Best Car GPS SatNav Satellite Navigation Devices
We had been using a smart phone with Google maps to help us navigate for the past few years, we thought it would be time to update and upgrade our sat nav to the real thing. Below we review four differently priced satnavs available on Amazon UK with prices ranging from £40 through to £200.
You're probably already familiar with how Car Sat Navs work now, they are very similar to using your phone with Google Maps or another free mapping service. We've been solely using a smart phone with Google Maps for some years, but we thought it was time to upgrade.
We have reviewed a car sat nav from each price bracket and compared them with one another to see which comes out on top, which for this year is the Garmin Nuvi 57 LMT. This is a mid priced sat nav, not the cheapest nor the most expensive, it's the 2nd cheapest that we have reviewed but it punched about its weight and we loved using it in our car for directions.
Follow on below to see what we think of each sat nav for your car and whether any are right for you.
It's not surprising but a Garmin is the winner and ranked 1st in our best car satnav comparison test. Great price, sub £100 satnav, great map interface and usability from a reliable company which also offer lifetime maps for Europe. There are other better satnavs out there but for these car gps devices you need to be spending almost double the amount of money or even above £200.
We would like to mention the EasySMX as a surprise device, it was great to use, on mapping software we haven't seen or used before. It's basically an android touch screen device that has been set up as a car navigation device, so not only do you get the benefits of free maps with iGO, you can change that if you wish to maps.me, Google Maps or another free alternative. It also means you can play music through it or other things you can do on your phone too.
The TomTom was a surprise in 4th, but it's bigger price and it didn't offer anything the Garmins didn't means we had to rank it 4th, it's not a bad device, just not as good as the others for the money you have to pay for them.
|1||Review of Garmin Nuvi 57LM 5 inch Satellite Navigation||4.4/5||££|
|2||Review of Garmin DriveSmart 50LMT-D Satellite Navigation Satnav||3.9/5||££££|
|3||Review of EasySMX Touch Screen GPS SAT NAV||3.8/5||£|
|4||Review of TomTom Start 25 5 inch Sat Nav||4.2/5||£££|
Review of Garmin Nuvi 57LM 5 inch Satellite Navigation
So you want a better car navigational device than your phone using Google maps? We review the Garmin Nuvi which is a sub £100 car sat nav with a 5" touchscreen that come with Lifetime map updates for your satnav.
This is an advanced satnav which can get you from A to B with many added on features. This is the 5 inch version but there is a 6 inch version available by Garmin as well in the same model range.
When we received the gps sat nav it came preloaded with street maps by Garmin for the UK, Ireland and Western Europe, this is a total of 24 countries.
This device comes with some awesome extra features which aren't usually included in cheaper alternatives.
- Free lifetime map updates
- Speed camera alerts
- Lane assist and junction view
- Bluetooth compatible
- Active lane guidance
- Photoreal junction view
- Link to your smart phone
Out of all of the above features, the one we want to highlight the most is the photoreal junction view. This by far has been the best update we've seen on any recent sat navs we have used. We have come from using Google Maps on a smart phone and Maps.me and neither come close to solving the complexity of motorway junctions were you merge lanes, junctions that you have never been to before and other crossings that can seem quite confusing on other sat navs.
The second best feature we liked, which we have not seen before is the real directions voice directions you get when making decisions on where you have to go. When you are told to turn left, it is usually by how far you have to travel to that junction or turning and then it is just said "turn left". Now, if there are two left turns coming up which are only a few yards between, the real directions will differentiate between the two with landmarks and points of interest. If there are traffic lights at the second left turn, this will be stated as "at the traffic lights, turn left". Which as you can imagine would make driving somewhere new, much easier.
So How Is It To Use?
I'll be comparing this Garmin satnav to older satnavs I have used and also to navigating with a smart phone on Google Maps. I wouldn't have thought that a sat nav from a few years ago and ones now would be too different, but they are. The new satnavs, this one particularly, feels and looks like it has moved on quite a bit. I think this has helped with tablet and new smart phone technologies that they are sharing. Better touch screens, faster processors, longer lasting batteries, etc.
The display on the Garmin Nuvi is 800 x 480 pixels which is ample for viewing from a couple of feet away, you can place this even on the other side of the car, infront of the passenger seat and we think you'd be fine with navigating with it, although it would be hard to reach. One thing we liked compared to the chinese tablet style satnavs we have seen is that it comes with a back-light which makes driving around in bright and sunny conditions a pleasure, no hard to view screen.
Whats In The Box
- Sat Nav
- Car power adapter
- USB lead to plug into a computer
- Windscreen suction mount
- Basic quick start manual
Buying a Garmin means that you get the maps offered with the sat nav, in this case, UK, Ireland and Western Europe, which comes to 24 countries in total, all already built in and ready to go. If you wish to change any settings, this can all be done on your computer at home, just plug the device in and you can edit and amend quite a few things.
Icons can be changed if you would prefer to have something different. You have a choice of voices available which you can change in the settings of Garmin Express and most importantly, with getting lifetime map updates for this area, you will get new roads that have been built (which does happen). Any changes to tolls, routes to take and other improvements. The maps will only ever get better so having the lifetime map update is worth the money in my opinion.
One thing we noticed which you would likely benefit from changing is to set the device to quickest time rather than shortest route. You will get the time in hours/minutes rather than the actual mileage to that destination. I'm sure you can imagine that a B or C road takes you as the crow flies but there is a motorway or dual carriageway just a few miles parallel to these small roads that these will get you to your destination much quicker.
We are really happy with the large touch screen on this Garmin sat nav and the features that come with the device. As anything, you will have to get used to the difference in map looks and voice commands and routing compared to other map providers like Google, especially if you are used to using a phone to get you around and not a standalone gps navigation device.
- Sub £100 for lifetime full European maps and a big enough screen at 5"
- This isn't a normal tablet/phone screen, the contrast has improved and sunny periods won't stop you from seeing the sat nav
- Trip planner is included in this version so you can do multiple stops on route to your final destinations
- Real directions worked really well, very happy with these voice commands and understanding when and where to make turnings
- Speed camera alert is good, especially if you've been driving long distances and are tiring
- Driving on a motorway is easier now with the lane assist feature, it shows you exactly which lane to be in and is easy to understand
- It has the other usual features you'll see on any other mapping software, avoid tolls, avoid motorways, etc
- You can't access your phone via this sat nav so phone calls can't be taken through it, find a different one with bluetooth
- No traffic updates which you get on Google Maps and others
- You will have to have this plugged in most of the time, due to it using GPS you will drain the battery so you might not even get 1 hour when its unplugged
An awesome little sub £100 sat nav device by Garmin. Very pleased with it, missing out on a couple of features that would make it more than just a sat nav, but for the price, it felt good quality, we really liked the maps and the real directions with Garmin.
Review of Garmin DriveSmart 50LMT-D Satellite Navigation Satnav
This is a £200 sat nav that we have decided to review. Based on other reviews we have read online and the price range, we thought it would be good to compare a sat nav in this higher price bracket with cheaper alternatives from Garmin, TomTom and others.
So this is a higher end satnav produced by Garmin, called the DriveSmart 50LMT. How does this device differ from the cheaper sub £100 satnavs and those even cheaper than that?
Well, for starters, it has quite a few more interesting features, we will go in to them below. It's screen is 6" wide rather than the usual 5" we have been reviewing. You can sync/pair your smart phone via bluetooth to get hands free calling and voice activated navigation, so if you do plenty of driving there are some definite benefits.
- Dangerous curves and bends alert
- Alerts for fatigue, so if you've been driving for a while you can be alerted to take a break or to stay focused
- Traffic alerts synced to your satnav to avoid traffic jams, incidents and congestion
- Lane assist, junction view and garmin real directions are some of the usual features you see on a Garmin satnav
This Garmin satnav has a touch screen which you can use just like a smart phone, with pinch to zoom and other features, so it's not hard to use, straight out of the box. With the hands free, bluetooth phone set up you can answer phone calls whilst still being navigated by the device which is an incredible feature. This means that you can still stay connected and drive safer at the same time.
As well as making it safer to use a phone you can be alerted for the following situations when they come up ahead;
- Sharp bends
- Speed changes on the road (although when we tested it, it did not update for road works on the road where they change the speed for safety)
- Railway crossings
- Animal crossings
One feature we really loved which isn't on any of the other devices we have reviewed is the hands free calling and voice activated navigation. Once the device is turned on, you can start the car and add a location using your voice, it is really simple and really powerful feature. Not just that, you can answer calls, check the weather of the location you are driving to and check traffic conditions ahead, it's rather brilliant.
Getting It Out Of The Box
Once the satnav had arrived, the first thing we had to do was charge it up, it came with a near empty battery, good thing we didn't need it straight away. One thing to note is that if you purchase this gps sat nav, you will have to set it up with the updates online and register with Garmin. We had a pretty smooth set up and within a few hours the sat nav was fully charged. We had it plugged in to the car at all times but we thought an initial charge would be best whilst we were setting everything up on the computer.
Once up and running it is really quick with finding your destination either by voice or by manual input, or even by adding a location from your phone. Within a few seconds you'll have the start, the destination and how long it will take, it awesome. The screen is a great size being 6" wide, we are happy using 5" screens but this one just adds a bit more clarity and the picture is obviously bigger due to the width.
One thing we have noticed over other sat navs is that when you are coming in to smaller towns or on roads with a lot of turnings and juctions, the sat nav does not zoom in fully, like it would on Google Maps or similar. You are sat above the town somewhat in the view and you can see the roads turning off left and right, which is OK, but it means if there are a couple of junctions next to each other, you may take an early or late turning because of the confusion with the view.
- Bigger 6" screen than other satnavs and better to view than your smart phone
- Great voice activation and hands free features means safer driving
- More features than you can shake a stick at, including hands free voice, fatigue alerts, crazy bendy road ahead alerts, speed alerts, camera alerts, etc
- Lane choice is made easier with the Garmin on motorways
- Lifetime maps and updates for all of Europe (over 40 countries)
- Can be hard to set up with Garmin Express
- Some updates to the maps are slow so you may not show road works on your maps when they are there and other times it shows roadworks where there aren't any
- Slightly reflective screen, can be hard to see when the sun is directly on it reflecting in your eyes
The best car satnav we have tested, hands down, it does cost a bit more than the others though. Really happy with the slightly bigger screen and voice activation. If you can get a clean set up with Garmin Express on your computer and you are happy with Garmin maps then this would be a great purchase to help you get to your destinations.
Review of EasySMX Touch Screen GPS SAT NAV
The EasySMX touch screen GPS SAT NAV is a comprehensive, multiple purpose device at a budget price, read our review below.
The EasySMX is easily fitted to your car window using a strong car suction cup mount that is provided with it and supports the SAT NAV with no wobbles. The size of the screen is quite large in comparison to other SAT NAV's available, making it even easier for those with long sightedness who find reading up close difficult and works well in making you aware of where you are and where you are going. For some people the screen may seem on quite the large size on an unnecessary level, if you feel "7 inch widescreen " would be to big in your car look at a smaller model.
This GPS device is more like a computer than a digital map, including games, calculator, music and video player and many more. Giving you plenty of time filling activities to do say you are waiting in the car to pick up a friend. However really this is what your smart phone can nowadays to so whether the extra features is beneficial or wasted space is questionable. The GPS comes with all software pre-installed meaning it does not require you to install anything however you spend time deleting unwanted programs on it to increase your memory space to keep the speed of the SAT NAV and personally I would recommend doing that as the main priority of your GPS system is to help you find where you want to get to quickly.
Battery life on the EasySMX SAT NAV is also not the best however I believe this could be down to the amount of programs running and the large bright screen so to help prolong battery life you will need to as well as getting rid of unneeded programs, reduce the brightness level. This GPS also comes with both a car charger and mains power charger with USB cable, this works well for cars that don't have a cigarette lighter.
The main positives to take from the EasySMX SAT NAV is that the actual map provided by the software iGO is very clear, colourful and provides a lot of detail to the road area you encounter, perfect for any regular commuter. It is also touch screen allowing for any quick change of plans.
- Comprehensive navigation system pre-installed
- Detailed coloured maps
- Large screen
- Includes extra features such as note pad and calculator and even a music player
- The screen can be customised in regards how much detail you want to see on the map and brightness
- Great value for money
- Unable to search via postcode
- Not the simplist to use
- You may find the screen unneccessarily large
- Too many programs and features pre-installed that take up memory space requiring you to remove
- Does not have speed camera alerts
- Not the longest battery life
This is a great value for money SAT NAV with just what you need (if not more than what you need) to get you from A to B.
Review of TomTom Start 25 5 inch Sat Nav
Another sub £100 sat nav with full UK, Ireland and Western Europe lifetime update maps. This is a TomTom so should be well specc'd at this price and have some great features, we review this product to see if it's worth the money.
This is a review of the TomTom Start 25 which is a basic to intermediate sat nav device by TomTom. We have chosen this device to review as it comes in at just under £100 with UK, Ireland and Western Europe lifetime map updates, has a 5" screen and we're comparing it to other devices by manufacturers like Garmin.
Features of the TomTom Start 25
- 5" touchscreen
- Window or car dash mounting is integrated on to the device
- Lane guidance for motorway driving and route planning for multiple destinations
- Speed camera alerts
- Lifetime map updates for UK, Ireland and Western Europe with this device
Again, we have tested a 5" touchscreen sat nav. We have done one which was 7" and we thought it was too big and having a smaller screen means that if you require to use this without power, it should last a little bit longer. Even from the middle of the car or infront of the passenger seat, we were able to read and navigate using this device.
The TomTom device's mounting is connected and fixed to the sat nav itself, which means that you have to take the whole thing off of your window or dash if you are to remove it from your car or take it somewhere else. This we think is a bit of a downside, they've probably made this for ease of use and to have less items to lose.
The routing for multiple locations was great and the lane guidance was especially good. You get clear colour images of the exact look of the lanes ahead of you and it shows you exactly which lane you should be taking, this is especially good for driving on large motorways that you have not driven on before.
As with the Garmin we reviewed, you get full lifetime map updates of UK, Ireland and Western Europe. This is actually only four updates a year but it is more than enough to be updated on new roads, tolls and other improvements to road infrastructure. One problem we had is the first time we tried the update, which we recommend as soon as you get it, is that it wiped the TomTom sat nav device clear before it re-installed of the maps available to us. This could prove tricky and could provide more problems in the future, we will see.
Using The TomTom Start 25
We were very happy with it, it's quite a bit different to older sat navs we have used and from other manufacturers but it has some good points. It is advertised as a starter/beginner sat nav device but it is much more than that. It's not the best most featured or biggest, but it is high end and feels like good quality.
You get a nice wide landscape sat nav, which is better than using a phone in my opinion. The display seems great compared to just using a phone as well, it has a matte type finish and feels nice to touch and enter details or search for the next location you are driving to. One of the downsides to entering addresses or post codes we found was that the keypad that pops up has the letters and numbers on different pages so it can take a while longer to enter details of your next location.
The maps come in both 2d and 3d view, which compared to its competitors is great for viewing more detail and understanding where you are in relation to where the GPS sat nav is taking you.
You can't link the device to your phone so you will miss out on live traffic updates but it does have the backup AI traffic which guesses when traffic will be bad and where. It probably uses data from all those that link their sat nav to a phone or have a better featured device. It's not rocket science though and anyone can guess coming in or out of a city at rush hour will have problems. This will not show you live accidents or road works, so you may want a better version.
Other Features From TomTom
If you require any of these other features such as Lifetime TomTom traffic or TomTom MyDrive you will have to get the TomTom Go 60 or better. If you want the Lifetime TomTom Speed Cameras or fully interactive screen you'd have to go up one more model and get something like the TomTom Go 610 or the TomTom Go 6100.
- Fast starting time, so once you're in your car, you can navigate within seconds
- Screen is clear, functional and easy to use
- Volume is not bad, might struggle with the radio on as well but is loud enough for us even when we're talking to each other
- Voice commands mention street names when directing you which can help in towns
- Speed camera alerts and lane routing are great features which come with the sat nav
- Sat nav and suction mount are all one piece so everything has to go with you when you want to remove it
- Locking the sucker to the window is hard and fiddly
- Power button is located on the rear of the device so can be hard to get to, think they would have been better off using a separate suction bracket like most other sat nav devices
- Apple computers are not compatible with TomTom mapping software, we don't have a Mac but have read this when installing the software ourselve's on our PC
A little bit more than the Garmin LM57 and not as well built. The maps though are second to none and similar features with similar priced sat navs, just a shame it has sort of been let down by the build quality and how it is used in the car, we would have preferred a separate suction mount so that the power button and removal of device were easier to access.