I have reviewed in-car navigation units from popular brands including TomTom and Navman. All are very competent, yet each has slight differences over the others. In Garmin’s case, it has the 7” market cornered after the excellent Navman MyEscape III reverted to 6” for its next IV model.
Not to put too fine a point on it 7” means if you are long-sighted (need glasses to read) you can see street names, navigation prompts and data without wearing glasses.
So, what does $429 buy you? One of the better, if only, 7” daylight readable screens, good touch sensitivity, lifetime maps and traffic updates, Bluetooth, and Garmin’s style – an easy to use, no fuss, interface.
Around town, on familiar roads, these visual and audio alerts can be all too frequent but you can be selective – essentially school zones and cameras are all that you need. But on unfamiliar roads, they can be very useful.
Out of the box – Garmin DriveSmart 70LMT
You get the unit, a 12v lighter charger with integrated mini-USB cable, a USB-A to mini-USB cable, and a clip-in gimbal windscreen mount.
The mount is in two parts – the silicon suction cup arm and the ball socket that attached to the device. It offers greater flexibility than many other mounts.
You download Garmin Express for Windows or MacOS and it updates software and maps whenever the device is connected to the computer. The internal memory will handle a full set of country maps and the operating system and you can also insert up to 32GB microSD card (not supplied).
Size-wise the unit is 18.9 (W) x 11.1 (H) x 2cm (D) and weight 306g.
Maps and information are from HERE and traffic is from Suna. For reference ToMTom and Navman use TomTom maps and Suna traffic.
In the car
The screen is a capacitive touch, colour WVGA (800 x 480 pixels), TFT and that is more than enough for maps. However, like most screens used in GPS, the viewing angle is about 140° (not the 178° expected on smartphones and monitors) so placement is important.
Due to its size, you are better mounting this over the centre console as some windscreens rake too sharply near the driver’s pillar. Perhaps before you buy ask to try it in your vehicle as 7” screens may not always fit due to windscreen angle.
The screen is reasonably reflective and a fingerprint magnet so get the placement right and have a micro fibre cleaning cloth ready.
Daylight brightness is better than competitors and night time schemes are clear and readable. Touch is sensitive – better than many GPS I have tried.
Garmin claims a 1-hour battery life (when not connected to a charger). I found this was more 20-30 minutes. Not a big issue but don’t consider it as a portable walk around device.
It also has voice control that works – well, let’s say it is no worse than other brands. But that is a precursor to Bluetooth pairing.
Pairing is painless and I could pair two Android devices. Once paired, if you agree, it will download contacts to allow for voice dialling.
The speaker and microphone were both sensitive enough to handle handsfree calls and callers commented on the clarity at their end.
With the Smartphone Link (Android and iOS) it will also display texts, calendar and app alerts on the screen and things like weather updates. It will also use a contact as a navigation point and can recommend parking etc.
As mentioned these can be copious but it does not take long to arrive at a happy medium. I particularly liked the Up Ahead feature that can show service stations, banks/ATM and cafes. These also offer more detailed information and “navigate to” functions but you really need to pull over to get the most from this feature.
An optional BC 30 wireless backup camera at $249 can be attached as well.
The user interface
Garmin uses a lower bar that displays speed, the road you are on, and arrival time. The top bar is for lane turn icons and the street name.
A right-side bar is for notifications including photo lane guidance for complex intersections.
Search is via a suburb/number/street, recent location, categories, Foursquare, or you can send an address via a smartphone.
All it is missing is the pinch to zoom feature on the DriveLuxe range.
- 7”, clear, readable, responsive touch screen
- Good, modern looks
- Good daylight and nightlight readability
- The interface is intuitive, easy to use
- The Smartphone Link can be handy especially for texts (cannot respond via voice)
- Full range of alerts and guidance
- Foursquare POIs
- Many more capabilities that you may ever use
- Fast GPS satellite find and accurate GPS placement
- Great screen mount
- Lifetime HERE maps and traffic – I think HERE may still have the edge over others for POI and routing
- Predictive drive times for pre-set routes based on traffic
- Larger size – make sure it fits your car
- Voice command can be hit and miss but it is not too bad
- Battery life (off-charge) is very limited
- Bluetooth sync prevents music streaming to the car
- Takes a while to learn what it can do
- Micro-USB cable
The Garmin DriveSmart 70LMT has great design, functionality, and ease of use. Though it is one of the more expensive GPS it easily justifies the price tag because of its wide array of smart features, advanced traffic assistance capabilities and intuitive menus and displays.
If you need a 7” then this is it. If you don’t need a 7” screen the DriveSmart 60 has the same features.