Standalone satellite navigation and GPS devices have been challenged by smartphones in recent years, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t have much to offer.
Larger, easier-to-read screens, for starters.
Garmin has been at the forefront of the satellite navigation market for many years.
The company’s best devices offer solid audio and visual instructions, as well as useful features like built-in WiFi or Bluetooth for hands-free calling.
For the past two months I’ve used the DriveSmart 76 as I have an older engine that doesn’t have a built in navigation system unlike many newer vehicles.
It’s a much better option than using a smartphone because of its size and the fact that you don’t have to worry about your handset losing coverage at an inconvenient time.
DriveSmart 76 features an easy-to-see 7-inch backlit HD touchscreen, excellent voice-assisted navigation, Alexa integration, and preloaded traveler content to help guide the way.
The screen has a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels and offers plenty of detail.
Setup is simple. The software itself walks you through the process which only takes a few minutes, including the time it takes to download and register with the Garmin Drive app.
Installation is just as simple. An attachment goes to the back of the device that clips onto a suction cup that attaches quickly and easily to your car’s windshield.
Cool features include built-in WiFi, live traffic information, lane assistance, alerts for dangerous turns, reminders to monitor your speed if you’re driving too fast for the applicable speed limit — and detailed maps from all over Europe which are free to download. Garmin’s navigation system is powered by Here Maps, by the way.
Using street names and landmarks makes it easier to follow voice guidance.
The instructions come with enough time for you to take action as well.
And bright, clear maps with 3D buildings help clarify any complicated instructions if you have the chance to look at them.
There’s 32GB of internal storage and a built-in mono speaker which is fairly quiet but can be useful occasionally (when my Bluetooth connection to the car speakers fails, for example).
You get the most out of DriveSmart 76 by pairing it with the Garmin Drive app on your smartphone which gives you access to live traffic updates, notifications and hands-free calling.
Updates and notifications appear in a split-screen view on the right side.
The satnav also has its own voice command. Say “OK, Garmin” and you can ask DriveSmart 76 to find an address or location, request route information, navigate a route, make a call, adjust brightness or change volume . You don’t need to touch the device at all, and you can also summon Alexa using your voice, which is handy for streaming music.
DriveSmart also includes convenient Foursquare and Tripadvisor integration.
One of the things I didn’t like was that when searching for a location, you can only choose from the list of options by tapping the screen.
While one feature that could be simplified is how you add stops to your route. For now, you need to search for a new location while your existing route is active. This brings up a new screen asking if you want to start a new route, add this location as a stop on your existing route, or add it as an end stop on your current route.
The device comes with a USB charging cable that can connect to your vehicle’s cigarette lighter socket (with the included d12v charger to USB adapter) or any other USB port in your vehicle.
You will need to keep it connected as the battery only lasts an hour.
Drivesmart 76 is a fantastic piece of kit packed with useful features.
The sat nav is simple to use, finds great routes and offers effective voice and visual guidance and after a few months of use on each trip I wouldn’t go back to a smartphone again.
Garmin DriveSmart 76 costs €249 at Currys.