is not officially supported – though it did recognize my XT2 – you can always continue to create routes in BaseCamp, export them as GPX files, and import them into Tread.
The Garmin zūmo XT2 is a great upgrade to the XT, and I think the increased screen size, brighter display, and longer battery life are worth the additional $100 for people considering the zūmo line. However, for folks, like myself, who currently own a zūmo XT, the decision becomes a little more murky. Since it would also require replacing any additional mounts, that cost must be added on top of the GPS price. Also, I’ve been really happy with my XT for the past year. If you’re the type of person who likes to have the latest and greatest gadgets, the XT2 is a no brainer. It excels at every function I expect from a motorcycle GPS. If you’re on the fence at all, stick with what you have – or watch for the inevitable sale.
Can you use your phone as a GPS on a motorcycle?
Of course, you can. However, using your expensive phone may subject it to situations that it was not designed for. The vibration can damage the camera’s image stabilization, the sun can cause it to overheat, and rain can ruin it. A dedicated motorcycle GPS is designed to withstand all of those stressors.
Should I put a GPS on my motorcycle?
If you travel a lot, a motorcycle-specific GPS makes following routes much easier. You can plan your trip in advance and load the routes onto your GPS. Also, GPS units will work even if there is no cellular signal, which can happen quite frequently in the backcountry.
What is the best Garmin GPS for motorcycles?
Both the Garmin zūmo XT and the Garmin zūmo XT2 offer great features that motorcyclists need. With just a $100 difference in price, I suggest the XT2 for its larger, brighter screen and longer battery life.
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