Review Snapshot

Standalone, sturdy, reliable unit with landscape display. Preloaded with Garmin maps, easy to install.


Not NMEA 2000 compatible so will not evolve as the wider electronics market does. Reports of 'complicated' instructions contradict 'easy to install' marketing.


Good product for standalone chartplotting on small boat or back up on larger one.

Reviewed by:
Jackie Gay : A published novelist, editor and university teacher, Jackie has recently moved t...Member Reputation 177 • 198 active Krits
Garmin GPSMAP 3205 Chartplotter review from Garmin
Garmin GPSMAP 3205 Review
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Garmin GPSMAP 3205 Chartplotter review detailed information
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REVIEW: Garmin GPSMAP 3205 GPS / Chartplotter

The world of marine electronics has grown exponentially since the advent of GPS satellite technology and electronic maps.

And it's easy to understand why. No more paper charts; accurate position plotting; seemingly endless add-on functionality.

So the question is, which one is right for you?

The Garmin GPSMAP 3205 5-Inch Waterproof Marine GPS and Chartplotter, is a rugged, waterproof, slimline unit which can be flush mounted in your boat.

It costs $489.99 and comes preloaded with Garmin's 'detail-rich marine cartography' covering the US coastal areas including Alaska and Hawaii.

This is a mid-range option for boaters who want a unit you can 'plug and play'. It has a 5-inch color display and it can serve as a standalone plotter or be networked to other units to deliver weather radar and sonar.

'Full Garmin marine networking capability in a compact budget-friendly format,' say the manufacturers. The 'new generation of BlueChart map technology' features smoother layering and better integration of map graphics for easy panning scrolling and zooming. 

You can also choose between a 3D 'mariner's-eye-view' or the familiar 2D direct-overhead view for ease of orientation and make chart reading.

'See marine maps in sharp detail.'

Quickly integrated with other Garmin products; the slimline design of the 3205 makes it easy to install in cabin bulkheads or open cockpits, and its smaller size makes it a good choice as a secondary unit for a boat already rigged with the Garmin Marine Network. 

'I am a life-long fisherman and have owned boats equipped with navigation devices for over 30 years,' said one customer. 'This unit is far from the most expensive GPS I have purchased but it already is one of my favorites. Its features, ease of use and over-all performance rate a full 5 stars!'

And other buyers confirm that this is a good choice for people who want a unit that can be up and working quickly.

'Working at a boaters world store,' said one reviewer, 'I personally beleive this to be the best bang for your buck, expecially if you just want to hook it up and having it working perfectly. Some units get a little complicated when they do not have everything included or preloaded and this unit has all of that and more,' he continued.

This is a durable, high quality unit backed by Garmin's high reputation within the GPS and marine electronics industry, at a good mid-range price.

'I love the gps mapping,' said a buyer. 

The unit is popular for people who have boats with limited mounting space such as Sea Ray cruisers.

And it does seem that you really have to work out exactly what you want from a chartplotter before making the right choice here because new options are constantly evolving.

'I am a huge Garmin fan,' said one reviewer. 'However the 3205 does not have video capability and uses Garmin's proprietary network. My unit has never failed me but it is part of the older series of Garmin's plotters. In today's chart plotter market I would be looking for a plotter that has NMEA2000 capability.'

(NMEA is the National Marine Electronics Association and NMEA 2000 is a protocol used to create a network of electronic devices; enabling data to be shared between these instruments).

So, in the words of another reviewer, 'Cartography, networking, and interface are the issues. The 3205 uses a proprietary data card unique to Garmin... you are stuck with only that manufacturers other components if you want to add to your chartplotter and make it a system.'

Many people are happy with just Garmin: 'I do not have any Nmea 2000 units on the boat currently so that functionality is not desirable to me,' said one.

And for those using this unit as a back up on a bigger boat the 3025 is perfectly adequate. 'I only want a backup stand alone GPS,' said one boater. 'I cannot fit in the 3206 so it really is the 3205... I like the 3205's landscape layout,' he added.

One person warned that the unit is 'a little confusing' to install. And others urged customers to 'buy the best you can.'

So it really is a question of what your long term intentions are. If you have big marine electronics dreams, then this standalone, preloaded chartplotter may not be for you. 

If you want a unit that is sturdy and reliable with no need for add-on functionality, then the Garmin 3025 can be recommended.
Date Reviewed: April 23, 2012, 11:32 am
Reviewed by Jackie Gay
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