Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin Oregon 550 and 550T


UPDATE: Read my hands on Garmin Oregon 550t review. I’ve also posted a page for the Oregon 550.

The Garmin Oregon 550 and 550T are being announced this morning, models that were first rumored back in March. The 550 series brings several new features to the Oregon line:

  • As expected, a camera (3.2 megapixels, 4x zoom, auto-focus) for snapping geotagged photos
  • A tri-axial compass, so you don’t have to hold it level when navigating
  • An “enhanced sunlight-readable touchscreen,” hopefuly improving one of the few negative characteristics of this high-resolution display series
  • Two-precharged AA NiMH batteries and a charger are included as well!

Another interesting thing is that the camera works in portrait or landscape mode, so I’m assuming there is an acclerometer in the device. That could lead to all sorts of interesting applications.

The 550T carries an MSRP of $599.99 and includes pre-loaded 1:100,000 scale topos for the entire U.S. At $499.99, the 550 lacks detailed maps but includes a worldwide basemap and shaded relief. Product page links and (links added to start of this post) estimated availability dates are not yet available, but may be later today. I’ll update this post as soon as I get them. Both models are expected to be available in July.

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About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. Vincent says:

    Just what i was waiting for my mountain bike…

  2. At last! Like many others, I resisted the obvious temptations of the Oregon series because of the poor sunlight performance of the screen. I’ve stuck with my ancient, but reliable old Vista, hoping for something better … and maybe now its arrived.

    I use GPS mainly for cycling, particularly off-road. A highly visible map is essential (my monochrome Vista is primitive, small, but clear, even in bright sun).

    I’d appreciate your comments, at the earliest opportunity, on whether the screen is truly an improvement. If so, Garmin listened to the feedback and soon they’ll have many more happy customers.

  3. Rich Owings says:

    I think you’ll be pleased with how much more visible most color units are. I find the Oregon 400t “usable” while mountain biking, as long as I turn off shading and wear glasses with clear lenses. Looking forward to trying out the 550 on my bike though!

  4. They fixed the power issue, I passed on these before because they didn’t run on AA’s. I wonder if they would let me upgrade and transfer my map licenses over.

  5. Rich Owings says:

    Mmm, what do you mean? They’ve always ran on AAs. They just run much better on NiMH AAs.

    • Some of the higher end garmin’s used a lithuim ion battery which is why I passed them up and bought the etrex I have now.

  6. There’s a video of this model on youtube looks like the screen might be more readable than the other models

  7. I sure hope they’ve addressed the power issues. I’ve enjoyed the Oregon 400t but have always fallen short of the claimed 16 hours of battery life. Maybe I was spoiled with the 25 hours or so I got from my Etrex Legend HCX with just regular alkalines. My big concern with the 550 is how much of an effect the camera will have on battery drain. Even without a built in flash, autofocus and data transfer to the memory card has to make the processor work more than say using the compass or calculating a route.

  8. Rich Owings says:

    Are you using NiMHs?

    • Michael says:

      Hi Rich. Yes, Duracell NiMH rated at 2650. I’ve read about the Powerex NiMH, so I may try those next. I did some testing the past few days and found that the compass and WAAS absolutely kill the battery. When I turn off those functions yet keep the backlight at 100% with screen shut off after 1 minute, battery life is extended by hours. It’s pretty significant.

  9. Hope also they have improved the GPS accuracy. I’ve read any number of reviews (with tracking charts showing accuracy) about how poor the GPS tracks versus previous models. I’m still holding onto my 60CSX util I’m assured that a new $600 unit isn’t worse at the most important feature!

  10. Rich Owings says:

    Yeah, I think it still suffers a little under canopy, but not too much.

    • The reviews I’ve read were not under canopy accuracy. It was side-by-side comparisons with 60csx. Some errors were approaching 100 plus feet. If they did it with the 60csx, no real excuse for not ensuring this high price unit does the thing it is MOST needed for at least as accurately as previous models.

  11. Rich Owings says:

    I don’t know if it will ever be as accurate as the 60CSx. They can definitely improve the firmware, but they can’t make up the lack of a quad-helix antenna.

  12. Follow-up: any info on ‘out of the box’ road maps as far as car use for either the 60Csx or 550t? I have a 260W and just curious if they have similar info (food, shopping, POI, etc.) as the 260W.

  13. Rich Owings says:

    No, you’ll have to add road maps to the device. City Navigator will have all the info found on your nuvi 260W. But there is a freebie that will have most roads, but won’t auto-route…

    IMHO, there are only two reasons to go with the 60CSx over an Oregon:
    1. You are using it battery powered on a fixed mount (like a bicycle)…the worst case for visibility
    2. You are doing formal trail mapping and need the most accurate tracks possible.

    • Thanks Rich! Great info and website. I’m leaning towards the 550t now for the few extra features. I’ve been chronically checking for a cheaper price online but I believe only the first shipment has gone out thus keeping the price at $599. I’ve read that another shipment goes out sometime between 7/31 and 8/6.

  14. Rich Owings says:

    When new models comes out, Garmin often sticks them with a minimum resale price. That can last from one to several months.

  15. Well,

    i have bought a 550 and have a 60 csx…because i do a lot of geocaching and the paperless geocaching feature has led me to try the 550.

    I have only tried once side by side…and my 60 csx has putted me on the spot, while the 550 was showing 5 meters distance from the cache.

    Just my 5 cents…while i havent teste it more yet…

    Greets from Portugal

  16. Rich Owings says:

    The beta firmware v 3.15 for the 400t has reportedly greatly improved performance. Hopefully this will be rolled out for the 500 series soon.

  17. Anyone seen any reviews with tracking data? That’s too bad about the accuracy, especially if the fix is a quad=helix antenna. Seems to me that getting accuracy as tight as possible would trump most anything else the unit does. It would be one thing if we were talking about a bargain priced gps, but this is the top of the line. Hard to imagine the engineers at Garmin didn’t throw a fit about this during the design phase.
    Marketing: People want small and sleek. We gotta loose that goofy looking antenna and get this thing to look like an iPhone.
    Engineering: If we loose that “goofy” thing you’re referring to we compromise the main feature of a GPS. It would be like making a really cool leap in aesthetic design with the iPhone, but then it only worked when you were outside. It would be a step backward. Can anyone say Windows Vista!!!!

  18. Rich Owings says:

    The new firmware is getting very good reviews. I haven’t done any testing yet, but I’ve seen some folks saying it is as good as the 60CSx!

  19. Rich Owings says:
    • Rich,

      I believe you were referring to the new firmware. These links are for reviews of the unit prior to the firmware update. Any links to the firmware reviews that sound promising regarding GPS accuracy?

  20. Rich Owings says:

    There’s been some info posted at

    You might want to search there for “Oregon” in the post title and see what folks are saying.

  21. bryan madrid says:

    necesito saber como aberiguo el el metraje trazado en la rutas que e creeado en mi GPS 550 oregon. si alguien me puede alludar se lo agradesere de corazon, lo puedo hacer con el 60csx pero no con el 550 oregon. cel: 59007717 gracias mil gracias

  22. Is the 550t loaded with maps for Canada? I live in Northern BC and was wondering if I have to buy differt software.

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