Map expert reviews TomTom Rider 550 GPS

TomTom has finally released their new Rider 550 satnav with new routes, wifi, personalised trips, smartphone connectivity, group sharing and voice activation.

It costs $599 and we wondered whether it is worth the money when smartphones these days seem to do so much of the tasks of a satnav.

So we handed over the unit to regular riding partner and map expert Peter “Worldmapman” Davis.

Map expert reviews TomTom Rider 550
Peter Davis

The qualified cartographer has spent 20 years as Sales and Marketing Manager of HEMA Maps and five years running his own geographic information consultancy, so he knows what he is talking about.

Here is his review:

Tom Tom Rider 550Map expert reviews TomTom Rider 550

Out of the box the first thing that impresses is the handlebar mount.

It is RAM brand which I believe to be the best, most secure and robust range of vehicle electronic mounts in the world.

When I attached the mount to the handle bars and went for a run, it did not disappoint; solid with virtually no vibration.

It also allows you to quickly swivel the unit from landscape to portrait mode depending on what you prefer.

The Rider 550 came fully charged and ready to go. And with faster processing, it fires up very quickly. No more waiting for it to load.

It includes a short cable with a proprietary plug on the end to connect to a cable with bare wire ends to route it straight to your battery terminal. There is also a cable with a USB plug to go to a USB charging port. Handy.

However, on my first test I didn’t bother plugging it into power. I ran it on full nav operation for more than four hours and it still had 3/4 battery left. (It is claimed to have six hours’ battery charge.)

I haven’t yet got around to plugging in the power cable and might never feel the need with that much battery power storage!

Speaking of storage, I downloaded the complete set of free world maps. Not many satnavs have that much storage capacity. 

The instruction manual is concise but tells you everything you needed to know.

Wifi connection

TomTom Rider 550 wifi

Since it has wifi, you don’t have to connect to it to a computer for updates.

Once connected to home wifi, the TomTom Rider 550 tells you if there are any updates required and you do this while you are connected.

Operationally it is typical of any modern satnav devices. It is easy to use and quite intuitive. When you take a wrong turn it is lightning fast at recalculating. So much faster than any other GPS unit or smartphone navigation app.

Its stored POIs (points of interest) are also extensive.

On the bike, the screen visibility is very acceptable even in full sun. I could read the screen in all light conditions with minor head adjustments. It automatically reverts to night mode when it is dark.

Its touchscreen works with most gloves, so long as they are not too thick. So if using winter gloves, get a pair with touchscreen-sensitive fingertips like these from Macna.

Macna Saber gloves rider 550
Macna gloves with “touchtip”

Mapping data

The mapping data is very up-to-date which is underlined by the accuracy of the speed zone, speed camera and red light cameras.

Another thing that impresses me is that during school hours the speed in school zones automatically change.

Here’s another impressive feature: the strip map window down the side shows distance to speed cameras, fuel, etc. Very handy!

As you would expect, the device can connect to Bluetooth intercom units. However, if you turn up the volume, it’s easy to hear without Bluetooth connection at all but highway speeds.Map expert reviews TomTom Rider 550

Given that I don’t use Bluetooth much, I wasn’t able to test the voice activation or the new feature that reads smartphone messages aloud in your headset.

However, that sort of technology works well elsewhere so Im sure it’s fine, if you like that sort of thing.

My only concern was that the view randomly swapped orientation between horizontal to vertical, but it did correct quickly. (We noticed this with the previous model if you set it too close to horizontal. It needs to be positioned closer to vertical – MBW).

Conclusion

TomTom Rider 550 is a useful navigation tool and much more suitable to the rugged conditions on your bike than a delicate smartphone.

Given that traffic warnings, speed camera locations and worldwide mapping are included free for the lifetime of the unit, it could be used anywhere in the world.

TomTom Rider 550 tech specs

Price

$599

Battery

Rechargeable Lithium Ion

Battery charge

Up to 6 hours autonomous operation

Screen type

11 cm (4.3″) touchscreen. Capacitive, glove-friendly, sunlight readable screen

Screen Resolution

480 x 272 WQVGA

Processor

Quad-Core

Memory

16 GB

RAM Size

512 Mb

SD slot

Micro SD slot

Waterproof

IPX7 – Protects again any wet weather conditions

Connectivity

Smartphone Connected, Bluetooth audio

Wi-Fi

Update and download without plugging into a computer

Features

Hands-free calling. Smartphone messages. Siri & Google Now

Services

TomTom Traffic, TomTom Speed Cameras, QuickGPSfix via Bluetooth® on your smartphone

Maps

Pre-installed Australia, New Zealand, North America, Canada, Mexico. Worldwide maps available to download. Lifetime map updates.

Services

Lifetime Traffic and Speed Cameras Updates

USB

Micro USB port and 2.0 USB cable

Dimensions:

136.8 x 88.4 x 30.5

Weight 

280g

Mount

RAM universal mounting kit – fits nearly all bikes

Bluetooth®

Yes

Bring Your Own Connectivity

Yes

Automatic Speech Recognition(ASR)

No

Tilt Sensor

Yes

Light Sensor

No

Wi-Fi

Yes

5 Comments

  1. It would also be useful if Tomtom had the balls (read honesty) to estimate the “life span” of the product feom it’s introduction date as any form of upgrade will cease at that point. Could be you’re buying an expensiveness dud near it’s life’s end.
    I’ve also used a Tomtom Via using zip ties on the bars and that proved very useful after my Rider1 died.

  2. Anybody who thinks a mobile telephone could possibly be a substitute for a GPS satnav in Australia never rides to interesting places or doesn’t leave the city limits. The vast majority of this country does not have mobile coverage. Pre-loading maps is only an option if you know exactly where you are going, which can be a bit boring as well.

    1. Silly comment Graeme, why not download an app where you can pre-load maps of Australia like Sygic which also has a web route planner instead of spending on an extra gadget?

      1. Spot on Ken. My S7 has a Tomtom ap on it, maps downloaded and you pay a nominal yearly fee for kilometers used in navigation. Download the Australia maps and go where you like. Howeve3r, it lacks some of the features and toughness of the “proper” bike units.

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