Garmin C530 StreetPilot
Garmin’s latest addition to its’ legendary StreetPilot line, is the 500 series. The 500 series is not a radically new concept (such as the Garmin Nuvi series). The 500 series doesn’t attempt to redefine the category in any way. What the 500 series does, simply, is provide the best, most reliable portable navigation unit on the market in a small package and one of the best interfaces available. And just by way of explanation. This review concerns the c530. There are three models in the 500 line. The c510 is a European model with the same features as the c530 being reviewed here and the c550 has some additional features (MP3 player, Bluetooth, integrated traffic receiver). All are based on the same technology and carry the same basic specs.
You click on any of the thumbnails in this review to see a higher resolution version
Here is the c530 perched above the MFD in my Prius. You could just easily relocate the c530 to the opposite of the driver or, of course, over in front of the passenger.
If you’re at all familiar with the Garmin StreetPilot line, the c530 will hold few surprises. It’s styled like all the three digit StreetPilot’s. The case is a similar size as is the screen. However, there are a few differences. The scroll bar for screen scaling is no longer there (now screen scaling software controlled), Garmin is using a different mount system and power coupling and they’ve added a second speaker to the back. Otherwise, the familiar SD card slot is there and the general proportions remain the same.
The c530 is a small, rounded, rather organic shaped device. The back contains two small but extremely loud speakers, a power coupling, a GPS antenna socket and a ball mount. The 320×240 screen (2.8”W x 2.1”H) seems small but compare it to most other navs in the price class and physical size and it’s average.
But where this new unit really shines isn’t in the hardware world, it’s software. Garmin has always been a leader, since the inception of the StreetPilots, in making reliable, easy to use nav software. Those of you who currently have a nav can understand this, those of you who do not, may have to take it on faith, but the real determining factor in nav units is the software. Sure, bad antenna placement, silly buttons or controls can hurt the usability of a nav unit but software is really the key. Make the touch screen buttons too small, it’s difficult to use. Make the information jagged and difficult to read, it’s unusable. If the route recalculation takes too much time, you’re really lost by the time the unit refigures your new route. Software is the key and software is where the Garmin c530 rises far above the others I’ve used.
The maps are rendered smoothly. The details are there but not so much as to make the maps unreadable. Text is appropriately sized and again, rendered smoothly (which not only looks nice but makes it easier to read). The satellite acquisition time is the shortest I’ve encountered in any nav unit. The overall layout of the controls and sizing of the buttons and keys are not only made for adult fingers but make the small screen more than large enough. It’s not often you hit the wrong thing (because the controls are sized inappropriately). The user interface is pleasantly detailed so as not to look like something you might find on a battlefield or a fish-finder. All in all, I think the new StreetPilot has the nav software against which all others should be judged.
Aesthetically, I think Garmin did an excellent retaining the basic shape of the StreetPilots. The built in antenna is one less thing to fool with (units such as the Alpine Blackbird have a fold out antenna). Garmin includes a fantastic little neoprene case for the c530. Two ultr-cool innovations to the case may give you an idea as to how well thought out the c530 is. First, the case has a hard insert which protects the screen. A small detail but one that is important in a portable nav, now, even if your nav is residing in a backpack, briefcase or purse, the case protects the unit and the screen from accidental damage. The other innovation, you can leave the case on while using the c530. Shown below…
There is a small rubber retaining ring which keeps the case from sliding around when it is mounted on the ball mount. It’s a little thing, to be sure, but one more reason why your StreetPilot will last longer than other portable navs. The new suction cup mount is smaller and stronger than any other I’ve tested. The smaller size may restrict placement slightly however I had no problems in mounting the unit in all the usual places in my Prius. And the new mounting system makes is by far the best I’ve seen. You merely pop the nav unit off the ball mount to remove it. To reinstall it, simply press the nav unit chassis firmly back onto the ball mount and with a noticeable “pop”, you’re ready to go. The unit doesn’t vibrate or slide around on the mount and is fully positionable so it can be seen anywhere in the vehicle.
On the downside, Garmin has crafted this unit to make it easy. In doing so, they’ve left some things out. For instance, you cannot control all the variables of the routing. There are the basic, shorter/faster variables and that’s it. Now, from my experience, I’d much prefer to trade off the reliability and overall ease of use for some of the controls the Garmin c530 lacks. But it’s definitely part of the review to mention these things.
This my splash screen. You might have noticed it above. The c530 allows you to upload and designate any splash screen you wish. I made this one and see it every time the unit powers up.
-Average size screen
-AC power cable is not included
-Basic feature set (does not include extras such as MP3 player)
-Basic system tools (does not allow for the largest possible set of variables)
-Volume knob is oversenstive
-Screen scaling is software driven and “automatic”
I love this nav. Over the last six months this is the fourth unit I’ve tested and it is, by far, the best in all ways. Garmin did a brilliant job in refining a basic configuration that shows to me that they wanted to design to a practical nav unit that would be useful to anyone. The c530 is easy to use, pleasant to use and most importantly, reliable in its’ operation and its’ directions (something not all nav units are). What’s more? The price of the c530 is a steal at $600 (and this price has dropped since the writing of this review). I would highly recommend the Garmin StreetPilot c530 to anyone looking for a portable nav unit. Whether it’s for your mom or a seasoned traveler.
StreetPilot c530 Features:
Receiver: New high-sensitivity WAAS-capable GPS receiver by SiRF
Display: Automotive-grade, sunlight-readable, anti-glare TFT LCD display, 2.8”W x 2.1”H (7.2 x 5.4 cm); 320 x 240 pixels, with touch screen
Unit dimensions: 4.4”W x 3.2”H x 2.2”D (11.3 x 8.2 x 5.6 cm)
Weight: .59 pounds (269 g)
Battery life: up to 8 hours
Supports FM TMC traffic alerting
Includes Garmin Lock™, an anti-theft feature
Configurable car icons
Preloaded maps for all of North America
Fingertip touch-screen interface
Look up addresses and points of interest
Choose 2D or 3D map perspective
Upload custom POIs, including alerts for speed zones and safety cams
Add optional software such as the Garmin Travel Guide and SaversGuide® to personalize c530
SD memory card expansion slot
Preloaded City Navigator® NT North America (full coverage)
Vehicle suction-cup mount
12-volt adapter cable
USB interface cable