Garmin DriveLuxe 50 LMTHD GPS review

Save your smartphone’s data and let the Garmin DriveLuxe take the wheel for your navigation

Garmin's DriveLuxe 50 is the best way to get where you need to go.
Garmin's DriveLuxe 50 is the best way to get where you need to go.
Garmin's DriveLuxe 50 is the best way to get where you need to go.

Highs

  • Voice search for hands-free navigation
  • SmartLink app adds Bluetooth calling
  • Uses landmarks to guide your drive
  • LIfetime map and traffic updates
  • Great build quality
  • Clear 5.1-inch touchscreen

Lows

  • Sometimes complicated simple routes

In a world where navigation systems have been replaced by smartphones, it takes quite a bit of innovation to stay relevant. Garmin has always been one of the leaders in the market for its standalone GPS navigator units and this new DriveLuxe is no exception. It found innovative new ways to work with your smartphone instead of trying to compete against it for your guidance. We took a look to see why you may want to change the way you navigate on the road.

No data needed

Opening the box, you will get the Garmin DriveLux unit, magnetic suction mount, and Mini USB power cable. The LMTHD in the DriveLuxe’s name stands for the fact that it comes with “Lifetime Maps and HD Traffic.” In basic terms, that means that there are no complicated data plans and you will get lifetime map updates and traffic information for your system. No more worrying about not finding that new shopping center in town.

Garmin DriveLux GPS
Nolan Browning/Digital Trends
Nolan Browning/Digital Trends

The Garmin DriveLuxe unit has a 5.1-inch TFT display screen with a 800 x 480 pixel resolution. The device feels extremely solid at just over 8 ounces, and attaches easily to the magnetic front of the suction mount. This must be plugged into the included Mini USB charger to get features like HD Traffic. The DriveLuxe has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is good for about an hour once unplugged. There is a MicroSD slot on the bottom for things like map updates, but no MicroSD card is included. Thankfully, the Garmin uses an internal solid state drive that allows for quick access to search for your destination or local hotspots.

Working with or without your smartphone

While many modern drivers use apps like Waze or Google Maps on their smartphone, the Garmin system allows you to navigate without using precious data. For standard operation, the navigation can calculate the best route to an address, city, or intersection and reroute if you stray from the initial directions. Along with those standard features, the system has an extensive directory of POIs from partner Foursquare for an updated list of businesses. The unit allows for hands-free voice search that comes up if you say “Voice Command” and lets you “Find a Place” to locate something like your nearest Starbucks or “Find Category” to search for local Thai food restaurants. You can also add popular your favorite places or category search — like Starbucks — to your apps screen for quick access to caffeine in a pinch.

The Garmin DriveLuxe is assuredly the best system on the market for properly guiding you to where you need to go.

One of the best features of the Garmin DriveLuxe is the way that it can also interact with your smartphone for additional capabilities. Via Bluetooth, you can connect your phone with the free Smartlink application for Android and iOS. This enables the DriveLuxe to take Bluetooth calls through the device, get local weather information, and even read your phone notifications aloud. This feature is fantastic as it allows any users with potentially older or less optioned cars to gain Bluetooth calling and navigation from one device. The Bluetooth phone system worked well, and call quality was strong on both the receiving and calling side. For notifications, the system was not only able to read things like email or texts but even handled items like new comments on social media apps such as Instagram or Facebook.

Navigating your world

Turning to its primary function, the Garmin DriveLuxe is assuredly the best system on the market for properly guiding you to where you need to go. The device has all the latest map updates and can get lifetime updates for new locations using the Garmin Express program. The system was able to find any address we keyed in and did a great job at searching for local POI and business names through voice or text entry. The touch interface is smooth and zooming in on the screen is easy with “pinch-to-zoom” features in addition to the “+” and “-” icons. One you set off, the DriveLuxe system is even smart enough to give you the best area to enter a shopping center or mall to reach your destination. For example, when searching for the store “H&M” it navigated to the closest mall entrance and also indicated that the store was on the second floor of the building. The system is also equipped with the ability to give what Garmin calls Real Directions to say things like “turn right at the Starbucks” to give you the best indicator of where to go.

On the highway, the system gives useful information on the screen to show you which lane you should stay in for any highway changes. As you approach a fork in the highway, you even get an image of the freeway sign to show you exactly what you are looking for and where you should be. ETA estimates can be a bit optimistic even with Garmin’s HD Digital Traffic compared to actual trip times. Something like Waze was always more reliable for up-to-the-minute traffic, but this of course uses your smartphone’s data to get new information, and the DriveLuxe system has no monthly cost for standard features. On most occasions, the Garmin system used the fastest route to get to our destination, and only a couple times did it seem to go out of our way to get back on a main road when we left a parking garage. Overall, the system can redirect quickly when your route changes from the specified directions and it is fairly hard to stump — even if you completely disobey the directions and try to trip it up.

Conclusion

With the competition from various modern mediums competing for the navigation market, Garmin’s product offerings have to be near perfect. Thankfully, the DriveLuxe offers every feature you could possibly want in portable navigation and is without any major flaws. The navigation system alone make the Garmin worth the $330 price tag, but added features like Bluetooth calling really help give an additional leg-up on the competition. If you are tired of using all your data on guiding your drive,  then the DriveLuxe is more than ready to lead the way.

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