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Harman Kardon GPS-500


Harman Kardon has entered the GPS market with a device called the Guide + Play, GPS-500. This device features voice navigation on a nice big 4″ display, but also includes the ability to play MP3 music as well as videos. I recently had the chance to spend a few hundred miles with the Harman Kardon GPS and here is what I found.


Out of the box, the GPS-500 has strikingly good looks. It is a very thin GPS at barely three quarters of an inch. It is just about 4.5 inches long but it doesn’t seem as big as other devices of this length since it is so thin. Along the top of the GPS is the power button as well as an SD card slot. The maps are pre-installed and cover the USA and Canada, so the SD slot is only used if you want to add music or video files.

On the right side is a volume dial, headphone jack, and mini USB port where the GPS-500 gets power from. Along the left side is a “hold” button to keep buttons from being operational when you are listening to music. On the back is a speaker as well as an external antenna port. You probably won’t need the external antenna port as the Centrality Atlas II chipset performed well. Thankfully, there are no buttons, plugs, or ports on the bottom of the device, someone was thinking ahead on that one!

The mount was one of the better designs I’ve seen in suction cup mounts. It was very compact, easy to adjust, and held the GPS without vibration. There was an easy “eject” button on the bottom of the mount so you can easily take the Guide + Play off the mount and slip it in your pocket or stow it away in the glove compartment. I wish the power cable connected directly to the mount like the Nuvi series, however this was probably the second best mount I’ve used in a long time. The ball and socket type joint made it easy to angle the GPS, yet still held it firmly in place.

I was really impressed with the quality of the screen and graphics. The combination of screen and graphics produced what is probably the richest, most vivid presentation I’ve seen in a GPS. The Tele Atlas maps looked fantastic on the harman/kardon GPS. While it has a widescreen display, it is one of the smallest GPS devices with a widescreen.

Navigating to an Address

Routing to an address is quite easy and provides lots of guidance along the way. From the Menu you click ‘Plan a Trip’. You can ask it to navigate to an address, place (POI), city center, intersection, postal code, your pre-defined “home”, any recent destinations, or any saved locations. I selected ‘Address.’

The GPS-500 then asks if you for a country, and then state. When you are selecting a state you don’t type anything in, but rather scroll through the list. I pity anyone navigating to Wyoming who will have to click to scroll down thirteen times before being able to select a state. Being able to type in the state name or abbreviation would have been much easier.

After entering the state you enter the name of the city/town you want to navigate to. As you click the letters of the name, other letters on the keyboard become disabled which can no longer be part of the name. For example in my state there are no towns which contain the letters x, y, or z. Therefore the keyboard does not display those letters as clickable. As you type in characters, more letters are removed if they are no longer a possible combination. While this seems simple, it is very helpful and keeps you from making typos.

The Guide + Play will also show you how many cities match what you have typed in so far. This is helpful in determining when you can stop typing in the city and hand pick from the search results.

After you select a city name you use the same process to select a street, and the keyboard again guides you to only possible letter combinations. After you select the street, you type in the house number (and address rage is displayed). The full address is displayed for confirmation on a big ‘Go’ button. A route is then calculated to the destination, and you are taken back to the map display.

Along the top of the display, a status bar flips back and forth between the current street and the next street. Along the left is a large graphic showing you either the direction of the next turn for most intersections, or a representation of the type of intersection in the case of areas like rotaries or highway exits.

Below the turn indicator is a box displaying the current time remaining in the trip, miles left in the trip, and an ETA time.

While navigating, the traditional 3D display is shown most of the time. As you get closer to an intersection the angle of the 3D view increases and zooms in to provide greater detail. This is a fairly standard feature of GPS devices. What is slightly more unique however is what happens when you enter longer stretches of roads. If you don’t need to turn for a few miles the display will go to a 2D mode, viewing directly overhead. The map is zoomed out quite a distance to give you the big picture view of where you are.

I had mixed thoughts about this feature. On one hand getting the big picture view was quite nice. Being able to see many miles ahead on the road gave me a nice overview of how far I’ve gone and how far I need to go, and added a new perspective of the trip. However I also encountered one situation where I came upon a split in the highway. The GPS apparently thought I should go straight and thought the intersection was obvious enough (going straight) that it didn’t zoom in on the split in the road. This happened just once; all other times it switched back to a 3D, zoomed in view when I got closer to the intersection.

Navigating to a POI

Navigating to a POI was very similar to navigation to an address. POIs are called “Places” on the Guide + Play GPS-500. You have the option to navigate to a place nearby, near another location, near the current destination, or near another city in the current state.

The category detail was good, setup in a hierarchy unlike some other devices which use flat lists. For example you first select ‘Food & Drink’, then the type of food you are looking for. The search results display the name of the place, the street address, and the straight-line distance away from your target. After clicking on the place, the name and address is displayed again along with the phone number in case you need to call ahead.

Advanced Routing

You can simulate routes ahead of time. Thankfully you don’t need to sit there and watch the simulation in real-time. While you can’t adjust the speed of the simulation, it at least happens much faster than real-time so that it won’t take you hours to watch the simulation.

Multiple destination routing is available, however setting it up can seem a little backwards if you are used to setting up vias on other devices. With the Harman Kardon Guide+Play you need to enter the addresses in the order you are going to visit them in. So you would enter the “via” first, and then the final destination. You do this by going to the Menu, ‘Route Options’, and then ‘Add Destination’. If you mix up the order you enter the destinations in there isn’t any way to rearrange them. You need to start over again.

This can also be aggravating when you decide to take a different route than what was suggested. In this case you have entered the destination, looked at the route, realize you need a via, then you need to go back and create a new route to the via, and finally add your final destination. Still, at least the device does support having multiple vias per route.

There is also limited detour functionality. From the same Route Options page you can ‘Detour next turn’. Not as advanced as what some devices provide, but perhaps slightly better than making a guess and triggering automatic rerouting.

Voice Prompts

The voice prompts were clear, and loud enough at highway speeds. They were frequent enough to navigate in some tight areas with quick street changes and were very descriptive. Coming from harman/kardon, I expected to get a little more out of the speaker. At the highest volume setting the voice was a little scratchy. Still, the voice prompts were loud enough even when it wasn’t set at the loudest setting so this wasn’t a big issue. There is no text-to-speech.


Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the GPS-500 is inclusion of a music player and a video player. More multimedia file formats are supported than many other GPS devices; take you pick of MP3, MP4, WMA, ASF, WAV and OGG. You can browse music files by song, artist, genre, album, playlist, etc. There are also settings which will allow you to set the volume for voice prompts and the volume for music playback. Personally, I would rather have one volume setting and have the music be dimmed or muted when navigation instructions come in. When the music volume was loud the voice prompts were somewhat difficult to understand, even if the voice prompts were set as loud as they would go.

As with most other GPS devices, the music player won’t be a replacement for your car stereo. I was honestly hoping for a little more from an audio leader like harman/kardon. But plugged into headphones, the music sounds great.

Video is also supported. While videos are playing, navigation is completely disabled as a safety precaution. So don’t expect to be playing a video and have the video pause to give you navigation instructions. The videos play very well; I never experienced any choppiness and the screen produced good rich colors.

Purchasing Advice

There are a few high end GPS features not included in the GPS-500. There is no Bluetooth hands free calling, no text-to-speech, and no live traffic reporting services. Also the multiple destination routing feature isn’t as good as it could be if you frequently need to create complex routes. But what defines this device is the music player and video player.

Therefore this device would be a great match for a college kid who wants a GPS for getting around a new town or getting back and forth from school. The navigation features are easy to use and they will certainly appreciate the multimedia capabilities.

If you don’t need the multimedia options you might be better off saving a little cash and going with something simpler like a Nuvi, or something with more complex routing capabilities like a TomTom ONE. But anyone who wants a GPS with fairly good routing features plus a really nice video player will want to check out the harman/kardon Guide+Play GPS 500.

53 Responses

  1. HI,
    I live in western Europe and would like to use this device here, but how would I get the maps? Is it possible to buy the Guide + Drive with pre-installed maps of Europe?

    Kelly - May 7th, 2007
  2. I haven’t heard if the Guide + Play will be available in Europe and I haven’t seen any map sets available other than what is pre-installed (USA & Canada).

    Tim - May 7th, 2007
  3. There will be a version of the Guide + Play to be sold in Europe w/European maps.

    See: http://www.guideandplay.eu/

    Terry - May 9th, 2007
  4. Does the GPS-500 allow custom POIs? Can I import POI files like safety cameras?

    Tom - May 19th, 2007
  5. The HK GPS-500 is great but they have not come out with an external antenna yet. I installed mine in the lower dash and have heated windows, so I get very poor reception. I have tried and tried to talk to someone at HK, spoke to 3 different people and got 3 different answers. 1 said they don’t make it yet. 1 said they are looking for the correc t antenna and 1 said it takes a “standard” MMCX GPS antenna. I tried two MMCX antennas and neither worked…

    Scott - May 22nd, 2007
  6. Tom – I don’t recall that being an option, and I don’t see any reference to it in the Owner’s Manual. But I don’t wonder if there isn’t some way to do it anyway via SD card, or manually adding a file via USB. If I get some time in the next day or two I’ll try to check it out of you if you are still interested in knowing for sure.

    Scott – I’ve played around connecting a standard GPS antenna I have and it does seem to make a difference. I’m not sure why it isn’t working for you.

    Tim - May 30th, 2007
  7. Tim – What kind of antenna are you using? Like I said, I tried at least three and none of them fit. What brand, item number, connection are you using?

    Scott - May 30th, 2007
  8. That is weird. I’m not sure which antenna I was using previously but I just tried the following antenna which seemed to work fine too:

    Leadtek – GPS Antenna model 9400

    Tim - May 30th, 2007
  9. Just got my unit – no operators manual (just a quick-start manual) – guess you have to already know GPS units to use it. So been playing with it and am confused about the “detour next turn” button – it doesn’t seem to do anything. I would have thought that it would cancel your next turn and recalculate a route that avoids “the next turn” ? Any hints on what it really does or how to use it?

    Greg - June 14th, 2007
  10. Greg, you can download a copy of the manual from the link in the list of specs along the left of this page. As for the detour, what you describe is what I would expect to happen, and what I believe it tries to do. There could be other factors as to why it might refuse to actually detour around the next turn, and I’ll try to check it out on my HK the next chance I get.

    Tim - June 16th, 2007
  11. I did try out the detour function today, and it seemed to work in tune with what the manual suggests it should do.

    Tim - June 18th, 2007
  12. Tim, Are you sure that Leadtek antenna is an mmcx? I searched online and only found Leadtek 9400 series antenna’s with “MCX” not MMCX. HK is telling me to use a standard MMCX antenna and you are saying you used a Leadtek 9400 MCX antenna. Are you using a 90 degree or 180 degree?

    Scott - June 19th, 2007
  13. This is the antenna I’ve been using:

    Tim - June 19th, 2007
  14. Hi,
    Anyone know a good .avi to .mpeg4 converter (freeware) so I can convert and watch movies on the H/K GPS500??

    George - August 2nd, 2007
  15. I just got my GPS-500. Not at all satisfied.
    1) It lost GPS Signal for most of my ride.
    2) Is there a way to force GPS-500 to say street names instead of distance in yards\mile.

    Sam - August 31st, 2007
  16. Sam, I haven’t had issues with the GPS signal quality on the HK-500, however it isn’t quite as sensitive as other chips. If you haven’t already try leaving it outside in the open with a clear view of the sky for about 30 minutes so that it can download and process all almanac information. If that doesn’t help, I’d call HK support.

    Tim - September 1st, 2007
  17. I got my GPS-500, not quite satisfied. There’s a slight problem with the program. I input a city I want to go to, it gave me the city with different zip codes in that city. I see my zip code on there. When I enter my address, it tends to always want to take me to the FIRST zip code on the list, in reality, my address is in the THIRD zip code. So it’s taking me to the wrong place. I guess there is a same address in 2 different zip codes. So if your zip code is not the first one on the list, you’re screwed. They should let you input the zip code also.

    George - September 8th, 2007
  18. Do you have plans to review the Harman Kardon GPS-810 high-end unit?

    Bill B - December 7th, 2007
  19. Bill – Yes, I do. I’m not certain yet when it will be scheduled.

    Tim - December 7th, 2007
  20. George,
    A good freeware converter is called “Super”.
    I use it to convert cell phone movies and camera movies for use with the GPS-810. I don’t have a link. Google it.

    Bart - December 20th, 2007
  21. I have owned a hk gps and my first 1 was faulty I then changed. the replacement worked fine I even used it in my jacket pocket on my superbike and had the ear phones on and just got directions with just audio know visual and it done the job.but my only problem was never had BT and was’nt compatible for a bike cause it was not waterproof.if they make a hk that is compatible
    for a superbike and have the features that the garmin 550 has and look the same and display the same and stay same size as a hk it would be the perfect gps.(also have tmc,spd cams & ply movies.
    oh but have the build quality of the zumo 550 with
    bike bracket and headsets it seriously will be the best gps unit with better gps signals. thats a idea for hk if like to think about building a bike version of the hks. oh and keep the sd slot but up the GB memory for sd.

    Blade - December 23rd, 2007
  22. I had picked up a Harman Kardon GPS 810NA and got to spend time with it on a trip to Seattle. It got us lost, The map started spinning, It missed streets, It can’t find my home. I have one in my 2007 inifiity G35 and this unit as not miised a beat, (Found its way home) But the 810 got lost on the same trip to seattle.

    Tim - February 25th, 2008
  23. I bought the 310 model for $300, why would I want to buy the 500 with the same features for more money? The 310 is a piece of junk. Cant see the display in bright sunlight. Announces the wrong streets compared to what is displayed across the top of the screen. Tells you you have arrived at your destination when you are out in the middle of nowhere. The voice prompts misinterprets large curves as turns & tells you to turn when you are really in a curve.Sends you in different directions to locations you have visited before. Tells you the wrong directions to towns via voice.I have never been on so many wild goose chases since I bought this piece of junk. & its only 2 months old. Im taking it back this weekend they better not give me a hard time. My wife has another brand in her vehicle & it works perfect. But they probably wont let me trade brands , I’ll find out.

    Rich - March 27th, 2008
  24. Please can someone can tell witch antenna goes for the HK GPS300. Browsing the net I saw that there are 2 sorts of MMCX the a one et and the b one.
    Wicht one is the good one ?

    M. Mekri - April 3rd, 2008
  25. Does anyone know if maps of Italy are available for download for the GPS-310 NA? I’m going to Italy for vacation and wanted to use the device.

    Chris - June 4th, 2008
  26. Emm, I like the device, it’s accurate here in Canada, the only thing I would like to see improved is the text to speach option. I’m surprised nobody’s tryed hacking it to add that feature. As a 300 mgh comp with win ce and 128 megs ram, I think it should handle it.

    Erick - June 23rd, 2008
  27. Can any one please help, because i have thin tint in the windscreen so i get a lousy signal, can any1 tell me where i can get a external antenna for the car

    Thanks gareth

    gareth stevens - June 24th, 2008
  28. My HK was probably defective but I wouldnt have another one just because it was hard to see the screen in bright sunlight. The 2 Garmins I bought after taking the HK back for a refund dont have that problem. They are both bright easy to read screens & they are different model #’s. You couldnt pay me to use another HK after using the Garmins.

    Rich - June 24th, 2008
  29. I just bought an HK510. I noticed when entered the addresses to save in memory the GPS did record exact address. I.E. when entered 5515 and saved upon look up it saved it as 5517 all the other #’s were the same and increase of 2. What is the problem do I need to reconfigure this GPS somehow, if so how. I tried reseting but that did not work. HELP. Chuck

    Chuck - June 27th, 2008
  30. Chuck, you need to take it back & buy a Garmin right away. Thats how my HK started acting up & got continuosly worse with more frequent & serious errors. Read my comments above. How can you even read that screen in bright sunlite? Im glad I wasnt on a long distance trip when mine smoked itself or it might have got tossed out the window. HK is JUNK! Buy a Garmin.

    Rich - June 27th, 2008
  31. Is sdhc compatible with 300 na?

    Ace - July 18th, 2008
  32. I tried to update my gps 300 na but on step six the “NEXT” button is gray means to say it wont proceed. I comply with all the requirements. Please help

    Ace - July 18th, 2008
  33. 500 is sucks…because avi, most of mpeg4 couldn’t play.. do not respect about the movie player. i tried a lots and finally i gave up.
    u should convert file to wmv which means u should buy a progrem and it’s not easy job.

    sukhwan - August 13th, 2008
  34. This thing sucks. It got me lost so many times, I would have been better off without it. I’ve used Garmin and Magellan in the past, they were sooooo much better.

    Mel - August 17th, 2008
  35. Mel, You are right on. Its a piece of JUNK! I took mine back after 2 weeks & got a Garmin I now have 3 Garmins in different vehicles with absolutely no problems. HK sucks big time!

    Rich - August 18th, 2008
  36. Mel, Check out my comments #23 & #28 for a more detaled description of what it did to me.

    Rich - August 18th, 2008
  37. Yep, the 500 is junk. Mine worked fine for 12.01 months, then died right after the warranty expired. The best part? HK no longer services the 500. If it needs a new battery while under warranty they give you a brand new GPS. If it needs one after the warranty, HK suggests you buy a new 510. Nice.

    Gary - September 23rd, 2008
  38. Is there a way to update the map and points of interest or am I stuck with what HK GPS-500 currently has as pre-loaded?

    TKP - September 26th, 2008
  39. You will have to check with HK to see what they have available, or plan to make available.

    Tim - September 27th, 2008
  40. I have HK GPS-310na. I have to tell you I am very disappointed with this gps. Has anyone tried to update the maps? There are none. The maps have not been updated since June 2007. Emailed tech support and said, “Unfortunatly, I do not have information on map updates yet. We expect that we will have them in the near future, and when and if they do become available, you will be able find out from the http://www.guideandplay.com website. I am sorry that I cannot give you a more definitive answer at this time.” Upon some research TomTom aquired TeleAtlas so I don’t expect any map updates. I find that I have been essentially screwed. A pretty typical thing in this day and age. Corporations selling snake oil to consumers take your money and say too bad can’t help you. Advice to the buyer. Do your research! DO NOT BUY any of the Harmon/Kardon GPS products there is no support for this product they can’t give you an anttena either!

    Sebastian - January 10th, 2009
    • The TomTom acquisition of Tele Atlas doesn’t have anything to do with it– it is just HK’s willingness to purchase map updates from TA. Since it looks like HK doesn’t have much of a commitment to the GPS market, it is not a surprise they have chosen not to offer map updates.

      Tim - January 10th, 2009
      • Tim, I agree but I feel cheated and I should have done my homework. Now I’m stuck with this until I have money to spend on a new unit which won’t be anytime soon.

        Sebastian - January 10th, 2009
        • Yes, definitely not a fun situation to be in.

          Tim - January 10th, 2009
    • I also bought a HK GPS-310NA and agree it is a piece of junk. Wish I had come to this review site comments. It also cannot be hacked with MioPocket 2.0. Its now a paper weight.

      Sam - April 24th, 2009
  41. hi there,

    can you plz tell me where i can but anothre car charger for this unit as mine has become faulty.

    plz your help will be really appreciated, i cant take the kids out until i get this sorted thank you!!

    suhaila - June 3rd, 2009
    • suhaila, did you try contacting Harman Kardon support?

      Tim - June 3rd, 2009
      • thanks for that i just searched for them and have sent msg hopefully ill get a reply soon enough.. thank you again for replyin to my post much appreciated

        suhaila - June 5th, 2009
  42. well, to start off.. i charged my gps500na, for the six hours. used it for less than hour, left it in my car overnight. that was it. it hasnt turned on since. tried charging it through the usb and my computer wont recognize it either..what should io do?

    freshuno - July 28th, 2009
    • There is a tiny hole on the bottom of the unit. It is a reset button. Stick the end of an straightened out paper clip in there until you feel a soft click.
      When I connect mine to the usb on my mac, it only acknowledges that its charging. With a pc I can update from the website.

      Carol - November 21st, 2009
  43. Hellooooooo
    I bought hk 810 from usa.
    Can anyone guide me how i can use this device in india.
    Healp me out please bcos now it is like papperwait for me here.

    puneesh - August 11th, 2009
  44. My Harman Kardon GPS-500WE refuses to power up even after charging, connected to the PC plus pressing the reset button. Has anyone sorted a problem like this? Could it be the battery and anyone changed the battery and what is the code/name for the battery

    John - May 31st, 2010
  45. Ho perso l’antenna Atlas II del mio navigatore 500 ev potrete dirmi dove posso comprarla?

    mario serra - August 27th, 2011
  46. how do i set up voice directions on harman/kardon gps500 i know it has this feature but cant get it to work

    horgath - August 30th, 2011

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