It’ll get you there, but… A review of the Garmin 755t GPS.

GPS – Global Positioning System

Everyone should have one if possible, but shop carefully.

I researched these devices long and hard and, desiring something that represented the state-of-the-art, decided on this one. Santa kindly brought it to me, though the charge mysteriously appeared on my credit card bill.

My first exposure to a GPS was in 2005 when I rented one (along with a car) for a trip through Nevada and Arizona. It was also a Garmin unit, and it worked flawlessly throughout the two week trip. It was particularly useful when we met our son in Tucson to get him settled into the university. Being able to find the nearest Wal-Mart and Best Buy for dorm supplies was very handy.

Based on that experience, numerous Internet reviews, and a hearty general endorsement of Garmin GPSs by my friends at Consumer Reports, the choice of manufacturer seemed clear. I chose the 755T over more basic units for 1) Traffic reports, 2) Lane Guidance, and 3) FM Transmitter. At the time of purchase, Amazon offered $100 off the price755t if one purchased a yearlong subscription to Audible.com. I thought the fact that the 755T had an Audible (and MP3) compatible media player might allow it to become something of an on-road entertainment center, so I went for it.

After almost two months of regular use, my opinion of the unit’s performance is fairly well formed. Here are my observations:

Basic Navigation – This is vitally important as it is the fundamental reason for buying one of these things in the first place. I am surprised at the issues I have encountered. For example:

I live in southern New Hampshire. Interstate 93 is the primary way out of this region, and it lies about 3 easy miles east of my home. It is the obvious choice to use when heading anywhere south or southwest, which is frequently the way I to travel (to NY or CT). The 755T, however, insists on beginning these trips by having me head west via 11 miles of congested roads (highlighted by a 4 mile stretch of shopper’s heaven) and cross a river in order to reach US-3 before heading south. I tried the route a couple of times, and though it is about 4 miles less to reach a common point further on, the trip is at least 15 minutes longer – and possibly much more on heavy shopping days. Note that the 755T has a preference setting allowing you to favor “faster time” over “shorter distance,” but obviously there are situations where it doesn’t know one from the other.

Heading home on one of these trips, I travel I-495 to reach I-93. Naturally, the 755T insists that I take US-3 when we get to that juncture, which I can easily drive by and allow the GPS to (re)calculate my preferred route. However, what it actually tells me to do is get off onto local roads to get from I-495 to US-3 – rather than use the nice ramp which connects the two roads directly. That’s just plain crazy.

This same behavior is evident when going from I-290 to I-90 (Mass Pike) south of Worcester, Ma. The GPS insists that I take the Rt. 12 exit, which is located about 200 feet before the handy direct ramp to I-90, and navigate local streets to another on-ramp. Bizarre. Of course, I was on I-290 only because I ignored directions to take a longer route with higher tolls…

While traversing Brooklyn, NY, heading home to New England, the 755T became hopelessly confused just when I might have needed it most. I was on I-495, and was directed to take a ramp leading to I-678 and the Whitestone Bridge. I did so. The ramp – kind of a service road arrangement – runs parallel to the highway for a long distance, and it intersects with many other ramps, roads and another major highway. The GPS apparently could not tell where I was with adequate precision, and it began “recalculating” repetitively. These calculations took a relatively long time (10 seconds, almost 1000 feet at 65mph), as if it were plotting the entire 250 mile trip each time. The net result was that it never caught up with me, and the GPS was utterly useless. I knew where I was going, but I pity the uninitiated traveling that area – it could actually be dangerous. Suggestion to Garmin engineers: limit the recalculations on long trips by using an intermediate point (in this example, let’s say the I-95 interchange 10 miles further on) so that the GPS can return to operation in time to be useful.

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