Review: Garmin Dezl 580

A picture of a Garmin Dezl 580 satellite navigation (GPS) unit, showing an map of an American city with a list of two truck stops and a pizzeria on the right.
Garmin Dezl 580

Last year I bought, and then returned, Garmin’s latest ‘flagship’ truck sat-nav, the Dezl 780. The reason I returned it was that a major feature which I used on a daily basis, the ability to make and receive calls using voice only, had been removed. I had used its predecessor, the Dezl 770, since 2015 and had been generally satisfied with it but other devices had enhanced the phone features, by allowing you to read messages from the unit, and this was looking a bit long in the tooth. The 780 had this feature (called “smart notifications”) as well as the ability to use the voice to search for postcodes, but the lack of voice dialling was, to my mind, a bizarre omission. After making enquiries to Garmin who told me the feature had been removed by design, I sent the unit back to Amazon and got a refund, and continued using the 770. However, as before I got the 770 I had been using a Dezl 560 for a couple of years, last October I decided to buy the 5in model, the Dezl 580 which I knew from seeing videos of it in operation did still have voice dialling. I have been generally satisfied with the performance of the unit.

As I have been using a 7in unit for three years, I feared that the smaller unit would be too small to use in an articulated lorry cab, where I had been using a free-standing friction mount which would stand on the tray that most truck cabs have. It is also possible to mount it to the windscreen, to a mounting plate which is fitted to some cabs, or to the ventilator (though I do not have a vent mount for the sat-nav; I use one for my phone and had one for the 560, although it broke). The 5in unit comes with both a suction mount for the windscreen as well as a screw-down mount; you can also get a sticky mount if you are going to be using a cab on a regular basis. Generally I have found that the size is in fact adequate and that the voice features make up for not always having the device within arm’s reach. While I do sometimes use the postcode voice search, this is not very reliable as any noise causes it not to be able to interpret what I said and the result is a long menu. However, as with the 770 and 780, it is very easy to add an exact location as a favourite and searching for this by voice is fairly reliable.

There are a few disadvantages to the smaller size. I find that the audio is not as loud as it could be, especially when using the phone (it does affect the audio directions but, of course, being a sat-nav it provides visual directions too). When offering routes it offers at most two routes while the 7in versions offered three; this could be achieved on this unit by allowing the user to scroll up the right-hand menu column. The maps on the screen are often less clear than on the 7in and I find that traffic is not as reliable as on the previous model. I generally check the traffic on Google Maps before I set out because it sometimes does not detect major problems that are being reported on the traffic news. It has the same problem as the 770 of getting the locations of long-term roadworks wrong; the roadworks on the A5 at Towcester recently, for example, were shown as closing the roundabout with the A43 (and therefore the A43 itself), resulting in that not being used in routes, but in fact the roundabout and road were unaffected and the closure began about half a mile south.

Another new feature in the 580 and 780 is updates through wifi. I prefer to use the Garmin Express app on my computer, however, as map updates are gigabytes large and can take some time; if the battery is not fully charged, it could run down during that time, though software updates are always small enough to do over wifi. It’s a useful feature for people who don’t have access to a proper computer but only a tablet or phone, but make sure you keep the unit plugged into the mains while doing a map update. There are a lot of features on this I do not use, such as the integration with FourSquare. There are some downright annoyances, such as the driving timer which is enabled as standard; British trucks, unlike most in the USA where drivers still use logbooks, have tachographs which time you and display the time on a screen, making this unnecessary and inaccurate (it often tells me I am due for a break after I have had one) and informing me of services, toilets and so on up ahead. If you want to get texts on the unit, you will need to install the “Smartphone Link” app on your phone (iPhone or Android) and it will insist on reading the messages to you if you are moving rather than letting you read them, which makes sense. You can set it to show you texts, WhatsApp messages and even emails; I’d recommend not including the last if you get a lot of spam or mailing list mail or you will be getting notifications all the time.

All in all I’m quite satisfied with this unit; it does most of what I want and was affordable by the standards of these devices (currently £323 on Amazon). I’d have been willing to pay the extra for a 7in unit because the screen size is an advantage, but Garmin needs to offer a 7in version of this and consign the features it added to the 780 to a fleet model, as TomTom does with its telematics devices. As for why I’ve not switched to TomTom, the review of their current flagship (see link in my first paragraph) explains it. If they sort out their user interface problems I might just consider it.

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