Garmin Nuvi 885T

 

Introduction

Almost five years ago I purchased a Garmin Nuvi 350 and I still swear today it saved my marriage!  Immediately the streets of Bangkok and the roads of Thailand were open for my relaxed exploration and I've spent the last five years doing just that!

It took me a few weeks to get used to the idiosyncrasies of using a GPS in the actual real time traffic of Bangkok, but soon I was growing to depend on my new friend and I've since learned to keep an eye on the GPS as frequently as I do the rearview mirror.  My wife calls my GPS my "Mai Noi."  If only she knew..

Over the course of the last five years I've collected a few hundred POI's (points of interest) including all my friends places, favorite restaurants, hotels I regularly stay, and much more.  The minor worry of not being totally sure of your location or direction in a new country is long past.

For five years I used my Garmin Nuvi 350 and I can't count the number of friends who have purchased one based on my recommendation.  It never left my car except for map updates.  I'd pull it from it's mount, literally toss it in the center console, and then put it back up in the mount where it will sit in the hot sun all day.  All this and it never failed a single time!  It kept ticking and ticking and it's currently sitting here with the latest map set waiting for me to list it for sale.

A few months ago I was reading about Garmin's latest models and a few new features interested me enough to order a new unit.  They didn't have what I wanted in Thailand so I ordered it from the states and it arrived a few weeks later.

 

Garmin Nuvi 885T

 

The Garmin Nuvi 885T is their latest unit with all the bells and whistles, yet on Amazon.com it was a reasonable $254.00 USD's.  It's a wide screen model with a widescreen 4.3 inch high quality LCD display.  Its rounded corners and sleek design sits in contrast to the squarish chunky look of it's predecessor.

 

The Garmin Nuvi 885T is their latest unit with all the bells and whistles, yet on Amazon.com it was a reasonable $254.00 USD's.  It's a wide screen model with a widescreen 4.3 inch high quality LCD display.  Its rounded corners and sleek design sits in contrast to the squarish chunky look of it's predecessor.

 

There is a host of new features I'll discuss individually below:

    • Speech Recognition  -  This is a very useful feature in Bangkok.  Any menu choice can be spoken and the unit responds.  It works and it works well.
  • Turn by Turn Directions  -  In clear English (or whatever language you choose) the Nuvi 885T will give you turn by turn directions using street names.
  • Bluetooth  -  The GPS interfaces effortlessly with your bluetooth capable mobile phone and provides a very useful hands free interface.
  • Find Your Car  -  The Nuvi 885T will remember where you turned off the car and lead you back to it.  Just ask it "where am I?"  This is actually a pretty handy feature, too bad it doesn't receive the satellites in the Central World underground carpark..
  • Lane Assist  -  A new feature is that the Nuvi 885T will line you up in the lane you need to be in so you're sure to be in the right lane at the right time for your impending turn.  This is probably the single most useful new feature.
  • Junction View  -  Junction view displays an actual photograph of an intersection or turnoff with a clearly marked arrow showing you the direction to follow.  This would be a very cool feature if the ERSI English map version supported it.  Unfortunately it doesn't.
  • User removable battery  -  The battery in my Nuvi 350 works just as well and for just as long as when it was new which frankly is surprising, but it does make me more comfortable knowing I can change the battery myself if I must.
  • Auto Re-route  -  No worries if you miss your turn, you'll be automatically and quickly re-routed and back on your way in seconds.
  • FM Traffic Compatible  -  This would be a nice feature were it supported in Thailand, but it isn't.  Perhaps some day.
  • MSN Compatible -  This is a USA market feature but it certainly shows you the future.  It networks your GPs with all other compatible GPS's on the road and MSN's www network and shares information as needed.  The possibilities with this networking are endless!
  • Speed Limit Indicator  -  It displays the current speed limit and warns you if exceeded.
  • EcoRoute  -  Can calculate the most economical route that uses the least fuel.
  • Photo Navigation  -  Lets you navigate via 'geo-tagged' images you can upload from many sources on the internet.
  • FM Transmitter  -  Instead of the built in dual speakers which are very adequate, it can also interface wirelessly with your FM radio and use the cars entertainment system to provide directions, play music, read audio books, and more.
  • Picture viewer, Audio book player, headphone jack, micro SD slot, world travel clock, currency and unit converter, calculator, and a bunch of other things I'm sure I'm forgetting.  This is an extremely full featured GPS.

 

I still use the touch screen when the car isn't moving, but I very much appreciate the choice of not having to remove my hands from the wheel or my eyes from the road to input a new destination, take a call, or anything else the Nuvi 885T does.

 

Feature by Feature

I'm going to talk about 'some' of the features and my experience using them, but not all.  Some of the features I won't discuss might be important to you, but don't take my not talking about them as a sign they're not great features.

 

Speech Recognition

This is actually useful.  I still use the touch screen when the car isn't moving, but I very much appreciate the choice of not having to remove my hands from the wheel or my eyes from the road to input a new destination, take a call, or anything else the Nuvi 885T does.

This works very well, but the key is to speak exactly what the menu choice on the GPS is showing.  It takes a few weeks to learn all the choices and commit them to memory, but once you do you can skip menus and go directly to your function.

There is a small very well built button you mount on your steering wheel.  It has a rubber strap that goes around the wheel and secures it in place.  I routed the strap under my steering wheel cover and it appears almost custom.

 

There is a small very well built button you mount on your steering wheel.  It has a rubber strap that goes around the wheel and secures it in place.  I routed the strap under my steering wheel cover and it appears almost custom.

 

Press the big button and a pleasant chime lets you know you can speak a command and a green indicator on the screen appears.  Speak the command and then another until you have what you need.  Press the small button to let it know you're finished or it will assume you're finished in 10 seconds.

 

Press the big button and a pleasant chime lets you know you can speak a command and a green indicator on the screen appears.  Speak the command and then another until you have what you need.  Press the small button to let it know you're finished or it will assume you're finished in 10 seconds.

 

 

Lane Assist

 

I can't begin to tell you how useful this feature is.  As soon as you complete a turn the lane assist indicator tells you where you'll need to be for your next turn and if there are several lanes only the right lane will be highlighted while the others will be dimmed.

 

I can't begin to tell you how useful this feature is.  As soon as you complete a turn the lane assist indicator tells you where you'll need to be for your next turn and if there are several lanes only the right lane will be highlighted while the others will be dimmed.

This worked but wasn't fully functional with ERSI Map Version 10.0, but with the recent (April 7th) release of Version 10.1 it appears to be fully functional.  This is the single most useful feature over the Nuvi 350 it replaced and is worth the price alone.

 

Junction View

 

This would be the second most useful feature IF it worked with the Thailand map set and the image above makes its function self-explanatory.  It doesn't.

 

This would be the second most useful feature IF it worked with the Thailand map set and the image above makes its function self-explanatory.  It doesn't.

ERSI Thailand's representative told me that Garmin USA won't allow them to use it with English maps but I suspect they're being less than forthcoming with the actual facts.  I suspect map piracy has taken a big bite out of their profits as indicated by the maps rapid drop in price (currently 2000 baht, 450 baht for an update) and perhaps the majority of pirates are farangs.  Also, they're protecting their hardware market by ensuring this desirable feature only works with the Thai firmware they install and they'll only install the Thai firmware on the units they sell and support.

I would have purchased locally had they a unit I wanted.  The Thai units can be set to display the menus in English and speak English.  However, none of their current models has the power cord connecting to the mount.  Instead, you need to connect the power cable to the mini-USB jack each and every time you use the unit.  If the power connector connects to the mount, then you can simply lift it on/off the mount with no need to connect anything.  They also don't sell a speech activated unit.

 

Map Engine

It is a fact that the map engine is only as good as it's most current firmware and the power of the central processor of the GPS.  The more powerful this combination the more quickly and more accurately routes can be made and listed.

There is a significant difference both in speed and optimal route selected when compared to the older Nuvi 350.

 

The Screen

The new 4.3 inch color LCD is both bright and easy to see.  The viewing angle is much better than the Nuvi 350 so someone in the passenger seat can easily see the screen even when it's tilted towards the driver.  It's also brighter and more colorful.

The wider screen allows more map real estate at one time which I don't consider that much of a bonus, however.. if Junction View was enabled the screen would be wide enough to display both the map and the picture of the junction at the same time.

 

In Use

When you turn on the Nuvi 885T you are no longer bombarded with caution screens about driving and using the GPS at the same time.  After all, speech activation/recognition alleviates those issues.

 

Instead you get a simple screen showing the "Where to" and "View Map" options, with a satellite reception bar in the upper left and  the time and battery life in the upper right corner.  Volume and tools choices are also present on the opening screen.

 

Instead you get a simple screen showing the "Where to" and "View Map" options, with a satellite reception bar in the upper left and  the time and battery life in the upper right corner.  Volume and tools choices are also present on the opening screen.

I noticed the new Nuvi 885T finds and locks onto the satellites in just seconds, perhaps 10-15x faster than the Nuvi 350.  If you had arrived at your destination using the GPS it will instantly lock on when you power it back up.  This is really great.  Occasionally the Nuvi 350 had to be coaxed into locking on.

 

Pressing or speaking "Where to" takes you to the above screen.  One of the things you'll notice is that now the sub-categories inside categories are enabled.  For instance, go to "Food&Drink" and now instead of everything being listed together, the choices for "Asian food" or "fast food" work.

 

Pressing or speaking "Where to" takes you to the above screen.  One of the things you'll notice is that now the sub-categories inside categories are enabled.  For instance, go to "Food&Drink" and now instead of everything being listed together, the choices for "Asian food" or "fast food" work.

You can easily import your POI's from your old GPS into the new one.  It's a small file with the extension ".gpx" and can be found in the "Garmin" directory.  However, now you can customize your POI's with photographs, symbols/avatars, and other custom information such as phone numbers, birthdays, and so forth.

Actual instructions and updates while driving happen sooner and faster than with the older Nuvi 350.  We've already discussed that the map engine is more accurate and will usually plan you a more accurate route.

 

The music player or audiobook player is handy, especially if you have it set to play through your cars sound

 

The music player or audiobook player is handy, especially if you have it set to play through your cars sound system.

The hands free blue tooth calling is surprisingly full featured and it works very well.  You get options you wouldn't expect and the quality is very good.  I now use the Nuvi 885T as a speakerphone option during meetings.  Place it in the middle of the table during lunch and everyone can be clearly heard.  Very nice!

 

The mount is first class and holds the Nuvi 885T securely.  So far it has stayed put for a few months now.  The mount that came with the Nuvi 350 had to be "re stuck" every few days.

 

The mount is first class and holds the Nuvi 885T securely.  So far it has stayed put for a few months now.  The mount that came with the Nuvi 350 had to be "re stuck" every few days.

Notice the power connector on the side of the mount?  The power cord goes here, so there is no need to connect anything every time you mount the Nuvi 885T.  It also comes with a dash disk in the event your state doesn't allow window mounting.

 

And if you must, a nice flexible weighted mount is optional.  A friend has one of these and it allows her to bring the GPS closer where she can reach it.  If it were mounted on the window it would be outside her reach.

 

And if you must, a nice flexible weighted mount is optional.  A friend has one of these and it allows her to bring the GPS closer where she can reach it.  If it were mounted on the window it would be outside her reach.

 

Summary

I'm very happy with my new Nuvi 885T and for sure it has improved nearly every function.  The speech recognition/activation is useful as is the hands free calling.  But most of all I'm impressed with the "Lane Assist" feature.  Like I said, the lane assist feature is worth the cost of admission just by itself.

I do hope ERSI sees the light and enabled Junction View for English speaking units.  This sort of protectionism is one of the reasons holding back Thailand from having the free market  it should.  ERSI, if you're listening I believe you've made a serious mistake by limiting this feature and discouraged users from buying your maps.  Instead they'll simply pirate them out of spite.

I have no real complaints but I do have a worry.  The Nuvi 885T gets more than a little warm during use, something the Nuvi 350 never did.  I suppose the more powerful processor and bigger/brighter screen draw and must dissipate more power.. therefore creating the extra heat, but it still causes me worry because heat is a well known enemy of electronics longevity.

If you've been thinking about upgrading your GPS, or just buying your first, you won't go wrong with the Nuvi 885T.  I think you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

 

Final notes:

There are several map sets available for Thailand, in fact there are three good ones.  However, ERSI's map set is by a significant margin better than anything else out there, including the SEA Map set sold by Garmin.  It's also the most full featured.