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Not renewing my MSN Direct subscription on my Garmin GPS

My MSN Direct subscription on the Garmin StreetPilot c580 I own is nearing its end. When I bought it there was a promotion that offered the service free for a year so I tried it out. What the service does is alert you of traffic, gives you gas prices for local fuel stations, presents movie times/theaters and so on.

The cost is $49.95 a year. Way too much. It should be $19.95. They also offer a one-time cost of something like $200 (or near there) which supposedly lasts for life (or at least a few years until something else comes along).

Here's my experience using the enhanced MSN Direct services on the StreetPilot:

Has to be plugged in for it to work

This is a huge, huge design flaw. You want to use your MSN Direct services, but in order to have them work the unit must be plugged in (because the separate, yes separate, antenna to receive MSN content is inside the plug). All well and good I suppose. So what's the problem? The problem is that it makes your battery worthless. What good is having a GPS that can operate by battery if it must be plugged in to use specific features?

Reception spotty at best

The reception absolutely sucked. There were times I couldn't even get a signal on I-275 in Tampa Florida. And I-275 is a major highway.

Granted, with periodic firmware updates the MSN reception was improved - but how many people would know to do this?

Firmware updates a huge hassle

When you apply a firmware update that has anything to do with the MSN content, you must first update the unit from your computer, then boot it plugged in for the MSN update to apply. The update will not complete until you boot it like that. Very, very stupid.

You do not have to do this for any other update. MSN is the only one that makes you do this crapola.

Gas price updates are rarely current

I don't know who is updating the gas prices on the MSN service, but at best you may only find 2 stations that were updated "today". The rest are "yesterday", "3 days ago" and beyond. This information is worthless. In addition there are many stations the MSN Direct service simply doesn't include.

Again, I live in a metro area of Tampa. There are stations everywhere (a heck of a lot more than 2).

Traffic updates are rarely current

I have received traffic alerts and "entering scene of accident" alerts. About 80% of the time it's a false alarm. The supposed traffic is almost never there. The accident scenes it reports got cleared hours ago.

Weather warnings are absolutely worthless

A weather warning that happens on the c580 with the MSN Direct service goes like this:

"Severe Weather - Hillsborough County - 8am to 2pm"

That's it. It doesn't say what the weather warning is. It only reports that there is one. So what the frig is it? Heavy rain? Hail? Falling cows from the sky? You don't know. And neither does the MSN Direct service.

Is there anything good about the MSN Direct service on a Garmin?

Not really. It renders your battery worthless. The reception is a far cry from the outstanding GPS reception (which is perfect). Updating it is a pain in the ass. The gas prices and traffic updates are both outdated information the moment it's presented. The weather warnings are useless.

Does common sense rule over anything MSN Direct could report to you?

Yes, absolutely.

Per the gas price stuff:

There is no web site (not even that has been able to accurately show all available options to you concerning where to shop for the cheapest gas. Stations are missed in the list all the time, and the plain fact of the matter is that you know where the cheapest gas is by finding these stations yourself.

Per the traffic stuff:

If you know the lay of the land you can avoid nearly all the traffic. Using GPS this is really simple: Don't take the highway. Instruct the unit to "avoid highways" and take the longer way home. Or alternatively take some non-highway roads and some highway. Mix and match. Do whatever you like. You'll learn the roads and be able to predict when/where traffic happens. While it's true you won't get it right 100% of the time, your personal experience far outweighs any traffic report MSN could tell you.

IN ADDITION: Your local radio station probably reports traffic regularly. They will have to-the-minute accurate reports.

Per the weather stuff:

A quick look at,, or before you head out is all you need to do. Or carry a battery-powered weather radio with you. Or if you're really smart, a hand-held GPS with weather radio like the Garmin Rino 130. Weather radio is free by way.

Per the movie times/theaters stuff:

I've never used this feature and I don't think anyone else would find it particularly useful either. Better to just check online before heading out or just look at the local newspaper.

In conclusion...

The single most useful thing with the MSN Direct is the traffic alerts. But they're not accurate and late to the party when reported. Maybe if it was more timely (and I mean a lot more timely) I'd consider renewing.

The second most useful thing is the weather alerts. But they're worthless because they don't provide any relevant information.

Like the title says, I'm not renewing. What's the point if the information presented isn't current and moreover worthless?


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