The Nuvi 50LM is a basic car navigation unit but has features where it counts.
By TAN KIT HOONG
Look at the Garmin product catalogue, and you'll see a whole plethora of GPS models, ranging from marine and wearable models to the most popular, the Nuvi car navigation series.
Even within the Nuvi range there's quite a few models to choose from, some of which are slimmer or come with a voice command feature.
However, for most of us, a fairly basic unit that gets us from one place to another is already adequate, and the Garmin Nuvi 50LM is just such a model - it has features that matter, and leaves out the flashy bits.
The one unusual feature that comes with the 50LM (and probably the most important when it comes to car navigation units) is where the "LM" in the model name comes in, which stands for "lifetime maps."
Yes, instead of the usual yearly subscription or a time-limited free map update period, the 50LM comes with free map updates for the lifetime of the unit.
Garmin's small print states that the 50LM will get up to four map data updates per year "when and as such updates are made available on the Garmin website, for this specific Garmin product only until this product's useful life expires or Garmin no longer receives map data from its third party supplier, whichever is shorter."
What "useful life" entails in the description is anybody's guess, but this does mean you'll keep getting free maps for much longer than most GPS car navigation units out there.
As far ease of use goes, the Nuvi interface sets the standard which very few other brand of car GPS units have equalled. The interface is friendly, easy to understand and is responsive when you need to enter information using the touchscreen keyboard.
I've seen many other GPS car navigation units in this price range exhibiting some major lag when entering information but I've honestly never had an unacceptable lag from any Nuvi GPS unit I've tested and the 50LM is no exception.
The screen on the 50LM itself is pretty large, at 5in, although the resolution is still only 480 x 272-pixels.
Unlike the more expensive models, however, the touchscreen is based on resistive technology and not capacitive - not a big deal as it's sensitive enough to register my finger input although it's not multi-touch capable like the capaciteve models.
Garmin never advertises the GPS chipset it uses, but in terms of satellite signal acquisition time, this isn't one of the faster ones I've tested. In practice, it usually takes between 30 seconds to two minutes to get a satellite lock, which is not the fastest, but certainly not the slowest of the units I've tested.
There are of course a variety of spoken language options for the voice navigation, including Bahasa Malaysia, several Chinese dialects, Thai and, of course, English.
Several of the English options gives you text-to-speech which attempts to read road names for you.
I say attempt because while it is serviceable, the system will inevitably fail when trying to pronounce words like "Puchong" or "Tun Sambanthan," which should at least good for a laugh the first few times you hear it.
One feature I wish Garmin would implement is the option to have celebrity voices which you can purchase and install, instead of the boring, character-less voices that come with the unit.
Nevertheless, sound quality and volume is very good on the 50LM - it was loud enough that I only had to set the volume level at about 50% or so.
Navigation has all the usual bells and whistles we've come to expect in a modern car navigation unit - you get Junction View that gives you a representation of the junction and signs, and also Lane Assist, which tells you which lane you should be in.
There are no 3D landmarks and buildings, but if anything, having 3D buildings is less useful than Junction View and Lane Assist, which are truly essential in showing you where you should go.
Overall, the Garmin Nuvi 50LM is a very good basic GPS car navigation unit, and if you don't want to pay a lot of money for features like Bluetooth that you are unlikely to use, then you should consider this Nuvi.
In fact, the 50LM comes out on top in features that do matter - you get free map updates for the lifetime of the product, a large screen, ease-of-use and a responsive interface, all for a relatively reasonable price.
You can't ask much more of a GPS if you just need it to get you from place to place.
Pros: Free lifetime map updates; large screen; responsive interface.
Cons: Satellite acquisition time could be faster.
Car navigation unit
GPS CHIPSET: n/a
DISPLAY: 5in WQVGA (480 x 272-pixels) touchscreen
MEMORY: 2GB internal flash memory
STORAGE: microSD slot
BATTERY: lithium ion
OPERATING SYSTEM: n/a
OTHER FEATURES: free lifetime map updates
DIMENSIONS (W X D X H): 14.0 x 1.8 x 8.6cm
RATING: 4 stars
Review unit courtesy of Aeco Technologies (M) Sdn Bhd, (03) 9285-8062