The Garmin nüvi 50LM is the top of the line navigator in Garmin’s 2012 Essential series, offering a 5” wide screen and lifetime map updates. 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.
- Drop down to the nuvi 40LM and you’ll get the same features, but with a smaller 4.3” screen
- Or keep the 5” screen, but give up lifetime map updates with the nuvi 50
- Upgrade to the newer, but similar nuvi 52LM or the nuvi 54LM which has maps of Canada and Alaska also
- To see how the nuvi 50LM stacks up against other models, check out my Garmin nuvi comparison chart
Two versions of the nuvi 50LM series are available – one with the entire US except for Alaska and Hawaii, and one for all 50 states plus Canada.
NOTE: Much of what follows is based on my hands on review of the nuvi 40, a very similar model.
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 50LM includes speed limit display. In my testing of the Essentials series, I’ve seen speed limits not just on highways, but on many secondary roads as well.
And if you exceed the speed limit, the current speed field will turn red…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Updating Garmin nuvi 50LM
As this device has beeen out for several years, there have been several software and map updates made. To get the most out of this great device, make sure that you have the most recent updates with Garmin Express, which you can download and then run to check for software and map updates. The map updates can sometimes be a little testy, but Garmin Express can definitely solve some of those hoops that users of the original releases had to deal with.
If you’re really stumped, then check out the Garmin nuvi manual for the 30, 40 and 50 models. It should help with some of the more common problems.
Garmin nuvi Essential series performance
I noticed no routing irregularities while using the Garmin nuvi Essential series, 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 50LM pros
- 5” screen
- Lifetime map updates
- Low cost
- Speed limit display
- Lane assist and junction view
- Customization options
Garmin nuvi 50LM 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 and it, three years after release date, is still one of the most popular entry-level devices. It has an ultra-wide 5” screen along with features previously restricted to mid-range units. You can’t hardly go wrong with this one.
More Garmin nuvi 50LM reviews
I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…
Other Garmin nuvi 50LM resources
- Want to see how it checks out against others? Read my own comparison chart for links to more reviews of Garmin GPS car units
- There is a dedicated Garmin nuvi message forum at GpsPasSion and another nuvi forum at GPS Review
- The Garmin nuvi 50LM owners manual
- Our auto GPS FAQs, which includes quite a few nuvi tips and tricks
- The official Garmin nuvi 50LM web page