Setting aside a budget for a new automotive GPS navigator isn’t all that difficult these days. Normally, spending under $200 will get you the essential stuff, namely, reliable turn-by-turn directions, up-to-date maps and highly accurate GPS hardware. These features alone are enough to make these entry-level devices far better than smartphones. Spending a little bit more could give you stuff like smarter navigation features, Bluetooth connectivity and voice navigation enabling safer hands-free experiences. Then on the high-end, you will often get cutting-edge features and extra premiums like glass multi-touch displays. Consumers are clearly okay with this arrangement but Garmin wants to serve the budget conscious customers a little bit better. The company’s new 2015 Essential Line consists of a set of familiar 5-inch and 6-inch devices with the Garmin nuvi 68LM being one of them. The nuvi 68LM maintains that entry-level price but has a few big improvements that pushes it closer to the midrange class.

Garmin nuvi 68LM

Garmin nuvi 68LM

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Design

Garmin nuvi 68LM feels quite light at less than 9 ounces due to the small battery giving it a 1-hour battery life. That shouldn’t matter though because the device should be mounted firmly to the windshield or dashboard with the included suction cup mount and hooked up to the car using the included power cable. The 6-inch display with 800×480 resolution would most likely grab all the attention since the larger size means you can see it clearly even from afar, and the bezel isn’t so annoyingly thick.

Features

On a basic level, the nuvi 68LM boasts free lifetime map updates and unlike the slightly cheaper 67LM model, has preloaded maps in both the US and Canada. That shouldn’t be so surprising to people familiar with Garmin’s older 6-inch devices because these devices had the same features. The Garmin nuvi 68LM one-ups the nuvi 66LM in a huge way, starting with Foursquare integration. Unlike the Foursquare app you need to launch on a smartphone or tablet, Foursquare is part of the search experience. As you search for a POI, you could find some results on top with a neighboring Foursquare icon. Tapping on any of these results will give you the kind of relevant information you would expect from the actual Foursquare app. The advantage of this integration is that the Foursquare database is completely accessible offline, making it a great companion for people venturing to new areas who wish to discover all the popular restaurants, hotels and other places, even if cellular data isn’t available.

Some of the recent midrange and high-end Garmin nuvi devices were appealing because they offered Garmin Real Directions and Direct Access, which both dramatically enhance the navigational experience. Garmin is making the nuvi 68LM just as appealing by adding both features in their full forms. This makes the Garmin nuvi 68LM capable of saying more natural directions like “Make a right turn at the next traffic light” rather than “Make a right turn at Clifton Street.” Drivers that are not familiar with Clifton Street don’t have to look at the map. You can also plan a more direct route to a specific location in a larger POI, such as a mall or airport, with the Direct Access feature. If you are planning a route to the store in a mall, you will know the specific floor. This feature can also help you find entrances or parking spots.

New GPS users or those switching from a competing GPS navigator will find plenty to like with the nuvi 68LM. The map view not only gives you a detailed representation of your surroundings, but it can also display icons portraying important POIs like ATMs or restaurants. This is all powered by the Up Ahead feature and it is fully customizable. You can also bring up a sidebar to show you how close you are to the nearest POI in a particular category. Three categories are shown in this sidebar and you can customize them too. When driving on highways, you can take advantage of the lane assist with junction view to find out when you need to be in a specific lane, so you won’t miss that important turn. School zone alerts appear when you drive near a school zone, which is another excellent feature.

When using the Garmin nuvi 68LM, installing a rear camera in your car is simple. You just have to buy the $169.99 BC 30 backup camera and go through the easy set up process. The nuvi 68LM already serves as your display for the camera and the camera wirelessly links to the GPS device.

Bottom Line

With these new features, there are now fewer reasons to go for a midrange or high-end GPS device. The Garmin nuvi 68LM may not be able to connect to the Internet or your smartphone, but it is a smart GPS navigator, and you also get Foursquare on your dashboard.

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