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3.6 out of 5 stars
Garmin nüvi 855 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
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351 of 366 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2009
If you assume the 8x5 models are automatically better than the 7x5 models, you may be surprised depending on what features are important to you.

The most impressive feature of the 855 is the voice command. Many voice commands, such as "volume up", can be done from any screen. Doing "volume up" on the touch screen would have involved 5 presses: "menu", "volume", "+", "back", & "view map". You do have to keep an eye on the screen and speak only after you see the green symbol on the upper right corner. You can even speak the name of the place stored in Favorites, such as "San Francisco City Hall". Other systems would have required you to speak the line number.

The most disappointing feature of this 855 is the overall sluggishness of the system caused by the voice command system. The screen refreshes very slowly compared to Nuvi 765's ultra smooth refresh. The 855's CPU is just not fast enough to do voice command and high refresh rate at the same time. Garmin even eliminated the cool 3D building feature from 765, apparently in an effort to minimize CPU usage. Garmin could have kept the refresh rate high while voice command is not being used. But doing so would illuminate the refresh problem even more vividly as soon as the user presses the remote button to speak.

To use voice command effectively, you need to turn your car's audio system volume down before you speak; then back up afterwards. The better solution is to use the 855's built-in FM transmitter and put your music on a micro SD card. A 2 GB card is about $7. Nuvi will automatically lower the music volume during voice commands or announcements. But that means you cannot listen to regular radio broadcasts. The FM transmitter worked very well in my Toyota Highlander which has a front antenna. But the FM transmitter was completely not usable in my Toyota Prius which has a roof mounted antenna. Many new cars have small roof mounted antennas and probably will not work well with 855's FM transmitter. However, if the new car has an MP3 jack, then you can run a cable from 855's audio out jack to the car's MP3 jack.

[ Update: ] After using the FM transmitter for a few weeks in my Highlander, it did worse than I originally thought. Bear in mind that my Nuvi 855 has direct line of sight of my Highlander's hood mounted antenna. Power lines not even close by disrupted the transmission easily and often. I finally dug up my old Iriver FM transmitter and hooked it up to the Nuvi's audio out jack. The Iriver was way better and louder too. Several magazine reviews pointed out that the Nuvi's FM transmitter was underpowered - now I have to agree. Garmin's Webupdater log showed an update to the FM transmitter's firmware to "comply with European standard". I imagine that meant a reduction of FM transmission power. Tomtom forum also has many posts that recent firmware updates reduced the FM transmission power. Perhaps the FCC and/or the authority in Europe are now more vigilant in checking FM transmitter's power so cars next to you won't get interference. The bottom line is that you will likely be disappointed if you need to use Nuvi's FM transmitter.

I updated the system software via Webupdater. For some reasons, it unselected the City Navigator map. The next day I used it, it lost voice command and the map had only major highways. A call to technical support solved the problem. Only about 7 minutes of wait time and the rep knew right away what was wrong. But phone support is only available Monday through Friday.

Bluetooth connectivity is not provided in 855, a little surprising considering the price of this model. Routing is excellent and no stupid routes like my previous Mio C520. But that is expected of Garmin. I heard Tomtom is almost as good now.

I wish Garmin would implement split screen like so many other manufacturers. To me, the map view of the road ahead is more important than the sides. The left and right edges of the map screen are just wasted real estate. A split screen showing the next 2 or 3 turns would have been nice.

The lane assist works great but not too many interchanges have that feature incorporated. The photo realistic screen is nice but not that useful. The multiple arrows representing the different lanes already gave me full information.

The Nuvi 855 is not a bad unit. But it doesn't live up to my expectations. If you value lane assist and voice command (and your car can work with its FM transmitter or audio out), and you don't mind the sluggish screen refresh rate, then this is a good unit. However, many people may be happier with the "lesser" models with no voice command.
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181 of 190 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2009
I bought the 855 as an upgrade to my StreetPilot C550. I was reluctant to buy it, based on the less-than-stellar reviews on here, but after using it for a week, I have no complaints at all. Maybe that's due to the fact that I'm upgrading from the ancient 550, and not the 7X5 series. The other reviewers are right, the on/off switch can be awkward, and you need a fingernail to push it over to the left. But that is such a minor complaint, in my opinion. Also, some people say they like the smoother refresh that the 7X5 series has, and this is more jerky, as you move along your route. Well, you're not supposed to be watching it when you're driving anyway. Oh, and it only has 500 waypoints, compared to 1000 on other models. I'll be lucky if I use 100.

What makes this GPS so remarkable is the voice recognition! I feel like I'm using Star Trek technology. It rarely has any problem understanding what I tell it. Hands free GPS navigation! I never have to pull over to type a new destination (or try to do it while driving). I can't imagine any of the minor complaints offsetting the awesomeness of the voice recognition. Now that it's available, I wouldn't have a GPS unit without it. If your budget allows for a voice recognition GPS with 1000 waypoints, an improved on/off switch, and smoother screen refresh, then by all means get that one. But if you're looking to spend about $300, and want voice recognition, do not hesitate to buy the 855. I wouldn't exchange it for a non-voice recognition unit that has those features that this one lacks.
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85 of 89 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2009
This GPS works exactly as expected. The remote button attaches easily to the steering wheel. Wait until the green indicator shows up on the screen. It has an excellent voice recognition interface, and the advanced GPS features that I want. This is really helpful when you are traveling alone and can't stop. You don't need to use the touch screen
It reads street, and highway lane names.. The where am I ?, Point of interest (POI) features are very useful. It stores location when you remove it from the vehicle mount. It takes you back to your car in a mall parking lot. It re-routes fast without complaining & asking you to turn around. Easy to add and change order of "via" points. You can pre-program easily at home.

I suggest that potential buyers & users go to the GPS Magazine site and read the Garmin 885T review with step-by-step photos & examples of its functions. The 855 is the same unit without Blue Tooth & the Microsoft network. Here's the link:

[...]

Here's a link to a PDF of the full owner manual

[...]

1. The serial number is printed on the outside of the unit box, and in the battery compartment.
2. Connect on line with USB cable. Register your unit, and then follow instructions to download "plug-in" which identifies your unit, and then updates your software & most recent maps. This took me 20 minutes with a cable modem.
3. You can charge the battery with the USB cable plugged into your computer. No need for AC charger.
4. On off switch: . Slide left to turn on, it springs back to center. Slide left again to turn off. Slide right to lock ( prevents accidental activation.)
5. Volume control. There are 2 separate controls. After you press VOLUME, press MIXER. There are 3 separate volume controls there, VOICE, MEDIA,( PHONE which doesn't function on this unit). My factory setting for voice was 70%. Others might be lower. This should be increased to 100%.
6. The MEDIA setting is for the micro SD card . You can buy 2 2GB cards & SD card adapter for $19 or less.
7. The FM link to YOUR CAR RADIO is restricted in power by US law, so that other cars won't get your signal. It varies in effectiveness depending upon where your FM antenna is in your car!
8. If you want to play recordings on the Micro SD, try using an adapter from Garmin headphone output into your radio. On older radios, a cassette player adapter will work.

This unit is a great deal, and works well if you read the instructions.
Try it at home, you can walk outside if you don't get satellite signals. Try all the functions & use the voice commands. Then practice on a familiar route until you get used to the functions.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2009
This is a great GPS. I bought it because of the large screen size for hiking even
though there are some serious shortcomings for this use.
1) battery life is only 3.5 to 4 hours.
2) the unit cannot be completely turned off unless one removes the battery.
I was aware of these things before I bought it but Garmin does not make
a trail GPS with a large screen. The battery life is definitely a problem.
I have to carry 2 spare batteries(3 total) for a long 11 hour day hike if
I run a continuous track log. One can enhance battery life if one dims the
screen when not reading it. I have also used a NUVI 350 (4 hr battery life)
all day by turning it off(350 can be completely turned off) and turning it on
only for position checks(NUVI 350 does not have a tracklog capability).
The Nuvi 855 can be put in sleep mode to further improve battery life but
the tracklog is not active in sleep mode. Battery life is 7-10 days in sleep mode.
As an automobile GPS the 855 is superb. The lane assist display is helpful as is the speed limit
data display which is quite accurate. The trip log data is very nice showing
both moving average speed and total average speed among others.
Loading maps from a micro SD card is rather slow on a cold start. One can
find free maps at [...] that are quite accurate.
Garmin now provides both MAC and PC software for the NUVI series.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2009
I've had a Garmin Quest for close to 5 years and I had a decision to make. Upgrade the map for about $100 or put the money towards a new unit. A deciding factor was the fact my Quest has an internal battery and if that went bad, it had to be sent to a service facility for replacement. That cost was unknown to me but with both battery and map cost staring me in the face, a new featured GPS made sense to me.

The 855 fits me best as I don't need Blue Tooth and I can always upgrade to MSN Traffic. The voice interaction is really fun but it's far from perfect. Other reviewers have evidently had better luck getting the 855 to recognize their voice commands. It does OK but and we're still in the learning stage. The best feature is the lane assist. After having it through major cities like Atlanta and Chicago, I wouldn't dream of having another GPS without "lane assist." Lane Junction is still under development and not a big deal. I can only remember two or three viewings of Lane Junction and that's going through two major cities.

My old Quest was great but two things irritated me. 1. The flip antenna would flip down to the closed position and it was very hard to get to an edge to open back up. 2. The most frustrating irritant was driving into an area and the maps needed were not loaded into the unit. The Quest would hold 115M of detailed maps and that is about 2 - 3 states worth. It took close to one-half hour to open the Garmin map on my computer, choose the maps I thought would be needed up to 115M, then download them to the Quest, and then deleting previously loaded maps.

The 855 did away with both irritants and I'm really happy with that along the price offered by Amazon. The routing by the 855 at times has been questionable and I've outright ignored some of the suggested routes knowing they were much slower and maybe even longer as well. Such as taking me through two lane city routes when a 4 lane by-pass was faster and even more direct to the destination?

Overall, the 855 is an amazing Hi-Tech device and for the money, hard to beat. With its battery being replaceable and lifetime map upgrades available for purchase of less then $100 through Amazon, this unit may possibly be the last GPS I'll ever need?

I forgot to add, I did download the TTS/Voice Editor and raised the volume of one of the voices. That made a big difference and did away with one of the 855's biggest complaints of "can't hear due to low voice volume." I wear hearing aids and I can now hear the voice commands. I read all I could on the Voice Editor and followed their instructions including copying and saving the factory voices as a "just in case" something went wrong.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2009
I purchased my first Garmin unit 6 years ago and it worked flawlessly until it was recently stolen (forgot to lock my car doors). I'm actually glad that it was stolen as it forced me to purchase a new unit. The Nuvi 855 is a major advance in GPS navigation technology. The solid state memory, battery power, and voice recognition are all great new features. It is amazing how the Nuvi 855 can recognize my voice commands even with the car noise at open highway speeds. It seldom makes an error. Voice recognition is probably not necessary with the easy to use touch screen but it is just plain fun. In researching other user reviews before purchasing this unit one of the common complaints was that the internal speakers did not provide enough volume even at 100%. I did not find this to be the case. I generally have to keep the volume at 70% or it is too loud. Garmin's recent software update may have addressed this problem. Updating the unit's software online is extremely easy when connected to a computer via the supplied USB cable. For a bit more fun you can download celebrity voices into the unit to guide you to your destination. The Garmin support website is excellent and easy to navigate. I highly recommend the Garmin Nuvi 855 or any Garmin product. I also recommend purchasing from Amazon.Com as they have the best prices around for GPS units.
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66 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2009
I am an experienced Garmin Nuvi consumer. I have had a Nuvi 350 for over two years, and it has been a good GPS unit. I got the Nuvi 855 for its voice activation and lane arrows prior to each turn at the top of the unit. Out of the box, the unit did not work properly...a "battery charging" message would pop up on the screen whenever the screen was touched between commands (the Nuvi has a touch screen) indicating it was charging, between screen changes. This happened even when the battery was fully charged. I updated the software with Garmin, and that stopped...then I got an email from Amazon.com stating that a newer software update was needed to keep the unit from freezing up totally and permanently. I updated the software to version 4.60 (the newest one). Once that was done, the unit had several other software problems. The speech was distorted when the unit was not on battery power...this did not happen before the software update. Then, two days later the unit would not turn on at all - even when plugged into a power source. It was dead. I am surprised and disappointed with Garmin that they would release such a flawed product. The device did work remarkably well in regards to voice commands before it went dead. But all these other issues (even before the unit completely stopped working) preclude me from recommending it to others. I have returned it for a refund. I hope Garmin will come out with a voice-activated unit that is not flawed. I may try a different model a year or so from now, since my Nuvi 350 has been such a good product.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on October 11, 2009
The first one lasted 27 days before dying. The second one died immediately after the Garmin software update. I don't have the stomach for a third attempt.

I guess I'll live dangerously, update the maps on my trusty 350 and forget about all those "cool features".

I mean, it was OK. I kind of liked it. The VR worked some of the time but not all of the time. Not telling you the street ahead was dumb.

I would have kept it had it not died - and died again.

----- NEWS FLASH ------

I broke my resolve and ordered it again. This time I got an old one, packed incorrectly and with year old maps. No free update offered BECAUSE "unit registered on 3 April 2009". So back it went.

I guess I'll just keep ordering until I get one that works and is actually new. My first horrible Amazon experience after a decade and thousands of dollars. Still, they refund you every time. It's just annoying, that's all.

UPDATE!!! UPDATE!!! READ ALL ABOUT IT......
OK here's my 4th attempt. Package delayed by ONTRAC, Amazon't horrible, brainless new shipping company. Guess what, it's new, has a higher serial number and I updated the firmware and it DID NOT DIE!!!! HOORAY!!!! I haven't updated the maps because it takes forever (I hear) and I want to see if this thing will live, or not.

UPDATE 05/29/2010

After a few months, I've become fond of the little fella. It's pretty accurate and it works!

UPDATE 11/27/11

Still running good. Gets arbitrary once in a while but corrects quickly. Got lifetime map updates for it.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2009
Garmin nüvi 855 4.3-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator
Garmin nuvi 855 GPS Navigator & Personal Travel Assistant w/ Speech Recognition
I've had my Nuvi 855 for four months now. I've used it to navigate all over my home state of Texas and used it on trips to Canada and Hawaii. It worked perfectly in all locations. In Hawaii the "points of interest" feature was especially useful. I only had to search for "blow hole" or "castle" and it would pull up the attractions I was looking for.

I used the Garmin web site to update the firmware, voices, and maps as soon as I bought it. I had to send an email to Garmin to get the "free" map ugrade for new purchases but they honored it right away. All updates were easy to perform by following the on-screen instructions with the included software. After experimentation I settled on the "Australian Female" voice as the best to listen to. The accent made the Hawaiian street names sound hilarious, but it works perfect for me.

One feature I really like is that if you miss a turn (on purpose or by accident) it doesn't bug you to make a U-turn and go back. If there is another route within reason it "recalculates" and gives you new directions based on your current path. My only other GPS experience was with a different brand and it would continually tell you to take a U-turn if you didn't follow it's directions. This was very annoying in a construction zone. The Garmin's method is perfect if you're doing a bit of sightseeing on the way to your destination.

I would recommend this device to my friends and family. It's been great for me, and my wife (who is very critical of most technology I buy) even loves it.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2010
Bought my first GPS device in September from Amazon. Garmin 855, because it had voice activation and loads of cool tricks it can do. Problem is, its favorite trick is to freeze up. Sometimes it would do it when we went through a tunnel. Then it started doing it just because we asked it to locate an address. Then it started freezing on the road, which we only noticed after missing a turn and then realizing the distance to the next turn hadn't changed in a while. The best part of the freezing was that you couldn't simply reset the device, as the on/off switch did nothing while the screen was frozen. We learned to unplug it, then try the switch for several seconds multiple times, and that usually worked to turn it off so we could get it to turn back on. When it was really stubborn about not turning off, we would have to remove the battery. Tried the software update to no avail. So we sent back the first one, thinking we got a lemon. Amazon customer service was great and so we got our second 855 within the 30-day return window.

Second try: This one lasted about a week before freezing. It started acting like the first one, so we called Garmin directly and waited on hold for a very long time and then spoke to a friendly customer service agent who assured us that the 855 is not supposed to do that, and that they were very sorry and would send a replacement. So I mailed mine to them and they mailed me a replacement.

Third try: I was really hoping this one would work. I really enjoyed the features when they worked, but the fact that it can't reliably navigate -- which is its most fundamental function -- was really worrying me. So with the third one, we babied it and didn't upload any map updates, and when it started freezing, we verified that we had the most recent software update already installed (which it did), and then just kind of hoped it would stop. It didn't. We took a Christmas road trip with it over a two-week period and over 3000 miles, and this is how it fared: screen froze seven times, received one "invalid battery" error when attempting to turn it on, and received one "Kernel error" with an associated blue screen of death. That last one really freaked me out, but it seemed to clear up when I unplugged it and removed the battery.

So I would say if you don't mind pulling over once in a while to reset your GPS and keeping a hawk eye on it to make sure it hasn't frozen recently, definitely get this one. It's got voice activated controls, after all.

I'm going to call Garmin and find out what they propose to do about this mess. What a spectacular disappointment.
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