Sunday, March 18, 2012

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Garmin nuvi 40 review

Garmin-nuvi-40

Hands on with the best entry level Garmin nuvi yet

UPDATE: This model has been replaced by the nuvi 42 (49 states) and nuvi 44 (US + Canada).

The Garmin nüvi 40 is a 4.3” navigator in Garmin’s new 2012 Essential series. The models in this series are meant to be basic navigators at a budget price, lower than what we’ve previously seen for Garmin entry-level models. Nevertheless, they do come with some features not previously found on low-end nuvis, such as speed limit display, lane assist and junction view.

Related units

  • Drop down to the nuvi 30 and you’ll get the same features, but with a smaller 3.5” screen
  • Step up to the nuvi 40LM, to get the 40’s feature set and 4.3” screen, plus lifetime map updates
  • Or move up to the nuvi 50 to get an ultra-wide 5” screen
  • To see how the nuvi 40 stacks up against other models, check out my Garmin nuvi comparison chart

Two versions

Two versions of the nuvi 40 series are available – one with the entire US except for Alaska and Hawaii, and one for all 50 states plus Canada.

Key features

Generally speaking, all nuvis will get you from point A to point B; when you pay more, you’re primarily doing it to get bells and whistles. Nevertheless, the nuvi Essential series has some nice features. Here’s a look at several:

Speed limit display and warning

As noted above, the nuvi 40 includes speed limit display. In my testing, I’ve seen speed limits not just on highways, but on many secondary roads as well.

nuvi-40-speed-limit

And if you exceed the speed limit, the current speed field will turn red…

nuvi-40-speed-warning

Lane Assist

The next turn icon in the top left corner highlights the proper lane to be in. You’ll primarily see this on freeways and on some surface streets in urban areas. Coverage is fairly extensive.

nuvi-40-lane-assist

Junction View

The model I tested was a pre-production unit, and it did not have the Junction View .jcv file installed. Nevertheless, it is a listed feature for the Essential series, and should look something like this…

nuvi-essential-jct-view

Customizable data fields/display

If you tap the lower left data field, you can customize what is displayed there. Different choices are offered for whether you are or are not navigating.

Want more info displayed? Go to Settings > Map, press the down arrow icon and select Map Data Layout > More Data, to get the setup shown below, giving you two extra data fields. Tap a data field to change what is displayed.

nuvi-40-more-data-fields

Trip Log

The trip log allows you to display where you’ve been (which can be a big help navigating mega-mall parking lots, and even in everyday city driving). The trip log is the thin blue line shown below.

nuvi-40-trip-log

There are options to Show or Hide this info, but unfortunately (unlike on other nuvis) there appears to be no way to clear the trip log short of a hard reset! Perhaps this is just an oversight that will be fixed in an upcoming firmware update; I’m certainly hoping Garmin hasn’t decided that privacy features should be limited to higher priced models!

Where am I?

Tapping the car/current location icon on the map brings up the Where Am I? screen, with the options shown below.

nuvi-40-where-am-i

What’s missing?

Not much. There is no multi-destination routing (although you can add a single via point to a route) or powered mount, two popular options. The latter means that you’ll need to attach the mini-USB lead for the power cord each time you use the unit. Also, unlike other recent low-end models, you cannot add a traffic receiver. Here is Garmin’s rationale for this:

The nuvi 30, 40, and 50 series devices are not compatible with any traffic receiver or traffic service. Although these devices come with a variety of popular features, other features such as traffic compatibility have been left off so that we can provide our customers with the option of more basic devices at much lower price points.

Garmin nuvi 40 performance

I noticed no routing irregularities while using the Garmin nuvi 40, nor did I notice excessively long waits for satellite acquisition. Except for the missing bells and whistles, it performed as well as my other nuvis. I did have trouble getting it to go into USB mass storage mode when connecting to my computer, but this was solved by ensuring that the unit was on before connecting it. And this issue went away entirely once I updated to firmware version 2.10. The only other item of note is that I found the mount a little awkward to clip the nuvi into at first, but after awhile I got used to how it attaches and rarely had problems with it.

Garmin nuvi 40 pros


  • Low cost
  • Speed limit display
  • Lane assist and junction view
  • Customization options

Garmin nuvi 40 cons

  • No powered mount
  • Cannot add a traffic receiver
  • Can only hide Trip Log; cannot clear it without resorting to a hard reset
  • Only includes maps of 48 states (although a version that adds Alaska, Hawaii and Canada is also available)

Conclusion and recommendation

Highly recommended. This is without a doubt the best entry level navigator Garmin has ever released. It has a generous 4.3” wide screen along with features previously restricted to mid-range units. You can’t hardly go wrong with this one.

More Garmin nuvi 40 reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin nuvi 40 resources

Compare prices on the Garmin nuvi 40 at these merchants:

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

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