Garmin continues to be a leader in making GPS navigators but it faces big competition from smartphone manufacturers. Practically all mid-range and high-end smartphones have GPS hardware built in and the software is good enough for basic car navigation. Plus, there are numerous third-party apps and map databases that can extend the basic functionality of a GPS-enabled smartphone. But Garmin isn’t giving up their loyal user base and the company hopes to win people back to dedicated GPS navigators with the upcoming release of the new Garmin Oregon 600 series. Succeeding the Garmin Oregon 400/500 series, the Garmin Oregon 600 devices are all priced higher but come with plenty of new features. The Garmin Oregon 600t is the device to get if you don’t need the built-in digital camera but want the topographic maps.
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The Oregon 600t is smaller than the average smartphone with a 3-inch display boasting a 240×400 resolution. This screen resolution may seem small compared to a smartphone but it is good enough for map navigation and it contributes significantly to the battery life. The display is also a transflective color TFT touchscreen that supports multi-touch gestures. Although the Garmin Oregon 450t boasts similar screen specifications, the display of the Garmin Oregon 600t is much brighter and can easily be read even under direct sunlight. Plus, you can operate the screen even if you are wearing gloves. This Oregon device also feels a bit heavier but that is because of the added durability of the Oregon 600t making it more resistant to impacts.
The Garmin Oregon 600t features a new processor which not only boosts the overall performance of the handheld but it also allows the display to show higher quality maps that you can really notice when you zoom in. Zooming in and out is easy through pinching and it works smoothly. The processor also works more efficiently so you don’t have to worry about reduced battery life compared to the older Oregon devices. In fact, the Oregon 600t and other 6xx series will be the first to get the dual battery system that is used by current Garmin Montana devices. This system allows the Garmin Oregon 600t to work with dual AA batteries and the rechargeable NiMH battery pack sold separately. Getting this battery pack is recommended because it enables the Oregon 600t to last 16 hours. You can carry a spare set of AA batteries for longer trips.
Garmin Oregon navigators are far more accurate and better performing than smartphones in terms of navigation because of the built-in 3-axis electronic compass. The Garmin Oregon 600t has this important feature as well so you can get your bearings no matter how you hold the navigator. It is also possible to plot barometric pressure so you can track the weather conditions from time to time. This is very important if you travel in highly mountainous areas or other places with tough conditions. Because the Oregon 600t is both WAAS and GLONASS-enabled, your position should be mapped on the screen even if you are in deep canyons or forests.
The Garmin Oregon 600t is also rich in maps since this is the 600t version. The U.S. TOPO 100K maps are preloaded to this device so you get full topographic coverage in the U.S. You should be able to explore wetlands, shorelines, coastlines and lakes. The database is completely searchable in case you need to look for a specific area in a city. You can also look at the elevation profile to see how difficult the terrain is. If you require more data such as the TOPO U.S. 24K maps or Trailhead Series, the Oregon 600t makes it very easy to add these maps to the device. If you have other friends with Garmin devices, you can share waypoint, track and route information to these devices through Bluetooth. With ANT+ support, you may also link the GPS device with other accessories like cadence sensors and heart rate monitors.
The Oregon 600t also wants to be the best geocaching companion. Rather than having you choose which geocaches you want to load to the Garmin Oregon 600t, you can simply download all caches from the OpenCaching.com. Up to 4 million caches can be stored on memory which should be more than enough for geocaching fanatics.
The interface of the Oregon 600t is very friendly and has some elements from the Garmin nuvi devices for cars. You can customize the home screen by adding shortcuts to your favorite apps and profiles. Some of the apps include a trip computer which shows important GPS data such as the max speed in a single screen. There are various layouts available if you need to see more fields. There is also an activity tracking app which serves as a calendar where you can log your activities and waypoints. If you need to delete or edit a waypoint, you can use the advanced waypoint manager and see a full list of the waypoints.
Garmin’s website features a free app called BaseCamp which can help you plan trips for the Garmin Oregon 600t using a Windows or Mac computer. This is useful if you want to see map on a larger screen before you embark on the trip. You can set the waypoints and hiking routes in advance and send it right to the device. You can even add more details by geotagging the locations with photos. A free mobile version is available for iOS devices as well. If you have a BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription, you can add satellite images to the map too.
The powerful features demonstrated by the Oregon 600t show the main flaws of today’s smartphones. Smartphones are next to useless when hiking off-road and the GPS capabilities are unreliable under harsh conditions. The Garmin Oregon 600t is more powerful than its predecessors and the battery life remains impressive. Since there is no rear camera like the Oregon 650t, the price manages to go below $500 which shouldn’t be a problem if you already travel with a digital camera or high-end smartphone.