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July 22, 2008

Garmin nuvi 500 Review

GPSmagazine Rating: 4.6 of 5
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Verdict: The nüvi That Can Go Anywhere. Like Having Three GPS Units In One.

Garmin nuvi 500 Review

Once upon a time you had to buy a GPS for the car, a handheld unit for outdoor hiking and Geocaching, another one for cycling, and yet a different GPS for boating. Enter Garmin's nüvi 500: one GPS, four modes.

The nüvi 500 combines the best of Garmin's various GPS products into a single, easy to use device that's equally at home on the road, trails, or water. Preloaded with topographic maps of the U.S., the nüvi 500 boasts water-proof hardware, a removable 8 hour battery, electronic compass, and can be upgraded with additional maps, traffic, and MSN Direct.

  1. Specifications & Features
  2. What's in the Box
  3. Turning on the nüvi 500 for the First Time
  4. Installing the nüvi 500 in A Car
  5. The Main Menu
  6. Switching Between Driving, Walking, Boating, & Bicycling Modes
  7. The Map Screen
  8. Entering An Address
  9. Finding A Restaurant (Searching for POIs)
  10. Canceling the Route
  11. Setting the Home Address
  12. Favorites
  13. Where Am I? (Viewing or Saving Your Current Location)
  14. Creating And Using Routes
  15. Navigating To A Set of Coordinates
  16. Finding Geographic Points
  17. Compass
  18. Routing Engine Performance
  19. Geocaching with the nüvi 500
  20. Whereigo (Where I Go)
  21. Boating Mode
  22. Pros
  23. Cons
  24. Conclusion

1. Specifications

Physical & Performance:
Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 4.21 x 3.35 x 0.90 in. (106.9 x 85.1 x 22.9 mm)
Display size, WxH: 2.8 x 2.1 in. (72.0 x 54.0 mm)
Display resolution, WxH: 320 x 242 pixels
Display type: 64K bright, 18-bit LCD display; white backlight; water-proof touch screen
Weight: 7.6 ounces (215.5 g)
Battery: removable, rechargeable lithium-ion
Battery life: up to 8 hours
Waterproof: Water resistant IPX7 (An IPX7 designation means the GPS case can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.)
Maps & Memory:
Basemap: yes
Preloaded maps: Comes preloaded with the Historic Route 66 map guide, detailed street and topographic mapping for the lower 48 U.S. states, Hawaii & Puerto Rico.
Ability to add maps: yes (i.e., can be loaded with optional BlueChart g2 Vision, and Inland Vision marine cartography for improved detail on the water)
Built-in memory: internal solid state
Accepts data cards: microSD card (not included)
Waypoints/favorites/locations: 1000
Routes: 10
Voice prompts (e.g. "Turn right in 500 ft."): yes (internal dual speakers)
Speaks street names (e.g. "Turn right ON ELM STREET in 500 ft.") : no
Speech recognition (navigate with voice commands): no
3D map view: yes
Auto sort multiple destinations (provides most direct route): yes
Auto re-route (fast off-route and detour recalculation): yes
Choice of route setup (faster time, shorter distance, off road): yes
Route avoidance (avoid highways, tolls etc.): yes
Custom POIs (ability to add additional points of interest): yes
Hands-free calling with Bluetooth® wireless technology: no
FM traffic compatible: yes (requires purchase of optional FM traffic receiver)
XM® Navtraffic (includes basic weather) & Radio for U.S. compatible: no
MSN® Direct for U.S. compatible: yes (requires purchase of optional MSN-Direct receiver)
Where Am I? feature (find closest hospitals, police & gas stations, nearest address & intersection): yes
Car locator feature (marks position when removed from windshield mount): no
MP3 player: no
Audio book player: no
Picture viewer: yes
Configurable vehicle icons (select car-shaped icons for map navigation): yes
World travel clock, currency & measurement converter, calculator: yes
Touchscreen: yes
Qwerty or ABC keyboard (choose keyboard layout): no
Remote control: no
FM transmitter: no
Headphone jack/audio line-out: no
Dead reckoning: no
Garmin Lock™ (anti-theft feature): no
Motorcycle-friendly: no

2. What's in the Box

Garmin nuvi 500 Retail Box
Figure 1: Garmin nüvi 500 Retail Box

What's Included in the nuvi 500's Box
Figure 2: What's Included in the nüvi 500's Box

The nüvi 500 includes the following items in the box:

  • Garmin nüvi 500
  • Vehicle suction cup mount & cradle
  • Dashboard disc
  • Vehicle power cable
  • Quick start manual

Garmin nuvi 500 Windshield Suction Cup Mount
Figure 3: Garmin nüvi 500 Windshield Suction Cup Mount

The nüvi 500 is mounted to the vehicle's windshield using a suction-cup mount and cradle (shown below) that snaps onto the end of the mount, forming a ball-and-socket joint that can be articulated into the desired viewing angle without using any levers, dials, or knobs.

The suction mount is locked into place by lowering the lever on the mount.

nuvi 500's Windshield Mount and Cradle, Connected
Figure 4: nüvi 500's Windshield Mount and Cradle, Connected

The cradle fits onto the ball at the tip of the windshield mount, creating a ball-and-socket type connection that is both highly effective and easy to attach/remove. To attach the cradle to the mount, simply press the cradle's socket onto the mount's ball, applying pressure until you hear it click into position. Once connected, the cradle can be articulated into the desired position.

To remove the cradle from the mount, simply twist the cradle all the way to the right or left until it snaps off the tip of the windshield suction mount.

Garmin's well designed mount is easy to use, and holds the unit firmly in place while driving.

Garmin nuvi 500, Docked in the Windshield Mount
Figure 5: Garmin nüvi 500, Docked in the Windshield Mount

I'm a big fan of Garmin's ball-and-socket style mount. There's no moving parts to break, and it's easy to adjust the GPS with one hand while driving. There are no knobs, levers, or screws to deal with: just turn the nüvi 500 firmly into the desired position, and the mount holds it securely in place.

Garmin nuvi 500, Front
Figure 6: Garmin nüvi 500, Front

The nüvi 500 has a 3.5-inch (measured diagonally) water-proof touch screen LCD display. A thick, two-tone ruggedized case frames the nüvi 500's screen.

Measuring 4.21 x 3.35 x 0.90 in. (106.9 x 85.1 x 22.9 mm), the nüvi 500 is thicker, wider, and taller than Garmin's other GPS units with a 3.5-inch display. The nüvi 500 is also heavier, weighing 7.6 ounces.

In exchange for the nüvi 500's extra heft and size, you get a level of ruggedness never before seen in a nüvi: this GPS is IPX7 rated, meaning the GPS case can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes, has a water-proof touch screen display, and a removable battery that can last up to 8 hours of use between charges.