You could just use your phone for driving directions, but a dedicated GPS device makes navigating easier, works where you don’t have coverage, and frees up the phone for other uses. The Garmin DriveSmart 55 stands out because it combines best-in-class directions, points-of-interest data, driver alerts, and free map updates with the best multi-touch display we’ve seen on any GPS unit. But recently a new Garmin DriveSmart 70 NA LMT model has appeared. If this is interesting to you, then look at the « New Real Review » – these guys know their stuff!

Garmin DriveSmart 55

The DriveSmart 55’s super-crisp 1200×720-pixel capacitive display is much sharper and easier to read than the 480×272 screen common on most similarly sized models. And its multi-touch control is much easier for zooming in or out on a map than the typical GPS screen’s controls. While the 5.5-inch screen is larger than on typical models—which have 5-inch screens—the overall unit is slightly smaller thanks to the 55’s sleek bezel-less design. Like the best GPS models, the 55 can also connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth, which lets you send destinations to the device, get incoming messages on-screen, and receive extra trip and traffic info. The DriveSmart’s extensive points-of-interest database helps guide you to an area’s best sites and businesses, with integrated TripAdvisor ratings, Foursquare listings, History Network sites, and US National Park directories, which other brands’ models don’t offer. The 55 also provides helpful traffic info in many metro areas, responds to voice commands as well as the best GPS units, and like other top models includes free lifetime map updates—a contrast to the pricey updates you buy for many cars’ built-in nav systems.

TomTom Go 520

The TomTom Go 520 is a good alternative to take along if you frequently travel outside North America because it offers free downloadable world maps, which are separate, expensive purchases for Garmin models. TomTom’s handy magnetic mount is also a nice bonus.

While the Go 520 provides many of the same features as the Garmin DriveSmart 55, we prefer the 55 for US use because it gives more specific directions and clearer lane guidance, it has a sharper display, its menu system is easier to use, its voice controls are more extensive, and it offers more driver alerts.

Garmin Drive 52

If you want a less expensive GPS navigator, without some of the handy features of the DriveSmart 55, we recommend the Garmin Drive 52. Although it’s the least expensive model in Garmin’s current line, it gives you the same great directions, user interface, points-of-interest database, and driver alerts as the DriveSmart 55, and includes free lifetime map updates. The Drive 52 is missing the 55’s handy Bluetooth connectivity, voice command system, and Wi-Fi updating. In addition, its 480×272 resistive touchscreen isn’t as sharp and doesn’t allow multi-touch input.