When I started this blog 3 years ago, one of my first articles that got a bit of traffic was my take on the iDrive from a 2007 BMW 335i. I have finally decided to pickup a portable GPS unit and the tried and true Garmin Nuvi looked good. Keep in mind that I've had, in the past, purchased different Garmin GPS and gave them out to relatives as presents. This is the first time I am acquiring one for personal use.
Since I am not a professional GPS reviewer (there are so many good websites for that), I will keep this review purely based on my user feedback. I was debating between three different Garmin models with free traffic support: Nuvi 265T, 755T and 1350T. In short, I went with the 755t as it was pitched as top of the line model from 2008 which offered slightly more features and GPS Magazine's solid review/recommendation. Garmin's GPS line up is quite big but not as complex as it appears, the way I see it is that each model typically has one incremental feature over the previous or lower tier version. So simply go up to the unit with the features you'd like.
Review: The Good
I am very pleased with the 755t with its large and intuitive 4.3" LCD touchscreen interface. The display is sharp and bright and I find the single speaker ample for directions. The 4.3" screensize is actually comparable to many OEM screen size and its ability to adjust color for night and day makes it rival some of the best OEM GPS integrations. Text to Speech is really good on this unit and route recalcuation is quite fast but at times I find satelite acquisition as well as detection of my location (if I didn't follow its direction) a bit slow. Free FM Traffic and Lane Assist were two huge factors that convinced me to buy this unit. Traffic information is pretty good in the NY/Tristate area but only works if you keep the unit plugged into the auto/DC charger since the FM receiver is part of the cable; in exchange for free traffic alerts, you do have to put up with some sponsored text ads. The text ads are non-obtrusive and do not hesitate in buying this if you are in the market... its pretty good deal considering you get valuable traffic information for FREE! The Lane Assist feature should be amazing but for whatever reason, I have not seen one shown up just yet; I know its only available in limited freeway intersections but I am a bit upset that around the Jersey turnpike I have not been able to see one (leaving me wondering if its worth it or did I not configure a setting correctly). Other noteworthy items are: 4 hr. battery life, power cable connects to the dock making it easy to remove and attach and 4GB memory (2GB available) allowing for MP3 or photos to be stored on board (which I have been customizing POI logos for my frequent visits adds a bit of personalization). Garmin also has nuMap guarantee which removes any doubt about buying a model that is one year or older so long as you register your GPS within first 60 days of getting a satellite sync (it even supports Mac in addition to PC to upgrade maps, I tried it and it works great!)
Review: Area for Improvement
Since I park inside a large garage, the 755T is usually turned on inside the garage thus prompting lack of Satelite; the problem is once I get to the street, it takes around 1-2 min. to get satellite signal. I guess that is already fast but this is where I find the OEM GPS one ups the portable units. Same thing can be said for when I enter a tunnel, my iDrive GPS can use the speed I am traveling to keep a emulated GPS signal until I exit said tunnel whereas the nuvi 755T would have to reacquire satellite read. Occasionally, I'll notice the map redrawing can be a little slow for a map tile or two (such as when you just finished merging to an on ramp), again I am just comparing to my experience with BMW's OEM iDrive and noting the difference in performance. The 755T has a lower profile design with black front facia but its trim around the top and sides are silver which can add a little bit of reflection into the windshield; I think the entire unit should be painted in a matte black finish and I plan to apply some black tape to cover up the silver trim thus minimize reflections. The lack of bluetooth (which I know is not 755T's fault) was a shocker for me as I was reviewing many Garmin GPS offerings that I got to a point where I thought it had come with bluetooth. Their product matrix is so intense that I was literally numbed from processing so many features (US/Euro/Canada Maps, screensize, text to speech, traffic, MSN direct, lane asst., MP3, photo, internal memory, etc...).
Overall: I am very pleased with the 755T as a portable GPS. Garmin does an amazing job providing drivers with confidence such as zooming in the map as you get closer to a turn and zooming back out once completed. The learning curve is very low and I think it comes very close to an OEM system with 1/10 the price. Given that it was their premium lineup a year ago, if you buy one today, you can save significantly.