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Many bells and whistles, but poor "touch" screen and routing
on November 22, 2010
After using a hand-held unit for 10 years and watching the apparent progress of the mobile units, I had high expectations for my first mobile GPS. First, the positives: I liked the idea of map updates being included. the 5" screen was easy to read. The spoken street names and lane change assistance were accurate and very helpful. I found myself referring to the little speed limit sign on the map screen more than I expected. The initial software setup and map update was painless, but time-consuming.
I used it for a couple weeks before deciding that it just wasn't worth the money. For example, the extra money does not buy you a better POI database: at least 5 of the 40 or so restaurants it listed near my house have been out of business for years, in one case about 4 years.
Planning a route using "via points" is cumbersome and hit and miss. The most obvious "via points" to use are intersections along your route, but when you do that, the software invariably directs you to exit at the intersection and perform maneuvers for a few minutes before getting back on your intended route. At one intersection, it routed me off the highway, 2 miles south, U-turn, then 2 miles north back onto my route. At a cloverleaf interchange, it routed me through every exit and entrance ramp at the interchange before resuming my route. It's comical unless you're in a totally unfamiliar area.
The FM traffic feature is also a mixed bag. It seemed to be fairly accurate when it was working, but sometimes the automatic re-routing was so convoluted that it could not possibly have saved time. Also, when you start up the Traffic feature in a new city, it takes 10-15 minutes to update itself. So, on a recent trip, the traffic feature didn't kick in until 10 minutes after I left the DFW airport in my rental car, at which time it correctly informed me that I was in the middle of a traffic jam.
"Touch" screen is an exaggeration, but I suppose the Garmin marketing guys were opposed to calling it a "mash-your-finger-into-it" screen. The QWERTY keyboard screen had an intermittent dead spot in the vicinity of the "N" and "M" where, sometimes, no amount of touching/pressing/mashing would get a response. One of my biggest complaints during my de facto trial period was that you could not pan/scroll the map screen. I eventually realized I was just not pressing hard enough. Several re-calibrations didn't seem to have any effect.
I've read of other Garmin touch screen issues (gpsreview.net, et al), so this might be a recurring problem. At a minimum, it means poor quality control. I returned mine to Amazon for a full refund. I haven't bought a replacement yet. I'm considering whether all the bells n whistles n lifetime updates are worth the significant extra cost when the hardware, POI database, and basic routing functions still seem a little beta.