"Best features yet in a Garmin nuvi!"5.0 starson by TerryFitch
Pros: Screen resolution, layout, and size, ease-of-use, driving information
Cons: Cost considering HD traffic conflict with LiveTraffic feature in SmartLink app
Summary: In a nutshell, this is the most impressive PND that Garmin has crafted. I won't review the entire unit, as there are many good, thorough reviews on the web now. That said, I wanted to share my experience with the traffic feature, as it is a subject of much discussion and I have owned the unit for about one month now.
My job is travel-based, and I drive about 18 - 20,000 miles a year for work purposes. I have owned four Garmin GPSs - StreetPilot c550, nuvi 760, nuvi 3790, and now the nuvi 3597. In addition, I've been able to play with other Garmin nuvi models that were purchased for other family members, so I'm fairly familiar with the PND evolution, at least as far as Garmin is concerned. Having most recently owned the nuvi 3790 which had the "basic" traffic functon, I was looking forward to upgrading to HD traffic along with the ability to connect the nuvi to my iPhone 4S using the SmartLink app.
I live in Michigan, and there are generally only two areas where traffic coverage is provided via radio waves - metro Detroit area/southeast Michigan and metro Grand Rapids area/west Michigan. I travel through the Grand Rapids area on a regular basis and have been able to acquire an HD signal each time I pass through (you can identify that you are receiving the HD signal by pressing the menu button in the lower right hand corner of the screen and looking for the HD symbol inside the traffic icon).
When the signal is received, the information that is provided is much more detailed than the standard traffic information. This includes info such as a lane closure, a disabled vehicle, construction, or moderate/heavy congestion. The GPS will automatically add minutes to the expected arrival time to account for these issues accordingly. The extra information can be very useful. Obviously though, this all depends on receiving a traffic signal, which may vary by time of day or day of the week. Some traffic warning information is announced by the GPS, while a small window will also slide out from the right-hand side of the screen displaying additional details about the upcoming incident, including distance to the incident and alternate route availability, if any.
As I do not live in an area that is covered by the HD radio traffic network, I opted to purchase the LiveTraffic service through the SmartLink app for my iPhone 4S. From what I have read, the difference between the HD traffic and the LiveTraffic is the maximum frequency in which updates can occur (HD - 30 seconds, Live - 2 minutes) . The LiveTraffic coverage area is much more extensive than the HD coverage area, so I can now get relevant traffic information on my 15 minute commute home.
The down side to purchasing the LiveTraffic service is that it always takes priority over the HD traffic system, even when an HD signal is being received. One of the selling points of the nuvi 3597 is the GTM60 HD traffic receiver. But if you are using the SmartLink app, HD traffic notifications will be disabled and the additional cost of the receiver (that is included in the $340 unit price) is wasted. Of course the SmartLink app can be disabled in areas where the HD signal is received, but in doing so you'll also give up the Advanced Weather notification feature and Live Cams (if purchased; these are separate in-app purchases from LiveTraffic) as well as some other cool search and send features of the SmartLink app. So at this time, at least as far as I can tell, it is an "either/or" proposition as far as the traffic services are concerned. Hopefully, a "smart toggle" ability can be added in a future firmware update so that drivers can take advantage of the higher frequency notifications of the HD traffic system while still using the SmartLink app for other useful travel information.
I haven't taken the GPS out of Michigan yet, so I can't speak for other areas of the country as far as the HD traffic signal is concerned. But when receiving the HD signal (or using LiveTraffic), I have been impressed by the detail in the traffic messages. Either service is a definite upgrade from past traffic services, in my opinion.
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Hope this review is helpful.
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