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General Category => General Discussion => Topic started by: JGLTX on March 02, 2019, 07:17:08 AM

Title: Any recommendations?
Post by: JGLTX on March 02, 2019, 07:17:08 AM
I am new to GPS.  I plan a trip to AZ in May to photograph ghost town and old mines.  I am considering a Garmin DriveSmartô 61 LMT-S for the trip ( and others to follow).  Is this a suitable unit?  Do I need to add extra memory if I add your AZ and NM topo maps or is the factory installed memory adequate?

Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 02, 2019, 09:18:42 AM
I have a DriveSmart 61 and generally like it. The screen is especially nice, with almost no bezel. Garmin made some changes to their automotive devices around 10 years ago, and ever since then, they have had a series of odd ways to display your saved locations (aka waypoints or favorites). This model, and others from the past 3 or 4 years, displays them as ugly big "hearts" with no labels, regardless of whether you use Basecamp to pick a symbol. And there is no way to supress the display of these ugly symbols. There are menu items that should allow you to disable them, but they don't work. Now you can edit the waypoints on the DriveSmart itself and choose other (equally ugly) icons, but that is tedious. Anyway, this is one thing that some people dislike.

Also - just checking - I assume you only want to use this device in your car? It would not be appropriate at all for handheld use on foot. Due to the very narrow bezel on the screen, I find it almost impossible to carry it without accidentally activating things on the screen. And, of course, run time is very short on battery power due to the bright 7" screen.

Many of the features of the device, including traffic, also depend on a bluetooth connection to your smartphone. This isn't really a bad thing, but may not be immediately obvious when considering purchasing this device.

There is about 15gb of internal memory, which is plenty of room to spare. You should be able to load quite a few maps without adding a microSD card.

While topo maps will work on this device, their display is not optimal. This is nothing new, all of Garmin's automotive devices have had similar issues for over 10 years (the old models were actually a bit better with topo maps IMO). The biggest issue is that many POI's just don't appear on the screen. And personally I dislike the overally style of map rendering, with very thick elevation contours cluttering the screen. I make maps specifically tweaked for Garmin automotive devices, such as I am not aware of anyone else that gives this much attention to how topo maps look on automotive devices however. And here is a special map that I made specifically for the DriveSmart 61. It's a good demonstration of how the processor in this device is faster than the older models - this map won't work properly on them.

So those are my thoughts. Nice hardware - especially the screen - and at a price point that is lower than older premium Garmin devices. You can get especially good deals on factory refurb models if you shop around (factory refurbs are "like new", with full one year warranty). Just don't expect it to be an 'outdoor" type GPS device. It's an automotive unit that was primarily designed for use with the City Navigator map, and it is not optimum for working with most 3rd party topo maps.

BTW - the DriveSmart 61 has an interesting "cousin", the DriveTrack 71

While they market this for use with their dog tracking systems, AFAIK you can just turn that feature off. And you get basically the same unit as a DriveSmart 61 but it includes a pre-loaded 100k Topo for the whole US plus compatibility with Birdseye aerial imagery and a one-year free subscription.

This is rather remarkable, Garmin has never offered a large screen automotive device that is compatible with Birdseye before. While this device is more expensive, the included topo map and birdseye subscription would cost about $130 if purchased separately. And Birdseye is not even compatible with the DriveSmart 61 or any other automotive devices.

I have never actually seen one of these devices in person, but find it very interesting.

Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: JGLTX on March 02, 2019, 09:58:31 AM
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: JGLTX on March 02, 2019, 10:22:54 AM
I posted the wrong model GPS.  I plan to get the Garmin DriveSmart 65 & Traffic which will solve the traffic info problem.  I see I can get one with a camera but I don't see the value in that.  If I record my back road adventures the image will likely be very shaky on rough roads, unless the camera is stabilized, which seems unlikely.  I also bet that lots of video uses of lots of memory.

Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 02, 2019, 01:24:53 PM
IMO the DriveSmart 65 offers very little over the 61 and will be a lot more expensive than a refurbished 61 (they are in the $150 to $200 range). If you are concerned about smartphone traffic, you can get a GTM-60 receiver for the DriveSmart 61 for $60.

Do you not have a smartphone? Have you ever used Garmin's traffic receivers? They will be worthless for you everywhere but metropolitan areas. They rely on signals buried in regular FM radio broadcasts, and the data rate is very slow so the traffic information only covers a small area. The smartphone traffic is far superior IMO, and cell phone service is much more available than FM traffic service.

Personally I hate the whole idea of driving cameras, so I can't help you there, although they are usually configured to overwrite the oldest video when memory fills up. So (for example) the camera would always contain the last 4 hours of driving.
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Red90 on March 02, 2019, 08:05:14 PM
I agree. Get a 61. I have one and it is really nice. There only differences with the 65 is the included traffic antenna as mentioned, 3D buildings and DEM shading.

If you want a built in camera consider a Nuvicam if you can find a refurbished one. They are really nice.

Iím not sure I understand what Boyd has against cameras.
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 03, 2019, 03:37:50 AM
Iím not sure I understand what Boyd has against cameras.

I just don't want a record of everywhere that I go. We have so little privacy left already, I don't want to contribute further to that trend. I don't even record tracklogs.

I know that some people feel it would be helpful to have a record in the event of an accident or other kind of incident for their own protection. I suppose that is a valid concern. However, that can cut both ways, and it could also be used against you.

If you feel a camera is desirable, that's fine. I just don't want one myself. :)
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: JGLTX on March 03, 2019, 10:00:16 AM

I do not have a smart phone.  Never wanted one.  I just carry an old-style flip phone when I travel to call for help. My only use for the traffic info would when I am home in Houston which has a LOT of traffic.

Thanks for the advice.

Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 03, 2019, 10:39:31 AM
Got ya. In that case, this is the accessory you would buy to receive traffic on the DriveSmart 61

Shop around, other major retailers are selling it for less than Garmin. For example, B&H Photo had it for $60. But I still think this form of traffic data is not very good. No experience in the Houston area, but I had a long commute to Philadelphia for many years and as soon as you got into the suburbs you would lose reception. I live over 50 miles from Philadelphia and couldn't get any traffic reception until I was about 20 miles from town. If I had known about a traffic jam when I left home, there would have been alternate routes, but that was too late. There are big gaps in traffic coverage even when you travel major highways light the New Jersey Turnpike.

Garmin used to make "connected" devices, such as the Nuvi 1695,  that used AT&T's EDGE data network. So you got high quality traffic data, Google search, weather radar and other features. These would have been perfect for someone such as you, but Garmin discontinued them several years ago.
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 11, 2019, 02:56:50 AM
BTW - the DriveSmart 61 has an interesting "cousin", the DriveTrack 71

I just got one of these and am very impressed. The hardware is identical to the DriveSmart 61, the only difference is the little label hidden under the ball mount. But the ability to use raster imagery (BirdsEye and "Custom Maps") is terrific. As a map-maker, this gives me something I've always wanted - a big-screen automotive device that lets me mix raster and vector imagery.

Definitely worth a look, especially if you were considering the DriveSmart 65. The DriveTrack 71 costs $130 more than the 65, but the included 100k topo would cost $100 and Birdseye would cost $30 if purchased separately. So if you want those maps, the cost is actually the same.

I have started a thread here with my first impressions and screenshots:
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: ChuckTin on March 11, 2019, 09:52:51 AM
I have a 2797LM, 7" screen (diagonal). Love it! Much better than using a cellphone and squinting at a small screen.
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 11, 2019, 11:13:36 AM
The 2797 is nice, I have a Dezl 760 which is the same 7" hardware platform but different firmware. I used it for a number of years and liked it a lot. But it can't do this like the DriveTrack 71.  ;)

Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: popej on March 12, 2019, 06:08:27 AM
Somehow I doubt DriveTrack can display topo maps properly. At least I haven't found any screen shot, which shows more than contour lines on a green background. Probably support for topo is the same as in DriveSmart.

Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 12, 2019, 08:09:16 AM
This device is identical to the DriveSmart 61, except it can use Custom Maps (.kmz files) and Birdseye imagery (.jnx files). Then there is a separate module for dog tracking which can be disabled by putting the device in Automotive mode. But topo map rendering is exactly the same as any of the Drive or Nuvi series from the past 5 or 6 years. I guess Garmin thought it would be more attractive if they bundled it with the 100k topo and called it "compatible".

I have been making topo maps especially for Garmin automotive devices for a long time, and many of the issues can be solved by using non-standard custom types. There are screenshots from a DriveSmart 61 here, and map rendering is identical on the DriveTrack 71.

So if someone wants vector map rendering in the style of a Garmin handheld, they will be disappointed with the DriveTrack 71. The strength of this device is raster imagery, and that looks fantastic on the 7" screen at 1024x600. It can use 400 custom map tiles, and you can individually enable/disable each .kmz file.

But, since it includes a Birdseye subscription, I am using .jnx files and they are great. Much faster rendering than .kmz, support for 5 zoom levels with 50,000 tiles each and file sizes up to 4gb. I am using OkMap (you need the paid version for $22) to create the .jnx files. With an active Birdseye subscription, you copy the .jnx files to the GPS and then drag them to your collection in Basecamp. Now you have to delete the original file from the GPS and send it back again with Basecamp, where it is "authorized" by contacting Garmin.

One nice little feature is a map setup shortcut in the tools screen. This makes it easy to enable/disable maps and imagery without digging through menus. So the device works nicely with multiple layers of vector maps on top of raster imagery.

You can't disable the basemap (like all automotive devices) and the low resolution roads appear on top of your raster imagery, which is really ugly. So I just made a big, black "blank map" to hide it.


I used draw priority 31 for the blank map, so it will also hide City Navigator. This gives you the route line and all the regular automotive features without anything else to clutter the raster image.


Anyway, I'm really happy with this device and think it offers a lot for anyone who makes their own maps and wants to mix vector and raster imagery.
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: popej on March 13, 2019, 06:53:27 AM
One of the problems with topo maps on nuvi is that nuvi can't cope with scrolling when driving a bit faster. Maybe newer models are more powerful. I wonder, how fast can you drive with a raster map?

Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 13, 2019, 07:45:51 AM
The DriveSmart 61 (same hardware as the DriveTrack 71) is noticeably faster than any Garmin automotive model that I have seen. Going back a few years.... in 2010 I had a Nuvi 3790 which was Garmin's first glass screen multi-touch device. Nice unit, but definitely underpowered. Then I got a Nuvi 3550 in 2012 and that was much faster. I thought it was great, until I got a Dezl 760 in 2013 and it was faster still. The DriveSmart 61 blows it out of the water, in spite of the fact that the screen is 1024x600 and the Dezl is only 800x480. If you want to test your GPS, try this map. I doubt that anything older than a DriveSmart 61 will even work.

This is my system of putting raster imagery in an .img file. It's a simple grid of 48ft ft x 48ft (15m x 15m) polygons with a road and POI overlay. It works fine on my DriveSmart 61. A bit slow to initially render a view, but it can keep up at highway driving speed and has never crashed (although it disappears if you zoom out farther than .2 miles). This same map just crashes my Dezl 760. Didn't bother trying it on any of the older devices.

But the DriveTrack 71 renders raster imagery pretty fast - a lot faster than my Montana 600 for example. Initially it has to render it tile by tile, then as you drive, each tile is updated as needed, so there are always some small areas in the process of rendering at highway speeds. The farther you zoom in, the faster the screen updates (since there are fewer tiles). With 1-meter/pixel imagery, initial map rendering is very slow at a zoom setting of .3 miles. At 300 ft zoom setting, rendering is very fast. Anyway... for Garmin, it's fast. But, admittedly not as fast as raster imagery on my iPhone 6s Plus. ;)

Here's a screenshot from this morning, driving 50 mph with this map, performance was fine:


I used a "custom map" (.kmz file) for this, instead of Birdseye (.jnx). Actually, rendering speed felt about the same as birdseye. My understanding is that .jnx files can contain 5 zoom levels, but I haven't tried that yet (.kmz maps can only have one zoom level). So that will be my next test - if they really support multiple zoom levels, that should speed up rendering considerably (at the expense of file size). The .jnx files I have made so far only have a singe 1-meter level (this would be level 17 if using a format like .mbtiles).

BTW, if you enable City Navigator at the same time as raster imagery, there is very little impact on performance. I really only notice the difference when making a 90 degree turn, which causes a big screen update.
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: popej on March 14, 2019, 12:51:27 PM
Looks good. Nice to know, that hardware is up to the task, even if there is no reason to use satellite view on a highway.
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 14, 2019, 03:37:07 PM
LOL - I suppose you have a point there, but it can help make a boring drive more interesting. :)

Also, since some people may not understand what "raster imagery" is, I think that needs clarification. It's a map that was created from an image. The image can be anything - such as a scan of paper map. So this is a way to use topo maps on the DriveTrack 71, and they work very nicely. Here's an example of a classic USGS 24k topo maps


And here is a 19th century topo


This is a modern topo map that I created


These examples are all from my site, but there are other good sources of free raster topo maps for just about any location. You can use the free Mobile Atlas Creator program (with Windows, Macintosh and Linux versions) to access these maps and convert them for the DriveTrack 71 (and dozens of other apps/devices). I have just updated my tutorial for this - see the following link:

Mobile Atlas Creator includes built-in access to free topo maps and aerial imagery from the USGS in addition to Canadian maps from Toporama. See Appendix A of my tutorial to learn how to access  "classic" USGS paper 24k topo maps. And these maps will work on all of Garmin's recent handheld GPS devices, not just the DriveTrack.

Now, Popej and I have had this discussion before, and I don't think he likes raster maps very much. ;) That's fine - they have their weaknesses (such as large file size, inability to search for features, etc). But they also have their strengths. Here in the US, many people consider the classic USGS 24k maps the "gold standard". And they also work across a broad range of apps and devices
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 14, 2019, 03:41:41 PM
BTW, you will need to use the scroll bar at the bottom of my post to see  all of these images, or right-click the image to open it in a separate tab in your browser.

Wouldn't it be nice if the GPSFileDepot forum software supported images wider than 500 pixels? I mean... it's 2019.  ;)
Title: Re: Any recommendations?
Post by: Boyd on March 22, 2019, 12:22:19 PM
This model, and others from the past 3 or 4 years, displays them as ugly big "hearts" with no labels

Didn't realize this until I went on a long trip the other day, but they have changed the appearance of POI and waypoints on the DriveTrack 71. The icons are much smaller and they look a lot nicer. I wonder if they also made this change on the DriveSmart 65?