Garmin StreetPilot c580 MSN Direct services can save you time and money

The Garmin StreetPilot c580 is another in the ever expanding market of portable GPS devices. However, the integration of MSN Direct services give you quick and detailed information on movie times, gas prices, weather, and traffic conditions. The device also serves as a Bluetooth hands-free car kit and MP3 player while providing easy-to-use and accurate GPS voice-enabled navigation. The c580 is something every mobile gadgeteer should take a look at if they are in the market for a dedicated portable GPS unit.

I am a regular business traveler and in the past I have used a Samsung Q1 UMPC and various mobile phones for GPS navigation. These devices are decent solutions and work well, for the most part. I am also a fan of MSN Direct/SPOT watches and my MSN Direct press contact asked if I wanted to check out the latest and greatest Garmin GPS device that integrates MSN Direct service. I was sent the Garmin StreetPilot c580 for a couple of weeks and put together this 40 photo image gallery that captures the functionality of the device.

 Image Gallery: Check out 40 shots of the Garmin StreetPilot c580 in action.  
Image Gallery: c580 navigation
Image Gallery: MSN Direct services

I found a dedicated GPS device like the StreetPilot c580 the easiest and most convenient solution due to the pre-loaded maps (all of the U.S. is included with the device), integration of a DC cable to keep it charged in the car, large viewable touch screen display, and high quality GPS receiver. The feature that make this particular model stand out above and beyond the many devices you can now find in this market is the MSN Direct service integration. A 1 year subscription is included with the purchase and it provides you with traffic updates, gas prices, weather, and movie times that are updated for your particular GPS location. The MSN Direct receiver (FM radio waves) is actually integrated into the DC adapter that you use to charge up the StreetPilot unit.

The initial connection to the MSN Direct servers took several hours, but then after that I saw connections being much faster. The local gas prices feature is valuable today where high gas prices are the norm. After showing you a list of gas prices you can tap the screen (very easy to navigate touch panel on the device) to see the name and address of the gas station. You can then tap Go and the StreetPilot c580 will route you to the gas station. Unfortunately, the gas prices don't differentiate which stations offer diesel and as a new diesel vehicle owner I need to know this information.

The movie times were very helpful and accurate in providing me times and locations, with the option to navigate to those theaters I selected. Weather was also helpful and with a signal on the device the temperature actually appears at the top of the display on the unit in other screens. I didn't find the traffic feature that helpful since it gave a visual status of main freeways, but didn't seem to pick up many of the roads I travel on.

In addition to the advanced MSN Direct services, the StreetPilot c580 also serves as a hands-free Bluetooth car kit. The lawmakers in Washington State just outlawed calls and text messages while driving so devices like the c580 will soon be mandatory in your car and this functionality helps justify the cost of the unit since it can serve as a hands-free car kit. If your phone has Bluetooth then connecting to the c580 is quick and easy. Depending on the mobile phone you have, your address book should appear and when someone in your contact list calls their name and information will appear on the display. You can then touch the display to transfer the call to your phone or mute the microphone. You can also use the Bluetooth connection to quickly call home, call locations and points of interests (POI) found on the map, and even dial using voice commands. The c580 will also read text messages out loud via the stereo speakers, or using the audio output connection, but none of the phones I have support this feature.

The last advanced feature, not counting the superb mapping and navigation features, is the music player support. You can place MP3 files on a SecureDigital card and then pop it into the Garmin c580 to listen to your tunes. There is an audio out port so you can plug the unit into your supported car stereo for better volume and sound.

There are many settings on the unit to customize your experiences, including customizing the vehicle icon that is shown on your display. The unit happened to include the blue truck icon when I hooked it up and that is exactly what I have so it made the experience a bit more realistic.

I found the navigation to be very accurate and liked the 3D map view. You can also view the maps in 2D mode and activate turn-by-turn voice directions. The buttons are large and you can quickly and easily tap the display to make choices on the unit. The display is also very readable in sunlight so the unit works well when mounted on your vehicle dash. Speaking of mounting, a very solid windshield suction mount is included. It is easy to snap the c580 onto the mount socket that allows you to rotate the display to your desired viewing angle. Volume is easily controlled using the jog dial on the upper right side of the unit and the stereo speakers are quite loud.

The StreetPilot c580 package includes the StreetPilot c580, preloaded City Navigator NT for North America, MSN Direct receiver with integrated vehicle power cable, 1 year free MSN Direct service, vehicle suction cup mount, dashboard disk, USB cable, carry case, and quick reference guide. While the c580 has a MSRP of US$749.99 you can find it online for as low as US$500. I am very tempted to purchase one of these units and if I was in the market for a dedicated GPS unit this is the first model I would look at buying due to the advanced features.