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Before you get on the Garmin bandwagon......
on April 7, 2011
If you have been a longtime Magellan user you may want to consider a few things before getting on the Garmin bandwagon. I want to make it very clear that this isn't going to be a review to bash the Garmin 1450LMT, the particular unit I bought and returned, but more of comparison. Let's start off by getting what Magellan users have known from the very beginning about Magellan's issues out of the way. Magellan has always had poor customer service, terrible POI information, slow or old maps/updates, and subpar quality control issues both hardware and software, and not Mac compatible. Garmin is better in this respect, most of the time. If this is what you are concerned about, stop reading here and purchase a Garmin you will be very happy. The Garmin 1450LMT is solid and reliable, and Garmin customer service and tech support is top-notch. I'm saving the issue of routing errors or confusing routing until later because I have experienced routing errors on Garmin as well and they were just as frustrating as some people claim about Magellan.
With that said, being the owner of the Magellan 760, 2200T, and 3225. I have never had an issue with the hardware or software in any of the models I have owned. I have known a few people that have, but I personally have not. This may be due to the fact I never leave my GPS in the car, never throw it around, abuse it, or leave it exposed on the dash in a parked vehicle. I wouldn't say I "baby" the units, but I respect it as a complex electronic device and a potential item for thieves, so I never leave it in the car or glove box. Of course, this may just be coincidence, I'm sure there are just defective units out there whether you take care of them or not. I figure I will buy a Square Trade warranty to cover the unit in case it dies on me.
As I had fore mentioned, I purchased a Garmin 1450LMT due to so many negative reviews about the Magellan units, particularly the 5045LM. They ranged from bad maps, sticky glue residue, screen lock up, bad routing, you name it! I had the Garmin 1450LMT for 30 days, returning it the last day only after several frustrating routing failures in Las Vegas. Yes believe it or not, the Garmin had some routing issues, contrary to all the positive reviews. I actually switched back to the Magellan 2200T because of this mid vacation. In addition to the routing issue with the Garmin, I didn't like the overall Garmin user interface (UI), the routing logic, and the overall navigational style it uses. Not that they were bad, it just wasn't for me and my style of driving. There was also one occasion that the car icon, was in the middle of the map and not tracking properly. This never corrected itself until I reset the unit. It seemed like the Garmin was not able to track the satellites correctly. This is now the second time I had a Garmin and went back to a Magellan both times.
Here are the main differences of the Garmin operating system (OS) and what I prefer about the Magellan OS. You can see a clear evolution of the 2 operating systems from their earlier models such as the Garmin 350 and the Magellan 2200T. Both models retain nearly all of the traits of their respective predecessors and not really changing much to the core operations. Let's start!
THE "DING DING" - Magellan gives a "ding" or a "chime" when you need to make a turn. Garmin does not.
Garmin has no "bell" or "ding" when instructions are given. As Magellan users know, when instructions are given on the Magellan there is a "ding ding" when it is the final move of the instruction. So when you need to turn at a certain point, the instruction will be given, followed by a DING DING. Seems insignificant right? But you might miss this feature more than you think. I found myself looking at the Garmin after a turn because I was never sure if that was the "turn" I was supposed to make. Garmin only gives you a final verbal queue to turn by saying "TURN LEFT (street name)".
"ROUTE CHOICES" - Magellan gives 4 different route choices; "fastest time, shortest distance, most use and least use of freeways". Garmin has 2 choices (thanks roegs for the info) fastest time and shortest distance with no freeway exclusion offerings.
Garmin has 2 route choices of fastest time, and shortest distance but does not have "most use of freeways and least use of freeways". Magellan has had these from the beginning dating back to the Magellan 700. Garmin has a setting that avoids things like HIGHWAYS, TOLL ROADS and such; however, these are settings NOT pre-route choices. I don't always want to avoid highways, but there are times that I do. Why should I have this as a permanent setting? My parents or my wife who prefer to avoid highways if possible, always use the route choice of LEAST USE OF FREEWAYS. In this case you can have the Garmin setting to avoid highways permanently, but my parents won't be able to remember how to get to it on the settings menu or change it if they need to. Neither will my wife.
"WHEN POSSIBLE MAKE A (IL)LEGAL U TURN" - Magellan wants you to go back to the original route. Garmin recalculates the entire route after missed turns.
Garmin and Magellan approach to routing differs in respect to recalculating routes and U turns. I don't know if this is true 100% of the time, but this is what I have been able to observe in the 30days I had the Garmin. If I miss a maneuver on the Garmin, it will recalculate the entire route depending what direction you are heading AFTER your miss turn. If I get back on the route it initially wanted me to take, it may NOT recalculate to the originally planned route, even though I corrected myself. Magellan's tendency, on the other hand will, for a short time, want you to follow its initial route. This is why, I believe, some experience the incessant "when possible make a legal U-TURN" command. When I use my GPS, I never second guess the route. I always follow it no matter if it's out of the way or not. This is because I probably am in a city or a part of town I am unfamiliar with. If I miss a turn, exit, or what have you, I PREFER to go back to my original route. Garmin's tendency is to guide you on a different route without making you turn back. For example, Garmin calculated a perfect route for me back from Summerlin to the Aria hotel in Vegas. (I read the route before driving). I missed the entrance to CR-215 (no lane assist popped up). It recalculated quickly, BUT I turned around to get on CR-215 hoping it would take that same route back. Guess what. After it recalculated, it did NOT take me that same way back. Instead it took me down crowded Las Vegas Blvd (LVB). The other route DID NOT have me go down LVB, how do I get that route back? I asked. Why can't I exclude LVB from my route? Did the Garmin get me back accurately, sure it did. But why did it have to change my entire route because I missed one turn. Magellan would have either told you to make a legal U turn OR keep as much of the initial route unchanged as possible eventually guiding you back to the original intended route. This may have been an exception to Garmin's overall navigational logic, but, I didn't prefer it. This happened to me on more than a few instances where it would recalculate new routes for me over and over again, causing me to do U-turns anyways. Others may have different experiences with this, but again, this is what I noticed and I don't prefer it over Magellan's routing logic.
"ROUTE EXCLUSIONS" - Dont want to go a particular street or highway? Remove it from your route. Garmin? No such function.
Magellan always had the ability to give you a route and letting the user easily remove a certain street on the maneuvers list. If I didn't want to take a left on MAIN Street, for example, I can touch that maneuver, and it will ask me if I want to remove it. Afterwards it will recalculate a new route completely removing that particular street or use that street as little as possible. Again Magellan has always had this feature, and Garmin has never had it. To my knowledge it still doesn't. Is this useful? You bet. I would rather take the back way around Las Vegas than go down Las Vegas BLVD itself.
**UPDATE**: There is one software glitch I discovered. To enable route exclusions, U-Turns must be enabled, otherwise the software (version 3.11, basemap v41) can no longer calculate routes effectively. The unit will not lock up per se, but it will keep saying "ROUTE ERROR: Can not calculate route. destination is in a restricted area or select another another route method" or something to that effect. To get it back, enable U-turns, and turn your unit off and turn it back on. It will work normally again. The only reason I found out is I was experimenting with the options, otherwise I would have never known. Hopefully Magellan puts out a patch for this. And NO, I am not returning my 5045.
Incidently, I also have the Magellan 5120LMTX, sold exlusively at a local warehouse club. It is the exact same as the 5045 unit with BaseMap v41 (Tele-Atlas) and software version 4.53 works flawlessly with U-turns disabled. No weird routing issues either.
"REPETITIVE VOICE INSTRUCTIONS" - Instructions given at 2 mile, 1 mile, 1/2 mile, approaching, then ding ding.
Magellan reminds you of upcoming maneuvers over and over. It will usually remind you of upcoming maneuvers at 2miles, 1mile, 0.5miles, Approaching, and then DING DING. Garmin usually will tell you at 1mile or less, and then say in "500ft make a left", then turn left for example, with no ding as mentioned before. This is good for some, but for me, it made me check the screen too often for my liking. I like being constantly reminded of upcoming maneuvers verbally. This is irritating and unnecessary for some, but for me this is how I like driving especially on vacation and in unfamiliar areas. Yes, I'm the guy in the right lane ready to exit 2 miles away behind a slow truck because I don't want to cut over 4 lanes within a mile of the exit.
"PLEASE DRIVE TO THE HIGHLIGHTED ROUTE" - Magellan will start the routing process as soon as you are on any street. Garmin, not so much.
While waiting for the valet to get my car, I would turn on the Garmin and have it calculate a route before I drive off. I noticed that if I do not "drive to the highlighted route" it would not recalculate based on where I am. I would have to be on the "highlighted" route first then it would start routing. Now I can't say for sure that this is always the case, but it happened to me a number of times enough for me to notice. The Magellan, on the other hand, will start routing you the moment you get on a street, regardless of what the initial route is. So if the route started on left and I turn right, the Magellan would start recalculating based on that. The Garmin would not. I know for a fact this happened with the Garmin on a few occasions. There are just some streets coming out of parking lots you CAN NOT make a right or left on forcing you to turn opposite of the initial route the Garmin may pick for you. To make matters worse, I didn't know how to manually force a recalculation on the Garmin without cancelling the trip and restarting it. On the Magellan, you can do this by bringing up the maneuvers list then hit options on the bottom and pick your new route by pressing your choice Fastest route, Shortest distance, etc. etc. Simple!
**Update**- I am now convinced Garmin will not route unless your are on the initial path it tells you. I tried this with a Garmin 1390T. Driving out of a parking garage I ended up on another street different from it's intended route, Garmin would not start routing. To make matters worse, it would not let me recalculate the route because the car was moving.
"ZIPCODE and PREVIOUS CITY" - Magellan can use zip codes, and previous cities you have entered. Garmin makes you re-enter the city every time.
Garmin doesn't use zip codes for address entry, nor will it let you pick the previous city you entered before. In fact, on the Garmin you will have to type in the city EVERY TIME you enter a new address. Magellan is still capable of both options for city entry.
"LANE ASSIST" - Magellan lane assist pops up frequently, takes only a portion of the screen, and stays up longer.
In my experience, the Garmin lane assist window hardly pops up. The Magellan pops up more often. On I-90/I-294 in Chicago, the Garmin lane assist popped up maybe twice, while on the same trip the Magellan popped up about 4 times. Very useful feature in both, I just thought it would come up more often in the Garmin. It never popped up on the Garmin at all in Vegas as far as I can remember. Another noteworthy difference is that Magellans lane assist signs/renderings will pop up on the screen while you can still see your regular navigation as it continues. Garmin will show the lane assist rendering (a graphical depiction of the highway and highway sign and arrow) and your regular navigation screen will be hidden from view. This is probably why the Garmin lane assist doesnt remain on the screen quite as long as Magellans or pop up nearly as often.
"ROUTE SIMULATION" - Garmin has it, Magellan does not.
Garmin has a nice feature called Route simulation; it previews the route before you go on it as if you were actually driving it. However, it's in real time. You cannot speed this up at all. If you want to preview a particular turn you have to watch and wait until it comes up on the simulation. What if the turn is 200miles away, at 65miles/hour simulated, do the math. The Magellan has no simulation; instead, you can preview that section of the maneuvers list by simply touching it. It will show you how it looks on the map. This is a relatively new feature in the Magellan as far as I know.
"Map Updates Please" - Garmin has it more often, Magellan maybe once a year or less.
Garmin has Magellan beat on this. They seem to come out with map updates more often and are supposedly more accurate. They are more up-to-date, for sure. They have streets newly built already on their map, while Magellan lags behind. But I have experienced routing inaccuracies on Garmin despite this. So it's not 100% perfect either even with better maps. As far as the Tele-Atlas vs. Navteq issue, I can't say for sure right now. I have Base MAP 41 (Tele-Atlas) haven't noticed any "crazy" routing issues yet. I'm not quick to blame any GPS for not picking an optimal route either whether it's Garmin or Magellan. If I know a better route, why am I using my GPS?
There are some newly added features that the Magellan 5045LM has, like One-Touch, however, these new added features I can actually do without. In fact, I turn off a lot of the extra features. I do not use the auto zoom in/out view, the 3d view (prefer 2d like the old 760), night mode, and traffic updates.
5 inch high resolution touch screen: The new 5 inch screen looks very nice, high resolution, and pretty responsive. Not as responsive as the Garmin. The are times you must press twice or harder to get it to register. It also lacks swiping ability, like the Garmin has. But I think the overall colors and graphics are better on the Magellan.
Quick Reroute Calculation: This is the quickest re-route in any of my previous Magellan models. It also just recalculates the route without saying "recalculating route", it just recalculates it automatically after you miss the turn,or exit etc. I will actually say the recalculation is faster than Garmin's. It seems many times recalculation happens almost instantly, while Garmin's will give you a percent until complete.
One-Touch: Assignable bookmarks for your favorite destination. Assign it, hit it once, and it starts the route to FASTEST TIME.
More complete POI - I wouldnt expect it to have up to date information. Garmin's POI is more up to date, but still has some errors. Google addresses on your smart phone is a more reliable choice. This is a GPS not a phonebook.
Lane Assist - The signs that are shown in lane assist are a little small as far as the words go. I can barely see them without my glasses because the unit is farther away from me on the dash of the SUV. Of course if you have better near sighted vision or my sunglasses were prescription they would be more than adequate. Despite that, they are helpful and pop up more often than Garmin's lane assist. It will even show exits. Plus they do not cover up your normal navigation.
Auto-Zoom View: Can't comment, I dont use it.
3d View: I dont use the 3d view, but it's not as good as Garmins 3d view. The 2D view is better on Magellans, in my opinion. This is the view I use.
Other than that there's really nothing dramatically new. What is missing in the newer Magellan's is that the street you are currently on is no longer present. In the old versions, the name of the street you are currently on shows at the top of the screen while the next street to turn on is on the bottom. I miss this feature. Also the voice is a bit more tinny and robotic sounding now more so than its previous versions, and there is no way to change the voice either.
Ultimately the features that I mentioned above that differ between the two GPSs are the reasons I went back to Magellan. I know Magellan has its problems, but it's been like that for a while. Heck, my Magellan 5045LM even had the sticky adhesive issue that a couple people have mentioned, (cleaned off with GOO-GONE in 5 minutes, worked great). Again, the Garmin 1450LMT is a great GPS, and most people like it. They have awesome customer service, the website works nice, and the software update is easy. Understandably it seems like the majority of people like the Garmin, but the Garmin just wasn't for me. I'm so used to Magellan's software nuances, verbal commands and UI so much so I find it hard to adjust to Garmin, and I won't even try TOMTOM. In addition that I've had good luck with the hardware, so I see no reason why I should switch. I think if you are in the market for your first GPS or had Garmin in the past, I would definitely stick with Garmin. But if you've had Magellan for a while, I definitely think about it before making the switch.