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Garmin StreetPilot c580 review:

Garmin StreetPilot c580

The unit's interface will be familiar to previous StreetPilot owners, though new users will have no problem working the c580, since the menus are intuitive and easy to use. From the main screen, you have two choices: Where To and View Map. The Where To icon takes you to another screen, where you can select locations in your immediate vicinity, in another city, or closest to your final destination. You can search by address or use the POI icons to locate hospitals, auto services, transit hubs, and other points. Once the c580 lists the available locations, simply press Go, and a route is calculated from your current position to your chosen destination, complete with text and voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. You can read more about these features in our StreetPilot c550 review.

The main difference between the Garmin StreetPilot c550 and this unit is the addition of the MSN Direct services. With it, you can receive real-time traffic conditions, and you can even avoid the congested areas before hitting the road, as the unit provides directions around the traffic. Alternatively, if you happen to hit traffic as you're driving, the c580 will automatically look for alternate routes. With all that driving, at some point you'll need to refuel, and the cool thing about MSN Direct is it can pull current gas prices from stations close to your current location, so you can find the best deal. The same applies for finding movie showtimes. MSN Direct will send local showtimes for movies directly to the c580, and you can even search by title or theater; once you've decided on a location, you can simply press Go to get directions to the theater. The final service provided by MSN Direct is weather; you can get current weather conditions as well as a three-day forecast for your area with information about high/low/current temperatures, chances of precipitation, humidity, pressure, wind, and alerts. As we noted earlier, you get a year-long free subscription to MSN Direct; afterward, you'll have to pay $49.95 per year to continue the service or a one-time charge of $129.95.

The StreetPilot c580 also has integrated Bluetooth, so you can pair the unit with your Bluetooth-enabled phone and make hands-free calls through the system's microphone and speakers. You can transfer your phone book to the c580, and the device alerts you to incoming calls; just tap the screen to answer. You also can dial any number listed in the POI database (check for your phone's compatibility on Garmin's Web site). We had no problems pairing the unit with the Palm Treo 750 and we successfully transferred contacts and made calls using the c580.

Finally, the c580 also retains the MP3 playback and an antitheft lock found on the StreetPilot c550. The c580 supports only MP3 files, and you can either store them on the device's internal memory or keep them on an SD card. The c580 will even display album art, and it automatically mutes music during voice prompts and phone calls. It does not, however, offer iPod compatibility like the TomTom GO 910. Finally, Garmin Lock prevents the unit from performing any functions until you enter a user-defined four-digit PIN or take it to a predetermined location.

We tested the Garmin StreetPilot c580 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and overall, it was a solid performer. From a cold start, it took about 3 minutes to get a GPS fix under cloudy conditions, which can sometimes hinder satellite reception. Subsequent starts were much faster. Once locked in, the unit did a good job of tracking our location as we drove around the city. On a planned trip, the StreetPilot c580 provided accurate directions. The text-to-speech directions were great (though it mangled the pronunciation of some names); we could just listen for specific street names rather than having to look at the screen and take our eyes off the road. Route recalculations were also lightning-quick.

When you first access the MSN Direct services, the c580 warns you that it'll take several minutes and up to several hours (for movie times) to get all the information. True enough, it took our unit about 10 minutes to come back with traffic, weather, and gas data, while it took a good 30 minutes for movie showtimes to appear on the device. Once we had the information, we found it to be very useful. We did notice, however, that sometimes the names of gas stations weren't provided on several listings. That said, you still can get directions to the unknown service station just by pressing the Go button. The StreetPilot c580 is rated for eight hours of battery life.

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