Sunday, November 23, 2008

Garmin Nuvi 755t Review – 8.5 out of 10


When Garmin announced the updated Nuvi line a few months back, the Nuvi 755t really piqued my interest.  With my existing GPS unit (Sony NV-U70) showing its age, I decided to purchase this from unit for 439.99 from J&R Music World ($60 off MSRP). 

This is my first Garmin unit, so I was curious and hesitant to see if it would really suit my needs.  Apart from some quirks and some design flaws, this is a fantastic all around unit and I recommend it to anyone.

Garmin 755t 1

The Lineup:

Garmin has released a lot of new units in this line.  The 755t is the “entry” level unit, but this is a bit misleading as the 765t, 775t, and 785t don’t really offer much more, but cost an extra $100.00, respectively.

As you can see below, each unit is almost identical, but the higher end models have features like Bluetooth (which is useless for me because my car has Bluetooth) and things like an MSN Direct Receiver, which is an expensive subscription, based service that is basically useless for me because this unit has built in lifetime traffic for free.

Garmin _ CompareDon’t waste your money; buy what you need and save yourself a few hundred dollars for basically the same exact unit.

Unit Design:

The first thing I noticed about the 755t is that it is thin.  My previous Sony unit was a bit stubbier, but this is not only thing, it has a gorgeous 4.3” widescreen (480 x 272 resolution). 

In an attempt to look sleek and modern, the unit only has one power switch on the top.  However, Garmin missed out on a good opportunity here to include an extra physical button that was invaluable on the Sony.  For example, with the press of a button, I could always repeat the last/latest directions just in case I missed it.  I didn’t have to take my eyes off the road to fiddle with the unit to find a repeat command, which I have to do using the 755t.  Garmin – in trying to make its unit look ultra sleek -- misses a big opportunity to make its unit much more useful by paying attention to how everyday people use these devices.  This is a relatively small issue (or at least every major electronics maker today is equally horrible in this department – I call it the “form over function” curse of the iPod).

The power cable is not well designed at all.  The end of the power cable is small, delicate, and you can never tell which way it is supposed to fit.

And for reasons unknown, the unit itself does not connect directly to the power cable.  Instead, you have to connect the power cable to a plastic portion of the windshield mount.  And to make things more difficult, when the unit is snapped onto the mount, it is almost impossible to plug in the power adapter because there is almost no space there.


Once you get the unit plugged in, its physical design flaws quickly fade away.  First off, the unit turns on in a matter of seconds, which is a welcome change from my Sony.  It has the standard annoying warning message, which I am sure causes more accidents than it prevents.  Fortunately, the warning goes away after a few seconds.

Garmin 755t 4

The display is clear and legible, and the street names are easy to read (even for the ones passing by).  The bottom left corner features a small sign telling you what the speed limit is; this is a nice touch, but not a must-have feature. 

Entering in addresses is intuitive and effortless, and it gave me the strong impression that Garmin has spent a lot of time on this part of the user interface.  But like previous units, it is cumbersome to enter in a custom route.  For example, I take a specific route to work every morning and I had to manually plot about ten custom points just to get that set.  I wish there was a simple way to hit “Start Recording” and “Stop Recording” and save that as a custom route (maybe there is, but I can find it).

The 755t has great-looking maps and the GPS sensor is very sensitive.  The unit calculates routes (and calculates re-routes) quickly and the prompts to make turns are timely.  Saving and searching your favorite locations is a breeze.  Looking through local points of interest is a real strength as well.  I can easily find the nearest airports, restaurants, gas stations and other points of interest.  Although pretty cumbersome, it is possible to add custom locations as well.

I do not like how the two fields on the bottom of the screen aren’t fully customizable.  As you can see above, there is one field on the bottom left that tells you how fast you are going.  But the last I remember, EVERY SINGLE CAR IN AMERICA HAS A BUILT IN SPEEDOMETER – so I would much rather have the choice to change this to something like total distance to destination.  The other field does let you customize somewhat, but it is still limited.  Again, this seems like the result of Garmin assuming it knows best and overlooking the fact that everyday people might want have different needs than what their designers assume people need.  But because the rest of the interface is beautifully designed and pretty intelligent, this is a small quibble.

Other Features:

As you can see below, the top left corner tells you how far you have to go to the next turn and also gives you a hint at which lane(s) you need to be in.  This is a fantastic feature.  Garmin 755t 3

In fact, I think this makes the unit’s brand new “Lane Assist” feature pretty much pointless.  With that said, I can say that Lane Assist works perfectly and is timely and unobtrusive.  It’s a nice advance, but not a must have feature.

The websites also say that some cities are displayed in “3D”, but I have yet to drive in any major cities where 3D coverage is available.

Garmin 755t 8

I love the “Where am I?” feature.  My Sony supposedly had this feature and basically spit out a set of GPS coordinates, which are totally useless.  On the other hand, Garmin gives you a real-time readout of the closest street address, which you can imagine is invaluable.  Another must-have feature is the way the unit tells you on what side of the street your destination is, which is always useful when you’re looking for a restaurant in town.

The 755t features an audio out port and a built in FM modulator, so you can listen to your GPS through your car’s stereo speakers.  The unit speaks out street names and distances, but I generally keep the unit on mute, so that’s not a big deal for me.  I can report that the internal speaker is loud and clear.  I think the FM modulator is a useless feature because if you really wanted to listen to your GPS on your car stereo, you’d have to keep your car stereo constantly tuned to this station the whole time.  This means you can’t listen to music the whole time – which begs the question – if it is quiet in the car, why not just use the internal speaker?

“Integrated” Traffic Receiver:

The most anticipated feature of the 755t is the “Integrated” traffic receiver.  Unlike other units which are merely compatible with traffic subscriptions, the 755t includes a free lifetime FM traffic subscription through NavTeq.  As you can see, the subscription covers many major cities around the US, and at least for my purposes, it covers the areas I really need, including the Bay Area, New York, and Boston.

Garmin 755t 14

Garmin 755t 15

Garmin 755t 16

Garmin 755t 17

If you are in an area with FM traffic coverage, the 755t displays a green circle.  If you encounter traffic en route, the circle turns either yellow or red, and tells you how many minutes of delay to expect.
  Garmin 755t 11

  Garmin 755t 12

It would be nice if the unit could tell you what caused the delay.  Unfortunately, I’ve only driven through traffic once and it wasn’t exactly accurate.  All of a sudden there was a red zone and it said there was 20 minutes of delay, and over the next three minutes, that delay evaporated and I never saw any traffic until a half hour later.  Judging from other reviews, this may have just been a fluke and the traffic coverage is pretty accurate in general.

Even if you aren’t en route somewhere, you can quickly run a “Traffic Search” and review any nearby delays:

Garmin 755t 6

The real tradeoff for the free traffic coverage is that the unit is “Ad Supported.”  As you can see below, every once in awhile you can see a small, unobtrusive advertisement, but only when you are fully stopped.  I could care less if the unit was ad-supported, especially when a traffic subscription can cost around $15.00/month otherwise.  This is a fantastic way to make traffic coverage affordable.

Garmin 755t 13

But there is something misleading about the term “integrated” traffic receiver.  Garmin doesn’t mention at all on its website that the FM traffic receiver is actually integrated into the end of the cigarette lighter.  This means that you can’t get a regular replacement charger if you travel, but always need to keep the traffic receiver with you.  This was a huge pain in the ass for me because I like to hard-wire my unit to my car, not use the cigarette lighter.  After a few hours of work and cutting a cigarette lighter extension cord up, I was able to sneak the charger behind my dashboard, but it is still easily removable if I decide to travel.  The FM receiver is strong enough to receive the signal through my dashboard.

Garmin 755t 18

Nowhere on Garmin’s website does it tell you what the model number of this receiver is (after some research, I figured out it is the “GTM 20 Receiver”).  I think Garmin did this on purpose because the GTM 20 Receiver retails for over $200.00.  Of course, you can find it on eBay for much cheaper, but I think it is pretty shitty that Garmin doesn’t care to tell you that you have to bring that exact car adapter with you if you ever want traffic coverage.  Garmin here is trying to get away with some moderate sleight of hand. 

You’ll also notice Garmin doesn’t advertise any replacement accessories like a car charger because they don’t want to have to tell you that a replacement charger by itself doesn’t include a traffic receiver. 

Software Bundle:

This is a pretty simple section.  The 755t doesn’t come with any software, not even a driver CD.  The manual and installation instructions are also pretty lame and unhelpful. 

Garmin has a ton of different software titles, none of which are easy to access, download, and use.  In fact, it is even hard to tell if a particular piece of software is compatible with your particular unit.  I believe that the most important software is the Garmin POI Loader, which lets you upload custom points of interest that you can download from the web.  Next to that is Garmin Mobile PC (about $60), which lets you plug your unit into your laptop and use your laptop screen instead to navigate.

Garmin 755t 9

There is also something called MapSource, but that too is hard to locate, not well documented, and a little difficult to understand.  I think, however, with a little homework, I can figure out how to use it.

Garmin 755t 10


Although I’ve highlighted many of the quirks and annoying “features” of the 755t, the interface of the unit is extremely well-designed and well worth the investment.  This is the best GPS unit I have owned.

8.5 out of 10.

2007 Acura TL – Suspension Upgrade

After a few months of research online, I’ve ordered an upgraded suspension.  I really miss the way the sport suspension on my Mazda felt and I can’t wait to get everything installed.
For a sports sedan, the TL rides very soft.  In tight corners or at higher speeds, the car has a tendency to bob and weave.  And although I may be trading off ride comfort for a flatter, more responsive ride, the ride is so smooth right now that it feels a numb and detached from the road. 
My upgrades include the OEM lowering springs and struts, which are part of the A-Spec handling kit, as well as an aftermarket adjustable Rear Sway Bar from Progress Technologies. 

Progress Rear Sway Bar

Do not buy these parts from an Acura Dealer, however.  First off, they won’t sell you any aftermarket brands, so you’re not going to find the Rear Sway Bar there at all. 

Second, they only sell the suspension parts as part of the larger A-Spec “handling” kit, which costs a few thousand dollars more because it includes body spoilers, another set of mediocre tires, and a whole new set of rims – none of which I need.

Your best bet is finding the parts on eBay – and with a 25% off discount for accessing eBay through Microsoft Live, it’s a great deal.

Parts arrive in a week . . .

Monday, November 10, 2008

How Are "The Walkmen" Still Underrated?

I don't think any other band better captures the last five years of indie music than The Walkmen. If you haven't checked out their latest album -- "You and Me" -- buy it right now.

It's that good; it's too good. I'm amazed how this New York-based band still manages to fly under the radar. Enjoy some gems from earlier albums:

Monday, November 03, 2008

10 Action Movie Lines I Consistently Quote Out of Context

  1. "There IS no tomorrow!" -Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), Rocky III
  2. "It's just been revoked." -Sgt. Murtaugh (Danny Glover), Lethal Weapon 2
  3. "They drew first blood, not me." -John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), First Blood
  4. "We're not gonna go see any fuckin' elephants, okay? And don't give me any of your SHIT!" -Lester Diamond (James Woods), Casino
  5. "Cause she's got a -- GREAT ASS!" -Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino), Heat
  6. "Around -- I'll be around." -Det. Somerset (Morgan Freeman), Se7en
  7. "Clear the shingles!" -Cap. Miller (Tom Hanks), Saving Private Ryan
  8. "Hold!" -William Wallace (Mel Gibson), Braveheart
  9. "Put it away for now, just for now." -Yves Perret (Jack Palance), Tango & Cash
  10. "You hit me in the ear." -Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), Fight Club

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia - Who Pooped the Bed?

Season 4 of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is amazing. This is the best comedy writing I've seen in years. If you haven't seen this show yet, enjoy the video. New episodes are on FX, Thursday's at 10pm.