- Review Date: 04/19/2013
- Bottom line: Garmin's midrange nüvi 2597LMT comes with some useful new features, but it's priced a bit high for what you get.
- Pros: Accurate navigation. Friendlier voice prompts. Flexible 3D lane assistance views.
- Cons: Dated plastic resistive screen. Low screen resolution. Real-time traffic data is limited on secondary roads.
The Garmin nüvi 2597LMT ($249.99 direct) inherits many of the positive characteristics of its more expensive sibling, the nüvi 3597LMTHD, while leaving an extra $130 in your pocket. But the question we ask every time we review a GPS these days is whether it's worth it to buy a dedicated device rather than using a free app on a smartphone. In the nüvi 2597LMT's case, the answer is a qualified yes—especially if you don't have, or want to use a smartphone. Although last year's Editors' Choice-winning TomTom VIA 1605TM is a better value.
Design and Screen
The Garmin nüvi 2597LMT measures 5.4 by 3.3 by 0.76 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.6 ounces. It's significantly thicker than the nüvi 3597LMTHD, but otherwise almost exactly the same in size. In fact, you don't notice the thickness, because the back panel edges are significantly rounded and tapered. With the nüvi 2597LMT, Garmin adopted a version of TomTom's mount. The new plastic mount attaches directly to the back of the unit with a locking ring, instead of snapping in and sitting in the mount like dock the way older Garmin units did. It's definitely less cumbersome, although it feels a little cheap when it snaps into place, and it's not as nice as the nüvi 3597LMTHD's magnetic mount. Also, the power cable connects to the device, not the mount, which isn't as convenient. The back panel also contains a mini USB charger port and an oversized mono speaker for the voice prompts.
Just like the 3597LMTHD, the 2597LMT has a 5-inch display that works in both horizontal and vertical modes. It has a lower resolution, though, at 480-by-272 pixels (vs. 800-by-480). It's also a plastic resistive screen instead of the more responsive glass capacitive panel found on the 3597LMTHD, which means you can't pinch or zoom in on maps. Unlike the 3597LMTHD, the 2597LMT has a pronounced plastic bezel around the display, instead of a flush bezel under glass. Considering that you are saving $130, this is probably worth the trade-off for many customers. But it's getting to the point where even a $250 GPS device seems like a luxury purchase, so a glass screen would be welcome—although at least the matte screen doesn't show reflections in sunlight.
Routing Performance, POI Search, and Conclusions
Once on the road, routing performance is just as to be expected for a Garmin unit—which is to say, excellent. 3D map graphics were average in detail, but animated smoothly as I drove. There's a current speed indicator in addition to the oversize speed limit sign for the current road, which is a nice enhancement over earlier Garmin units. Tap the current speed indicator, and you'll bring up a trip information display that lets you track your various travels.
There are several types of lane assistance, including a split-screen 3D photorealistic view that, in my tests, depicted exits on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Grand Central Parkway, and a rendered 3D lane view with animated arrows as I got closer to the actual exit points. There's also a small 2D lane assistance view at the top left of the display. You can also dismiss the 3D lane assist view by tapping on the X close box.
On the audio side, voice prompts are clean, loud, and smoother sounding than before. When traffic was ahead, a warning popped up with the length of the delay (5 minutes) and whether I was still on the fastest route (I was). That said, the nüvi 2597LMT was still stumped on secondary roads; it had no problem sending me headlong into rush-hour gridlock on various avenues in the five boroughs, even though I knew that other streets would be clearer and faster.
Searching for POIs remains a Garmin strength with the 2597LMT. I searched for a local diner in Astoria, Queens; all I had to do was choose the city, then run a search nearby that location. I typed in the first few letters and it popped right up. Entering in street addresses is also straightforward. The nüvi 2597LMT also offers voice-activated Bluetooth hands-free calling.
All told, at $249.99, the Garmin nüvi is caught between a rock and a hard place. For the same cash, you can get the top-of-the-line Magellan SmartGPS, which has a nifty smartphone linkup, a cloud-based account, and a glass capacitive touch screen for the same money, although its interface is far more cluttered and complex than the easy-to-use 2597LMT. I actually prefer the 2597LMT over the SmartGPS for that reason. The TomTom VIA 1605TM is a better option, as it's $20 less expensive, offers a larger 6-inch screen, and offers a more comprehensive display while driving, although its POI search isn't as flexible as Garmin's. Finally, the high-end Editors' Choice Garmin nüvi 3597LMTHD is $130 more expensive than the 2597LMT, but offers a glass capacitive touch screen with sharper resolution and a magnetic mount.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.