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Garmin nuvi 56 is best, not the 50LM

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I said a while back that the nuvi 50LM was the best GPS ever made, followed by the DriveSmart 50.

I was wrong on both counts. Since I wrote those, I've owned a few more Garmins, and finally found the two that absolutely and totally are the best models Garmin ever released.

Second banana: Garmin nuvi 2599LMTHD with Garmin GTM60 power cord with traffic

I bought this one because of the top banana model 56, which I'll talk about in a moment.

When running a 2599LMTHD with the GTM60, you get the best of everything the 56 is plus HD traffic. This is an absolutely fantastic unit, but has one fatal flaw that made me stop using it. For every favorite you save, it will show an icon on the map and there's no traditional way to disable it.

I say traditional because there is a silly workaround. Before the start of any trip, touch the map (not the vehicle icon,) wait until the screen changes, then touch the back button. That's it. And it works. It makes those stupid favorites icons disappear. But you have to do this every time you start a trip. This was so annoying that it made me stop using the 2599.

The DriveSmart 50 does not do this, but the DriveSmart 51 does as does the 2599.

"Use the DriveSmart 50LMTHD then, right?" No, wrong, because both the nuvi 2599 and nuvi 56 (and nuvi 55) have one major super-awesome thing going for it.

Top banana: Garmin nuvi 56LM (or 56LMT) with TA20 power cord

I bought a 56 on a whim just to try it out specifically because of what you see in the screenshot above. BIG EXIT NUMBERS. You have no idea how great this is until you experience it. It exists on the nuvi 55, 56, 57, 58 and 2599. However, the 57, 58 and 2599 have that ridiculously annoying Real Directions garbage, which changes the voice prompt from "Turn right on Main Street" to "Turn right at the traffic light" instead of telling you the street name. In effect, that makes the two best models the 55 and 56. The only difference between the two is the 55 is US-only maps and the 56 is US+Canada. There was never a US+Canada+Mexico map released for the 55/56/57/58, but does for the 2599.

When locale is changed from United States to United Kingdom via a system reset, that's how you get the red circle speed limit you see at the bottom left of the screenshot.

Using a 56LMT + TA20 with the UK locale set gives you the best of almost everything. Bright matte screen that doesn't glare, nice big fonts, big readable speed limit, colorful map with great contrast and RDS traffic for areas that have it.

This is as close to perfection as it gets with a Garmin automotive GPS. It's June 2021 as I write this, and had I known how great the 56 was before, I would have bought it years ago.

There's only one thing missing from the 56 (and 2599) that would make it a perfect UI design. No Turns feature like there is on the DriveSmart 50. On the DS50 you can bring up a list of turns that show on-screen at the same time with the map. On the 56/2599, you have to touch the top text bar to get the list...

...but that is literally the only thing missing from it. Everything else is absolutely wonderful. The menu design is simple and easy. Matte screen is great. Touch response is great. Legibility is amazing, day or night. I like the UI and big fonts so much that I was willing to give up the Turns feature in the DS50 just to have it.

Also, the case is thicker compared to the DS50 and 2599, meaning it can handle heat better. It's a well built, solid feeling unit.

All the bugs the 55/56/57/58 had were worked out and fixed by Garmin years ago with system software updates. The thing works exactly how it's supposed to. This is the type of Garmin that made people fall in love with the brand.

The 50LM is great, as is DriveSmart 50LMTHD. But the 56... wow.

Pros and cons of 2599LMTHD vs. 56LMT vs. 56LM

The 56LM, which is the one I bought first, works amazingly well. No traffic in this one, so any Garmin charger can power it. It's the most basic of the three but requires the least to get up and running. The only two things you have to do when buying one used is get a new battery for it (750mAh is fine) and a new 32GB microSD card.

The 56LMT is exactly like the 56LM but with traffic, and to use traffic, a TA20 cord is required. Same thing as before, new battery and new microSD card.

The 2599LMTHD is a glossy display and is basically a 56LMT on steroids. What you get here that the 56LMT doesn't have is Bluetooth for the phone, voice command and US+Canada+Mexico maps instead of just US+Canada. However, to take full advantage of everything the unit can do, a GTM60 cord is required. You get "HD" traffic and "HD" simple weather 5-day forecast reports and current temperature for where you are in areas that support it similar to RDS coverage. No, you don't get weather radar. The battery replacement for this one requires a 1000mAh, but the same 32GB card for the 56LMT will work here.

In my experience, HD traffic isn't any better than RDS, the voice command is so-so at best, connecting the phone via Bluetooth is also so-so. Seeing current temperature and weather forecast is nice but adds nothing to the navigation experience.

More often than not, the 56LM is all anybody needs because the traffic reporting is barely adequate.

I'll explain.

Both the 56LMT and 2599LMTHD have the option to auto reroute you to get around traffic. You can also set it to prompt for rerouting instead of automatically doing it, but let's say you just kept it on automatic to keep things easier.

I am in one of those areas (Dallas-Fort Worth TX) with full RDS/HD traffic coverage. Yes, the Garmin traffic reporting does work most of the time. Sometimes it doesn't. I have encountered traffic that the GPS should have told me about but didn't.

Does this mean you should use a smartphone app for faster traffic reporting? No, because that's not going to be any better. The best way to avoid traffic is knowing where you are and using common sense.

Knowing where you are: If in familiar territory, know alternative ways to get to places.

Using common sense: If traveling during peak commuter hours, of course traffic will happen. If traveling on a holiday, near a major event, or the like, of course traffic with happen. Expect this.

If you encounter the situation where the traffic given to you by the Garmin simply isn't working for you the way you'd like, don't use it. Disable the feature, and use your brain instead. Plan ahead.

When you know where you are and use common sense, a no-traffic model like the 56LM will work just fine.

I use the 56LMT because even though the traffic reporting isn't on the mark 100% of the time, when it does work, it's great for getting around Dallas traffic. But even if I had to use the 56LM with no traffic, that's still a great navigation experience.

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