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near-mint streetpilot i5 acquired

Garmin StreetPilot i5

I mentioned recently that I bought a nuvi 255. That didn't work out, so I sent it back, got a refund and acquired a StreetPilot i5 instead.

Okay, so here's what happened with the nuvi 255. And yeah, this did tick me off.

I upgraded the unit's firmware, put in the latest map data, and all was going well. However, whenever I was navigating with it and I had to change my route, when the 255 recalculated, it locked right up. I was able to replicate this problem easily, so I knew something was wrong on the inside.

This was a very weird issue because I've never seen a Garmin satnav do that before, and I've used several different models. I guess there's a first time for everything.

So I cleared the user data, packed it up, got my Amazon return stuff printed out and sent it back.

Acquiring the i5

I still needed another backup satnav. Amazon didn't have anything in my price range that was any good ($35 or less,) so I go on eBay. And there I find what appears to be a near-mint condition StreetPilot i5 for $32, shipping included.

In photos, the unit looks almost perfect, but with one problem. It was not shown turned on. However, it was within the US and offered a money-back guarantee, so I decided to take the risk and buy it anyway.

It arrives, and it's actually just as good as it appeared in the photos. In fact, it was much better than I expected.

Buttons in very good shape

Battery door in near-immaculate condition

Barely a scratch or a ding anywhere on it

Battery terminals on door slightly tarnished, but still work fine

The most impressive thing is that the 3 buttons in front are in insanely good condition, indicating that it was barely used. Most of the time, the buttons on the front are wrecked and unusable, but on this i5, they're pretty much like new.

And oh yeah, the screen works perfect too. No weird lines or anything, and the backlight is still in great shape.

Updating the i5

I update the firmware to 3.40 (the last update released by Garmin before discontinuing support for it,) plop on the latest US map data on a spare 2GB microSD card I had, insert that into the i5, boot, and everything worked first try.

Testing the i5

I take it out for a drive, and amazingly, the i5 acquires a GPS signal very quickly. Not as quickly as a nuvi would, but darned close.

It was then I realized how bad off my old i3 was. The GPS antenna in my old i3 must have been damaged in some way, because the i5 grabbed a signal so quick that it surprised me. Before I was even a quarter-mile down the road, the signal was acquired and showing 4-of-5 bar signal strength.

On the test drive, the i5 navigated just fine. No problems at all.

The itty bitty satnav doing its thing

These are screen shots from the unit, captured using xImage from Garmin, which you need for screen shot capture on older StreetPilot units (nuvis don't need it because the screen shot function is built in.)

Splash Screen
Splash screen on boot

Main menu

Where To? menu

Map in roaming mode

Map when navigating

I do purposely put the i5 in "Track Up" map vide mode when using it. Yes, the i5 does have a 3D bird's eye view, but I like the 2D mode better. While it is more difficult to read in this view mode, the map is more accurate.

Yes, the color of the route line the i5 gives you is red and not fuchsia. The i-series is one of the very few satnavs from Garmin that does this.

Could an i2, i3 or i5 still be used today as a primary satnav?

Yes, as long as you do a few things first.

The main issue with the i-series is that it doesn't have a high-sensitivity GPS receiver. But as you'll notice from the photos above, it has a little gold-colored port on the side. You can connect an external magnetic-mount antenna there, which costs about $10 to $20. That will cure any/all GPS reception issues on an i-series easily.

I personally don't use an external antenna since my i5 is for backup satnav use only.

As for updating map data, you use OSM. After copying over the data, you can enable the map in the settings of the i-series satnav from menu Settings > Map > MapSource and selecting your OpenStreetMap database there.

After that, you need to know 3 things.

Clearing previous user data

With the unit off, press and hold the back button, press and hold the wheel button, press and hold the power button to power up. The unit will ask if you want to clear user data. Select yes, and it will. No, it will not erase any map databases. But it will erase all Favorites, Recently Found, and basically reset the unit.

How to save a Favorite

You're at a friend's house and parked in the driveway. You want to save that location to the i2/i3/i5. Press and hold the wheel button. In 2 or 3 seconds, the satnav will ask you to name the location. Do so, save, done. Now it's listed in My Favorites. If you don't rename it, the default name will be 001. If you save another and don't rename it, it will be named 002, etc., so on and so forth.

How to always use Review Turns screen to navigate

For many, this is preferable because it's easier to read compared to the map screen since the i-series' screen is so small.

First, pick a location and start navigating, but don't drive off just yet.

Second, press the back button.

Third, select Review Turns.


You get a screen like this:


Just stay on that screen. You'll see as you drive that the distance to the next turn will decrease in number, and when you take the turn, the next step will be shown, like this:


Just keep driving until you get to where you're going.

This type of view is good if you have a hard time reading the screen on an i-series, as the text on Review Turns is significantly larger, and there's always an arrow telling you what direction the turn is, along with audible notifications.

"I wish my nuvi did that!"

It does do that. Start a route, press the green bar at top on the map screen, you'll see the review turns screen, then just tap the first turn and it will work just the same way as described above. Yes, really.


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