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Review
Lowrance Iway 500 GPS Receiver


I have my brother Mitch to thank for this review. If not for his enthusiasm, this would never have happened the way it did.

Let me preface this also by stating that l am a GPS power user. I am by nature virtually intoxicated by maps and navigation system technology. I currently own a Garmin 176, which for a few years now, has served me well.

Opening the box.

A few days before I picked up the unit, I read completely the 71-page users manual that I downloaded from Lowrance's website (http://www.lowrance.com). Because of my familiarity with this product, I knew what to expect as I opened the lid. Sure enough, laid out very nicely were all the components as was described in the owner’s manual. Inside the box I found:

• I-way 500 GPS receiver
• Cigarette lighter adapter with a built in speaker and volume control.
• AC adapter
• Cable for hard wiring to permanent power to your bike (or auto)
• USB cable for connecting to your computer. This is for downloading firmware updates and MP3 files.
• Ram suction cup mount
• Ram Motorcycle mount. This is a U-bolt for your handlebar plus Ram ball and socket.
• Protective screen cover for the GPS
• Cleaning cloth

I am very pleased with the thought behind the included accessories. Lowrance did a good job here. You really have everything you need to get going. The quality (material and workmanship) of the components were excellent. On a scale of 1 to10, I will give these a 10.

While we are exploring the contents of the box, let us talk about the behemoth GPS receiver. The screen is a 5’’ inch diagonal touch-screen. A real beauty! One can only imagine the advantages the large screen will reveal. We will soon learn later on that it does not disappoint. In every way it appears to be ruggedized down to the rubberized port coverings on the back of the unit.

As I lift it out of the box, I notice immediately how heavy it is. Installing this on your bike would concern me a little if you were considering mounting it on your brake reservoir as I have done with other Ram mounts in the past. This unit will demand that you mount it to your bars. This means, for us Burgman owners, we should expect to cut some of the plastic covering from around our handle-bars. This unit would be ideally mounted on the center area of our handle-bar if one could find a way to secure it.

Since this is a loaned unit, I can only give testimony to the unit mounted in my car with the supplied suction cup adapter. I did not mount it on my bike for reasons stated above.

Setup

Again, Lowrance stands ready to impress me with its simplicity. One only has to connect the cigarette adapter to the unit, plug the other end to your power source and depress the Power / Light button; the big beautiful screen comes into life. Once on, the Power / Light button toggles between various degrees of light intensity. For night driving the unit is simply too bright to use; you must turn it down to a lower setting. For daylight use, you will be impressed by the clear view this screen offers; bright and non-affected by sunlight. In fact the car behind you will be able to see clearly all the details of your map. The Power / Light button is one of five external buttons that when depressed, opens up submenus on the screen.

1. Speak / Volume
2. Map / Music
3. Menu
4. Find
5. Power / Light

Because of the size of the screen, the touch-screen feature makes inputting data very easy. Although I did not try this with my riding gloves on, I strongly suspect this can be accomplished without much of an issue.

All that was needed to initially set the Iway 500 for operation was choosing the appropriate units of measure. Speed / distance, time format, date format, and heading. I also synchronized the touch screen by pointing to x’s as they appear on the screen. Finally, all that was needed now was to allow the Iway 500 to find the satellites. This will take a few minutes for the unit to find satellites to satisfy the system’s three requirements; 2D, 3D and WAAS. Sitting in my driveway under a canopy of trees, this took approximately 15 minutes. I am confident that under open sky this would not have taken so long. The next day it found the satellites in less than a minute.

Navigation

Functionally, I had to get use to the idea that I was to choose the destination and the Iway 500 was going to tell me how to get there. My modus operandi with my Garmin is to choose both on a map on my PC and download the information to the device. Not with this system! This system completely eliminates the need for a PC and mapping software. For me, I find this good and bad.

Good because you can simply tap the screen to access the navigation control overlay. Select the scale icon and zoom out and pan to the area you wish to travel; and using your finger drag a rectangle around your proposed destination which will zoom in on the area defined by the rectangle. Or, if you know the address you can type it in with the virtual keyboard utilizing the find button as described earlier. This is very fast and intuitive. In both cases you simply choose Go To cursor and the system will create a route for you to travel. You can store your information in your address book, if desired, for future travels.

I can hear you ask,’’ What is so bad about this’’? Well nothing, unless you want to input GPS coordinates into your routing. The Iway 500 will not allow you to do this. For me, I love to take information from places like Google Earth and Microsoft Streets and Trips, which will give you the mapping coordinates. Most other GPS systems will allow you to input the coordinates from which to generate routes. However, for most people this may not be a big deal.

The Menu and Find buttons has a host of other features that I will not go into for this writing.

Performance

The way I chose to test the Iway 500 was to use the exact destination I used last week on my Garmin and note, if any, the differences.

For both systems, Garmin and Iway 500, I chose to avoid Interstates and toll roads. Both units will allow you to make this selection. I thought it would be a good test to see the quality of the route. My destination was Toosy’s Motorcycle Way Station in Dahlonega, Georgia. Both routes were originating from my house in Marietta, Georgia.

Last week, The Garmin chose a route that took me into Roswell, Lawrenceville, Gainesville then on to Dahlonega. Toosy’s location is off of Long Branch Drive, which is accessed off of Hwy 400. Hwy 400 is not technically an interstate Hwy; although from Atlanta to Dawsonville it is a limited access Hwy and one must drive 80 mph just to keep from getting run over by white knuckled SUV drivers. The top end of 400 intersects with Hwy 60. The Garmin routed me in a roundabout way in a fashion similar to a question mark; North, East, North, West and South. The dot would represent my house. These were all back-roads and were generally acceptable.

This week, as I set out for the journey, I also wanted to test the POI’s (points of interest) in the Iway 500. More on this later!

By tapping the screen, I brought forth the navigation icons. I zoomed out and panned over on the map, which my house was in the center of, and located Dahlonega, Georgia. I drew an imaginary rectangle around the area I was interested in, and zoomed in on the area. Long Branch Drive was represented by just a small line without any naming conventions at all. I was surprised the map showed the street at all. It is a relatively new street. This is where I would have liked to input the GPS coordinates and be done with it. Nevertheless, placing the cursor on the street allowed me to engage the waypoint information screen which allowed the Iway 500 to create a route.

So off we go. What was so incredibly cool about this system was navigating in 3-D mode. Imagine yourself flying above your car at an ever so slight angle with the ability to see well in advance all your turns ahead with all streets pointed out in cartoon balloon fashion. I was greatly impressed. I have never seen this before and would not have thought it would have made the impact that it did. I did select the normal Trip Up map view but quickly changed it back because of the perfection in the Iway’s 3-D view technology.

The routing generated from the Iway 500 also took me first to Roswell. But before we got there we wanted to stop for a bite to eat. I pressed the Find button and the POI menu gave us a choice of selections; fuel, lodging, restaurants were just a few of the selections. I selected restaurants and a list of all restaurants relative to our location was displayed; complete with a distance indicator. ‘’Hey, there’s a Johnny Rocket’s up ahead’’, I said excitedly looking at the list. I had a vivid recollection of their Chili-cheese fries firmly planted in my brain. I clicked on the selection and a new screen came up allowing us to place it in an address book or just go to the location. We selected the Go To option and the Iway 500 began routing us immediately to Johnny Rocket’s. It took us there without incident.

Since I saved the waypoint to Toosy’s in the Iway’s address book, It was a simple matter of recalling it after our lunch. Again, the system began routing us to Roswell and then Alpharetta. When I saw the entire driving list, I immediately realized that it was taking me to Hwy 400; a.k.a. Kamikaze Blvd (so named for a good reason).

As I mentioned earlier, Hwy 400 is not technically an interstate so I couldn’t hold that against the Iway. What happened next though is where the nearly perfect Iway 500 and I part ways.

As we zoomed up 400 I was looking, still in amazement, at the 3-D view. I noticed up ahead the Iway was taking us off the (interstate) Hwy at the next exit. I announced this just as a smirk came over my face in a way that would suggest the Iway had redeemed itself after all. You know, I began to see its logic! I imagined that it, in it’s sexy female computer voice, was saying to me ’’I will take you up the interstate only for a short distance, but then I will reroute you to your destination on back-roads filled with adventure at every turn, Master’’.

Well, almost. It did announce in a sexy female computer voice that we were turning right in I mile. Then again in .5 mile and so on until it is the next turn. I was impressed that the Iway does this well in advance so that you have plenty of time to merge if you have to. So placing my right blinker in action, I carefully navigated off of Hwy 400 on to Exit 15. As I begin to exit, a SUV (driving up my butt for the past mile) honked at me to move out of the way.

At the top of the ramp it struck me that the Iway 500 must be demon possessed. The sexy female computer voice was now saying ‘’Merge onto Hwy 400 Northbound’’. It just as well could have been saying REDRUM, REDRUM, R-E-D-R-U-M, (borrowing a phrase from the movie The Shining). What did it say? ‘’So in other words, you are telling me to get back on the interstate’’, I was asking out loud. This is craziness run wild! I did not believe what I was hearing. With my smirk replaced now with a feeling of abandonment, I signaled with my left blinker, sped back up to interstate speed and merged back onto the four-lane headed Northbound.

Gazing at the 3-D view once again, I realized now that every exit between Exit 15 and our destination repeated this strange behavior: exiting off then merging back on. Eventually, despite this strangeness, the Iway 500 took us to our destination. We simply ignored the demands to exit at every request. At this point, though, I wondered what could have caused this abnormality. I wondered if this was a one time thing? I wondered if it would happen on the way back home? The answer to this last question was a resounding yes. Only this time it happened at every exit.

Conclusion:

Based on my test, I sadly cannot recommend this unit. I had high hopes that for us Burgman riders, and, in my brother’s case, BMW riders (any rider for that matter), the Iway 500 would fit the need for a brilliantly engineered large touch-screen ruggedized GPS receiver for motorcycle use.

In fairness to the innovative people at Lowrance, I am sending them a copy of this review with hopes that they can offer some explanation and possibly a solution. I am optimistic that as nearly perfect as the Iway seems to be, word will come to us soon that the routing problem will be a thing very easily resolved. When this happens, you will be the first to know.
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Perry R.
 
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