The Garmin nuvi 500 promises all-in-one GPS performance -- driving, cycling, hiking, geocaching and boating. Experts and users agree that it's just as good as other Garmin GPS receivers while driving, but they disagree on its other modes. Most owners who have hiked with the nuvi 500 say they're pleased, but experts say it's missing some features that are useful for hiking and geocaching. They say the nuvi 500 also seems more delicate than a rugged handheld device and more awkward to hold.
On the plus side, the Garmin nuvi 500 offers important driving features, such as the ability to sort several destinations into one efficient route. It also speaks street names (several older reviews say it doesn't, but Garmin added that feature in 2009). For off-road use, testers also appreciate the eight-hour battery, and the ability to replace it with an extra one. We found no expert tests of the nuvi 500's boating feature, but it is waterproof to IPX-7, so it can be submerged in one meter of water for 30 minutes. If you don't need the off-road versatility, reviews recommend other Garmin models instead, including the budget-priced Garmin nuvi 265T (Discontinued) with Bluetooth and free traffic information for the life of the unit.
GPSTracklog.com and PCMag.com test the hiking and geocaching features of the Garmin nuvi 500 more extensively than other sources. CNET tests the unit both driving and walking in the city. GPSMagazine.com, ConsumerReports.org and Choice magazine test only the nuvi 500's driving performance. User reviews at Amazon.com address hiking and driving, as well as motorcycling.
1. GPS Tracklog
Rich Owings says the Garmin nuvi 500 is a great navigator for driving, but not so much for hiking and geocaching. He details several problems he found during his hands-on test, including its apparent fragility and lack of an electronic compass.
Review: Garmin Nuvi 500 Review, Rich Owings, Sept. 24, 2008
Like the reviewer at GPSTracklog.com, Craig Ellison says the Garmin nuvi 500 is comparable to other nuvis for driving, but it can't match the handheld Garmin Oregon 400t in a geocaching test.
Review: Garmin Nuvi 500, Craig Ellison, July 31, 2008
CNET tests only the city-walking and driving features of the Garmin nuvi 500, but based on that, reviewer Bonnie Cha advises serious hikers, geocachers and boaters to get a dedicated device instead.
Review: Garmin Nuvi 500, Bonnie Cha, Aug.14, 2008
GPSMagazine.com says the Garmin nuvi 500 is the best multipurpose GPS for hiking, cycling, geocaching and boating, as well as driving. Tester Fletcher Previn uses dozens of screen shots and detailed explanations to show how each mode works, and he conducts a head-to-head routing test between the nuvi 500 and TomTom and Magellan models (the nuvi wins).
Review: Garmin Nuvi 500 Review, Fletcher Previn, July 22, 2008
ConsumerReports.org rates the Garmin nuvi 500 alongside dozens of other GPS units, based on expert tests of its driving performance. A brief write-up discusses the nuvi 500's geocaching and hiking modes.
Review: Garmin Nuvi 500, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
6. Choice magazine
Choice is an Australian publication similar to Consumer Reports. It tests 17 auto GPS systems, including the Garmin nuvi 500, assessing the models' usability and accuracy through tunnels and tolls, on city and country roads.
Review: GPS: Car Navigation Reviews, Editors of Choice magazine, Mar. 12, 2009
Owners tend to be very happy with the Garmin nuvi 500, with most of the nearly 50 reviews awarding it four or five stars out of five. Users report especially good experiences with hiking and motorcycling.
Review: Garmin Nuvi 500 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator, Contributors to Amazon.com