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January 13, 2007

CES 2007 Coverage: First Look at the Garmin StreetPilot c580

Garmin StreetPilot c580
Garmin's StreetPilot c550 was one of my favorite GPS units of last year. It shares the same mapping data, routing engine, and POI database as the nuvi 660, but its interface is even easier to use than the nuvi because the StreetPilot doesn't have all the features the nuvis have. If you want a really simple unit that even your grandparents could use, you can't beat the simplicity of the StreetPilot c550. The StreetPilot c580 is identical to the c550, but adds MSN Direct capabilities to the mix. Suggested retail price for the c580 is $857.13, so I'd expect a street price of something like $799.

MSN Direct is the data subscription service made possible by Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) initiative. Up until now, SPOT was the exclusive domain of ugly Fossil watches and various useless devices. According to Garmin's press release, Microsoft has extended the MSN Direct service to support navigation devices. MSN Direct's data is already location tagged and constantly updated, so it's a natural fit to integrate the data into a portable navigation device (PND).

Both the nuvi 680 and the StreetPilot c580 receive up-to-date traffic incident and flow information for major cities across the United States.

Garmin StreetPilot c580 MSN Direct Weather Forecast Screen
Both the nuvi 680 and StreetPilot c580 allow you to view current weather conditions (including high/low/current temperatures, change of precipitation, humidity, pressure, wind, and weather alerts) as well as three day weather forecasts - both for your current location or around the USA.

It's interesting to note that although the nuvi 680 and c580 both provide weather forecast capabilities, the displays are slightly different. Take a look at the nuvi 680's weather forecast screen:

Garmin nuvi 680 MSN Direct Weather Forecast Screen
Apart from the 16:9 widescreen formatting of the nuvi, notice how the nuvi's screen has more colors, higher resolution, and smoother graphics. Interestingly, the nuvi's screen also displays precipitation information.

Garmin StreetPilot c580 City Weather List
The StreetPilot c580 allows you to lookup current and forecasted weather conditions in cities across the United States. Tapping on "Other City" from the Weather screen brings up a list of cities and their respective weather conditions. The list is ordered by closeness to your current position, and each city name can be selected and more details information shown. This feature is nicely implemented, but I feel there should be a way to spell out a specific city name, rather than having to scroll through the entire list ordered by proximity. With the current system, if I'm in New York City and I want to know the weather in San Francisco, I'm going to have to scroll through hundreds of city names before I find San Francisco. Garmin StreetPilot c580 Gas Prices Screen
The Gas Prices feature allows you to search for nearby gas stations and display real-time pricing information. Thus, you can choose the gas station that has the lowest gas price, even if it's not the closest station to your current location. MSN Direct gets its gas pricing information by monitoring credit card processing information for over 100,000 gas stations.

Garmin StreetPilot c580 Movie Listings
Tapping on "Movie Times" from the MSN Direct main menu brings up the movie search page, shown above. From this screen, you can search for a movie by title, or search by theater location. Tapping on "Find by Movie Title" brings up a list of available movies, ordered alphabetically. You can scroll through the list, or hit "Spell" and type out the name of the movie you want to see.

Garmin StreetPilot c580 Traffic
Both the nuvi 680 and the StreetPilot c580 receive up-to-date traffic incident and flow information for major cities across the United States. Using the traffic data available via MSN Direct, the StreetPilot c580 will select a route that avoids traffic accidents, road closures, and construction. If conditions change during the trip, the c580 will automatically re-route to minimize the trip time.

Garmin StreetPilot c580 AC Adapter
One of the first things you'll notice about the c580 is the updated cigarette lighter/traffic receiver.

Garmin StreetPilot c580 vs. c550
In the image above, you can see the older c550 cigarette lighter adapter/TMC traffic antenna on the left. On the right is the updated antenna/12v adapter. This new design doesn't stick straight out into the car, but angles downward. This new design is a welcome update to the previous GTM 20 adapter (included with the c550), which was approaching the maximum length you can reasonably put in the 12v socket without interfering with the gear-shift on many cars.

With a retail price of about $850, the c580 should drive down the price of the already reasonably priced c550, making it an even better deal. If you don't mind the bulky form factor of the StreetPilot 5xx series, these units offer first-class navigation capabilities in an extremely easy-to-use package that even your grandparents could use. The c580 is projected to be released in Spring 2007, and will include a year of free MSN Direct service.