Review of the Garmin nuvi 2689LMT portable navigator
A big screen to lead the way
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I've been a big fan of Garmin's nüvi portable GPS navigator lineup for several years now, and just when it seems like they've incorporated every cool or useful piece of technology into these things, they raise the bar again. The nüvi 2689LMT is one of Garmin's new Advanced Series navigators, and it certainly has a lot going for it.
Big screen, skinny chassis
The nüvi 2689LMT sports a 6” screen that’s easy to follow when it’s mounted on the windshield. And Garmin’s come a long way over the years with the thickness of their navigators — this one’s 3/4 of an inch thick, which makes it not much bigger than an oversized cell phone case. It was pretty easy to carry away from the car without being uncomfortable in my jeans pocket.
The display on the 2689LMT is also miles ahead of some of the older Garmins that were around when I started noticing GPS products. This one’s easy to see and offers surprisingly crisp resolution for a 6-inch screen.
On the road
For evaluation purposes, I took the 2689LMT on a trip from Charlottesville, Virginia to Indiana and back over a weekend. Right off the bat, the navigator asked if I wanted to avoid toll roads, which was a big help because that’s not always something one thinks about when taking a long trip. I said it was okay to take toll roads and made my way north and west.
No cell coverage needed
As usual one of the biggest advantages of any portable navigator became clear as soon as we got out into rural areas. The navigator doesn’t depend on cell phone coverage to provide guidance. This puts it at a clear advantage over phone-based mapping apps. It also allowed us to use our phones for other things while on the road (such as streaming audio) without using up all of our allotted bandwith.
The 2689LMT offers voice recognition, which allowed me to find destinations just by speaking. I just had to say “voice command” out loud, and the navigator would offer me a list of categories to search through, including “find place,” “find address,” “view map,” and “recently found.” I could even use my voice to change the navigator’s brightness and volume. While it isn’t perfect (a couple of searches required multiple attempts for the Garmin to understand me correctly), this feature made it easier to find directions while driving.
"Up Ahead" for quick stops
One of the coolest features in the Garmin Advanced Series is the “Up Ahead” indicator. With this engaged, the navigator displays a vertical bar on the right side of the map showing distances to the closest gas, food, and ATMs. It’s really handy for those emergency situations when one can’t afford to be picky about where one needs to go. My passenger and I were able to quickly determine what our options were when it was time for a pit stop.
Foursquare to the rescue
Beyond the “Up Ahead” feature, which has been available for the past couple of years on select nüvis, Garmin added an even more useful aid for finding stopping points — Foursquare points of interest. When I asked the navigator (using my voice!) to find a place to eat or a coffee shop nearby, it would show authenticated Foursquare check-in locations at the top of the list, letting me know that the place was indeed for real and had been checked into at some point.
The Foursquare points of interest weren’t always the closest ones to my location, but it was nice to know that they were there. Because although I’m not a Foursquare user, I could’ve used the help provided by the Garmin Smartphone Link app. I didn’t have the free app on my iPhone 5 on this trip, but if I had it on there and I had paired my iPhone with the navigator through Bluetooth, I could’ve used the app to learn more about the Foursquare points of interest listed on the navigator, including user ratings, prices, and business hours.
One caveat is that the Foursquare points of interest are only as reliable as Foursquare itself. I noticed upon my return to Charlottesville that a couple of area restaurants listed by Foursquare had actually closed in the previous few months, but that’s a chance one takes with any sort of location database, regardless of who’s providing it.
Another great new feature of the nüvi 2689LMT is Garmin’s Direct Access aid, which I can see as being a real lifesaver for those in a hurry (and who isn’t?). It works at airports, malls, and universities, to guide you around parking lots or drive-up areas to get you as close to the store, gate, or building as possible.
We needed to get to The Gap at the University Park Mall in Mishawaka, Indiana, due to a minor clothing emergency. I hadn’t been to that mall in about 20 years, so I obviously didn’t know where the closest entrance to The Gap would be. The nüvi led us to the rear parking area of the mall, using an auxiliary entrance. It then displayed an outline of the mall on the screen and pointed out where in the mall The Gap was, so we could trace our progress through the parking lot and find a spot near to the closest entrance to The Gap. Since we were in a bit of a time crunch, this was a great way to avoid wasting time looking for the store.
“Last Spot” for large lots
We were going to a college football game, and we parked pretty far away from campus to save a couple of bucks. The nüvi’s “Last Spot” feature (located under the “Apps” function) saved the exact coordinates of where we had left the car so we could find it after the game by walking along the prescribed streets. Since both of our cell phones had died by this time, it was a real help.
A fine travel companion
Driving back from Indiana, we chose a different path than the way there, and were treated to much lower tolls and scenic views of Ohio and West Virginia. I noticed that the speed limits displayed on the nüvi’s screen were correct about 90% of the time relative to the posted limits that weren’t in construction zones, which is a good number but not perfect.
Between the clear 6" display, the Bluetooth connectivity, and the sweet extras I talked about here, it’s easy to see that the Garmin nuvi 2689LMT is a clear winner.