Look out, folks.  Matt’s back after a long hiatus with a guest review this time.

So my wife told me that I have to write a review of the GPS thing I got for Christmas.  She has been telling me for a couple of months now to write the review, I think since after the day she gave it to me.  I frankly think she only got it so I’d write a review of it.  I’m not really sure how to write a review, so I read the first paragraph of a review by that guy who thinks he’s a fish.  I didn’t have the attention span to read the whole thing, and the guy does think he’s a fish, so maybe this will be way off base.  But here it goes.

I am the proud owner of a Garmin nuvi 700 Series Personal Travel Assistant.  It’s really just a GPS device, but they decided to call it a Personal Travel Assistant.  I would therefore expect that while I’m on vacation it would turn back the sheets, put one of those little mints on the pillow, print out my boarding pass, get dinner reservations and fetch the toiletries I forgot to bring.  It does none of these things.  But it’s still a pretty cool device.  By way of full disclosure, I have never owned a similar device, so I have no frame of reference to compare it to anything else.  All I know is that it works and I like it.

In the box is the GPS device itself, a cradle, a power cable to plug the thing into the car, a suction cup mount and this thing that they say is a dashboard adapter, supposedly to attach the thing to the dashboard.  There is no power adapter to plug it into a wall outlet, but I have a plug for another Garmin device and it works fine.  It’s just a standard USB plug.  It also came with a Quick Start Manual, which I of course did not read or even reference when first attempting to make the thing work.  I figured that is standard operating procedure for any man with a new piece of technology.  Had I read the manual, I would have realized there is a plastic film on the suction cup mount that should be removed before suctioning it to your window.  The failure to remove said film is likely the reason it kept falling off the windshield.  I still haven’t figured out how to use the dashboard adapter.  It does not appear to be discussed in the manual.  And the device still falls off the windshield with some regularity, so it wasn’t just the aforementioned film.  [I only say "aforementioned" because I'm a lawyer and get paid more for using big words that make no sense. I know I'm not getting paid for this, but it's a habit.  Deal with it.]

Getting started with the Garmin is pretty straightforward.  You turn it on with a switch at the top, or plug it into the car and it turns on when you start the car.  First it gives you a warning that if you actually try to use the device while driving, you’ll probably die.  Well, it’s not quite like that, it says not to enter route information or adjust the device while driving, and that if you do you’ll probably die.  You must either accept that statement by pressing a button, risking death in the process, or simply ignore it and it goes away on its own.  After that, you will be presented with a screen with a couple of options.  One is an icon that says “Where to?” and the other says “View map.”  There are also a couple of smaller icons to adjust the volume and access the tools.  When I said a couple of options before, I meant “couple” as defined by my wife–three up to approximately ten.  When she tells me she met a nice new couple down the street, I usually need clarification from her.

Merely touch the option you want on that initial screen, and you are taken to the next screen.  Touching “View map” takes you to a map showing where you are, at least once the device acquires the satellites, which can take a couple (my definition–two) minutes.  There is a little car in the middle of the screen, that is you, though it likely will not look like your car, you just have to take it on faith that it’s you.  And street names are there.  It shows your speed and direction, and you can follow along to see where you’re headed.  But don’t look at it; that would mean certain death.  You can easily change the look of the screen from the tools menu, either overhead or kind of like the view from a helicopter that is following behind you (look behind you sometime, the helicopter is really there–just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you).  In this mode you can simply touch the car that looks nothing like yours and save your current location. Give it a name and it will be saved in your list of favorite places that you like to visit but have no idea how to get to.

While that is fun, that’s not the main reason for having one of these things. You want one because you’re always getting lost and you want to be told how to get to that place you’re going.  If you touch “Where to?” on the first screen with the couple (4) icons, the device will help you find that previously unfindable place.  You can input an address, search for points of interest, see a list of favorites or, for the really adventurous, input coordinates of the place.  It seems to me that if you can enter the longitude and latitude of grandma’s house you might also be able to find it yourself, but perhaps not.  There is also a “Go Home” button that you can press and have it tell you how to get back home.  Again, if you really need to get directions to go home you’re probably drunk and shouldn’t be driving anyway.  Maybe that’s for the designated driver.  Or the police.

Once you tell it where you want to go, it will calculate directions for you and start telling you what to do.  Its quite emphatic in its directions, and really ought to go in the back seat, but then it would be even more difficult to see.  It tells you street by street where to turn, and actually pronounces words pretty well.  You can choose from different languages, though I barely speak the one so I didn’t try that.  You can also access a screen that has all of the directions listed so you can see what is coming up.  If you miss a turn, it very quickly recalculates and gives you a new route.  If the route ahead is blocked, you can press “Detour” and it will give you another route.   I have had no real problem with this feature, though I will say this:  never once has it given me the route that I would actually take.  For example, when I tested it with the “Go Home” feature (no, I wasn’t drunk), it wanted me to turn across a median to get into our subdivision.  I declined the offer.  However, it also gave me a new route once I passed that street and took me right to the house.

Searching for a destination, like a restaurant, works well, though you run the risk of the map not having the most up to date information.  One store I searched for had moved, for example, so I was standing at a vacant store trying to get a bundt cake.  There was no cake.  A restaurant that we knew existed didn’t show up either, but we managed.  One nice thing is that when you search for something, it shows you what’s near your current location.  So if you’re in a far off land and know not what is near, it will help you with that dilemma.

Overall, I have enjoyed having the Garmin.  Though the directions may be circuitous, it will get you to your destination.  It is easy to use and the screen is bright and clear.  I would buy it again and recommend that anyone in the market for such a thing check it out.