While some GPS devices feel like the developers have crammed in as many features as possible, market leader Garmin keeps things relatively simple with its high-end nvi 885T ($599). This navigator delivers voice commands and lifetime traffic, but like other Garmin navigators, it's well made and perfectly easy to use. However, for a high-end unit, it doesn't push the envelope enough.
Design and Interface
The Garmin nvi 885T has a 4.3-inch, 480 x 272-pixel touchscreen and a rounded silver case. It comes with an attractively small ball-and-socket window mount, as well as a remote that straps onto your steering wheel to call up the voice command system.
Start up the 885T and you'll get the same simple two-icon interface as on lower-priced Garmin models: Where To? and View Map. Smaller icons let you access volume controls, settings, and, if you've connected a Bluetooth-capable phone, hands-free calling.
Maps and Navigation
The map view on the 885T is boldly colored and easy to follow, although we expect more detail and less of a cartoony look from a high-end device. While the map shows you your speed, next street, and time of arrival, we'd like to see more detail on the map view. Current street name, distance to destination, and volume controls were all missing.
While GPS startup time seemed especially fast, the 885T took 5 to 6 seconds to reroute after a missed turn, which is average. However, we like that Garmin includes two American English text-to-speech voices, both of which sounded excellent (there are also two Australian and two British voices, for a total of six). While the documentation promises lane guidance screens, we only saw one during many miles of highway testing. The leading competitor for this feature, Navigon, offers photorealistic lane guidance images far more often than Garmin does.
Entering an address with the 885T couldn't be easier. The Garmin interface is simple enough for anyone to grasp. You can quickly enter an address, call up favorites, or look up a point-of-interest from the 6 million-POI database. The 885T seemed to freeze once when we searched the database and other times the search was quite slow. Also, the database could be more current; In our testing, the map didn't know about a section of Newark Avenue in Jersey City that's been closed to traffic for more than a year, or the local Staples and Starbucks that have been around for some time.
You get a few welcome perks for the high price tag, including MSN Direct services (the first three months are free; afterwards, the service costs $49.95 annually, or $129 for a lifetime plan). We like that the 885T includes lifetime MSN traffic, but the traffic map--which is so zoomed out that it looks like a plate of multicolored spaghetti--wasn't all that helpful. Also, getting MSN services, such as local theater listings, weather forecast, and events, to work properly took some effort. At first, we thought that the 885T simply didn't have any listings for our area, but after contacting MSN to reactivate the service on our unit, the navigator displayed a similar number of local events as we've seen on other GPS units with this feature.
We had better luck with the voice command system. The steering wheel remote called up the voice system perfectly every time, and the command system could hear us well if the radio was off and we spoke clearly. You can speak any on-screen menu commands, which is easy to remember.
The 885T also comes with a music player, Audible book player, and photo viewer. You can load Panoramio photos with embedded GPS data through the Garmin site, then navigate to them. It's a bit tedious, though, since you need to create an account first and then download a helper application. Other extras include an FM transmitter, three free games (and eight purchasable demos), a currency converter, and a world clock.
For $599, the Garmin nvi 885T is worth the splurge if you like the idea of barking voice commands instead of digging through menus. However, for this amount of money, we prefer the Navigon 8100T (also $599), which, despite some faults of its own, offers a classier brushed-metal bezel, free traffic updates, and a 3D Panorama view.