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Garmin nuvi 1300LM Review

I recently completed a five-day driving vacation with the Garmin nuvi 1300LM 4.3-Inch Portable GPS Navigator with Lifetime Map Updates. The model has been replaced with the Garmin nuvi 40LM, but the 1300LM is still widely available for purchase new, refurbished and used. I previously owned the Garmin nĂ¼vi 255. I upgraded mainly for the lifetime maps feature of the 1300LM, which did not come with the 255. During holiday sales a refurbished 1300LM was cheaper than updating the 255 map. I also gained a larger screen. However, there were some tradeoffs, and one was particularly annoying.

First, the advantages of the 1300LM. Obviously, the lifetime maps is a plus. Well, it's supposed to be, but frankly after two months and one major trip, I haven't gotten around to updating it. Garmin must be using dialup because the download of an update file is glacial. It took me four hours on a DSL connection. So long, in fact, that I left it downloading for the night, and never got back to using it.

Another advantage is the wider screen. I found the square aspect of the 255 to be adequate. However, the wider screen allows me to put the numerical information (time, miles to destination, etc.) in a tidy stack on the side. Placed here, there is more room for data points, and that's part of the fun of a gps.

A small loss was the alternative voices. The 1300LM comes with one installed voice, a rather flat female. The 255 came with several accents. I found the basic female on the 255 to be more pleasant than that on the 1300, but this in not a deal breaker, as the one voice does the job. However, I was a little surprised because the 255 was a bottom of the line unit, as is the 1300. I'm used to new models of electronic gadgets in the 21st century adding features, not taking them away, even at the entry level.

While the voice thing was minor for me, I was very disappointed to discover the 1300LM will not display speed limits. This one ticked me off. Again, I'm used to new generations of gear at least keeping the basic features of previous models. And I know the 1300LM knows the speed limits because it needs them to accurately calculate arrival times. Garmin has deliberately crippled the unit to not display the speed limit. Voices take data space and time to develop, so I can accept them as a premium item. But to simply turn off the display of a data point that the gps unit must be accessing to in order to function is insulting to the customer.

A further quibble that may be a settings item, but still confuses me, is how the unit chooses optimal routes among choices that are similar in time but dissimilar in miles traveled. On my recent long trip, I chose "fastest time." The unit favored a quicker route while ignoring a shortcut that added a few minutes, but cut off 25 miles. This short cut also eliminated traveling the Washington D.C. beltway, certainly an experience worth avoiding even at the cost of a few minutes. Fortunately, I knew of the shortcut previously. If I relied on the gps, I would have missed it. Using the gps, if I choose "shortest distance," I end up on strings of back roads and city streets that add lots of time. I am looking for a "smart" route that can balance time and distance better. I simply may be asking more than my entry level 1300 can handle, so I will not count it against the 1300LM.

The 1300LM otherwise works as expected. But I still think it should have the speed limit display even if it is the bottom of the line. Deliberately crippling common features that are in essence mere software flags really, really bugs me.