September 15, 2021 7 min read
Since the new Garmin Alpha 10 handheld was released, one of the most frequent questions that we got was, “How does the Garmin Alpha 10 handheld compare to other Garmin handhelds?” In an earlier article, we covered the Garmin Alpha 100 vs Alpha 10 handhelds, but now it’s time to discuss the differences between the Garmin Alpha 10 and the PRO 550 Plus handhelds and help you decide which one would fit your needs the best. If you are not familiar with either of these handhelds, we suggest checking out our articles: Introducing the Garmin Alpha 10 Handheld and Garmin PRO 550 Plus Review.
If you are looking for a training system more than a tracking system, the PRO 550 Plus is going to be your best choice between these two handhelds. The Garmin PRO 550 Plus system was designed to be a training and tracking system, with more focus on training ability while also having the added feature of a tracking display. As far as training features, both the PRO 550 Plus and Alpha 10 include stimulation (momentary and continuous), tone, and vibration.
The main reason why the PRO 550 Plus may be the better training system is the controls and ease of use when needing to train your dog. The PRO 550 Plus features three training buttons on the front face of the handheld. These buttons include a tone button, as well as low and medium training buttons (these buttons also function as vibrate and on/off of beacon lights). The low and medium buttons when pressed together work as a high stimulation button. Also, the PRO 550 Plus incorporates a level selector dial on top of the device that can be easily changed from “V” for vibration, through levels 1 to 6. When set to “V,” both the low and medium buttons turn into vibration correction. Another great attribute of the PRO 550 Plus is the toggle switch to quickly change the settings between momentary, auxiliary, and continuous with a simple flip of a switch. If you’re familiar with older Tri-Tronics transmitters, then you would be pleased to know that the body design and functionality are very similar, but the PRO 550 Plus offers some of Garmin’s latest technology to make it a leading contender in the dog training market.
The Garmin Alpha 10 features a single training button that is programmable in the settings. The button can be programmed to be vibration, tone, momentary, and continuous like the PRO 550 Plus’s abilities. Unlike the PRO 550 Plus, which training methods can be quickly changed either by using the dial on top of the handheld or by using one of the three buttons on the front face, the Garmin Alpha 10 training button has to be changed in the menu settings. This takes multiple clicks to reach. Unfortunately, this is a considerable amount of time if you’re in a situation that requires immediate correction. This may be more problematic for some users if their dog is new to training or not well-trained. For more information on changing the training setting of a Garmin Alpha 10, see our YouTube video: Garmin Alpha 10 – How to Pair Your Alpha 10 and Collar, which covers both pairing a collar, as well as goes over the button controls and how to change the training settings. One neat feature of the Alpha 10 is that each dog can have its own training setting, so if you have one dog that only needs a tone or vibration correction and another dog that needs a simulation, all you have to do is be on the correct dog and the training button will be changed to the pre-programmed level and setting.
Both the PRO 550 Plus and the Alpha 10 can be paired to the T5, TT15, T5 Mini, and TT15 Mini collars. The main difference is that the PRO 550 Plus handheld is limited to pairing with only three collars, whereas the Alpha 10 handheld can be paired up with up to 20 collars and/or devices, much like its Alpha 100 predecessor. Similarly, the Alpha 10 handheld also has the ability to be paired up with other handhelds (Alpha 100, Alpha 200i, and Astro 430), giving it the ability to actively track up to 20 collars and handhelds.
When it comes to compatibility with other devices, both the Garmin PRO 550 Plus and Garmin Alpha 10 handhelds can be paired with the Drive Track in-car navigation systems, Fenix series watches, Instinct series watches, and the Garmin Explore app.
When it comes to handheld size, the Garmin Alpha 10 is the smallest tracking handheld made by Garmin, coming in at 2.3 inches wide, 4.8 inches tall, and 1.1 inches thick. The PRO 550 Plus is a very slim handheld, but is also very tall. The PRO 550 Plus comes in at 1.8 inches wide, 11.4 inches tall and 2.1 inches thick. Even with the Alpha 10’s small and compact size, it is still fitted with a 1.8 inch diagonal screen, which looks large compared to the PRO 550 Plus’s 1.28 inch diagonal screen.
Size matters. A larger screen size, such as the one on the Alpha 10 handheld, has the ability to display more information at one single time. The Alpha 10 takes advantage of this by providing tracking data for up to three dogs at the same time. The PRO 550 Plus handheld is limited to only showing a single dog’s tracking at one time. The Alpha 10 also gives you more information, like your handheld's battery life, signal strength, direction of travel, as well as what training setting is programmed to each of your dogs.
In terms of tracking range, the Alpha 10 handheld beats out the PRO 550 Plus abilities hands down. When the Garmin PRO 550 Plus handheld first came out, we were really excited about it because it offered both tracking and training abilities, although the one thing that we were disappointed with was the unfortunate lack of range. The Garmin PRO 550 is advertised to max out at 2 miles in-range, no matter which tracking collar it is paired up with. Regardless if you were using the T5 and TT15 mini collars, or the T5 and TT15 full size collars, you were going to max out at around 2 miles. We should also note that unlike most transmitting devices (think walkie talkies that claim 18-mile ranges, but you end up getting nowhere near that), The Garmin PRO 550 was fairly spot-on. In our staff and customers experiences, we were able to get close to or even achieve the full 2 miles.
When Garmin sent us the Alpha 10 handheld to field test, we were again worried about its range, especially when seeing how much smaller it was compared to the Alpha 100 and Alpha 200i handhelds. But I must say, we were very pleased to find that it was able to get the same range as the larger handhelds. The Garmin Alpha 10 handheld is advertised to get 9 miles when paired with the T5 and TT15 full size collars and 4 miles when paired with the T5 and TT15 mini collars. The actual range you will get with these collars will be less than advertised due to terrain and other factors, but you’ll still get much more than you will with the PRO 550 Plus.
Both the PRO 550 Plus and Alpha 10 handhelds feature a non-replaceable lithium-ion battery. The big difference between the two is the massive battery life that the Garmin Alpha 10 is able to get. The Alpha 10 is capable of 40 hours of active use and up to 1 week of standby battery life. This battery life is absolutely amazing for a tracking device. The PRO 550 Plus features a still-impressive 24 hours of battery life. The battery life difference here is likely due to the type and size of battery used in these handhelds. The PRO 550 Plus uses the same battery from the other PRO series handhelds, which were not designed with the need of powering a display screen. Little is known about the Alpha 10 battery. As of now, Garmin has not released any additional information on this battery, nor do they offer any replacement batteries. If you are looking for the ability to go on a multi-day hunt without charging in-between, there is no better choice than the Garmin Alpha 10 handheld when it comes to battery life.
Tracking systems can be expensive; the newer Garmin systems can cost as much as $1,000. This can be a major factor when deciding which system or handheld to get. The good news here is that the Garmin PRO 550 Plus and Alpha 10 handhelds are the exact same cost at $399.99. This means that the systems would be the same cost, even including the TT15 and TT15 mini systems coming in at $649.99.
When compared to other tracking systems, like the Alpha 100, Astro 430, and Alpha 200i, both of these systems are vastly less expensive. The price for each of these systems is displayed in our graphic below.
Ultimately, when deciding between these two systems, it mainly comes down your intended usage and the number of dogs that you are going to be tracking and/or training. If you are going to be tracking or training more than three dogs at the same time, a system like the PRO 550 Plus wouldn’t be the best choice. Also, if you are going to be hunting in groups with other hunters that are running a Garmin tracking system and you would like to track their handhelds, the PRO 550 Plus again would not be a good choice. However, if you are looking to train up to three dogs, but also want the ability to track your dogs, the PRO 550 Plus by far the easiest handheld to train with that also has tracking ability. The Alpha 10 really shines when you have well-trained dogs that don’t require a lot of correction, especially if you prefer a small, compact device as an insurance tracking device. Both devices can be connected with the Garmin Explore smartphone app to provide additional dog data and mapping.
Are you looking to get the Garmin Alpha 10 or PRO 550 Plus, but already have an older Garmin handheld, or even the latest systems? Lion Country Supply accepts trade-ins on Tri-Tronics and Garmin E-Collar systems, extra collars, and handhelds. The trade-in value you receive can be used on your purchase of the Garmin Alpha 10 handheld or other Garmin systems through Lion Country Supply. We will be accepting both working AND non-working electronics. Please include chargers and accessories if available. For more information on the trade-in program see: LCS Trade-In Program.
If you have any questions on the new Garmin Alpha 10 or the Garmin PRO 550 Plus handhelds, leave a comment below, give us a call at 1-800-662-5202, email firstname.lastname@example.org, contact us on social media, or message us during business hours on our live chat feature.
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