Image courtesy of Rightway
Portable GPS units are a dime a dozen these days; I think I even saw them for sale the last time I ran in to the local 7-11 for a slurpee. A few years ago I remember the GPS boom with the 3.5″ TomTom’s flying on the shelves on Black Friday and for Christmas, but I can tell you most of the time you get what you pay for. Some of the flagship units from Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan can easily cost you $500 or more on today’s market. But if you’re in the market for a new personal Nav device, and your cell phone navigator just isn’t cutting it, then RightWay may have the unit you’re looking for. A few months ago we posted the announcement on the RightWay 550 GPS, which is basically a 4:3 Widescreen unit powered by CoPilot v8 GPS software. RightWay was nice enough to send me a review unit, so I took it on my last business trip to help me navigate the treacherous streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
RightWay included all the basic necessities to get me started with the 550. In the box were some manuals, a USB charging cable, a windshield mount, a 12v car charger, and a stylus built into mounting cradle. I thought the stylus was a nice touch, especially for those times when I might otherwise be trying to type in the names of streets quickly with my fat fingers. The windshield mount is also made with a good build quality. It has a lever-action suction cup to ensure the GPD unit isn’t going to fall off and crack its screen on the shifter knob, and it is built sturdily enough not to wobble and shake while driving. The unit itself is a nice size and shape, with not too much extra bezel and it’s certainly not too thick and bulky. The front is gloss black finish while the entire back is covered in a rubberized matte material. The device feels solid and of good build quality.
- Dimensions: 5 X 3.4 X .75″
- Weight: 8oz
- Display: 4.3″, (480 X 272) Anti glare Touch screen
- GPS Module: SiRF Atlas IV
- Audio: Built in Speaker, Audio jack
- OS: Windows CE 6.0
- Memory: 128MB Ram, 2GB NandFlash, SD card slot
- Processor: SiRF Atlas IV
When I first powered up the unit, I went online to make sure I had the latest map and firmware updates. After navigating around the site, I downloaded CoPilot Central and created an account. Even though there were no updates, it was nice to see an easy to use client for when I would need to update the CoPilot software. Some of the other units I have used really had basic and troublesome software updating procedures; when the time comes for a map update, it should be easy enough for anyone to just plugin and go. Another feature of the 550 is that RightWay is including free map updates will the end of 2010, and free monthly maintenance updates I assume for the life of the unit. I spent some more time navigating around the menus and really had no problem using my fingers to go from screen to screen. I only used the stylus a few times when I had to type in exact directions but couldn’t hit all the letter correctly with my fingers. But you can still get by without the stylus if you choose to do so.
After the initial startup and satellite search, the unit took 30 seconds or less to get satellite lock. There is a small indicator at the bottom right side of the screen to let you know when you have GPS lock. Going through tunnels and overpasses I didn’t really see any signal loss, and when I did the software made up for the difference so really it was not noticeable. My first actual navigating was a 40 minute drive from the airport to the hotel, and I found it quick and easy to get my address — most of it auto populated once I started to put in the address and zip code. The route was pretty simple, the default settings on the nav automatically put the screen in night mode, and most of the settings are what I would have chosen anyway.
One of my favorite features I noticed on first use is called Clear Turn and Lane Assist. Both these features make it pretty impossible to miss you exit or figure out which lane you need to be in. On the screen it’s a nice rendering of your next exit, which shows you exactly which lane to be in to continue on your path. This was extremely helpful when the lanes on the highway in the city went 6 different directions and I wasnt sure which one to be in. I hate it when you have a turn coming up, and it looks like the next road is the one but really its the one after that, and you couldn’t tell; these features put an end to that craziness and confusion. One of the few disappointing things I noticed was that the voice does not speak out the exit number or street names; it only tells you when to turn but never says the name. It’s kind of odd, because the voice will say “turn at exit ” and you expect to hear a name or number, but you never do. I don’t usually run sound or voice on my Nav units, and is certainly not a deal breaker by any means, but worth noting in the review.
The rest of the software is pretty simple. All the menus are easy to understand and navigate through. The amount of modes is simply unbelievable for a unit of this cost. There are many different variations of views and screen themes as well as many different views to select from while navigating. One thing I noticed that stood above other units is how well this GPS took me through detours. The re-routing was extremely fast and easy to use. I loved that because usually when I detour it’s a quick irrational decision where I’m hoping on the best. This unit passed the detour test with flying colors. Some of the other features of CoPilot are easy to use Points of Interest (POIs), Track Playback, Saved Favorites, Vehicle modes for Bikes and RV’s, and language selections. Entering in streets and addresses was simple to do, and searching the database of known places was actually pretty helpful. Overall the software worked well and really gave me no problems or trouble doing what I wanted it to do. When all is said and done, the job of a GPS is to get me from where I’m at to where I want to go, and the 550 passed with flying colors.
Key Navigation Features:
- Detailed Street Maps of USA
- Intuitive User Interface With Predictive Text Data Entry
- Voice Prompts(e.g. “In 1 mile, turn right”)
- Street Name Text-to-Speech(e.g. “Turn right on 1st Avenue”)
- Clear Turn (on major highways)
- Lane Assist (on major highways)
- Destination Entry by City, Zip Code, House Number, Street, or Intersection
- 2D & 3D Driving Views
- Driver Safety View
- Itinerary View
- Choice of Route Set-Up
- Automatic Re-Route
- Route Avoidance Options
- Over 1 Million Points of Interest
- Pre-trip Planning, Preview, and Route Optimization
- Mulit-stop Route Optimization
- Personalized Route Options (e.g. RV, bicycle, fastest, etc.)
- Downloadable Map Updates
- Gas Calculator
- Automatic day/night mod
My final thoughts on this unit are that I can fully recommend it. I do need to mention that once or twice there was an error on the screen ,and CoPilot closed back to the startup screen but never while I was navigating, only when I was trying to type in where I wanted to go. I’m not sure if this was isolated or not, but it only happened a few times in the beginning and has not since. I have seen others freeze up and require rebooting from time to time, so what had happened was easily acceptable in my opinion. The unit itself is of a solid build quality and CoPilot works just as well others I have tested. I really liked both the 2D and 3D views, as well as the night modes to keep it from being too bright when in the dark. The screen is pretty resistant to glare, and the touchscreen works well with your fingers — and even better with the included stylus. This is a great option for an economical but fully feature packed GPS.
If you need something basic and easy to use, but with some of the features of the high-end units, then this could be the right one for you. With the holidays around the corner, this could also be the a perfect gift for someone you know that is navigationally challenged. You can find more information about the RightWay 550 right on the manufacturer’s website. Be sure also to check out ALK’s CoPilot site for more information on the embedded software.
What I Like: Nice solid hardware; easy updates; fast satellite acquisition; lane Assist and Clear Turn make it hard to miss your exit; detours are fast and accurate; 4+ hours on battery; maps were all spot on; price is right at under $130
What Needs Improvement: CoPilot could use some p0lishing; Roads and Exits not spoken by voice; no nifty add ons or voice downloads
*Thanks to Steven at Transplant GPS for sending us the review unit.