Back in 2011, Garmin surprisingly released a set of budget GPS devices that have Garmin’s signature navigation features without the extra bells and whistles. The Garmin nuvi 50LM, in particular, was well-received by customers and made its way to become a best seller in Amazon because of its simple interface, large 5-inch display and low price. The device screams entry-level but its basic functionality and interface surpasses any smartphone with GPS functionality. With lifetime maps, the device also has great value for the long term. Going for something that is better than the Garmin nuvi 50LM while maintaining the low price is challenging so Garmin decided to refresh the model instead with a slightly refined design. At the same time, this refresh fixed a minor problem with the Garmin nuvi 50LM. When purchasing the nuvi 50LM, it isn’t clear that you’ll be getting the one with the US maps or the one with both US and Canada maps. Garmin is now clarifying things by releasing the Garmin nuvi 52LM and the Garmin nuvi 54LM with the 54LM model being the one that has the US and Canada maps. It costs $179 which is $10 more than the Garmin nuvi 52LM model.

Garmin nuvi 54LM

Garmin nuvi 54LM

Design

If you have seen a car GPS device, you have pretty much seen them all. The Garmin nuvi 54LM is rectangular and quite big with its 5-inch display. The corners are no longer rounded like the older Garmin nuvi 50LM but it still looks nice and made for vehicles. Installation is pretty simple and you don’t have to buy a separate accessory because the included suction cup mount is suitable for your car’s windshield or dashboard. Also included in the package is a vehicle power cable, USB cable and quick start manual.

Features

Getting to know the Garmin nuvi 54LM is really easy because there are not so many features in this particular model. Owners of the Garmin nuvi 50LM have nothing to see here since the features are completely identical. The home screen looks simple and it directly ties all of the core features together. Everything is about a tap away so you can check the map immediately through the “View Map” icon or plan route with ease through the “Where to?” icon. Doing other things like turning up or down the volume or changing settings is possible through the smaller icons on the bottom of the home screen.

The “Where to?” icon guides you through the easy process of entering your destination. The touch keyboard is responsible and easy to use thanks to the 5-inch display. The Garmin nuvi 54LM does the rest by calculating the best possible route and it happens pretty quickly. You can also set certain preferences such as excluding highways from the route if you wish. After that, you can see the 3-D map view and be on your way while the GPS device speaks out the turn instructions when necessary. A text-to-speech engine is embedded in the device so street names can be spoken as well. These voice cues take away the need to look at the GPS device every now and then but glancing at the device is still useful if you want to see your exact speed, ETA or important road signs.

If your route includes a highway, paying attention to the Garmin nuvi 54LM is also helpful because of this feature called lane assist. This feature only works in US highways and when it does, you will see the junction view where you can also see important signs like the speed limit. The flashing arrows that appear on the junction view indicate the lane you need to be in so you can take the exit indicated on your route. Missing the exit can cost a lot of time although the Garmin nuvi 54LM can recalculate the route with ease. This is more of a time-saving feature which is crucial for people that have meetings.

A GPS device isn’t just for helping you get from point A to point B. Sometimes, you may just want to know where you are right now or you want to discover some nice restaurants to eat or places to get gasoline. This is where the “View Map” icon is useful because it takes you directly to the map where you can get your position and see the nearby streets and places. There is no Internet connection or loading problems to worry about because the US and Canada maps along with the 5+ million points of interest are preloaded. Plus, it has the same lifetime map update benefits as the top-selling Garmin nuvi 50LM so as long as the device works, you are eligible to get the latest maps on demand. All you have to do is use the Garmin Express service for updating content. This device management service also lets you transfer any custom points of interest you made to other devices. You can also access custom vehicle graphics for your map if you want to add some personal touches to your GPS device.

If an emergency suddenly occurs, you can use the “Where Am I?” feature to locate all of the important places such as hospitals and police stations. Your location information is also show so you can forward the data to emergency services.

Bottom Line

The Garmin nuvi 54LM is hardly an upgrade over its predecessor but the price is the same as the 50LM with US and Canada maps. This device primarily targets those that never owned a GPS device before and prefer something with updatable maps and a large touchscreen. Although the pricier models offer more functionality such as multi-route sorting, the Garmin nuvi 54LM still works with several of Garmin’s mounts. The only bad thing is that there is no way to add real-time traffic support. But for a price under $200, that would be asking for too much. The best thing about the Garmin nuvi 54LM is the entire package. It is a sub-$200 device with a high-sensitivity receiver and plenty of map content and it is fully prepared for your vehicle out of the box.

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