Recording My Whole Canadian Trip And In Depth Look at My Garmin DriveAssist 51

So far, my Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-S dash cam has been great! Not only does it take great video, the features are pretty amazing. I have had a few hiccups with it, but I can tell a lot of the features are new, so the bugs will take some time to be worked out. I decided to use it during taking the month of July off and see what it could do for me in the 6,000+ miles I drove.

One interesting thing I found out is it checks the integrity and life of a memory card. Unlike the Garmin VIRB that kept shutting down on me and I thought the culprit was overheating on the dash, the Garmin DriveAssist checks a memory card and then warns you it is bad. When it says it’s bad, it’s actually bad and you need to listen to the warning or it’ll lock up the device. That’s one thing that I did learn the hard way and it prevented me from recording the whole drive from Texas to Wisconsin.

Before I went on my Canadian trip that would hit up every Great Lake, I bought a bunch of fresh memory cards. The recording itself is of high quality and I do like the TimeLapse feature. I turned them both on and got the following during the around 3,000 miles I drove:

Time Lapse:


One gripe I do have about the video recording is it will stamp the GPS coordinates on the video itself, but it won’t create a separate file like the Garmin VIRB does. I am still trying to do a Google Maps overlay like I did with the VIRB. Eventually, I’ll figure something out and make it look the same I did with the VIRB. I’m assuming if Garmin really wanted to, they could easily add this feature to their videos with their own maps like I did with the VIRB and Google Maps:

I do also wish there was some kind of indicator on how much recording time I have left before I run out of space. I’m guessing my use case is way different than the average person using it basically as an eye witness in case there is an accident. I do see it does detect incidents because I didn’t have a good hold on the windshield and it fell onto the dash. It made a bunch of noise and asked me if I wanted to save the “incident.” I obviously said no, but I do see that as being useful. I just wish it would indicate how much recording time I have left so I can swap the memory cars before it either starts overwriting my drive files or runs out of space.

One thing I really did like is how it syncs with my phone. I was able to get traffic updates and it actively reroutes me around traffic jams. I remember it telling me to get off the 401 Express in Toronto and onto the normal 401 to bypass traffic jams. After the traffic jam was over, it got me back on the Express and I saved a countless amount of time. It also made me aware of the flooding going on in Kenosha and the traffic jams associated with that.

Since I have Sync in my Focus, I use that to make calls and send text messages. From my understanding, this device would also help me with this, but I obviously do not need it. Maybe if I took my other Focus, it would help out in those regards.

Another cool thing is after a certain amount of driving, it suggests rest stops, whether they be gas stations or actual rest areas. This makes it easy to add these to your route planning as a stop along the way. One issue I did run into is it would sometimes suggest a rest stop and I would select to go to it, but then it would go to the rest stop search and just spin. Obviously, if it already knows the nearest rest stop, it should be able to directly route you there instead of adding an extra step of searching. This did get a bit annoying sometimes, but when it worked, it worked well.

I haven’t messed around with the trip planning feature much, but I have added extra stops along the way for gas or just a rest stop. Having TripAdvisor offline also is awesome for finding highly rated spots to go to, especially when cell phone reception is limited. I may have to use this a bit more in the future, but I guess I’m a bit more impulsive on my stops (hence the name of this blog).

The voice commands are a really cool feature. Unlike Siri, which doesn’t work offline, these voice commands do work offline. Sometimes the voice commands did get a little flaky and it took multiple times to get what I wanted. Nonetheless, it did work well enough that I could eventually find something like gas or a rest stop along the way without having to touch the device. My only main gripe with this feature is it doesn’t allow you to use a voice command to take a picture. This would definitely be a useful feature.

While you can’t take a picture with a voice command, the way the touch menu is laid out right next to the map does make it easy to take a picture that way. Overall, it’s easy to start recording a video or time-lapse or also take a picture by simply touching the screen while driving, but while it is easy, I have a feeling it also violates hands-free laws in many places.

I do also love how I can update everything over wifi. It does make it much easier to keep my maps up to date. I do wish I could wirelessly transfer videos to my laptop or a hard drive in the background while driving so I wouldn’t have to worry about swapping SD cards before they fill up.

One feature that definitely needs improvement and you can tell is very new technology is the lane departure and forward collision warnings. I ended up having to turn this off because it became so annoying. I guess I’m not that aggressive of a driver (maybe that’s why my 2007 Focus has over a quarter million miles), but every time I’d change lanes it would think I was drifting. Additionally, even though there was a couple car lengths between me and the car ahead of me after changing a lane, it would warn me of a possible forward collision. When you are doing a ton of interstate driving, this gets old fast and hence the reason I turned it off.

I think the only feature left I didn’t talk about was the parking feature. I haven’t had a chance to mess with this much because most places I went to had their own parking that was free and readily available. I’ll have to try this around Austin where many places don’t have parking and some parking garages are a complete rip off. Maybe there’s another feature or two I haven’t used or can’t think of, but with all the driving I did, I did seem to get good use out of this product.

Overall, I’m impressed with this product and do enjoy using it. Because I like to take drive videos of my whole drives and also do time lapses, this product works great because it is all-in-one and the interface itself is easy to use when it comes to turning the camera on and off. I know I have my ideas for improvements for it that would help me, but the current feature set is anything better than I’ve used before.

Over time, I’ve come to really like Garmin products whether it be my other GPS that I’ve had for almost 4 years, the Garmin Nuvi 40, this product, the Garmin VIRB, or the Garmin Vivofit which I used for a while. I’ll definitely have to keep my eye out for other products they sell and if I see something that will make my life easier (like the DriveAssist does), I’ll jump on buying it and report back on my blog.

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