Disclosure: I am part of the Garmin Influencer Program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.
We recently received the Garmin Drive 50 with babyCam to try out and we couldn’t wait to bring some new tech to our old car. Thankfully the Garmin Drive 50 navigation system is easy to install. It comes paired with the Garmin babyCam so it’s plug and play right out of the box.
Since we don’t have adjustable headrests, we used a strap to attach it to the headrest. The main unit is mounted to the windshield with a suction mount and is powered by a USB cable. Since it needs to be within easy reach, I may have to see if they offer a dash mount version. The van I have it mounted in is huge, and it’s not within reach.
The camera unit runs on two AA batteries (or optional power cord which is available separately). It has no on/off button but rather is always on, but in power saver mode. The User’s Manual states that minimal power is lost this way, but I’ll have a spare set of batteries on hand just in case.
The display unit has a one-hour rechargeable battery, though battery life is affected by many things including the brightness. I use the included cigarette USB charger which unfortunately means I can’t charge my phone at the same time.
The physical memory is nearly full with the standard program and updates. It does accept a microSD card for expanded storage or to add on additional features. The maps are downloaded to your unit so the GPS works only to locate your vehicle. Updates to the map are done by connecting your unit to a computer with the included cable.
The Garmin 50 does offer a trip planner and trip log, plus settings to avoid tollways, highways, ferries, and more. It also offers Red Light and Speed Camera warnings in regions where it’s available, fatigue warnings after you’ve been on the road without making any stops, and a reminder to check the car for passengers before getting out. All of this can be turned on/off in settings.
The first is that the baby cam is only active for a few seconds (you select the time from 10 to 30 seconds and then it flips back to navigation mode). It isn’t the full-time feed that I expect. To activate the camera, a button on the front of the unit has to be pushed and this is why the main unit needs to be within arms reach.
The second surprise is that real-time traffic is an add-on feature that requires a fee. I guess that for areas where traffic doesn’t dictate your travel itinerary, you can save by not using your smartphone’s data plan or adding this feature. For me, it’s imperative to know the route home with the least traffic since it can shave 30 minutes or more off of my commute, so I have to decide which upgrade is better for me.
I was also surprised that while the main unit is attached to your computer and charging, you can’t use it. After updating the software with Garmin Express™ , which took just over an hour, I had planned to enter my most frequented addresses. Since I have the screen brightness turned up to 70% so I can see it better, the battery drains in just a matter of minutes. I assumed I could attach the Garmin 50 again and work tethered, but that’s not the case which is disappointing.
The on-demand Garmin babyCam video quality is quite good. I haven’t tried the night mode as of yet because it’s light out until 9:30pm now, but daytime is pretty darn clear. The camera can be mounted for both rear and forward facing seats. The Garmin babyCam only works with compatible Garmin products and it can be purchased separately or as part of a bundle from the Garmin website.
The onscreen keyboard and sensors require a precision touch and you’ll need to learn what part of the screen the Garmin 50 needs you to touch in order to make a selection. The screen isn’t navigated by swiping, you have to use a down and up arrow instead. It’s definitely something you’ll want to become proficient at before you head out on your first drive.
I was a bit surprised when the Garmin Drive 50 couldn’t find Swedish Hospital in Seattle by name. I tried searching via the medical option and was shown every location near me, but not the one I was specifically looking for which was further away. I found it frustrating and had to look up the address on my smartphone and transfer it over.
The navigation voice currently installed on my unit is a woman’s voice which I find irritating. Luckily there are additional voices that can be downloaded at no charge and I’ll be doing that soon. I do like that the voice gives basic directions like, “Turn left ahead,” instead of detailed, “Turn left at Petrovitsky Boulevard South.” While hearing the street names certainly helps you identify them, the majority of the time they’re not necessary and if need be, one glance at the unit and you’ll know the street name. I also appreciate that on complex intersections, the screen splits in two and the full map stays on the left and the close-up of the intersection appears on the right.
I also love that it does, when it can, tell me the speed limit of the road I’m on and it alerts me if I go over that limit (turn this feature on/off in the settings). That also means that it tells me if my husband is driving over the limit as well or if there are curves ahead. For drivers in remote areas, animal and railroad crossing warnings can be turned on also.
The Garmin Drive 50 has some great features and it lets me know what’s going on in the backseat and ahead of me on the road, but I think the Garmin Drive 60 with the babyCAM and BC™ 30 wireless backup camera would be a perfect match for my needs and I’ll be looking to upgrade soon. Who says an old van can’t learn new tech tricks!
Check out the Garmin site and compare all of the options and choose the unit that’s right for your needs.