Garmin 590LM

Perhaps with little fanfare, Garmin snuck in a new model in their Zumo motorcycle GPS lineup. I had been very happy with the Zumo 665 for the past couple of years and had stopped noting the new models. There were departures into hiking/motorcycle hybrids with weird names like Montana and Monterra. Those didn’t interest me. Then there was the Zumo 390. Seemed like they were sort of going back in numbers, so I figured I’d ignore that one, too. The BMW Motorrad Navigators have been advanced, but I don’t have one of the newer bikes with water cooled engines and the left grip wonder dials, so I ignored those as well.

What really got my attention, though, was the Zumo 590. Now, true, it’s a step back in terms of numbers. That always worries me. Who not the Zumo 700? I’m confused. But on delving deeper, there are some really neat things going on here. The 590 only comes as an ‘LM’ version. That means Lifetime Maps in Garmin-speak. Good thing. The 590 also has a faster processor. If you’ve ever waited for your Zumo to take forever to re-draw a screen, you’ll appreciate this right off the bat. Finally, and most importantly perhaps, the screen is trans-reflective. What is that? It gets brighter in sunlight. Wow! What a concept. Here’s a comparison:

(Grabbed from the inter webs) Zumo screen comparison 590 on the right and 66X on the left

In addition to the enhanced speed and the better screen, Garmin has upped the ante on another area. Bluetooth integration is much more robust. The older Zumo’s have done Bluetooth since the last decade, but it’s been rather lazily keeping pace with development of new technology. The last GPS I had, the Zumo 665, was a Bluetooth capable unit. And for navigation purposes, it probably did fine. The music side of things was a little disappointing. Garmin has turned that around and the new 590 features robust connection features for integrating with the newer stereo headsets as well as smart phones. In fact, they’ve cut the cord to XM satellite radio in favor of a Smartlink app which uses your mobile phone’s data to provide traffic and weather information — at a small cost, but much cheaper than an XM subscription. The music part of XM satellite hasn’t been lost, however. The 590 ties into your phone’s music collection and features an additional link to Pandora if you prefer to stream.

This week my Touratech locking mount finally arrived from Seattle and I’ve tested the 590LM on the way to and from work. It’s been performing very well. As far as GPS functions go, the navigation works very well. It gives you meaningful voice prompts such as “Turn right just after the CVS” or “Turn right at the stoplight.” It also displays what appear to be more accurate pictures of complex interchanges and exits and will visually represent which lane(s) to be in for an exit, not just a screen icon. Very nifty. The map display is more like a smart phone app. As you travel along it will display icons for restaurants, gas stations, etc. If you touch those icons, it’ll bring up a link to further info, routing or calling. Also nifty.

I appreciate that they’ve made the screen easier to navigate. The icons are much larger and more readable. It doesn’t take as much attention away from the road to see what you’re looking for on the screen as you hunt and peck for things (which, of course, we never do while riding …). So far the Bluetooth functions between the unit and my iPhone have been very reliable and establish themselves automatically. The music picks up where it left off when I turned it off, just like in the newer model cars.

Thee nice new features to the 590 are great, but just the increase in speed of displaying maps make it  worth a look if you’re in the market for a new GPS.

One thought on “Garmin 590LM

  1. Dallas Peak Post author

    Got a couple of questions about the BMW Motorrad Navigator V vs. the Garmin 590. I’m not an expert, but here are some important differences: Yes, the screen is better on the 590 in terms of sunlight readability. Yes, the bluetooth interface is much improved and the navigation ‘engine’ in terms of speed and other capabilities. The 590 has an audio output if you’re using wired systems, not so on the Navi 5. The warranty on the Navi 5 is 3yrs vs 1 yr on the 590. The Navi 5 works with the ‘wonder wheel’ on the newer bikes. That last fact alone would tip me toward the Navi 5 if I had one of those bikes (and didn’t plan on using off-road tracks). But otherwise, the balance is in favor of the 590 features wise.

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