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Although the 300 came with just a basic map preloaded, the 550t ships with what Garmin calls a Recreational Map of Europe. This is topographic (hence the “t” in the 550t’s name) and includes waterway details, plus a host of Points of Interest such as hotels, restaurants and pubs. The 550t has 4GB of memory on board, so it still offers the same 850MB free for uploaded data as the 300. There’s a microSD slot available, too, for rapid installation of maps. Garmin offers its usual array of Ordnance Survey options via its GB Discoverer range. These are at 1:50,000 or 1:25,000 depending on the particularly package, and are far from cheap, costing around £120 each. But this is likely due to the hefty Ordnance Survey licensing fees rather than Garmin being greedy.
The 550t includes a variety of widgets, which could come in handy for hikers. Times for when the sun and moon rise and set can be displayed, as well as the good periods of the day to go fishing, based on feeding activity estimates. There’s an Area Calculator, which prompts you to walk round the perimeter of the space then figures out its size. The Trip Computer displays information such as distance travelled, average speed, and average speed while moving. The Man Overboard facility marks the current location then immediately starts navigating you back to it, so you can quickly pick up someone who has fallen from your boat. You can also view maps in 3D, which may be handy for getting your bearings on certain occasions.
The Oregon 550t offers the same fun-oriented facilities as the 300. It supports geocaches, so you can also download these from Geocaching.com to the device and then use them to find the locations. Whereigo location-based games are also compatible. The 550t includes an identical sci-fi-based tutorial to the 300, and you can also download further 'cartridges' or create your own via the Whereigo website.
Befitting the 550t’s premium status, it comes supplied with a pair of 2,000mAh rechargeable batteries and a charger. But these are still AA format so you can carry a supply of regular alkaline cells as a backup. Garmin claims a duration of 16 hours of use from new or fully charged batteries, which should cover a couple of days’ hiking.
Although the list price for the Garmin Oregon 550t is close to £500, we’ve already seen it available for nearer to £300 on a number of retail websites. This still doesn’t exactly make it a bargain, and it’s even more of a serious hiker’s GPS than the 300 was. But it does the intended job well, and the geotagging integration is extremely well executed. So if your outdoor activities would benefit from a seamless ability to make a still image record of where you’ve been, the Garmin Oregon 550t is without peer.
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