When buying a new GPS device, it is best to go for a device that has free lifetime map updates and traffic avoidance features. For about $50 more than the cheapest unit, you can get a device that won’t feel obsolete several years later because the maps will remain up-to-date and any big changes in traffic conditions can be monitored by the GPS unit. But if long-term is the name of the game, it is even wiser to go for at least a midrange device so you also have more navigation features to utilize. Combining a midrange price with lifetime features brings the overall price close to the price of an advanced GPS device without those lifetime additions. Garmin’s new 2014 Essential Line successfully shakes up this tradition by making their entry-level automotive GPS devices perform like midrange models. The Garmin nuvi 55LMT comes out as the cheapest Garmin device released in 2014 with the traffic avoidance and free map updates.
The nuvi 55LMT sticks with Garmin’s basic design formula on the hardware side. The rectangular shape and thick bezels doesn’t really make this GPS device as stylish as its more expensive siblings but it does weigh pretty light at just 6.4 ounces. The build quality is on the average side but you are going to mount this to the windshield using the included suction cup mount. A power cable is also included and you have to use it to charge the unit before first use.
Garmin decided that 5-inch screens will be the standard for 2014 rather than just the bigger alternative to the 4.3-inch screens. It still has the usual screen resolution of 480 x 272 pixels but the bigger screen size means that maps and text will appear larger and thus more visible from a greater distance.
In 2013, there were no entry-level Garmin nuvi devices that had traffic avoidance features so it is rather refreshing to see the LMT class devices like the Garmin nuvi 55LMT make it to the entry-level. The service works the exactly like the other Garmin nuvi products where you can conveniently see traffic information and get quick access to alternative routes if the traffic causes significant delays. So when you plan your route, you are guaranteed the fastest route to the destination at that particular time. The service will remain free for that device forever and there are no ads either. The free lifetime map updates is another big benefit of considering an LMT Garmin GPS unit. You can retrieve these new map updates and point of interest databases directly from Garmin as soon as they are available. You may have to add a micro SD card to the unit to store bigger updates. The only catch with the 55LMT model and other Garmin nuvi 55 variants is the US focus. The lower 49 states are covered making this GPS device functional for US areas out of the box. If you need maps in Canada too, you should consider the 56LMT model as it has the exact same set of features with a slightly higher price tag.
The interface remains the same as the previous Garmin nuvi devices, which is nice since it is easy to learn. But the search function has been refined to recognize different types of queries. If you know the exact address of a particular location, you can just enter it and plan the route immediately. In that same search box, you can also enter the name of a place or even a category so you get a list of results.
Another feature that the nuvi 55LMT brings is a new warning system that triggers once your vehicle approaches a school zone. The Garmin nuvi 55LMT will issue an audible alert followed by a warning message to make sure you are aware.
The “Up Ahead” feature that was present in several Garmin nuvi midrange devices has been brought over to the nuvi 55LMT making it even easier to tell how near important POIs are while you travel to your destination. You can bring up this sidebar in the map view and customize which categories of POIs you wish to see. It is a lot easier now to see how far away the closest ATM machine, restroom and restaurant is, for instance. The “Where am I” function remains available for emergency purposes if you need to locate nearby police stations, fire stations, hospitals and other important areas.
Lane assistance remains a staple feature to all Garmin nuvi devices. If your route involves a highway, you won’t have to worry about the possibility of missing an exit because the junction view splits the screen so you can see the map view and a view of the highway and important signs up close. Onscreen indicators will point you to the right lane in advance to prevent you from missing that important turn.
The entry-level Garmin nuvi series has gone a long way from simply just providing lane assistance. The Garmin nuvi 55LMT can be forever remained as the device that finally makes entry-level GPS devices more worth considering. The nuvi 55LMT even costs under $200, which is pretty amazing when you take the lifetime maps and traffic avoidance into consideration. It is also a smart budget purchase if you are certain that you won’t need those extra Canada maps. Those switching from competing brands should have no trouble in operating the very friendly interface.
Update: There is a newer model > Garmin nuvi 57LMT
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