Exploring Scotland with Garmin’s DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-D Intuitive GPS Navigator

Exploring Scotland with Garmin’s DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-D Intuitive GPS Navigator

“Would you like to try out one of our GPS navigators?” This invitation, from navigation specialists Garmin, came at a good time. For part of our summer, we’d be navigating around country roads in the remote lowlands of Scotland. And at the end of our trip, our drive home to London would see us clocking up almost 400 miles, down motorways notorious for their traffic snarl-ups.

Our plan was to drive these 400 miles in just one day.

We needed all the help we could get.

Getting lost in the countryside

Garmin

Garmin’s DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-D arrived at our forest cottage before we did. An omen, if ever I saw one. After we’d taken the delivery slip to the local post office, in St John’s Town of Dalry, and collected the boxed-up navigator, my friend and I decided to drive on to New Galloway with no SatNav to guide us. Following the road signs had to be easy, right? Wrong. After a 20-minute drive past hedges, fields and woodland, we ended up right back where we started: at Dalry. Time to unbox the Garmin navigator, and call for its help.

Garmin

Voice activation

Calling was the right word. The DriveSmart™ was voice activated. Switching over to manual keyboard controls was easy, but if you followed through the voice command option, you could instruct the navigator to direct you to any town, street, postcode, place of interest, restaurant…the menu was long.

You can see the voice command in action here:

Unlike some voice controls, the DriveSmart™ seemed pretty good at recognising unusual names. It picked up the town of Kirkcudbright when I pronounced it both the correct way (Kir-coo-bree), and the way that you might imagine it to be pronounced, reading the name. Clever Serena (the navigating voice we chose) also gave near-human directions: ‘turn left just past the post office’ eg.

Garmin

Alerts

The DriveSmart™ pinged a wide range of alerts at us. The animal crossing alert flashed up regularly on the rural backroads, as did the alert for bends. A warning sounded when there was a speed limit change coming up. This was particularly helpful for those roads where a 60 mph limit suddenly drops to 30 mph, when you come to village. Garmin’s DriveSmart™ also let us know when a school was nearby.

Garmin

Garmin

Precision

Like all navigators, the DriveSmart™ came ever so slightly unstuck when directing us to our rural cottage, using just a postcode. There was no street name or house number to input, so the navigator just directed us to the most central area of the postcode: the middle of a field. On that occasion, we chose to follow our own judgement, and not plough through the barbed wire fence. No doubt the DriveSmart™ would have taken us right home if we’d given it a precise GPS co-ordinate (there was an option to do that).

Garmin

Traffic alerts

Garmin’s DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-D came with traffic alerts, and this was the most useful of all its functions. We didn’t have much call for the alerts in rural Dumfries and Galloway, but they made the journey back home a lot quicker than it would have been.

Garmin

The digital traffic alerts worked via DAB, and they appeared without us having to connect anything up to the navigator. Our first alert pinged up in the small town of Moniaive (you can see it in the picture above). The DriveSmart™ told us there would be a five minute delay in 16 miles. There was no alternative route this time, but a little further along, the Garmin told us there would be a 29 minute delay ahead, if we kept on this route – and suggested an alternative, which would knock 15 minutes off the delay time.

We followed the navigator’s suggestions, and avoided at least three major traffic snarl-ups. Our journey was supposed to include seven hours’ driving time. In the end, it was more like eight. Some traffic was unavoidable. But it would have taken much longer if we hadn’t had these digital traffic alerts to guide us.

Smartphone alerts

We connected my smartphone up to the DriveSmart™ via Bluetooth. This meant that any alerts coming through to my phone, displayed on the navigator. Along with CNN alerts about Trump, and a call from a charity asking for money (which I was able to take hands-free), there were some text messages that popped up, asking about the journey. You could play audio versions of these.

Garmin

Help along the way

Garmin’s DriveSmart™ had so many functions that it would take weeks of playing around to try them all out. It really was a natty little toy. After I’d been driving for a couple of hours, it started gently suggesting that I might want to take a break, by letting me know every half hour which service stations were nearby. You could switch these messages off if you found them annoying. There was a parking service, to help you find a parking space at your destination. On the major roads, a visual aid popped up telling you which lane to take at a junction. No more frantic swerving between lorries.

Garmin

As we drove along, the DriveSmart™ found us a wide range of local attractions, including museums, zoos, breweries and parks. This would have been helpful if, say, we decided to break the journey at a place where the children could stretch their legs. It connected to Foursquare and Tripadvisor, so you could see ratings for the places. This did lead us slightly astray on the journey back to London, when we decided to stop at a restaurant ranked with 5 stars by TripAdvisor, instead of a service station. It turned out to be a private members’ cabin clubhouse, and was closed. The club’s loyal members had clearly all gone onto TripAdvisor, and given their seedy shack five stars. Lesson learned: don’t always trust Tripadvisor scores, and do your research before you decide to head off to a restaurant with hungry kids.

Garmin

The restaurant we found to be closed was none of these, btw. I’m sure these ones are very nice….

Pros and cons – the verdict

Garmin’s DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-D retails at £219.99, which is at the top end of the price spectrum. If your finances can stretch that far, and you do a lot of driving on busy roads, I’d say it’s a good investment. When my in-laws drove to meet us in Dumfries and Galloway, a journey that should have taken them five and a half hours ended up being ten hours long, because a large chunk of the M6 was closed. The DriveSmart™ would have taken them on a detour to claw back some of this time. Let’s face it: a bad journey can put a real dampener on a family holiday, so it’s worth investing in something that helps make things go a little more smoothly.

Garmin

Another plus is that the DriveSmart™ is easy to update. It comes with lifetime maps, and you just need to plug the device in and connect it to wi-fi for it to update automatically.

One little niggle I had, was that you couldn’t see the arrival time and the time remaining for the journey on the display at the same time. You could switch between the two, but personally I like to keep an eye on both at the same time while I’m driving.

The DriveSmart™ might seem a little complicated to someone unused to technology. Although the basic driving instructions were clear and user-friendly (as were the traffic alerts), it took us a little while to work out, for instance, how to see all the details of our route the navigator before we set off.

On balance, though, the Garmin DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-D is a fine navigator, and I’ll find it hard to downgrade back to our old SatNav.

Pin for later:

Garmin

Garmin loaned us a DriveSmart™ 51 LMT-D for the purpose of this post, and I was compensated for my time. All views are my own.

 

 

 

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26 Comments

  1. August 16, 2017 / 8:06 am

    We’ve been looking for a new GPS. Thanks for info 🙂

    • Nell
      Author
      August 21, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      It’s a pleasure!

  2. August 16, 2017 / 8:14 am

    We also have a sat nav that gives traffic alerts and I literally wouldn’t be without it, it has saved us so much time. The only battle is to get my husband to put it on for traffic alerts when he knows the way!!
    Nat.x

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 6:47 am

      Oh dear! Yes I can imagine that must be frustrating 🙂

  3. August 16, 2017 / 8:30 am

    That sounds so useful – I have an old satnav but it doesn’t do traffic alerts so half the time I use Google maps on my phone instead. I’ve used some really confusing ones too (turn left in xx hundred metres when there are half a dozen left turns) so this sounds really practical as well.

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:03 am

      It ticked so many boxes, Cathy. I’ve found it hard to go back to our old one!

  4. August 16, 2017 / 10:24 am

    I love the look of the interface, it looks so user friendly and as you and Nat have said, clawing back time when there are delays is brilliant.

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:06 am

      The interface was nice and colourful (though not in a distracting way).

  5. August 16, 2017 / 8:48 pm

    Oh the looks fab, traffic alerts are great aren’t they? I can not manage without sat nav I have no sense of direction at all x

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:13 am

      I used to be better, but now would find it impossible without satnav!

  6. August 16, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    I honestly don’t know how I got around before sat navs came along (I do know – I got lost all. the. time!). This sounds really useful, especially with the traffic alerts. Well done on not following the directions into the middle of the field!

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:13 am

      Hahaha 🙂

  7. August 16, 2017 / 10:20 pm

    I don’t have a sat nav having just moved back to the uk and only just having bought a car. looks like we might need one of these

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:14 am

      You should definitely give it a try 🙂

  8. August 18, 2017 / 12:13 pm

    We have a Garmin at the moment, and love the display and find it good for journeys. I like the sound of this version, as we do need something more intuitive. You choose a good part of the world to put it to the test as well, first time visitors do need a satnav I think

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:17 am

      Absolutely! It’s a maze of a place.

  9. August 19, 2017 / 8:24 am

    Where would I be without satnav? The voice activation feature sounds really good. x

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:19 am

      I was impressed it understood all the tricky Scottish placenames.

  10. August 19, 2017 / 8:28 am

    You certainly put it to the test when you went away and sounds like it definitely stood up to the challenge.

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:19 am

      It did indeed!

  11. August 19, 2017 / 3:46 pm

    What did we do without Satnavs?? I remember many an argument with a map or print out route planner. This looks fab and love the voice control feature.

    • Nell
      Author
      August 23, 2017 / 7:20 am

      Oh yes, printouts! I’d forgotten about those….

    • Nell
      Author
      September 3, 2017 / 8:07 pm

      It really helped.

  12. September 11, 2017 / 1:47 pm

    We really need a reliable sat nav. Ours was never up to date with all the traffic issues, so we abandoned it. This looks better. Love that it hooks up to review sites too!

    • Nell
      Author
      September 12, 2017 / 11:19 am

      Yes, that was useful. It’s only as good as the review sites themselves though, as we discovered!

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