Dash cams have made the news this year following the incident with an Aston Martin being keyed on camera. But what about one that’s integrated into a satellite navigation unit, avoiding the need to have multiple devices and wires running everywhere? Garmin is one step ahead of you with the nüviCam LMT-D.
Here’s the deal. Garmin contacted us and asked if we’d like to test the nüviCam. We said yes because the proposition of a single ‘do everything’ device that you can stick to your windscreen holds a definite appeal. We also decided to hand over the job of road testing it thoroughly to Mrs EngageSportMode. She spends a great deal of time trawling the roads to random places, so was best placed to judge the nüviCam as someone who might actually buy it. Her thoughts are below:
As somebody who regularly gives her odometer a workout on the British motorway network, having a decent navigation system is always a welcome bit of kit. Saying this, I am by no means an expert on the best products on the market. Indeed, my navigation assistance up until this point has consisted of a free app on my phone, so I was fairly confident that any “proper” sat nav would be an improvement. However saying this, our well-worn family Navman was pretty poor in terms of general navigation so I was excited to trial the Garmin nüviCam with all its alleged bells and whistles. However, with the all singing, all dancing iPhone and Smartphone apps available, does the stand alone sat nav unit still compete competently with the widely available free, if not slightly inferior, navigation apps?
The nüviCam attaches easily to the windscreen as you would expect, but the magnetic system it uses to secure screen is simply brilliant. I have in the past wrestled, on occasion unsuccessfully, with housing that slot onto or into the arm, often resulting in the whole unit falling off into the footwell or crashing off the dashboard, but not so with the nüviCam. There was something incredibly satisfying when attaching the screen to the strong magnet. Likewise, the whole thing is easy to manoeuvre, allowing you to line up the built in dash cam to your liking wherever you place it. Should you have difficulty with this, the prompted set up menu when you fire it up will assist with targeting the camera just so. I must add at this point that I didn’t actually have the instruction manual to assist with the set up and I confess that it took me a while to work out the purpose of some of the wires in the box, but generally it was trouble free.
Turn on the nüviCam and you’ll be impressed by the high definition 6-inch display. Start playing with the set up and menu options, and it’s immediately obvious that it’s incredibly responsive. And it doesn’t bamboozle with a myriad of options on the home screen either. Large graphics display ‘Where To?’ and full map view, and should you choose to play with the settings, the list of options are self-explanatory and user friendly. Honestly there is nothing more frustrating as a driver than trying to quickly change a setting or re-route your sluggish sat nav while driving, jabbing at it futilely while trying to resist the urge to launch it at the central reservation.
The pièce de résistance is bragging rights to a built-in dash cam, which handily begins recording as soon as you turn it on. Designed to detect potential accidental collision and alert you to the fact, it’s a very intuitive system. The nüviCam will record up to 45 minutes of uninterrupted footage in full HD, complete with time, date, location and speed stamps, automatically saving any recordings during an actual collision. There is also the option to include voice recording on the footage, although this is an option I declined to activate as I didn’t particularly want to play back my appalling singing layered over the somewhat boring footage of my journey! The 4GB micro SD memory card allows you to view the footage at your leisure at home, or you can play the files back on the unit itself.
Additional main safety features include forward collision warning and lane departure detection, both of which come in handy should your driving style resemble that of a drunk NASCAR driver. Using GPS to determine your speed and calculate a safe distance to the car in front, the forward collision warning feature is clever, if not a little over zealous. I found that after 20 minutes into a 3-hour journey, I was ready to forward collision my fist into the unit if it didn’t stop “bonging” at me for my supposed tailgating. I became rather paranoid and instead became increasingly distracted by the sat nav and paid less attention to the road. I eventually discovered the reason for the incessant scolding. When the car immediately in front of me slowed slightly to pull out into the outside lane, it flagged this as a potential collision. While technically true, this is a frequent occurrence on a motorway, and so the warning feature had to be silenced. I understand the usefulness of the safety feature, but ultimately it is no substitute for human instinct and was quite frankly, annoying.
Lane departure warning however was a more helpful feature. Although not an issue I have had problems with in the past, it was quite fun to test it out. The warning chime is immediate and the sensor very responsive, and I found myself shocked each time it went off, the effect I imagine it’s designed to evoke. In terms of safety, and in-spite my few niggling complaints, the nüviCam definitely gives you peace of mind that should anything untoward happen while behind the wheel, you’re covered.
The nüviCam has the option for programming voice recognition to communicate commands, such as controlling the volume, destination and making phone calls. However, this is a feature I have been wary of in the past and unfortunately the nüviCam was no exception. It’s not that it doesn’t work, it just has the age-old problem of not fully understanding the command straight away. I imagine this comes down to individual variations in accent, intonation etc, and unfortunately this is something that technology has still not managed to comprehend. Saying this, should you talk slowly and somewhat loudly, annunciating like a diction professor, it works perfectly adequately. I personally couldn’t be bothered with the ridiculous repetition of commands so I elected to disable this option.
I used the Bluetooth and phone function a couple of times during my journey, and found it perfectly acceptable. The microphone was clear, although I did initially struggle with connecting the Bluetooth. My iPhone picked up the connection quickly enough and claimed everything was connected, but when I came to use it, it didn’t work. Frustratingly this meant a service station stop to resolve the issue but resolve it I did, and it worked perfectly from then on. My phonebook contacts appeared on the screen, and connected and disconnected calls with minimal fuss.
An additional feature that can be added to further enhance the product is to download the Garmin Smartphone Link app. Both Android and iOS compatible, it shares real time information between the GPS and your phone, including live traffic and weather updates. It also shares addresses and contacts stored on your smartphone, and provides dynamic parking information such as pricing and availability. Although this was not something I personally tested, it seems like easily accessible information that can only add to competent journey planning.
Despite not using the Smartphone Link, I found the fundamental point of having a sat nav, the actual navigation, incredibly proficient. The map uses the whole screen, with the warnings and route suggestions popping up on the side that can be collapsed with a tap of the screen. The real time traffic updates were helpful, highlighting any delays, and provided re-route options if a quicker route is detected. This happened once during my journey, although unfortunately it just dumped me further down the route in the same traffic jam! There actually were a few instances where I was stuck in motorway traffic that the nüviCam didn’t detect, but it didn’t phase me too much. What it did do however was pick up variable speed limits with ease. As soon as it sensed the change in speed limit, even in temporary road works, it flashed up with a warning. This was also true for speed cameras and known police speed trap locations. With this technology, it’s hardly surprising therefore that it accurately pin points garages, supermarkets, etc. en route, including actual branding seldom seen in some of its main competitors.
As with a lot of sat navs, it displays a large graphic on the screen when approaching a slip road or junction to aide with navigation. However, unlike a lot of other units which can be a bit slow to update real time progress, the nüviCam displays the distance to the turning precisely and the graphic is just as pin point. Likewise, I was surprised by the clear camera display that appeared when approaching my final destination, showing a pretty accurate image of the property I was aiming for.
As previously mentioned, I don’t profess to be at the forefront of sat nav expertise, but I am fussy when it comes to gadgets and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed using the Garmin nüviCam. It was uncomplicated to use but by no means elementary. I found the large display clear, concise and more responsive than anything I have used before, and the built in safety features and dash cam provided peace of mind, if not a little distracting at times.
Would I personally pay the premium price for it? Yes the bells and whistles do make it very proficient, and the addition of a dash cam certainly adds weight to the appeal, but it depends just how much the average commuter needs a dash cam. I’m not sure that I need one right now. But in future, should I decide that I want a dash cam alongside my navigation system, I would certainly pay this sat nav some serious attention as the most comprehensive package I have ever seen.
Based on the above, it’s fairly clear that Mrs ESM was quite taken with the Garmin nüviCam. Without a doubt it is an impressive piece of kit, that manages to replace a number of separate functions – sat nav, dash cam, Bluetooth hands free device – with one quality unit.
At the time of writing, the nüviCam retails for £309.99. That might at first glance seem a lot, but total up the cost of buying everything it does individually and it begins to look more reasonable. Add in the free lifetime maps and traffic updates, along with the potential to save money on your car insurance due to having a dash cam, and the financial side of it becomes more attractive.
We’re generally a cynical bunch at EngageSportMode but the Garmin nüviCam did genuinely impress us. We’d recommend it.
ESM Rating: 9/10
More info: garmin.com