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REVIEWED: Garmin Pro 550 PLUS





Garmin PRO 550 PLUS Review by Steve Snell

Track and train your dogs from one handheld

  • Simple, directional at-a-glance GPS dog tracking in the handheld
  • Familiar Tri-Tronics "low-medium-high" e-collar usability
  • Uses the same reliable TT15X collar as the Garmin Alpha

    Today, we're looking at the Garmin PRO 550+. It's the newest line of e-collar GPS tracking systems from Garmin.

    An E-collar that Includes GPS Tracking

    Everything we've had up to this point has been GPS systems that included e-collar functions. The main product in that category is the Garmin ALPHA.

    The Garmin PRO 550+ is an e-collar that has traditional e-collar features that includes tracking. The beauty of this is it gives you the functionality that you need with an e-collar:
  • The ability to train your dogs without looking at the transmitter
  • Has all the necessary e-collar features -- buttons, dials, and toggle switches
  • Allows you to work with multiple dogs at the same time
  • Allows you to raise and lower stimulation levels on the fly one-handed without having to look at the transmitter

    The PRO 550+ has all of the features of the PRO 550, which is Garmin's top-of-the-line e-collar, but they've added tracking on top of that. The tracking on the Garmin Pro 550+ is a very simplified version of what Garmin offers in their other GPS tracking systems.

    It doesn't give you everything that you're going to get from the advanced systems that include maps, but it tells you JUST the things that you really need to know.

    It Has a Very Simple Screen

    It shows you:
  • the DIRECTION your dog is from you
  • the DISTANCE your dog is from you
  • if he's MOVING or ON POINT, or for a hound dog if he's TREED

    Everything you really need to locate your dog is on the screen on the 550+, without a lot of the unnecessary features that people get bogged down with.

    Who should use the PRO 550+?

    The Garmin PRO 550+ is designed for a couple of different folks:
    • Those looking for more functionality out of their e-collar system:
      • Easily raise and lower STIM
      • Easily change dogs
      • No-look operation
      That's hard to do with a Garmin ALPHA because of the touchscreen and how you change things on the ALPHA.
  • Those looking for a simplified tracking system:
    • Less complexity
    • Easy to operate
    • No menus to navigate
    • No touchscreen

    Operation is VERY Simple

  • As my eyes get older, it's harder to see some of the small screens. That is not the case with the 550+ -- the ARROW on it is very large, and you can read the text on it pretty easily.
  • The Garmin Pro 550+ has 18 levels of continuous and monetary stimulation. It also has TONE and VIBRATION. It can operate up to 3 dogs from one transmitter.
  • It has running lights that can be remotely turned on and off by the transmitter.
  • It has a 2-mile range for both e-collar and tracking functions
  • It has RECHARGEABLE batteries in the handheld and on the collar. You're going to get about 24 hours from the handheld, and in the collar, you're going to get about 25.

    The Garmin Pro 550+ uses TT15X collars. It comes in both a regular and MINI version. You can combine MINIs and regulars on the same system if you have big dogs and small dogs.

    It also is compatible with any of the older TT10 collars, and is compatible with the TT15X collars that come with ALPHA systems.

    REGULAR & MINI

    The Garmin Pro 550+ comes in two versions -- we have the regular version with the TT15X collar, and then we have the MINI version with the MINI TT15 collar.

    The biggest difference between these two collars is going to be BATTERY LIFE.

    Battery life on a 2.5-second update with a MINI collar is going to be around 16 hours compared to around 25 hours with the REGULAR collar.

    RANGE is pretty much identical; they'll be a few situations where you might just get a smidge more range out of the larger collar, but a majority of the tests we have done, I just don't see it. They perform almost the same when it comes to range.

    I recommend 40 pounds as the over/under when it comes to the REGULAR collar or the MINI collar.

    If your dog is over 40 pounds, then go with the REGULAR collar. If he's under 40 pounds, the MINI collar may be a better choice for you.

    I've used the REGULAR-sized collar on dogs as small as 20 pounds, and at a 20-pound size, it's a little tight. But 30- to 35-pound dogs can get away with either one. You can use the MINI collar on the larger dogs, but to me, there's not a real big advantage to it. So 40 pounds is kind of the over/under for me if I'm making the decision.

    The Garmin Pro 550+ will work with the Garmin FENIX WATCHES, and it will also work with the Garmin DRIVETRACK System.

    The Pro 550+ is also compatible with the Garmin ALPHA system and can be used on the same dogs and in conjunction with other Garmin ALPHA systems.

    550+ vs. 550



    Let's compare the Garmin 550+ with the Garmin 550.

    The 550+ has 18 stimulation levels compared to 21 on the 550.

    The reason for that is that the TT15X collars are based off of the ALPHA system, which is also an 18-level system.

    RANGE

    The stated RANGE on the Garmin 550+ is 2 miles, compared to 1 mile on the Garmin 550. The 550+ works on the MURS frequency, where the 550 works on the 27-MHz frequency, so the 550+ will get more range for both tracking and training. In my tests with the Garmin 550+, we're getting more than 2 miles in certain situations. RANGE on any of the GPS systems depends on terrain, so that plays a big factor in it. You're not going to get 2 miles in every situation, but in some situations, you can get more.

    The other thing you can do from a tracking standpoint is that you can add one of the CAR TOP antennas or one of the longer extended range ANTENNAS to the 550+ and get more tracking out of it than that. It's very similar in distance to what we're seeing from the ALPHAS.

    BATTERY LIFE

    The 550+ has less battery life than the standard 550.

    The 550+ handheld will get around 24 hours of run time, and the 550+ TT15X collars are going to get around 25 hours of run time in the 2.5-second update.

    Comparing that to a PRO 550, you're going to get more in the 60-80 range on the collar, and then the handheld will go substantially longer than that because there's really not an enormous amount going on there unless you're pressing buttons.

    One of the biggest things that people will have to change if they go from using a regular 550 collar to a 550+ is that you're going to need to charge your handheld probably EVERY NIGHT.

    I'm gonna charge mine -- if I'm running it today and then I'm running it again tomorrow, it's going on the charger tonight, even if I only use it for 10 or 12 hours.

    Another major difference in the 550+ and the 550 is that the 550+ does not have the BARK LIMITER feature.

    The regular Garmin 550 e-collar has a bark limiter mode that you can set the collar, and you cannot do that with the 550+.

    Another thing to point out is that the 550+ collars are NOT compatible with the regular 550 Garmin collars. So if you have a Garmin 550 e-collar, you CANNOT use those collars with the 550+.

    COMPATIBILITY

    So another really cool feature about the 550+ is that IT IS compatible with the Garmin ALPHA system that's already on the market. They work off the same frequencies and the collars are identical.

    The beauty of that for someone that currently owns an ALPHA is if they wanna add better e-collar functionality, they can just the 550 handheld and incorporate it into the system that they have. What this means is that you can buy a 550+ TRANSMITTER only, and you can use it in conjunction with the system that you currently have.

    It will work with the collars, and it will work at the same time as your ALPHA HANDHELD. So if you want both, and that would be great MAP functionality and great E-COLLAR functionality, the 550+ can be incorporated into the system that you have, and it will work flawlessly with the TT10 or TT15 collar that you currently have.

    I'm planning on running that myself. I currently use an ASTRO 430, which does NOT have stimulation -- it's tracking only -- and I use a regular 550 collar for my e-collar. So I'll be doing away with the (old) 550 side of it, and I'll be going to an ASTRO handheld for my mapping and a 550+ transmitter for my collar functionality. --Steve

    Watch Steve's Pro 550 Plus Review on Youtube



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