GPS fun….. and hell.

A review of the Garmin 395LM GPS

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Garmin 395LM

I asked and they sent me one…. sadly, I had to send it back. Completely expected. But during my time with it, I decided to drive it crazy…. in return, it decided to do the same thing to me.


During the testing of the unit, the focus was going to be on a select set of points that most riders will use or access during their use of the unit. This testing also included the use to one of Garmin’s well known navigation software packages, “Base Camp”. The testing of all these key features were going to be reviewed for: Ease of use or intuitive nature, ease of access or menu structure, reliability, accuracy and fun factor. In addition to these key points, the testing also noted the GUI (graphical user interface), screen or display quality, audio quality, connectivity, additional features and power.

390
Garmin 390LM

I personally own the previous Zumo 390LM and I was able to do side-by-side testing and comparisons and that made navigating around the menus somewhat interesting. It also gave me the opportunity to compare performance and features among other things. The testing was also done with my iPhone 6S+ and my Sena SMH-10 Bluetooth headset. Although the Sena SMH-10 Headset is the lowest model that Sena makes, it functions quite well. There may be some limitations that may have affected my testing and that will have to be determined at a later date. Pairing was tested as well as audible navigation, audio and cell phone usage with the unit. I should note that I was not trying to pair both GPS’s at the same time to the same devices at the same time. For the duration of the testing, my personal Zumo 390 LM was not on the bike.

The Garmin Zumo 395LM Motorcycle GPS I tested is last years model, but still a worthy unit and only missing a few features compared to the newest iteration of the model from the navigation giant. While not as feature loaded as its big brother, the Zumo 396 LMT-S ($399) & 595LM ($699), the 395 will give the motorcycle rider enough options to make it a worthwhile accessory to any rider’s handlebars. While the 396 & 595 have more advanced features such as built in wifi connectivity, better twisty road options, livetracking and rider alerts. The 395 will get the job done.

Coming in at $399.99, it is not the cheapest alternative out there, but you get what you pay for and with the loads of built in features, rugged durability and strong industry name, you are getting a quality product to help you find your way.

The installation was not that difficult. In the packaging you are given all the necessary components to mount the GPS to your handlebars. If you are moderately tool savvy, and know how to use a wrench, screwdriver and know how to access the battery on your bike, you should have no trouble managing the installation. It would be best to note that you should mount the unit on the left side of your bike, so you have easy access with your non-throttle hand.  Also, be sure your power cable routing from your battery to the unit is zip tied to non-heat generating parts and that your handle bar movement from left to right will not but undue stress on that power cable, so give yourself some slack when you do that install.  Note, the installation instructions do not give you this advice.

I found the assembly of the motorcycle mount bracket to be tedious with its tiny nuts, washers and screws. Not to mention the installation of the power cable into the mount, that also added to the tedium factor. Pre-assembly of this whole gizmo at the factory would have made this whole procedure more plug-and-play, which it should be. And, since we are motorcycle riders, we have little use for the suction cup mount and 12V power plug that was included in the box. While it was nice to have, since I did eventually use it for testing, it was just something else I had to keep track of. If you are never going to use this unit in your car, take these to items and stick them in the nearest junk drawer.

The first thing you should know is that the 395 will not last long on its own without outside power. The internal battery provides little life and the best I got was 45 minutes during navigation. Once on bike power, it ran wonderfully.

Once your mount is in place, the 395LM simply snaps into the RAM mount and locks in place. Note that this isn’t actually a “lock”, it’s just that when the unit actually snaps into the mount, there is no chance of it coming out until you press the release button on the side of the mount. One the unit is secured and you have not already started the unit, once it detects power, it begins its boot cycle. While some have complained that this aspect of the unit is slow, I say get over yourself, it’s getting ready to lead you on a journey.  However, what I suggest is that you power up the unit as you are walking to your bike.

Powering up the 395LM is a simple process of pressing the soft rubber button on the top of the unit. However, it is not a simple press and release. It is a press with some pressure and hold for a moment then release. An improvement would be to make this a soft-click button that would allow the user to know that they have actually depressed the button properly for power on. In its current configuration, it took me a few attempts before I figured out where and what pressure to apply to the button. However, with the unit off and you attach it to the mount, the unit automatically starts up. At that point the Garmin splash screen appears and the unit begins its startup. After the startup procedure is done and you’ve agreed to not play with the unit while you are driving, because that is dangerous, the screen comes to life and you are immediately thrust into making a decision. Where to or View Map.

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One of several thousand menus

One of those two obviously leads you to the map and the other leads you to another screen where you plan your trip. Along the bottom of the display are options for settings, apps (navigational stuff), stop and volume.

The screen allowed for use with gloves on. I wear perforated leather riding gloves and I had not trouble at all navigating around any of the menus and its response time was instant. There was no fumbling around for the proper touch angle or amount of finger that touched the screen. You touch, it reacted. Perfect response.

Within the “settings” button were all of the options for navigation preferences, map preferences, avoidances and other settings to suit your needs. More on this later. In the “Apps” section were a host of… well… apps to make your head spin. Tracks, Track Back, Trip Planner and a host of Windows like accessories including Calculator, unit converter, Where I’ve been, etc.

For my testing, my primary interests were the Navigation preferences and Trip Planner. While I played with some of the other features in these menus, they weren’t my focus and I did not devote a lot of time to them.

Before I get into those focus features, I might suggest that if you purchase one of these units you immediately purchase and micro SD card of your favorite storage size and install that into the unit.  If you’re like me, you are waypoint guy or track gal  These things will eat up the existing internal storage and the last thing you want is to be told there is insufficient storage space while you are trying to geocache the world’s largest pile of burlap bags.


The screen:

Side by side with the Garmin 390LM, I have to say I like the 390LM screen over the 395’s. The 390’s screen is more vibrant and more…. Lively. The 395’s 4.3 inch screen seemed, washed out or faded and well, boring. Despite that, the screen visibility, the brightness was excellent and I had no trouble at all viewing the screen even in the brightest most direct sunlight. Kudos to Garmin for nailing that.


Menu structure:

…. Ugh… Like my 390, menus galore. I feel as though many of these menus could either be combined or eliminated but most certainly defined better. I found, as with my 390, that the same type of information, routing for example, was found in different locations. If you are planning a trip you go into this menu, if you are going to use a route you go into that menu. If you want to modify a route you go into this other menu. Shouldn’t anything with “Route” in it be in one location?  That is one aspect of this unit that you will find confusing.

I have a Garmin eTrex Legend CX Handheld GPS. It’s made for hikers and mountain bikers mostly. Within its menu structure there are a gazillion menus, each specific for the needed task. There’s only one place to find routes or tracks and it’s broken down so you can figure it out easy. Very intuitive. Not so with my 390 or 395. Though the menus are not as extensive as they are on my eTrex Legend CX, they are not quite organized well enough to be considered “easy”.


Operation:

In map view, the display was quite understandable. The features were clear, landmarks notable and text readable. Along the top of the display you are given distance to next turn and your direction heading and on occasion, a warning will pop up to tell you if there are curves coming. On the left will be a zoom in/zoom out button and the current posted speed limit. Along the bottom is a back button which will take you out of the map view, your current speed, the road you are currently on, your arrival time and a tool button for additional navigation aids.

My 390LM has all of that and current time, volume button/mute, trip cancel button. On the 395, if you want volume and trip cancel, you have to hit the “Tool” button to get to that other screen. If you want current time…. Well…. I couldn’t find it on the 395LM.  I find that having the current time on the display is a benefit when driving especially when it’s crucial for your trip.

I found the posted speed limits to not be as accurate as I’d like. Where the Garmin would display 40 MPH as the posted speed limit, the roadside sign would say 65 mph. Perhaps that is a coordination effort that needs to happen between the Garmin data collectors and the state DOT, so I’ll excuse that. However, with the improper speeds showing on my display, visual warnings on the display and audible alarms were constantly going off in my headset. As soon as my speed fell within the noted speed limit on the Garmin, the audio and visual alarms would stop. Cool feature, but… I could do without the audible alarms.

The 3D view of the display and magenta colored routing line was ideal and gave me confidence that the GPS was guiding me the correct way to my destinations. In the settings, you have the option to change the color of the line and disable the 3D view.  I prefer the 3D view so I continued with it.

sc-04-lgMaintenance monitoring are great features if you plan on keeping the unit on your bike at all times. If you plan on using it in your 4-wheel mode of transportation, ignore these features. One feature I do like however is the Fuel Monitoring. This allows you to set your know fuel range and set it to your tank fill up. Say you get gas, you enter a menu and tap “Reset Fuel” and it resets the range to the distance you previously set. During your ride, if you reach the notification mileage, it advises you are within X of miles from empty. But if you actually have a reliable fuel gauge then it may be pointless, then again, what motorcycle has an accurate and reliable fuel gauge?

The audio quality of the voice commands/navigation was quite acceptable. Clear and understandable. I wasn’t able to pair up to my audio device but that’s a whole different issue you’ll read about soon.

IMG_2553Garmin offers downloads and other built in options to change the icon that represents your vehicle. Be it a Motorcycle, truck, small car or jet ski, you have many internal options to satisfy your visual cues. Downloads can include any variation of types of vehicles. On my 390LM, my icon for my vehicle is the Black Pearl Pirate Ship. Silly I know, but I like it. Should other icons like Star Wars, Star Trek or other well know characters or vehicles (why no Batmobile?) become available, it’s likely I’ll change it to one of those. But, for my testing of the 395LM, I stayed with the default motorcycle icon.

Internal options are available as well for voice navigation. You can choose from hundreds of languages to give you voice cues for navigating your route. On my 390LM, I installed the British Male voice and oddly enough, during navigation, it sounds like…. Well… Batman. So I call it Batman, depending upon the situation.  Now with the 395LM, because I like the sound of a British voice, I have selected a female English lady telling me what to do.  It makes it all just seem proper. There are options to download additional voices from the Garmin website but not character voices and that is very disappointing. Let’s face it, we all want Patrick Stewart to tell us our exit is coming up in 2 miles. Engage!! But for now, it’s Polite English Lady.

Now for the meat and potatoes of this test.

I was traveling from my brother’s house 50 miles away to home and for the first 12 miles, it was going to be major highway until I crossed the bridge that divided the state. Then I would deviate from the route, I would set my avoidances and select “adventurous” routing, start navigation to my house 38 miles away and follow the magenta line and audible cues from the polite English lady. On the “Adventurous Route Settings page, I adjusted all the sliders so that I had all curvy roads, all hills and avoid major highways. Note, I did not choose or at all use the “Off Road” navigation tool during this whole test. It would have been quite pointless for me and my needs.  Off I go.

Although I was going to rely on the 395 to lead me home, I knew many, many of the roads and the options to take me home. I also knew that were some killer roads that were just ideal for a motorcycle and I couldn’t wait to be on those country lanes. I was fully expecting the 395 to send me down any one of those or all of them and present me with this epic ride home.

It did not.

sc-01-lgThe Adventurous Routing does include Highways and major roads and selects them naturally over twisty curvy hilly roads.  Now although I had set the avoidances to avoid Highways, u-turns, ferries, tolls, wildebeest, Llama and kittens as well as set the preferences to Adventurous. However, the 395 still felt it was necessary to send me down one of the most dreaded, traffic light and congestion prone highways in the state, State Highway Route 9. When I purposefully turned off this highway to any other road, its recalculations were stubbornly pressing me to return to Route 9 via whatever series of left and right turns it deemed necessary. When I finally reached a point far enough away from Highway 9, the 395 directed me to the next major highway for that b-line back home. I was not seeking the b-line straight home. I wanted the lazy meander. Sadly, this GPS is not equipped with a “Meander” feature and I wish it was. All of my attempts to “meander” of my own accord, were met with the 395 getting cross with me and recalculating at every intersection. The 395 was getting on my nerves.

Pairing:

Prior to my departure, I began the juggling process of pairing all my devices. And as anyone knows, this is an evil game that the technology people have created to drive us all madly insane. There is no why or wherefore that explains why some devices will pair and others won’t or why one device will unpair when another one gets paired or why some features will or will not work despite the device being paired. Let’s just chalk it up to Gremlins and the knowledge that what electronic devices do, they do on purpose if for no other reason but to laugh at us while we get angry and frustrated.

After several attempts, my Sena SMH-10 and the 395 decided they were on speaking terms. My iPhone and the Sena continued to be on speaking terms as they have since I purchased them months ago.  My iPhone and the 395 however refused to join the club and play nice with each other. They were not speaking. I suspect it was because I have an British lady, Penny, on my iPhone and another British lady, Elizabeth, on the 395 were at odds with each other.

sc-02-lgIn my usual and normal operation, with the 390, I am able to listen to music, get navigation and interrupt all of that to make or get a phone call. However, since these two British ladies were not in the least interested in any sort of communication with each other, the 395 gave my iPhone the big middle finger and took control of everything. No music, no phone calls. Only navigation.  Okay, I can deal with that. But, I missed several phone calls because the 395 was being a big jerk. I felt bad for the iPhone and promised her that the 395 would be going away soon.

I pulled over because I needed my curiosity satisfied. All my devices were paired, still. Except for you-know-who and you-know-who. So I had the Sena and the 395, the Sena and iPHone but not Sena, iPhone and 395. Oddly enough, if I walked away from my bike, the signal from the 395 would grow weak and I’d be able to make a call through the Sena. Tell me that isn’t weird.

I have since moved onto the UClear AMP+ Communication system for my headset and although I did not get to test it with the 395, its pairing with the 390 was flawless, fast and easy.  See The Sound of Silence…. is Frustrating


Features and other horrors:

When I finally arrived at home, I connected the 395 to my PC via USB cable and began checking all of the data in Base Camp. The tracks were all over and it was great to see the data and the tracks. Really cool stuff.  Just like when we were out there, all the locations of all the things I passed were already POI’s or Geocached in Base Camp and matched up with what I saw on the 395.  It’s nice to see on the display as you are riding that there is a Dunkin Donuts coming up in 3 miles and lo’ and behold, there it is! This is what I like about Base Camp and the maps loaded in the 395. They match up!! What? There’s a Dairy Queen on the next street? No way, there it is. With all that data already in and updated regularly in Base Camp, it is completely possible to do a ride based solely on waypoints to all of your favorite coffee shops.

guidance

 

I was still perplexed about the “adventurous” routing that I did not get, so I dug in.  All of my settings were as they should have been and the only explanation that I can conjure up is that the adventurous setting includes the word “Highways”. If I had the unit set to “Shortest Route” it would have taken me on the obvious route home, which I did not want. If I set it to “Fastest Route”, it would have taken me down all major highways, which it was doing. Although I had all the avoidances set, Adventurous insisted that regardless of what I wanted, Highways were to still be included on this journey.  Another jerk in the box.

sc-03-lgSatisfied that I would be unsatisfied with that feature, I found a new one that made me do a happy dance around my bike. Trip Planner. While I do have Trip Planner on my 390, the trip planner on the 395 is far more advanced and, sorry 390, is better. With the 395 I can select a route based on distance or time. Say for example you feel like doing a 50 mile ride. Go into Trip Planner, select new route, select by distance and enter 50 miles. The 395 will then create a 50 mile loop from your start point based on your routing preferences! Or say you only have 2 hours. Select Ride by Time and enter 2 hours. The 395 will create a route, round trip, based on speed limits in its data base and your routing preferences. Tada! 2 hour route. My dear 390 is without either of these features and I am not a happy rider. I can however create a route with the 390 from point A to B using curvy roads and whatever avoidances I have set. Close but no cigar to what the 395 offers.

Another cool feature that the 395 has is the ability to “Shape” your route. Once you have a route in progress, you are able to select any location on the map and the GPS will revise your route to include the new location you just selected. That is pretty neat.

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Lane assist has to be one of the coolest features built into the 395. Numerous times, the display would change and advise me what lane to be in to go the direction that I wanted. My 390 does the same thing and I love it. No more fumbling with direction or reading road signs, the 395 just tells me what lane to get in and not to stray unless if they say so.  Perfect.

tire-pressureMany of the other features within the 395 are shared with the 390. Fire inflation, apparent fuel levels, maintenance notifications, landmarks, fuel stops and motorcycle specific POI’s. All good stuff if you need them. If you purchase the B-Tooth Tire pressure monitors from Garmin, the 395 will tell you what your tire pressure is and warn you if they become low. Excellent feature and one we should all take advantage of. HOWEVER, these little do-dads screw onto your valve stem of your tires. IF your valve stem is on the center line of your rim you’re golden, BUT if the valve stem is off to one side, like it is on my Harley, you’ll get maybe one revolution of the wheel before the B-tooth transmitter on your valve stem is ripped off as it passes your fork, caliper or wheel fender. Check your clearance before you purchase one of these for your bike. The VIRB Camera Compatibility is another nice-ity. That allows you to integrate Garmin’s VIRB series of HD action cameras to the GPS.


Mapping:

Lifetime map updates and the use of Base Camp will take some getting used to.  Since I have experience already with City Navigator, the predecessor to Base Camp, it was easy for me to find my way around the menu structure, create a route and upload it to the 395.  My only complaint about Base Camp is that once a track or point is created, you can’t delete it from the internal memory from the unit. This is the same with my 390.

Another battle for me was with a created route in Base Camp that has been imported to the 395 is that there was no clear indication that there was a new Route imported to the 395. Through a series of menus, I was able to track down my new route, but it took longer and was more complicated than it should have been. You would think there would have been a button that said “Routes” and you would touch it and there would be a listing of the routes you have created. But no. As with my 390, the uploaded routes are in a sub-menu called “Saved” or in another pop-down menu in the upper left and you have the option to “Import” a route.

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Become one with the mapping….

The other issue with routing and the “Base Camp” software is not so much the creation of a route or sending it to your unit. But it was more using it. On more than one occasion, I created a route in “Base Camp”, sent it to the GPS unit and then “imported” it only to find it was useless. I’ve uploaded Routes, Tracks and Places. I can’t figure out how to upload Waypoints yet. More horribly, say for example you want to go from Point “A” to point “B” and back to Point “A”. In the routing once imported, it will read it as Point “A” to “A”, since in essence, that is what you are doing, the GPS will ask you to select your next destination. Since you know you are going to Point “A” at the end you have one option and that is select Point “A”/End. You select “GO”, it calculates and then says “Arrive in 35 feet” although the route shows your route is 50 miles long. On a recent ride, I had planned a 200 mile route that would include 4 stops before returning back home. I created the route using way points and uploaded it to my 390. The route shows up in the 390 and when I selected it and GO, it would do nothing but route me back to the end point, where I was, although the route showed it was 211 miles long. It did not import the way points either. I am still fumbling with the software but, the end result was the same with the 395. The only difference with the 395 is when you import, your routes go into Apps, Trip Planner, Saved trip. Again, it would be far easier and better if there was a button in the “Where to” menu that says Routes and that is where all your custom routes would be. Just a little pet peeve of mine.


The Verdict:

The Garmin Zumo 395LM is quite capable to do what you need it to do. It will get you where you want to go and provide you with all the along-the-way information you could possibly need. It’s a solid device and I expect it could hold up pretty well if used in the Off-Road Navigation mode. The 395 is a good little device, albeit in need of a few minor refinements, and I would recommend this GPS for use for anyone, even those who choose 4 wheels over two.

I like the Zumo 395LM and I would own one simply for the great Time/Distance routing. I just feel that if an eTrex, 390 and the 395 were smashed together, it would be even better. I have a friend who had the 595, to my knowledge he has not put a bullet through it yet. So I assume he likes it.


Pros:
Custom Routing by time or distance, Lane Assist, Route Shaping, Rugged, Bright Display, Good audio, Tire pressure warning, Great custom routing with Base Camp.


Cons:
Bland screen, Questionable “adventure” routing, Annoying on screen and audible warnings, Limited Voice downloads, Menu hell, Big learning curve with Base Camp, Bluetooth Pairing difficulty, short off-power battery life


Next review:  Tom-Tom Rider 400

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