The nuvi 3597LMT is not quite the top of Garmin's current sat-nav range -- that position goes to the 3598LMT-D. However, the only major difference is the type of traffic system it incorporates. Whilst the 3598LMT-D sports Garmin's Digital Traffic for the lifetime of the device, the 3597LMT settles for the less detailed or frequently updated RDS-TMC variety. But you still get a lifetime subscription, and otherwise the devices are identical.
The 3597LMT has a 5-inch display, which is starting to feel like the new normal size now that so many 6-inch models are on the market. The screen has a resolution of 800 x 480, which is the norm for this size. The device itself is stylish and svelte, with a very thin frame around the bezel, and a single piece of glass covering the front surface. The back is silver with black inlays, resulting in a stylish look, and the 3597LMT's size is not much greater than a 5-inch smartphone, so this won't be a hard device to carry with you when not in use.
Garmin has taken a leaf out of TomTom's book and now provides a magnetic mounting system with its latest premium models. The 3597LMT has a row of contacts on the back and a strong magnet, within a ridged area, so that it snaps into place firmly on the mount. This will mean taking the unit out of your car will be easy, although a lot of people don't like to leave a visible sat-nav mount in their vehicles as it can be an attraction to thieves.
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The familiar Garmin menu system greets you when you start the device, and wade through the many setup routines that appear when you first start a sat-nav. The menu offers the usual two main choices - Where To? and View Map - with secondary icons for settings and supplementary functions, which Garmin calls Apps. These can be augmented by a selection of free and premium downloads.
The Where To? section will be your primary port of call, however. This takes you to a submenu that is fairly traditional in layout. There is a grid of icons for your pre-defined home location, searching by address, and common points of interest (POI) categories, including restaurants, petrol stations, and shops. You can also add further icons from a list of options. The right-hand side gives you access to the full range of POI categories, plus your saved favourite destinations, and the history of recent destinations.
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However, there is also a search bar at the top, which allows you to seek a destination by keyword across both address and POI databases. By default, this has a bias towards your current location, but you can change this by clicking on the area to the right of the search field. This gives you a whole slew of alternative options, like searching near a town, postcode, or along your current route.
In all, the range of destination entry options is comprehensive, although most people will pick the method they like best and stick with it. This will quite likely be the keyword entry most of the time, particularly as this also accepts postcodes. But it's good to have the POI categories ready to hand, if you need to locate an amenity in an unfamiliar area.
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The 3597LMT comes with maps for 45 European countries and lifetime updates across all of them, which is fast becoming the norm on sat-navs, presumably to compete with the fact that Google Maps and other online options are always the latest version. It's gratifying to see that the keyword search functions across all of the available countries without the need to specify, which will be handy if you're on a pan-European trip.
Returning to the Apps menu, there is information about using Smartphone Link, which provides Garmin's Live services via your smartphone. You can also pair your phone via Bluetooth so the sat-nav can be used as a hands free device. You can configure and access the ecoRoute system, which helps you to minimise your fuel usage. There's also a multi-waypoint Trip Planner, which lets you create, save and load routes.
You can also view your travel history and the last place the car stopped, which is handy for finding where you parked your vehicle. The Apps menu is also where you can go to customise the Voice Command trigger phrase. As we have mentioned in previous reviews, such as the nuvi 2598LMT-D, Garmin's verbal control system is particularly effective for address entry, although it doesn't cover every function the sat-nav has.
Once you have chosen your destination, Garmin's trafficTrends ensures that your route is calculated according to historic traffic information, so jam black spots are taken into account and a realistic road speed is used to figure out your journey time. This is a feature that has been available in Garmin sat-navs for a few years now, and we have found it to be similarly effective to TomTom's IQ Routes.
The navigational experience hasn't changed noticeably since the last generation of Garmin sat-navs. A bar at the top details the next turning, and the road name to look out for. A bar at the bottom details your current speed on the left, with your estimated time of arrival on the right, and the name of the street your are currently travelling down in the middle. You can also enable the Up Ahead panel on the right, which shows where the nearest petrol station, public toilet and restaurant is for your current position, which could be seriously handy if you have needy children in the car with you.
The map also shows little 3D models of landmarks as you drive. We weren't particularly convinced by this feature when it first appeared in sat-navs some years ago, but there doesn't appear to be a noticeable performance hit from its inclusion on the 3597LMT, and more landmarks appear to be included now. There are also the usual full-screen graphics when you approach a complex interchange, so you know which signs to look out for and which lane to be in.
As mentioned in the introduction, the 3598LMT includes traffic updates. These are only available when the car power adapter is attached as this contains the receiver. The system used is RDS-TMC, so not as many roads will be covered as with the Garmin Digital Traffic or TomTom's HD Traffic, and updates will not be so frequent. But this is still a useful facility to steer you clear of massive motorway jams. Speed camera notifications are also available, with the alert appearing at the top of the screen.
The Garmin nuvi 3597LMT is a capable, fully featured sat-nav. However, whilst it has some useful features that the equivalent TomTom doesn't, such as ecoRoute and the more varied Live services available via Smartphone Link, TomTom's GO 5000 costs a little less and comes with built-in HD Traffic, which trumps the 3597LMT's RDS-TMC system. So if you're a regular commuter needing to avoid gridlock on your journeys to and from work, TomTom just has the edge, or you could try the nuvi 3598LMT-D, which has Garmin's Digital Traffic built in for £30 more.
The Garmin nuvi 3597LMT provides a lot of sat-nav features for the money, although the traffic updates are only RDS-TMC.
Next, read our pick of the best sat-navs