The Garmin DriveSmart 55 offers up lots of useful features at a price point that is relatively low, which makes this a great value proposition. The 5.5” touchscreen is clear and bright coming in at 1280 x 720 pixels. The display edges are minimal which gives it compact dimensions while having a larger screen. The DriveSmart 55 comes preloaded with street maps for the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands and Bahamas which gives this an advantage over your cell phone where you would need to download each one separately and take up a large amount of memory. Built-in WiFi keeps maps up to date with free lifetime updates. If you are an explorer, you will appreciate the included HISTORY Database, national parks directory, and TripAdvisor travel ratings. The voice guidance is solid, and you can even connect your cell phone via Bluetooth for hands-free calling. Using your phone and the Garmin Drive app unlocks even more features such as live parking, photoLive traffic cameras (where available), and text message notifications.
If you prefer a larger screen, the Garmin DriveSmart 65 is available with a 6.95”, 1024 x 600 pixel screen. It includes all the features of the DriveSmart 55 in a larger, easier-to-view display.
The TomTom Go Comfort is our pick for the best budget portable GPS. It includes many of the features the Garmin DriveSmart 55 has with a few compromises. First, all the good stuff: the Go Comfort comes with TomTom’s insanely accurate turn-by-turn directions, Bluetooth connectivity, lifetime map updates via Wi-Fi (no need for a computer), real-time traffic, and cell phone pairing. These features are enough to consider it over the DriveSmart 55 but some corners had to be cut to keep the price down such as a smaller, lower resolution screen, larger bezels, and support for only the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The TomTom Go Comfort has the value proposition locked down with a plethora of features from an industry leader. If you do not plan on exploring some of the islands and do not need a higher resolution screen, the Go Comfort should be at the top of your list.
If you are looking for added security and functionality, the Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-S will fit that bill. Not only do you get great features such as a 5” touchscreen, real-time live traffic and weather, Bluetooth hands-free calling, and detailed maps of North America with free lifetime updates, but also a built-in dash cam and advanced driver alerts such as forward collision warning. Dash cams provide a recording for an eyewitness account as it will continuously record your drive and store footage if it senses an impact. Since it is equipped with GPS as well, it will track where the event occurred. Not only does the dash cam record video, it is utilized to alert the driver when traffic has started moving, when following the vehicle ahead too closely, or if you drift off the road or into oncoming traffic by triggering a lane departure warning. Garmin’s Real Vision feature will help you navigate difficult to read addresses and will display an arrow that points you where to go.