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April 25, 2010

Garmin Oregon 550T Review

GPSmagazine Rating: 4.5 of 5
Buy this GPS from Amazon

Verdict: If I'm Ever Shipwrecked, This is the GPS I Want By My Side

Garmin Oregon 550t Retail Box
What's in the Box Oregon 550t, Battery Compartment Built-in 3.2 Megapixel Autofocus Camera


  • Highly capable, rugged, and versatile GPS that's a good fit for novices and experts alike
  • Has an integrated 3.2 Megapixel Digital Camera
  • Waterproof and Rugged
  • Comes with profiles for Recreation, Geocaching, Automotive, Marine, Fitness, and Camera

Table of Contents

  1. What's in the Box
  2. Getting to Know the Oregon 550T
  3. Basic Navigation
  4. Navigating to A Destination
  5. Managing Waypoints, Routes, & Tracks
  6. Camera
  7. Geocaching With the Oregon 550T
  8. Whereigo
  9. Sharing Wirelessly
  10. Screen Brightness
  11. Garmin BaseCamp
  12. Using Satellite Imagery with the Oregon 550T
  13. Pros
  14. Cons
  15. Conclusion

1. What's in the Box

Figure 1: What's in the Box

The oregon 550T includes the following items in the box:

  • Oregon 550T
  • AA battery charger
  • 2 AA NiMH batteries
  • Carabiner clip
  • USB cable
  • Owner's manual on disk
  • Quick start manual

Garmin Oregon 550t, Front
Figure 2: Garmin Oregon 550T, Front

Physically, the Oregon 550Tt appears virtually identical to previous Oregon models, sharing the same screen size, resolution, and overall dimensions as the Oregon 400 and 300 series.

Garmin Oregon 550t, Back
Figure 3: Garmin Oregon 550t, Back

The back of the Oregon 550T is constructed of scratch-resistant gray plastic, and has a metal mounting spine that accommodates the included Carabiner clip.

Unlike other Oregon models, the 550T includes a built-in 3.2-MP autofocus camera.

Built-in 3.2-MP Autofocus Camera with 4x Digital Zoom
Figure 4: Built-in 3.2-MP Autofocus Camera with 4x Digital Zoom

Each photo taken with the 550T is automatically geotagged with the location of where it was taken, allowing you to navigate back to that site.

The camera features 4x digital zoom, and photos can be viewed in landscape or portrait orientation. Photos can be stored on the 850 MB of internal memory, or on an optional micro SD memory card.

Garmin Oregon 550t, Left Side
Figure 5: Garmin Oregon 550T, Left Side

Oregon's case is constructed of matt metal, gray plastic, and black rubber wrapped around the middle for better grip.

Garmin Oregon 550t, Top
Figure 6: Garmin Oregon 550t, Top

Oregon's top is capped with a protective metal plate, and embossed with Garmin's name.

Garmin Oregon 550t, Right
Figure 7: Garmin Oregon 550t, Right

The power button is located on the upper-right side of the GPS, positioned roughly where your thumb rests when holding the Oregon in your right hand., or index finger if your holding the 550t in your left hand.

Pressing and holding the power button powers the Oregon on or off, and pressing and quickly releasing the power button brings up the brightness adjustment screen.

Garmin Oregon 550t, Bottom
Figure 8: Garmin Oregon 550t, Bottom

The bottom of the Oregon 550t is home to a Mini-B USB jack, protected by a rubber weather cap.

Oregon 550t's Mini-USB Jack
Figure 9: Oregon 550t's Mini-USB Jack

List the weather cap on the bottom of the he Oregon to access the USB jack. The weather cap is attached to the case, so there's no need to worry about misplacing the cap.

Battery Compartment
Figure 10: Battery Compartment

Lift the spring-loaded latch on the back of the case to remove the battery cover.

microSD Card Slot
Figure 11: microSD Card Slot

The Oregon 550t's microSD data card tray is located under the AA batteries.

The 550t has about 850 MB of free and available internal memory that can be used to store geotagged photos, tracks, waypoints, routes, and additional maps. Depending how many photos you plan on taking at any given time, you may or may not need to purchase a microSD card.

Rechargeable AA Batteries
Figure 12: Rechargeable AA Batteries

The 550t comes with two precharged AA NiMH batteries that Garmin claims can provide up to 16 hours of life on a single charge, and don't lose energy when not in use. A battery charger is also included.

Included Battery Charger
Figure 13: Included Battery Charger

The included battery charger can accommodate up to 4 AA batteries at once.

Oregon 550t with Rechargable Batteries Installed
Figure 14: Oregon 550t with Rechargeable Batteries Installed

Carabiner clip
Figure 15: Carabiner clip

The Oregon 550t includes a Carabiner clip that slides over the mounting spine on the back of the GPS.

Carabiner Clip, Attached to the Oregon
Figure 16: Carabiner Clip, Attached to the Oregon

The included carabiner clip blocks the built-in camera when hanging from the clip, so you'll have to fold the clip out of the way, or remove it altogether when taking photos.

Garmin Oregon 550t
Figure 17: Garmin Oregon 550t

Looking at the Oregon 550t's feature list, Garmin seems to have listened to customer feedback on the Oregon 400 series, and has added a 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass that shows your heading when you're standing still, without having to hold it level. Garmin also claims the new 3-inch display is brighter.

The 550t lets you customize five profiles - automotive, marine, recreation, fitness, or geocaching. Each profile re-arranges the buttons to make the most useful features easier to see for the selected profile. Optional City Navigator maps can be added for turn-by-turn driving directions to a destination. The 550t is also compatible with Garmin's optional wireless heart-rate monitors and speed/cadence sensors, and a handlebar mount is available.

The internal GPS receiver is HotFix enabled, which should provide for faster initial location and better tracking under trees or in canyons. The unit can store up to 2,000 waypoints, 200 routes, 5,000 geocaches, and a tracklog of up to 10,000 points and 200 saved tracks.