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Garmin Zumo XT Reviews

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Eric Hall

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(review submitted by @Spencer Hill)

Garmin Zumo XT
Is it everything you need in an off-road GPS?

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The Garmin Zumo XT is the culmination of countless Garmin handheld models that slightly missed the mark for adventure riding. It seems as though they (Garmin) finally came to their senses and decided to use the resources at their disposal to create a unit that wasn’t just repurposed or rehashed. Did they finally decide to pander to those of us with dirt as the destination instead of a detour?

Out of the box the 5.5’’ responsive, glove friendly, glare-free touch screen is impressive, and the units lack of bulk made it easy to mount above the display on my KTM 790. I chose to mount it in the “portrait” orientation instead of “landscape” because of its location on my particular bike, but I know it will be an appealing option for some.  

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Setup required jumping through hoops like downloading Garmin’s native Garmin Express and Basecamp, along with downloading the Garmin Drive app on my phone, but all and all it was mostly painless. I paired the XT with my Garmin inReach Mini, Sena 50K Bluetooth headset, and Apple iPhone with no issues and shockingly little hassle. In fact, the XT’s integration with my external devices was probably one of it’s greatest attributes. After initial setup they all worked together flawlessly and did not require the pairing/unpairing/device recognition cat and mouse games that I am accustomed to with this technology. 
Wireless updates meant that I virtually had no need to connect the unit to my computer again and the maps/firmware were never out of date. 

Another pleasant surprise with the XT was the built-in maps, North America on-road & off-road come pre-loaded and you can also use “BirdsEye” satellite imagery as well. These maps proved to be sufficient for my uses, the street maps never let me down, but I thought the off-road maps lacked some detail. This shortfall was only ever really an issue while planning routes in Basecamp, not out on the trail.

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As far as usability goes, the best way to describe the Zumo XT is SLICK! It reminded me a lot of the apple CarPlay unit in my car (a good thing). Getting turn by turn directions wile skipping through my Spotify playlists was something I was not accustomed to with my previous stone age Montana! In fact, the music “view” was one of my favorite when I wasn’t navigating, displaying the album cover in the background, with all of the other details in the foreground. This all felt very similar to a modern car stereo, almost too nice for a dressed-up dirt bike. 

Another feature that I grew to love was the “Go Home” button that automatically calculated a route back to my programmed home address. Once navigating, you could choose to display several options including time/distance to destination which was great for projecting my return.
Want to grab a coffee or burger along the way? Just hit the “Where To” button on the home screen and search for what you are craving. With Trip Adviser built-in, you can select an option along your route and easily add it as a stop while still keeping the same final destination. 
Going to be later than expected? Use the hands-free calling feature to call home or compose an inREACH message (if you are stationary). The ability to place/receive calls was great and helped me stay plugged in when I wasn’t trying to be totally off the grid.

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Smart notifications were helpful if not slightly overbearing, but once I figured out how to disable some of the more annoying notifications, I liked this feature. Seeing incoming texts/calls saved me from having my phone mounted on the bike or even worse, pulling it out of a pocket while riding. I found the reduced speed zones and hazard notifications particularly useful when I was slabbing around. 

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Honestly, this unit is like a clown car when it comes to features: 
-Live traffic and weather (when you are within cell coverage)
-Built in: History Channel POI’s, Campgrounds, National Parks directory, and MORE.
-Garmin “Adventurous Routing” for more interesting ways to get to/from your destination.
-Wireless sharing of routes, as well as wireless import/export of tracks.
-Direct to device downloads of BirdsEye satellite imagery with no annual subscription.
-Track recorder for documenting/sharing/re-riding your favorite routes.

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In summary, I think that the Zumo XT is one of the best GPS units currently available for adventure riding, with its suite of useful features and seamless integration with other smart devices it acts more like an entertainment system than a traditional GPS. I would say, if you have no interest in these superfluous attributes or don’t have a smart phone then this probably isn’t the unit for you. The off-road navigation, specifically following pre-planned tracks is acceptable, but not as straightforward as with older Garmin Units. Meaning all of the add-ons and street navigation features are the real standouts. If you spend equal amounts of time on/off pavement then you won’t be disappointed, but if you are one of the rare birds that actually spends 90% of your time in the dirt then you might look elsewhere. In my instance though, it did everything that I needed it to (and more), changing my perspective on what roles an on-board GPS unit could actually fill. Also, I came away impressed that Garmin listened to rider feedback and finally gave our segment a worth-while benchmark. I for one, am super excited to see where they go next!
 

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