Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
Garmin zumo 550
- Rugged design, user interface, includes all accessories for mounting, Bluetooth technology, includes a car window mount
- Rubber buttons hard to press, no screen protector included, display could have been larger
The zumo 550 is without doubt an excellent option if you need a GPS unit for your motorcycle or scooter.
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
Hot on the heels of TomTom's Rider comes the Garmin zumo 550 — a GPS designed and built specifically for motorcycles and scooters.
On first glance, the zumo looks similar to Garmin's current range, albeit with a much larger frame. Portability isn't a real concern here, so the chunky and heavy nature of the zumo compared to regular portable in-car units isn't a negative. What is of more concern is the durability of the design. Thankfully it feels solid and the casing is waterproof; an obvious must if it's being used for motorcycles.
As the zumo 550 doesn't have the luxury of being protected inside a car, Garmin has designed the unit so no connections or ports are left exposed — the mini-USB connection and SD slot are at the bottom of the unit behind a flip-down protective panel. A downside to the rugged design is the rubber buttons surrounding the display. They require a firm press to activate and can be unresponsive at times.
The screen on the zumo 550 is a mixed bag. It is quite bright — especially if brightness is set over 70 per cent — and has a decent viewing angle, but it's not as clear or crisp as we would have liked. Also, we feel that a motorcycle GPS should have a slightly larger display. As it stands the zumo's display is solid, but far from outstanding. We also found that the touch screen isn't as responsive as other Garmin units we've reviewed. A screen protector would have been a welcome inclusion as well — the zumo could easily be affected by dust, or loose road gravel.
The zumo comes with all the appropriate mounts to attach it to your motorcycle. Included in the sales package are both a u-bolt handlebar mount and a clutch mount and instructions are included for both. Installation seems simple enough, though Garmin recommends the power cable with bare wire leads be installed by a professional. This is an optional though and doesn't need to be installed for the unit to function, though it does provide the convenience of constant charging.
Once installed, the zumo 550 sits in a specially designed plastic frame which is easily detached. In a nice touch, Garmin has also included a car window mount. Keep in mind that to receive external sound in a car, you'll need the mount to be plugged into power through your car's cigarette lighter. For motorcycles, the zumo offers both a standard jack for a microphone (2.5mm) and an audio out (3.5mm) jack. The zumo 550 also features Bluetooth, so connecting it to a wireless headset lets you receive navigation directions. Users can also make phone calls — incoming calls are answered by simply tapping the screen and speaking through the helmet microphone or optional external microphone. We found audio over a Bluetooth headset the best option.
The zumo's interface is excellent, in line with most of Garmin's other units. A nice touch is the ability to enlarge the keyboard, making buttons easier to press if you have motorcycle gloves on. When searching an address, the zumo filters street names by suburb, reducing the list to a manageable number. Unfortunately, Garmin still hasn't corrected the search order — searches must be made in order of suburb, street number and then street name, where logic tells us that you should enter the street number after selecting the street and not before.
The main menu is very straightforward, with large icons for 'Where To' and 'View Map', in addition to small icons for the music player and settings. The zumo can navigate to a specific address, a point of interest (POI), a recent location, a specific intersection and your favourites.
The zumo uses the popular SiRF Star III GPS receiver found in almost every unit on the Australian market. As expected, GPS performance is solid and re-routing times are in line with most other units. Our main complaint is reserved for the sluggish start-up time when you turn on the unit — an issue common with recent Garmin models.
The zumo comes preloaded with City Navigator Australia NT 2008, using WhereIs v.14 maps. The preloaded map data has over 1 million points of interest and also offers text-to-speech technology. Speed and red-light camera warnings (with voice commands) aren't preloaded onto the unit but they are available as a free download from the Garmin Web site.
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