Garmin Nüvi 65LM satnav review

28 April 2014

Garmin's Nuvi 65LM satnav

Garmin Nüvi 65LM
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Good: bright display, neat graphics, split-screen guidance
Bad: slow-witted route calculation, no traffic data
Price: just under £140
Garmin’s Nüvi 65LM satellite navigation device is positioned as a no-frills option by its maker, part of Garmin’s “Essential Series”. As a result I was quite surprised by what was on offer. For the recommended retail price of £139.99 you get a large, bright, high-contrast screen with detailed, smoothly scrolling graphics, lifetime map updates, plus clear and crisp spoken direction. What you don’t get is any traffic data – not even the option to piggyback on the data connection of a smartphone.

This omission is quite a handicap these days, when dedicated navigation devices must compete with mapping apps from the likes of Apple and Google. These rivals provide directions and real-time traffic data free of charge – assuming you’ve already invested in a smartphone and suitable data tariff, of course.

Garmin Nuvi 65LM held in my hand

Initial impressions were very favourable. I found the Nüvi 65LM very easy to use and it’s great that it’s ready to go out of the box – no ponderous registration or setup process is forced on you. You simply plug it in, mount it to the windscreen, switch on and go.

The device itself feels solidly built, though the same can’t be said of the screen mount, which had an air of the pound shop about it. It does its job though – the ball and socket joint provides plenty of adjustment and the sucker mount clung diligently to the windscreen throughout my tests. Even a demisting blast on a frosty morning failed to trigger a case of satnav drop-off.

Garmin Nuvi 65LM screen mount

The screen unit is easy enough to clip onto its mounting, but undocking at the end of a journey proved a bit fiddly – you have to press a release latch at the back that you can’t see before lifting the screen unit away. The power cable also plugs directly into the back of the unit, rather than into the windscreen mount, making for a more untidy task when stowing things away or taking the unit with you on foot.

Inputting a destination is impressively simple, with large, friendly graphical icons on the six-inch display, and prompt responses to prods of the screen. You can chose from points of interest or simply put a postcode into the search box. Rerouting via the nearest petrol station is also a matter of a few quick stabs at the options, and there’s a neat “Up Ahead” feature that lists points of interest close to your planned path.

Garmin Nuvi 65LM icons

When it comes to calculating the route, however, the Nüvi 65LM can seem a tad slow-witted. Initial routing felt ponderous to me, and getting back on track after straying from the predicted path often involved long delays without guidance. On one occasion, where a closed road meant following yellow diversion signs for a couple of miles, the Nüvi simply gave up and froze – ceasing to update my position on the map – after I ignored its fifth instruction to perform a U-turn. To get back on track, I had to re-enter my destination from scratch. This is clearly disappointing for a device that has just one job to do.

At least the screen layout is sensible, when it’s working. The Nüvi 65LM makes full use of its widescreen display, dividing the layout into two when providing lane guidance so that you can still see the scrolling map to the left and arrows showing which lane to adopt on the right. This is a great help when exiting a motorway, for example, and you need to know where you’ll be going at that fast-approaching roundabout. Full-screen lane guidance in rival devices can sometimes leave you guessing.

Garmin Nuvi 65LM lane guidance

The presence of upcoming speed cameras is well signposted, with eye-catching red warnings on screen and loud pings from the speaker – though it might be nice if both were moderated on the majority of occasions when I’m not actually speeding. Garmin also seemed a little paranoid about the presence of mobile speed cameras, popping up warnings on virtually every road of consequence, again irrespective of my actual speed.

A helpful reminder of the posted limit is provided at all times, and your current speed is edged in red whenever you’re travelling too fast. Unlike some devices, the Nüvi 65LM doesn’t calculate your cumulative tally while travelling between fixed average-speed cameras.

There are some neat – or possibly silly – touches to the graphics. For example you can choose the icon used to represent your car on the screen, and the display temporarily switches to night colours whenever you pass through a tunnel.

Garmin Nuvi 65LM night-time colour scheme

All told, I was not entirely persuaded of the merits of Garmin’s Nüvi 65LM. It has a large and lovely screen – clearly visible even when viewing in bright sunlight through sunglasses – but that’s about the limit of its appeal. If it could access traffic data, and hadn’t got itself in a muddle during a diversion, it might even have impressed me for the price. As it stands, I can’t help feeling there are better options on the market.

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