By April 11, 2007

Garmin StreetPilot i5 GPS review

I get lost in my own home. It’s sad but true. Lady Jaye used to help with directions, but now that she’s working a “day job” I am striking out more and more on my own. I am going to unfamiliar places, like … across the street. I looked for a GPS navigation solution for a long time, and Lady Jaye purchased the Garmin iQue 3600 PDA/GPS device for me three holidays ago. Unfortunately, that little device had a ton of problems and sits in my closet.

My friend Configuratrix rented a car with navi and was interested in getting one for her personal vehicle. I selected a Garmin Streetpilot i5 for her through my personal shopper service. I was so impressed with the reviews and the price on Costco that I wanted one of my own. By the time I got the gumption to do so the unit was back at its normal price. I was patient, and it went on sale again for $249. I bought two. i5 is about the size of a tennis ball. It lacks a touch screen, and has a multifunction scroll wheel instead. You select options by pushing in the scroll wheel. The color display is vibrant, much better than the iQue 3600. The i5 automatically adjusts the display color scheme when the sun goes down to depict the nighttime driving environment. I don’t know if this is done to keep you from losing night vision or just to look cool, but it’s a nifty little feature.

The i5 shares the same form factor as the i2 and the i3. The i2 has a black and white display. The difference between the i3 and the i5 is that the i5 comes preloaded with maps for the continental US. Onboard memory is expandable via a TransFlash/microSD card, but it’s optional. Although flash cards are inexpensive these days, it’s nice to take the i5 out of the box, plug it into your car, and go. If you are thinking about giving someone a GPS navi system as a gift, the i5 is great for folks who don’t like to (or have the ability to) fuss with loading maps from their computer.

The voice navigation on the i5 is loud and clear. We were warned by someone with an older navi system that a GPS couldn’t keep up if you were driving fast. If this were true, there’s no way in hell the i5 would keep up with me. I was very pleased to find that the i5 did great, and I’ve never even come close to overshooting my next waypoint. If you are supposed to turn left on Grisham in 3.4 miles, the top of the display reads “Left on Grisham” and then the distance is displayed in the lower right hand corner. It’s awesome, especially if you live in an area that necessitates being ready to turn well before you actually make the turn.

Startup time is pretty fast despite a stupid disclaimer, and the i5 acquires satellites much more quickly than the iQue 3600. I have my i5 mounted near my knee, which makes acquisition slower but it’s still faster than the iQue. I do have an external antenna leftover from my iQue, and I will install it when I’m not too lazy.

I highly recommend the i5. It’s not the most feature filled navi out there, and it’s not the most versatile (see the Garmin Nuvi as an example), but it’s one of the smallest and easiest to use navis on the market today. The i5 comes with a windshield suction mount, a “low-slide” adapter if you live in a fascist state like California and can’t mount it to your windshield, a 12V adapter, and software. The i5 can use two AA batteries to help retain satellite reception or power the unit when the car is off.

Garmin Streetpilot i5, I waypoint
Four and a half out of five STFU mugs!

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1 Comment on "Garmin StreetPilot i5 GPS review"

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  1. Whee! Glad it’s working out so well for you!

    I still haven’t gotten around to installing the updates that came with my unit (cables and some disk); still using the maps as-is out of the box. And you?

    I loaned my i5 to my sis when she drove down to NC. She liked it fairly well, but doesn’t seem fired up to get one for herself even though she has to drive to unknown locations a lot for her job (not as much as Lady Jaye, but at least once a month, and sometimes more). Alas, my dad (who’s been having trouble remembering routes between sibs in Raleigh) was totally uninterested when she tried to show it to him.