TomTom and Garmin are the biggest players in the motorcycle GPS market. They are also renowned for their always-in-competition devices. Improperly defined as mid-range, their Rider 500 and Zumo 396 appeal to most riders.
They are more affordable than their top-range counterparts but still pack a punch. The gap between these ‘budget’ sat navs and their top-of-the-range counterparts is now smaller than ever. This is clearly visible when looking at the TomTom, as the 500 is essentially a paired-down 550 and not a different device with a smaller screen as with previous models.
When it comes to choosing between TomTom and Garmin, though, which would benefit you more?
If you don’t want to spend your weight in gold on a motorcycle sat-nav, but still want best-in-class features, check out our Rider 500 vs. Zumo 396 overview.
Same unit as the 550 but without World maps
If you’re exploring Europe but you have no plans to go further afield then go for the 500, it’s exactly the same unit as the 550. The only reason you’d go for the 550 is if you wanted the World maps, in-car mount and carry case which makes the 550 Premium Pack the one to go for.
What is the 500?
The Rider 500 is new and takes over from the 450, which itself replaced the 420.
How is the 550 different to the 500?
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.
What is the Premium Pack?
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.
TomTom Rider 500 Overview
It is impossible to talk about the Rider 500 without mentioning its top-end counterpart, the Rider 550. That’s because the devices are one and the same, apart from a few negligible differences. In fact, the main difference between the two is that the 500 model comes with Europe maps only, as opposed to the world maps offered by its bigger – and more expensive – brother.
Apart from this, the Rider 500 impresses with a 4.3” glove-friendly touchscreen and rugged construction that resists water, dust, and fuel vapours.
Wi-Fi connectivity gives you quick access to real-time maps updates whenever there is an open connection available. Furthermore, the device also syncs with your smartphone and allows hands-free calling.
Calls and texts notifications are visible on the sat-nav’s display. Trip planning and sharing features will also help you optimise your ride or discover newer or more challenging routes, and share them with your mates.
What’s in the box?
- TomTom Rider 500
- RAM motorcycle mount
- USB cable
- Power cable
- User manual
Smaller unit than the 595 but still packs a punch
The slightly smaller 396 has a 4.3″ screen and features full European maps. It’s IPX7 waterproof, comes with a RAM mount. Bluetooth connectivity with calling and music control. Route features such as tank range, petrol stops, sharp turns and speed cameras. It weighs 240g
Garmin Zumo 396 Overview
Garmin Zumo 396 is surprisingly similar to the Rider 500. The unit comes with a similar 4.3” glove-friendly display; however, the backlit technology might hinder vision in direct sunlight. The graphics are also pretty basic, but this won’t affect navigation in any way.
Made to serve you well wherever in Europe you want to go, the sat-nav comes with preloaded full Europe maps and free lifetime updates via Wi-Fi. That’s a big difference between the 396 and its top-range counterpart, the more expensive 595 which doesn’t have Wi-Fi capabilities.
Bluetooth connectivity allows you to sync your smartphone with the Garmin for hands-free calls and notifications. The nice thing is that you’ll receive all the notifications on the sat-nav, whether they come from texts, Whatsapp, or social media accounts.
Planning routes, sharing GPX files, and monitoring traffic is also easy with the Garmin 396. Using the desktop Basecamp software for route planning could be a tad complex for first-time users, though.
Like any motorcycle GPS that respects itself, Zumo 396 delivers helpful alerts warning you of sharp curves, railroad or animal crossings, speed limits, and school zones. The device also monitors your fuel consumption, suggests break times, and potential rest areas.
What’s in the box?
- Zumo 396LMT-S
- Motorcycle RAM mount hardware
- Power cable
- USB cable
- Automotive mount hardware
- User manual
Rider 500 vs. Zumo 396
Sharing almost all features but coming at different prices, which one is really worth it? At first glance, we’d be tempted to say Zumo 396.
Both sat-navs come with the same size display. However, Rider’s higher definition and a better reflection of light truly make a difference on very bright days. Both units come with full Europe maps and free lifetime updates.
You can update your maps on either device via Wi-Fi, and both units boast Bluetooth connectivity.
Rider 500 shines in terms of battery life. It won’t fail you during a longer all-day trip thanks to its 6-hour battery life.
Planning your trip with TomTom’s web-based software is also easier than using Garmin’s Basecamp. A few features that make the difference between the two devices, making us favour the Rider 500 a bit more.
In our opinion, higher clarity of the display in all weather conditions, longer battery life, and an easier to use route planning software are sufficient reasons to justify TomTom’s higher premium.
Back to Back Review
Similar yet different, the Rider 500 and Zumo 396 are considered mid-range units by the industry pros; yet, they both pack best-in-class features that can easily satisfy most real-life riders. Robust designs and all-weather resistance define both of these devices.
The truly important difference between the two is the higher visibility and clarity of Rider 500. This doesn’t mean Zumo 396 is less capable, but seeing the display in bright sunlight could be an issue.
Obviously, if you’d rather save some money, Garmin’s 396 model is an excellent choice. Otherwise, TomTom is a clear winner of this round.
The table below highlights the main specs of both devices, so you can make a quick, informed decision.
Rider 500 vs. Zumo 396 Comparison Table
|TomTom Rider 500||Garmin Zumo 396|
|Weight||300 grams||240 grams|
|Battery life||6 hours||4 hours|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth; Wi-Fi||Bluetooth; Wi-Fi|
|Check the price here||Check the price here|
The Best Motorcycle Sav Nav
If you’re still not sure which dedicated GPS device to go for, then check out our guide on the best motorcycle sat nav. We’ve pitched the two industry titans together and our detailed review shows you what to look out for, so you can get the best sat nav for your needs.
Thanks to the following websites which helped us research and write this Tom Tom motorcycle GPS guide.