Lowrance iWay 500C Automotive GPS Unit, Review
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Return to Home Page * Text by jack yeazel
(Revision 3,  2 Oct. 2005)

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Out-of-the-box kit                *                    Suction Mount Installation

GENERAL:
The iWay 500C is about $670; check for latest discount prices (HERE).  The unit includes; Windshield Suction Cup Mount, Motorcycle Mount, Speaker/Cigarette power cable, USB interface cable, 110VAC-to-12VDC converter (for working at your computer), and a Cover/cleaning cloth.  The iWay 500C is a pre-loaded, plug-and-go vehicle navigation system with an extra 10GB of memory for MP3 files.

One the first things you will notice is that this GPS is BIG!  It features a 5" diagonal touch screen, super-bright/adjustable, 320x240 resolution display that is quite readable even in direct sunlight. The built-in 12 parallel-channel WAAS receiver can give accuracy within 3 meters.  Using a cigarette power plug and speaker, the iWay 500C guides you with both verbal and visual directions.  The spoken direction are not just "Turn left", but "Turn left onto US 19" or "Turn right at exit 23", for example.  However, street names are not read out.  See (HERE) for a comparison of the iWay 500 display with other competitive units.

An interesting feature is that when you speed up, the map automatically zooms OUT, and zooms IN when you slow down.  The maps have an option to also display elevation contour lines.

The iWay has a 20GB hard drive with 10GB preloaded to hold the highly detailed Navteq turn-by-turn database maps for the continental United States and Canada.  Just select an address or a specific Point Of Interest.  These addresses can be saved for future use.  The unit dimensions are: 6.1"H x 4.5"W x 2.15"D, and  weighs a hefty 2.3 lb (1043 g) and comes with a one-year warranty.  PC Magazine gives it their Editor's Choice, but there are problems they may not have noticed (see end of review).

THE MAPS:
In the Atlanta area, the NavTeq maps are as up to date as any we have seen from the other manufacturers.  The maps display small streams and lakes (in blue) which the Garmin maps don't show.  The unit is easy to understand, and finding an address is straightforward.  The large letters and numbers on the touch screen make the job easy.

SCREENS:

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North-up Overhead Display                           *                            Track-up Overhead Display
Touching the arrow, changes between an Overhead, Track-up, or a 3D view of the road ahead.  On the right are displayed (from top to bottom) Estimated time of Arrival, Altitude (flashes when GPS lock is lost), Speed, Time to next turn, Distance to next Turn, and Driving instructions.  Pink designates a calculated route.

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3D-Display in Track-up mode   *  Touching the Screen brings up the Left-side Menu

The 3D presentation is well done.  It gives you a good sense of the character of the route ahead, and should be very helpful at night.  The Overlay Data (on right side of the screens above) can be controlled (see below).

Tapping on the screen brings up the icons on the left of the screen (above, right).  From top to bottom, after selecting the (blue) Pan icon, one can move the map by sliding their finger on the screen.  Next is the "Zoom Box" icon.  When tapped, one can draw a box on the screen to zoom into.  The "+" and "-" icons are for zooming In and Out.

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Tap on the Screen at a Street                   *                 Obtain Information and Guidance to the Arrow

When you tap on the map at a street, it displays the Address at the Cursor (yellow note, above).  Tap the large red (i) and a second screen appears listing the location of the address.  From here one can go to the address and/or store it in the Address Book.

OPERATION:
The iWay 500C will also allow you to customize your trip by avoiding Toll Roads, Interstates, and even left-hand turns.  If you get off track, the iWay 500C will recalculate the directions to get you back on track.  Recalculations seem to be performed as quickly as any we have encountered.  The 500C also has enough memory to save up to 1,000 of your favorite locations, so you can navigate back to them at any time.

Operation was easy using the touch screen and 5 primary keys.  The iWay 500C accessories include a cigarette power adapter with speaker, 1/8" stereo jack, and a hardwire cable with a 1/8" stereo jack for wiring into the vehicle's stereo system. Included with the iWay 500C is one mounting option, a suction cup mount for a windshield application.  There is an occasional "strange routing" that we noted from time to time with the iWay.  See the "What we did not like" section at the end of the review for details.

OPTIONAL RAM MOUNT:

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The Lowrance RAM mount (about $40) is well worth the price.  A typical simple installation is shown above.  We used the suction mount and the RAM mount on three cars, and the RAM mount was easier to install, and steadier due to its three-pound weight.  The suction mount may be required for (some) installations.

MP3:

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MP3 Screen from the MAP/MUSIC Button  *   MP3 control on the Map Page (see Screen below)
The iWay 500C has 10GB of storage for up to 5,000 (depending on compression) MP3 files.  Key music functions include: browse files, play lists, repeat on/off, shuffle, equalizer, pause, stop, scan, skip forward, skip reverse, and volume.  A 110VAC-to-12VDC adapter is included for power indoors to transfer music files, ect.  (The faint white lines on the map are contour lines.) Connecting the iWay to a PC with the USB cable causes the iWay to appear as an external hard drive.

UPDATES:
Using the above USB cable, the current update to Ver. 1.4.0 can be found (HERE) and -without POIs (HERE).  The unit can be updated directly from the web site without having to download any files.

WORKING WITH THE MENU BUTTON:

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The lighted buttons from top to bottom are: SPEAK/VOLUME (repeats the last message),  MAP/MUSIC (switches from the map to music control), MENU (brings up the Map Menu), FIND (Find Menu), and POWER/LIGHT (controls ON/OFF and the light level).  NOTE: There is a volume control on the Speaker/Cigarette Plug.

Pressing the MENU button brings up the Map Menu (above left).
Tapping the Main Menu icon brings up the Main Menu (above right)

Map Menu:

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Directions List                                        Selected Entry for a Detailed View

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Overlay Data Shown can be Small, Medium, Large, or Removed            *     Routing Options

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Map Categories can be Selected or Removed   *  Sounds Control (Note Read Street Names)

Main Menu:

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Screen Setup includes calibrating the touch screen  *   Trip Calculator
The other settings on the Screen Setup are: Night mode and
Audio on Map which allows you to control the MP3 Player directly by touching the map (above).

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GPS Status (from inside the house!)                              *                      Software Information

THE FIND BUTTON:

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One can "Find" Fuel, Lodging, Restaurants, POIs, Recent Destinations, Addresses, and Intersections (closest or alphabetical.)

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By tapping in only the information (above), the iWay found the correct address (above right).

ROUTING:
The iWay doesn't leave much to be desired -except automatic routing.  What we do NOT like about the iWay 500 are a few things that potential buyers should know about.

1)  Joe discovered that repeatedly (but infrequently) the iWay 500 would route him off an expressway, drive some miles on surface roads, and then put him back on the same freeway.  If you are "situationally aware" and just do not follow the erroneous directions, the iWay will automatically reroute and you back onto a normal route.   At other times, you would be on the road where your destination address was.  The iWay 500 would route us OFF this road, over to a major parallel street and then after driving on the major street for awhile, would route us back to the original road.  This error is most irritating.   This phenomenon seems to be especially pronounced when you select any of the "avoid" options.

Occasionally in towns, Jack noticed that the unit will route you on a major street, take you off the major street onto minor streets, and then back to the major street you were on to begin with.   Some routing is obviously incorrect in taking a much longer way than available, even with the Default option.  There is no "shortest" option.

2) The iWay needs an automatic dim-the-display-at-night feature.  You can easily dim the display manually but automatic would be very appreciated by users.  The iWay 500 has one of the most readable map displays we have reviewed.

Other than these two items,  we give the iWay 500 a "Very Good" rating.  But if you will be frustrated by being misrouted about once per 100 miles or so, this unit may not be for you.

jack yeazel