If you're looking for a reliable navigator that won't break the bank, more experts recommend the Garmin nuvi 1350T (*Est. $155) than any other budget-priced GPS. PC World's Craig Ellison calls it "a bargain," and Gizmodo.com actually quit reviewing GPS units after the Garmin nuvi 1350T.
"There's nowhere they can go from here," Gizmodo.com's Wilson Rothman says. "Forget all those frilly features like voice command and Bluetooth, stuff that you love for a short while but (I fully admit) never use later on in the product's life. It's the basics that count, and the 1350T has basics" -- namely an easy-to-see wide screen, spoken street names (i.e. "Turn left on Elm Street in 100 feet" rather than just "Turn left in 100 feet"), fast routing, a user interface that Rothman calls "the best in the business" and free traffic alerts for life. Rich Owings at GPSTracklog.com gives the nuvi 1350T a "highly recommended" rating, and nearly 1,600 owners give it an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars at Amazon.com.
The nuvi 1350T boasts the same bright, easy-to-use touch screen and 6 million points of interest as top-of-the-line Garmin GPS units. Like those pricier models, the nuvi 1350T GPS allows you to download custom vehicle icons and voices, navigate to geotagged photos, pick the most fuel-friendly route, or find out exactly where you are (including the nearest hospital, police and gas station) with one click. It will even tell you what lane to be in at an upcoming junction.
What does the nuvi 1350T lack? Unlike some step-up auto GPS models, it won't automatically sort multiple destinations (day care, dry cleaners, Chinese takeout) into one efficient route. This GPS lacks Bluetooth, so you can't pair it with your phone to make hands-free calls. It won't connect to the Internet or "learn" local traffic patterns like the most advanced Garmin models.
Garmin offers a bunch of related GPS devices that all navigate equally well but have different features. Various reviewers recommend the base-model Garmin nuvi 1200 (*Est. $150) , which has a smaller 3.5-inch screen; the Garmin nuvi 1300 (*Est. $155) , which omits traffic alerts, lane assist, speed limit indicator and Alaska and Canada maps; the Garmin nuvi 1300LM (*Est. $150) , which adds free map updates for the life of the unit; the Garmin nuvi 1350 (*Est. $160) , which omits the 1350T's free traffic alerts; and the Garmin nuvi 1390T (*Est. $165) , which adds junction view and Bluetooth. When we checked real-world prices, there was very little difference among these models.
If you'd like a few extra niceties, reviewers recommend stepping up to the Garmin nuvi 1490T (*Est. $195) , which includes not only junction view and Bluetooth, but also multi-destination routing, the ability to save 10 favorite routes, and a big 5-inch touch screen that reviewers say looks enormous next to normal widescreen GPS units.
"Five inches may not sound like a big difference compared to the more standard 4.3-inch screen, but trust me, your eyes (and ears) will thank you," says Fletcher Previn at GPSMagazine.com. He notes that the nuvi 1490T also has a bigger, louder speaker than other Garmin GPS units, which makes it easier to hear driving directions and Bluetooth phone calls. Reviewers also like Garmin's other 1400-series units, which offer different features; for example, the Garmin nuvi 1450LMT (*Est. $225) omits Bluetooth but adds free lifetime map updates, making it a top pick at GPSLodge.com and a favorite of customers at Amazon.com and Newegg.com.