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Garmin's Nuvi 1450LMT: I Once was Lost but Now I'm Found
Nov 3, 2011 (Updated Nov 29, 2013)
Review by Steven Mrak
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Lane assist and junction view, points database, traffic view
Cons:low-tech touch screen, battery life and cable
The Bottom Line: If you get lost on the streets of the USA or Canada with a Garmin nüvi 1450LMT in your car, then its batteries must surely be dead.
Our Garmin nuvi 1450LMT helps keep us on the straight and narrow, whether it's on a daily commute or a cross-country trip.
Recommend this product?
Though they’re not going to admit it, the unofficial motto of the Texas Department of Transportation is “You can’t get there from here.” OK, to be truthful, it’s more like “There’s only one way to get there…” In a city (Houston) that sprawls across the coastal plain like a mammoth fungus, finding an address can be an exercise in frustration, one made worse by a secret city ordinance forbidding the posting of street addresses on buildings.
For years a die-hard paper map guy, I finally gave in – not least because the AAA map of Houston comprises four gigantic sheets with street names printed in three-point type. We hit our neighborhood Best Buy one evening, and came home with a GPS: a Garmin nüvi 1450LMT (hereafter “nuvi” for people who can’t type Fn-Alt-0252). The nuvi lives in our Honda Element most of the time, where it accompanies the Ms back and forth to work. I mostly use it on trips and weekends, though those are the times when we’re going to “non-usual” places. The verdict? Beats trying to refold maps by a long shot! Here’s why…
The 1450LMT has a big, bold 5-inch diagonal LCD TFT display (480 x 272 pixels) in a metallic-finish frame measuring 3.4 inches high by 5.4 inches wide. The unit is a hair over half an inch thick and weighs just slightly less than 8 ounces. Garmin supplies the GPS with a power cord (it has special powers as well), a suction-cup bracket for mounting to windshield or dash, and a little USB to micro-USB tether for updating from a personal computer. Ours came pre-loaded with detailed US and Canadian maps; the database also includes major urban areas in Mexico and parts of Central American and Caribbean nations. In the rest of North America the coverage is limited to major intercity routes.
The “LMT” in the model number stands for Lifetime Maps and Traffic. We can update the nuvi’s software and map database at will (through the USB tether) for as long as we own the unit. We also receive real-time traffic via an FM band, though only when the nuvi’s connected with the combination charging cable/FM antenna. On the downside, that cable is large and clumsy and it plugs into an awkward location on the left-hand edge of the unit, whether monitoring traffic or recharging the included Li-ion battery.
The device has a touch-screen interface, not only the user interface but also an on-screen keyboard for entering addresses and searching for points of interest. Naturally, it comes with a couple of voices and you can also buy additional famous ones from the Garmin Garage (Yoda, Wallace of Wallace & Gromit “fame,” Spongebob, Dora…). We keep the voice turned off most of the time, since it can be fairly annoying. It’s easy enough to turn back on if you’re lost in space, though. The touch-screen interface is low-tech by modern standards: there's no drag-to-pan capability and the zoom is controlled by plus and minus buttons, not the smartphone "pinch" standard.
Besides navigation, maps and traffic, the 1450LMT can be used as a picture viewer to look through pictures stored on a MicroSD card, which plugs into a slot on the left edge, or on the internal memory.
The most important reason for having the nuvi is for navigation. Garmin’s product produces point-to-point and turn-by-turn navigation anywhere in its data coverage. At its most simple, the nav system displays your current position and, when a turn is within the on-screen area, a turn arrow. At the same time, it displays the distance to the next turn and the name of the “target” street. When the voice isn’t muted, it announces the distance to the next turn and the name of the street (street naming isn't available on all nav units).
Additional navigation features include a smart zoom on the map screen, enlarging to increase detail in urban areas and zooming out on rural areas. The database also includes “Lane Assist,” which displays arrows showing which lanes go where in freeway interchanges and shows which lane you need to be in to follow the current route. For very complex interchanges, the screen displays a street-level photograph of the signage. It’s a definite godsend in heavy traffic and cities (such as Dallas) that have lousy signage and spaghetti-like freeway networks.
When you enter a destination and hit “go,” the nuvi calculates a route according to your choice of four modes: fastest, shortest, most economical, or off-road (choose mode in map settings). Fastest is the default, which preferentially follows interstates and divided highways. Should you leave the marked route, the nuvi will attempt to re-route you back to the default route, then give up and recalculate a new route that follows the road you’re on. If you wish to make an intentional detour, you can always enter a “via point,” such as stopping at the grocery on your way out of town.
The POI (point of interest) database contains gazillions (about six million, to be more precise) of banks, hotels, hospitals, transit stations/airports, city halls and post offices, gas stations, golf courses, and the like. You can also enter your own POIs. Any POI, address, or street intersection can be chosen as a via point: on a recent trip to Colorado, we used the database to look for a branch of our bank in Raton, NM, and found it in no time. Points (up to 1000) can be saved as favorites, etc.
The nuvi keeps track of your speed (it reads slightly faster than our speedometer). It also keeps track of the speed limit on most highways and many major streets. The display shows your speed in red when you’re over the limit; in green when you’re not. In a 2500-mile trip, we only found it to be incorrect once; though it doesn’t usually know about reductions in construction zones. in urban areas, speed limits appear to be available only on expressways and a few major streets.
Other features: The screen can automatically switch between daytime and nighttime displays. There’s an “eco mode” that shows a “leaf” whose color changes depending on your speed (40-60 is green…). Eco mode can also calculate what is, in theory, the most fuel-efficient route. You can set the GPS to walking or bicycling mode, both of which zoom down to a detailed street level and show paths, trails, etc., that aren’t visible on the car map. There’s also a calculator and some other tools that are easier to use on your smartphone. For security fanatics, you can lock the device – though I’m not sure what good that does when someone decides to rip it off…
Some limitations include losing satellite coverage in narrow canyons, whether granite or concrete. Sometimes the nuvi will simply freeze when surrounded by skyscrapers. Another quirk is that the nuvi can gets confused about position when going through very new construction or detours (it’s sensitive enough that with a strong enough signal, it knows which lane it’s in. It’s also not really good about differentiating streets at Y intersections; it will send you in the correct direction but not bother to mention that the street name has changed. On a couple of occasions the nuvi has become confused and decided you were lost when you weren't; that could be disconcerting for the geographically challenged,,,
The database is the core of the nav system. The LMT model includes lifetime map updates on your own schedule. The initial update, during setup, took several hours. Subsequent incremental updates take less time; on the order of an hour. With a couple of exceptions, we’ve not been steered wrong by the database. One case is a newly-built (early 2010) street near our home, which does show up on google maps but isn't in the nav database. The second is an address that, according to the proprietor of the store, fools everyone’s nav system because the street has two different names.
The LMT also has lifetime traffic, which requires that the nuvi be connected to the charger cable. Coverage is limited to selected cities (98 in the US and Canada) and .Traffic view is typical: streets with red lines are essentially stopped; streets with yellow lines are running slow. Instead of green for traffic moving at normal speeds, the map shows the streets at the default color. On any map display, you can zoom out to look at traffic over a wider area. There’s also real-time display of traffic incidents like accidents, blocked lanes, etc.
A traffic blockage ahead on your route puts you into traffic avoidance mode, which will route you around the clog. Unfortunately, everyone else’s nav system is doing the same thing at the same time, so unless you’re at the head of the line it’s still messy – and in the case of Houston, there often aren’t alternate routes anyway. We’ve probably only used it once or twice, with about the same results we’d have had if we’d just used the maps.
The nuvi’s Li-ion battery lasts bout three hours between charging, meaning that you’ll need to be certain to have the cable with you on any extended trips. Of course, you’ll want it with you anyway for traffic reports in case you go through Springfield, Spokane, or Sacramento.
The good: we both really appreciate the lane assist and junction view when navigating unfamiliar freeway interchanges; the database of POIs has been invaluable for finding banks, parks, and the like in strange cities. I like the speed limit display, although the family leadfoot doesn't like it that I can see her speed when she's driving and she can't blame the needle position on parallax.
The so-what: Neither of us in enamored of the traffic function, through that may be a result of the peculiarities of the Texas highway paradigm - one route between places, make it massive, and hope it doesn't ever close down. The traffic is also supported by pop-up local coupon offers, which tend to be a little annoying - especially since the one that shows up near our home all the time is an offer for a motel. Not all that interested in the picture display, though perhaps it can come in handy for looking at images from a point-and-shoot camera like our new Nikon S6200.
The not-so-good: A three-hour battery life seems rather short, and the design of the power cord-antenna is quite intrusive. I also wish it were easier to pan in map view.
Overall, a solid performer with some excellent features. Traffic coverage may not be all its cracked up to be, but the maps and navigation system are excellent. It’s especially useful for trips through strange cities where the lane assist and junction view could save some wild swerves. I sort of wish we’d sprung for the 2460LMT, which includes Bluetooth capability and voice activation. Still, a friendly interface and an accurate and easy-to-follow nav system make the nüvi a stand-out performer.
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