GPS Review - Garmin StreetPilot C series (C310, C320, C330, C340, C510, C530, C550, C580)



After a reasonable amount of research online, we purchased the Garmin C320 Global Positioning System (GPS), about a year ago from Amazon.com for $279.99 shipped. Like most electronic goods, the price of the C series has come down and now starts from the low 200’s. Amazon.com keeps several of the Garmin StreetPilot models in stock and is a good place to do further research.




We did encounter a few glitches with the GPS over the last year:

1. C320 did not turn ON after 2 months of use. The support folks asked us to try turning off the reset button hidden under the blue faceplate. Since that did not work we were asked to send it in. The unit was replaced in a couple of weeks and it has been getting us to places since then. Our contention is that the GPS has poor heat tolerance and keeping the GPS inside the car on hot days could cause damage to internal circuitry or battery.
2. We took it to Chicago this year. Once there, it had a hard time figuring out that it was in Chicago. Fiddling with the menus and the power switch a few times finally helped it get its bearings right.
3. The suction cup mount loses the vacuum grip after about two hours on the road.




GPS products work by using a receiver that tracks position information from satellites. It also uses a database to determine the exact location. The database consists of detailed maps and Points Of Interests (POI) such as gas stations, shopping areas, restaurants etc. This database comes pre-loaded for all the models except the C320, which requires loading the map through the USB interface on a computer.

One caveat with the Garmin C series is that in the states of California and Minnesota, the law prohibits using these mounts on the windshield thus diminishing its value.

On the Garmin website, the C320 and C340 are discontinued. There is some controversy over the C330 and C530 as they are shipped with the older version (v8) of the map. Hence, it is better to not buy these products . Upgrading older versions of the map can set you back upwards of $50 effectively diminishing any benefits of a bargain deal.

The C310 and C510 are sold exclusively in Europe, but the C310 is discontinued. They ship with a 256MB SD Card pre-loaded with a European region (not the whole of Europe). At the UK Amazon website, the pricing for C510 seem reasonable at £106.99.

Following table compares the features and pricing of the C550 & C580:











FeatureGarmin Streetpilot C550Garmin Streetpilot C580
FM Traffic Compatible

YesNo

Routing OptionsFaster Time, Shorter DistanceFaster Time, Shorter Distance, Offroad
MSN Direct for US CompatibleNoYes
Hands Free Calling (BlueTooth)YesYes
Picture viewerNoYes
Voice PromptsYesNo

Pr
icing
$303.86$156.57$323.99$159.23



The above two products have the following very useful features: Anitglare screen, Antitheft feature, Hands Free Calling (Blue Tooth), Latest Version (2008) of City Navigator North America NT maps preloaded, nearly six million Points of Interests (POI) Database, Automatic Route Recalculation if a turn is missed, accepts SD Cards, Portable, Route Avoidance interface, and Turn by Turn Voice Prompts. The C580 has the MSN Direct Interface that require additional subscription with the initial few months being free while the C550 has the FM traffic receiver.

Another Garmin product competing at the low end of the market is the Garmin GPS 18 USB. This line, targeted mostly towards business travelers, is priced in the low 100’s and functions only with a laptop.

Bear in mind that even the latest 2008 Garmin maps that ships with these products are about a year out-of-date. If your travel is mostly in areas with a lot of new infrastructure, the database may not have them listed and you might find the device less useful.

Overall, we love the enhanced travel experience with the Garmin GPS. The Points of Interest (POI) Database is a very handy feature indeed. If we were to purchase the product right now, our choice would be the Garmin Streetpilot C550 - we would much rather prefer the FM traffic receiver in place of MSN Direct interface which requires a subscription. Given the suction mount that comes with these products cannot be used on the wind shield in California and the suspected lack of heat tolerance, we do not find use for the antiglare and antitheft features - we place the GPS on our vehicle’s cup-holder and keep it home after every use to avoid heat exposure and theft.

Related Posts:
  1. GPS Review - Garmin StreetPilot C series (C310, C320, C330, C340, C510, C530, C550, C580).
  2. Garmin Nuvi GPS - Review & Best Value (250, 270, 760, 770) Feature/Price Comparison.

 Last Updated: 01/2008.

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