It’s worth noting that the Garmin nuvi 50 doesn’t calculate its routes using Garmin’s myTrends or trafficTrends systems, so won’t provide routes based on your driving habits, nor quite such an accurate estimated time of arrival. The trafficTrend technology uses historic traffic information to estimate average road speed, rather than a nominal figure, so would be more realistic. Routing options also don’t include Garmin’s ecoRoute, so you won’t be able to navigate the most economic way to your destination, nor keep track of your car’s petrol consumption and streamline your driving to maximise miles to the gallon.
If you ever think you might need live traffic updates, the nuvi 50 isn’t for you, as it isn’t compatible with Garmin's USB-based RDS-TMC car power cable adapter. In fact, if you know you will use traffic updates, you will need to consider a much more expensive Garmin option, particularly if you want a 5in display. There’s no lifetime map guarantee option either, and no Bluetooth for mobile phone connection.
Despite the budget price, though, the nuvi 50 does come with safety camera locations courtesy Garmin's Cyclops system. You are already kept abreast of whether you are within or beyond the speed limit, but having the extra warning when approaching a camera will make doubly sure you keep things legal and maintain a clean license.
The navigational experience is classic Garmin. The 5in screen has a fairly limited resolution of 480 x 272, well below that of a smartphone sporting this size of display. But it’s bright enough and easy to read, with decent if not exceptional viewing angles. The map is clear, with bright colour used sparingly to indicate features like parks, water and major roads. Your next turning is detailed along the top, whilst information about your journey is available along the bottom. On the left, you can see the arrival time, distance, time to destination, time of day, elevation or direction of travel, whilst your speed is shown on the right.
Clicking on the latter will provide a full readout of your journey, including the current speed, mileage so far, time and distance to arrival, time and distance to next turn, elevation, maximum speed, how long you were moving and stationary, and average speed. In other words, if you need to know any facts and figures about your journey, you’re likely to find them here.
There’s a Lane Assist graphic to guide you to the correct carriageway at a junction, and at major motorway interchanges, the Junction View appears. This is a more realistic simulation of the interchange, and with all that screen space available, there’s room to split the display in two, with the map remaining visible alongside the Junction View. Overall, verbal and visual navigational instructions are clear and effective, so you usually know what is coming and the direction you are meant to take. On the downside, there are still occasionally sluggish screen updates, something we’ve noticed in Garmin sat-navs for years.
With the nuvi 50, Garmin has met the budget competition from the likes of Mio's Spirit 685 full-on. There's nothing exceptional about it, apart from the price. But Garmin has managed to deliver its core navigational features alongside a 5in screen for a cost that's equal to or less than the competition. If you're after basic UK navigation in a dependable big-screen format, the Garmin nuvi 50 is great value.