To start with, the Nuvi 2495's home screen features smoother graphics that are more pleasing to the eye, despite the fact that its screen's resolution is similar to that of the Essential Series Nuvi 50.
Digging into the "Where to?" destination selection screen, the Nuvi shuffles most of its major category-selection options into a submenu and downright hides many of usual search methods (city, intersection, GPS coordinate entry) by default. Instead, you're immediately presented with a selection of user-definable shortcuts to favorite destinations or search parameters. So if you find yourself often searching for something as broad as the nearest fast food restaurant or as specific as the nearest Chick-fil-A, you'll be able to add a shortcut for that search to this main search screen. You can also choose to re-add city, intersection, and coordinate entry for destination selection. This new organization requires a bit more initial setup on the part of the user, but can shave seconds off the entry of repetitious searches.
One new interface addition that I'm loving is the addition of a search bar to the top of every POI selection screen that allows instant filtering of whatever category is being viewed. So, though entering "Golden Gate" on the main "Where to?" screen searches for every destination with those words in the title, entering the same phrase while viewing the Attractions category listing will likely only surface POIs related to the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a simple addition that--when combined with the Nuvi keyboard's very Android-like autocomplete feature--simultaneously speeds up and fine-tunes the process of finding what you're actually looking for in a sea of millions of destinations.
The settings menu has also seen some serious tweaking. Gone are the large, chunky, cartoony icons. They've been replaced by a scrollable list of submenus, each complete with a short description of the settings found within. The organization of these menus has not changed dramatically, but the aesthetic does make better use of screen real estate while also making the Nuvi feel less like a child's toy.
One particular item on the settings menu that merits mention is Dashboards. A Dashboard is a way of customizing the information displayed in the lower third of the map screen. Some of the available Dashboards feature graphics that mimic a car's dashboard, while others are more straightforward. Each Dashboard has two to four customizable spaces for displaying data chosen by the user from a range of options such as direction of travel, vehicle speed, time to arrival, time of day or arrival, distance to arrival, and altitude. Likewise, each Dashboard features a shortcut that takes you to a menu where 13 commonly accessed shortcuts can be found, such as Mute, Phone menu, Cancel route, and Detour.
Combined with customizable vehicle icons, color schemes, voice skins, and an option to display the Nuvi's interface in portrait or landscape orientation, being able to adjust the map Dashboard gives you a great deal of flexibility regarding how you look at and interact with your PND.
From a cold start outdoors, the Nuvi 2495LMT was able to lock onto our location in under 2 minutes. Subsequent restarts were assisted by a memory feature and were nearly instantaneous as long as we started it up in the same city that we had stopped in. We weren't able to replicate the indoor positioning trick that the Nuvi 50 pulled off, but, for outdoor navigation, this is pretty much what we've come to expect from Garmin.
Likewise, the Nuvi's chosen routes usually matched with our local knowledge of the San Francisco Bay Area's traffic patterns and shortcuts. This is no doubt due to the 2495LMT's awareness of current data thanks to its in-line receiver. Never during our testing were we confused about where the Nuvi wanted us to go or why. Our confidence was boosted somewhat by the clear and timely voice prompts and graphical lane guidance, which indicated with arrows which lane or lanes were valid for the chosen route.
While the Nuvi 2495LMT's menus and interface were rendered quickly, with smooth transitions, the same can't be said about the device's map screens. Scrolling around the map with a finger was a jerky affair. I was able to observe chunks of the map popping into and out of view as they loaded. It's not particularly offensive during navigation, as most of the time you won't be moving fast enough to outrun the loading. During route planning, however, the slow-loading maps become more of an annoyance. Again, this isn't what I'd call a deal breaker, but I expect more based on Garmin's previous ventures.
For years, one of the Garmin Nuvi line's strongest assets has been ease of use. Fortunately, the update hasn't detracted from this at all. The interface tweaks add a ton of flexibility to the navigation experience. Destination search has been sped up and fine-tuned. The menus have been optimized. Most importantly, Garmin's truly hands-free voice command system makes it possible to quickly and efficiently interact with the Nuvi without even touching it. When you're talking about a device that is designed to be used at highway speeds, it doesn't get much safer or easier than that.
Hopefully, Garmin can figure out some sort of way to provide snappier loading of its maps in a future update, but even if it doesn't I think that most users will be satisfied by the Nuvi 2495LMT's performance.