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Garmin StreetPilot C550 In-Car Satellite Navigation

Garmin StreetPilot C550 Review - The Best Sat Nav So Far?

STOP! DO NOT CLICK AWAY! I know the new Garmin StreetPilot c550 looks like an old 510 or 310, but trust me it is a totally different device, and it is shaping up to be one of the best in car transferable Satellite Navigation units on the market!

So why should you buy a 550 rather than a TomTom 710 or 910? Let's have a look at what the Garmin c550 has to offer.

The Garmin is pre-loaded with maps of Europe straight out of the box. No messing around with discs and usb cables as you would have to with a Nuvi 310. It comes with speed camera POI's loaded too, so again there is no downloading, although if you want to keep your safety camera database up to date you'll have to subscribe at the Garmin site.

The 550 has the ability to read out street names, a very useful feature offered only on TomTom's most expensive 910. MP3's or audio books can be downloaded to the device (or onto an SD card) and listed to via the stereo speakers.

Much should be made of Garmin's inclusion of a free TMC aerial, which allows automatic re-routing around congestion using a special aerial that is subscription free for life, and doesn't require a Bluetooth phone and data connection.

Finally the Garmin c550 has Bluetooth built in for hands free mobile calling with compatible phones.

So this Garmin on paper looks similar in specification to the TomTom 710 or 910, albeit without the widescreen, so lets get outside with this review and see what it is actually like to use a Garmin c550 Satellite Navigation device.

When you turn the Garmin on the screen really impresses with its brightness and clarity - just like the wider Nuvi 660. If you're used to TomTom's navigation path, using a Garmin for the first time can be a little strange at first, but once you get used to it I found it a lot faster. With the Garmin you don't need to distinguish between Towns and Postcodes. To enter a destination simply press the menu at the bottom of the map screen, then tap 'where to' then the first few letters of the country where you are, then the Postcode or the town, then the road and house number if necessary, and you're off. Easy and simple, just like sat nav should be.

The 550's twin stereo speakers make voice instructions loud and clear. Fire up the mp3 player and although not up to the standard of your car stereo, it's ok to pass the time.

I paired up the device with my nokia phone and hands-free calls came through loud and clear, again just as it should be.

I guess I've written many of these satellite navigation articles now, so I tend to gloss over most of the finer points and look for the negatives, but there aren't many about the c550.

You could argue that the female voice isn't that good, but the male voice is excellent. The map animation isn't as smooth as a TomTom's, but it is still very good.

The windscreen bracket is much better than a Tom Tom's one, and in the couple of hours I was reviewing this unit I had no complaints at all with its operation, in fact I was so impressed that I will now be recommending the Garmin c550 to anyone who is after a European navigator - it does it all.

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