Pocket-lint tested out Garmin's latest Premium satnav device, the Halfords-exclusive Nuvi 3598LMT-D, on the streets of London in the rarest of fashions: in the passenger seat of a 1912 Rolls-Royce Phantom. Talk about a juxtaposition of old and new.
We got our mitts on the Premium Nuvi device, the slimmest, suavest and best-built of the 5-inch touchscreen satnav models available. There are also Essential and Advanced models available within the range which offer the same screen size but chunkier, less-premium build and fewer features.
It's only the Premium model which has a quick-to-connect magnetic mount that pops straight into place on the windscreen-mount. Try to put the device on upside-down and the magnet repels a connection, so it's not possible to mount the device the wrong way up.
The Nuvi 3598LMT-D screen is bright, colourful and the touchscreen responsive just like a modern smartphone - pinch-to-zoom and scrolling around maps, adding way points and navigating through menus is no problem at all.
And so to the streets. When there's no power steering on hand you don't want to get caught up weaving in and out of lines of traffic. Garmin's latest Nuvi pulls together a variety of features to keep you one step ahead of the traffic:
Detailed maps include 3D buildings and terrain that update for free for life, real turn-by-turn directions will use landmarks as reference points - for example "turn right after the church" instead of "turn right in 300 metres" - while DAB-received traffic updates feed the Nuvi with traffic information to help avoid those unwanted jams.
Garmin has partnered with INRIX and Nokia Here in order to benefit from these companies' services. INRIX is a traffic company that sources information from the Highways Agency in addition to a huge crowd-sourced network of vehicles for accurate information about traffic movement. Here by Nokia is where the landmark-based voice navigation system and 3D mapping has been sourced.
In our 30-minute journey we were able to test out only a smidgen of how such a vast database of information could affect a specific journey. A live traffic display to the right side of the Nuvi's screen shows delays to your current journey in real time without disrupting the main live map, while traffic congestion in surrounding areas shows up as red on the virtual roadways. Those areas are best avoided, so if you don't plot a specific route a quick glance at the screen can help with judgement. This traffic update aspect certainly works, as the Nuvi detailed a five minute delay to our journey. However there was no forewarning about the traffic disruption due to Crossrail construction on London's Farringdon Road.
As the Nuvi receives data via DAB signal rather than the pay-per-data smartphone data-sync offered by competitors such as TomTom it means you needn't pay a penny more than the Nuvi 3598LMT-D's £299 asking price. And we'd hope not, as three hundred quid is a serious investment.
But Garmin hasn't avoided smartphone-sync altogether - and for good reason. Although the DAB radio signal means free data, the digital radio network doesn't provide full coverage of the UK and it's even patchier elsewhere in the world. The solution? Smartphone Link via Bluetooth for iOS and Android platforms. This works in two ways: alongside the DAB signal where the smartphone sync will pull in live data about weather, traffic cameras or the smartphone app can even help you find your parked car; without the DAB signal available the smartphone sync can utilise the data for live traffic updates too. It's best of both.
Other features that we weren't able to test included voice-activated navigation. In a windowless Rolls it's hard to hear much except the whistling wind and this also made it tricky to hear the turn-by-turn instructions, even at full volume. We'd rather the Nuvi could notch up a bit louder to be heard above surrounding noise, music or the like.
Then there are features such as active lane guidance and a three-quarter bird's eye view of more complex junctions. As it's largely all single-lane action in London town, we weren't able to see these features in action for our specific route, but both these features sound like an effective way of tackling those unknown routes.
Overall it looks as though Garmin's got a solid contender here. An attractive, slim device that's quick to connect and delivers all the mapping you could need. It's just the near-£300 price that might cause some to baulk at the idea of buying one.