TomTom and Garmin are heavyweight names on the motorcycle GPS scene. Their top of the range Rider 550 and Zumo 595, respectively, impress riders with a wealth of features. Like anything else, though, both devices come with their own advantages and drawbacks but if you’re opting for one of these GPS devices you really won’t go far wrong.
Let’s explore their main features and see how they compare, so you can get the best sat nav for your needs.
TomTom’s heavyweight motorcycle GPS is feature-packed, including World maps with lifetime free updates, motorcycle POIs, a RAM mount with lockable clasp, an in-car mount and a carry case. With WiFi route uploads, Bluetooth connectivity, live traffic updates, Siri and Google Now compatibility and hands-free calling and the ability to read your messages to you, it’s TomTom’s pièce de résistance.
This range-topping sat nav is TomTom’s pièce de résistance. It includes world maps with lifetime free updates, rider’s points of interest, and real-time Wi-Fi route uploads.
Like any last-generation device that respects itself, Rider 550 boasts Bluetooth connectivity, Siri and Google Now compatibility, as well as hands-free calling and text monitoring when paired with your smartphone.
It has a 4.3” glove-friendly rotating touchscreen you can easily use in landscape or portrait mode. As you could expect, the sat-nav is also dust, drop, and water resistant, withstanding even the most challenging road conditions.
The reported battery life of around 6 hours makes this sat-nav a perfect choice for all-day long distance trips.
TomTom Rider 550 also comes with ample journey planning features that will help you design your dream trip around the countryside or on adventurous hilly terrains. Or, if you don’t feel like planning, just pick one of the numerous pre-loaded routes including woodland, coastal, and forest roads.
If you’re organising a biking holiday, the MyDrive feature will let you share your experiences with your mates.
Other features include traffic updates, tail jam warnings, and a wealth of other notifications designed for the safety-conscious riders.
Whereas the TomTom 450 and 420 were different units to the top of the range models, with smaller screens and less functionality, the new 500 is exactly the same unit as the 550.
The main differences are that the 500 ‘only’ comes with European maps whereas the 550 comes with World maps.
If you buy the 500 and decide that you do want World maps (if you’re exploring far-Eastern Europe or northern Africa for example, you’ll need world maps), then you can buy the World maps and use them on the 500 but you won’t have the lifetime map updates.
The other main difference is that the 500 doesn’t come with the pre-loaded motorcycle Points Of Interest. You can still add your own POIs or download community-curated ones, so this isn’t a deal breaker.
TomTom currently sells three different set-ups on their website:
The Premium Pack comes with a RAM motorcycle mount, a lockable clasp, an in-car mount and a carry case.
If you’re going for the 550 and you have a car, you’re best off going for the Premium Pack as it works out cheaper than if you bought the Rider 550 and then bought the accessories.
At the moment TomTom don’t offer the Rider 500 with a Premium Pack.
Garmin’s heavyweight motorcycle GPS is feature-packed with a large 5″ screen. Including Lifetime European maps with lifetime free updates, a RAM mount and it’s IPX7 waterproof. It can be operated with a gloved hand (as you’d expect). Bluetooth connectivity, live traffic updates (when paired with your phone), speed camera alerts, petrol stations, hands-free calling and music control with Spotify functionality. It weighs 375g.
Garmin’s range-topper Zumo 595 is another feature-packed motorcycle GPS designed for those riders who can settle for nothing less but the best. It comes with a large, 5” glove-friendly screen that’s really easy to see in bright sunlight.
Lifetime European maps let you plan the trip of your lifetime, whether you’re eager to explore the countryside or crave after a more adventurous route.
Robust design and IPX7 rating are weather-protection guarantees; you can use this device in all peace of mind even during the strongest downpours.
While this sat-nav doesn’t have Wi-Fi connectivity, it can still connect to your smartphone, headset, or helmet via Bluetooth, so you can benefit from hands-free calling while you’re on the road.
Other interesting features include photoReal Junction View and 3D terrain views for easier navigation. As you could expect from a best-in-class device, you’ll also get rider alerts for safety cameras, sharp curves, railroad crossings, and other hazards that might come up on the road.
Besides all the above, this device also includes a wealth of interesting perks such as tyre pressure monitoring, audio control, and music browsing via Spotify or Pandora.
There is little to argue about the capacities of both sat navs; however, they are likely to suit different kinds of riders. TomTom might be a tad smaller than Garmin, but it comes with world maps and full lifetime updates. A great feature if you plan to roam the globe or take trips outside Europe.
Wi-Fi integration allows TomTom to perform quick, real-time updates whenever there is a connection, whereas Garmin comes with lifetime updates too, but you’ll have to connect the device to a computer to download updated maps.
Furthermore, Garmin comes with Full European maps only. You can download world maps for your 595 device, but you’ll have to buy the updates separately.
Both devices can withstand a heavy downpour and harsh road conditions, and they both connect with your smartphone via Bluetooth.
If you like to listen to your favourite songs while you’re rolling, Garmin could be a better choice though, thanks to its Pandora and Spotify integration.
However, we like best the way TomTom displays smartphone notifications, such as missed calls or texts. These notifications are condensed into a small bar that doesn’t cover the map. On the contrary, receiving notifications on Garmin may hinder navigation.
Both devices provide traffic information and alerts; however, we like Garmin’s 3D terrain view as well as its photoReal Junction View.
A downside of the Garmin is the shorter battery life compared to TomTom but with both of these devices, you’re likely to wire them into the bike, so battery life will only come into the equation when you’re using the sat nav without the bike’s power – i.e. when planning new routes.
When it comes to route planning, while Garmin’s BaseCamp software is seriously capable, we prefer TomTom’s quick and easy tap and go navigation planning. You can easily create a custom route on their website and send it to your device.
Despite it, we like the Garmin Zumo 595 a little bit more than the TomTom Rider 550. Ultimately though, the choice is yours.
The best in their range, Rider 550 and Zumo 595 share a lot of features, but also have some important differences. If your priority is access to as many maps as possible and wouldn’t mind a smaller screen, the Rider 550 could be your best bet.
If you don’t plan to ride outside Europe but would rather have a bigger, clearer display, the Zumo 595 is probably the one for you.
Check out the table below for a quick side-by-side comparison of the two major players in the motorcycle sat-nav industry.
|TomTom Rider 550||Garmin Zumo 595|
|Weight||280 grams||375 grams|
|Battery life||6 hours||4 hours|
|Traffic alerts||Yes (when connected to smartphone)||Yes (when connected to smartphone)|
|Check the price here||Check the price here|
Is it legal to use a Sat Nav in France?
It’s perfectly legal to use a dedicated Sat Nav device or a sat nav app on your phone while in France. However French law dictates that motorists cannot use a device which actively deters the effectiveness of speed cameras.
While this rule is fairly ambiguous and was introduced with the main aim of making it illegal to use radar jammers (which stop laser-based mobile speed cameras from working), if your sat nav warns you of an impending speed trap, in theory, the police could hand you a fine.
The reality is unless you’re caught at a silly speed or just plain unlucky, you’ll have no problems.