A new year means a new family of entry-level automotive GPS navigators from Garmin. Just like the last year’s “Essential” lineup, Garmin announced a new 5-inch Garmin nuvi device that comes in 6 variants and a bigger 6-inch sibling that comes in 4 variants. Basically, every device in the 2014 Essential Line now has a successor. It is normally expected for entry-level models to have very minor improvements just so the company has a reason to promote the midrange and high-end Garmin nuvi devices. If the minor improvements aren’t a big deal, the predecessors can still be decent picks too as they come out $10 to $20 cheaper. But all the devices in the 2015 line including the Garmin nuvi 58LM break that tradition thanks to the wealth of new features present in this series.

Garmin nuvi 58LM

Garmin nuvi 58LM

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Design

Building a GPS device with premium materials with a cheap price tag just isn’t possible yet so you can’t really expect more than the previous offering in terms of build quality and screen technology. It looks and feels like a generic rectangular slab with a Garmin logo on the bottom bezel and the 5-inch display is adequate for standard vehicles. Garmin could have made the device a bit heavier than the 6.4-ounce Garmin nuvi 56LM by adding a bigger battery but decided not to in order to retain that weight. This means that you still have to deal with the paltry 2-hour battery life but you are probably going to keep the nuvi 58LM mounted in your car anyway with the suction cup mount and power cable.

Features

The Garmin nuvi 58LM shares many traits with the older nuvi 56LM model. Both of these models come with lifetime map updates as the “LM” suffix indicates and the feature works the same way by retrieving map updates from Garmin’s services without any extra features. These updates cover the preloaded US and Canada maps whereas the Garmin nuvi 57LM and 55LM models only cover the 49 lower states in the US. But the nuvi 58LM has a more superior POI database than all other entry-level devices preceding it thanks to Garmin’s recent Foursquare partnership. As a result, many POIs have more relevant and accurate descriptions and unlike smartphone version, you don’t have to connect the Garmin nuvi 58LM to the Internet either. Foursquare’s integration is immediately recognizable as the Foursquare-powered search results appear on top when you look for a POI. With the lifetime map updates, you are still entitled to map updates without ever paying a subscription fee.

Garmin doesn’t want Foursquare to be the only reason to upgrade an aging entry-level GPS navigator to the nuvi 58LM. The company also wants to sweeten the deal by adding a few midrange features that weren’t present before. This includes the Garmin Real Directions feature which adds more clarity to certain turn-by-turn directions. Car GPS navigators know how to be specific enough to voice out the street name but not all drivers may know where the street is. Real Directions solve this by scanning the street for landmarks and familiar objects like traffic lights so it can tell you to make a turn at that landmark. Consider it a step closer to the personal assistant dream.

The Garmin nuvi 58LM also does a better job in finding a more precise location within a point of interest. Say you want to go to the airport and find the entrance or locate a particular restaurant in a shopping mall. The new Direct Access feature handles that part and it works quite well.

Garmin left the rest of the nuvi 58LM the same for the most part. Those upgrading from one of those older 4-inch GPS devices will find that the Garmin nuvi 58LM is a huge leap. Today’s entry-level automotive Garmin nuvi devices boast a great 3-D map view interface with a unique sidebar called “Up Ahead”. You can configure up to 3 point of interest categories that will show the closest POI from your current location. The device also knows the locations of common school zones and will issue an alert when you drive near them so you will be reminded to slow down. Finally, you can use the lane assist with junction view feature to stay on your route and make the appropriate highway exits.

Entry-level Garmin devices typically work with a number of mounts and adapters that you can find in Garmin’s online store. But with the nuvi 58LM, you can add the $169.99 BC 30 backup camera accessory to that list. This camera essentially gives your vehicle a clear rear view where you can see it live on the navigator’s 5-inch display. The Garmin nuvi 58LM easily pairs wirelessly with this camera.

Bottom Line

2015 is finally the year where the only thing that is entry-level about a Garmin nuvi device is its price. The nuvi 58LM is a well-rounded automotive GPS navigator with lifetime map updates and preloaded US and Canada maps and Foursquare information. How Garmin managed to price this at $159.99 is pretty mindblowing.

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