The Garmin Montana series was first announced back in May 2011 and it represented the top tier category of GPS navigators for hikers and other people that frequently go on the trail. Every year, Garmin releases new GPS products but in 2012, no new Montana products were announced. In January 2013, Garmin announced an update to the cheaper Oregon series. Garmin could pull off a surprise and announce an update to the Montana series later this year but you won’t really need to wait because the flagship Garmin Montana 650t GPS navigator is that good. Discover in this review how the Montana 650t still feels like a modern GPS handheld for 2013.
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The Garmin Montana 650t has a 4-inch LCD touch display with a 480×272 screen resolution. This puts this screen in line with Garmin’s mid-range 4-inch Garmin nuvi devices. While the screen doesn’t sound premium for a flagship device, the display is impressively bright and you can see all of the details even under direct sunlight. It is also far more rugged than any Garmin nuvi device so you won’t have to worry about dropping the device, dunking it in water or exposing the device to harsh elements. If you purchase the auto mount, you can actually use this Montana device as a pretty basic car GPS navigator.
Weighing 10.2 ounces, the Montana 650t is nearly twice as heavy as the Garmin Dakota and it might be a bit heavy and bulky for some.But the impressive performance and durability make this device a better consideration than any smartphone or single-purpose GPS device.
The 4-inch screen opens up more room for a solid user interface. Useful statistics like the time, date, bearings and signal and battery levels show up as a widget on the home screen. The home screen also provides quick shortcuts so you can view the map, plan a route, mark a waypoint or use the compass. Maps look very detailed and you can hold the handheld horizontally to change the map orientation. The landscape mode is actually best if you plan on using this GPS device for driving. If you explore this GPS device, you can discover many other features including a waypoint manager and a sun-and-moon calendar.
The mapping performance of the Garmin Montana 650t is excellent since this receiver is WAAS-enabled and it uses the HotFix satellite prediction technology to acquire the precise location of satellites through clever prediction methods. It also has a 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass which enables you to acquire your bearings while moving or standing still.
One major advantage in getting the Montana 650t over the other Garmin Montana devices is the TOPO U.S. 100K maps that are preloaded in the device. This map pack covers various hydrographic features across the US. Those into off-road travel should consider this extra feature because the database is fully searchable and you can find out which routes are more difficult based on the shown elevation levels. You can also expand the usefulness of the Garmin Montana 650t beyond ordinary off-road trekking by adding other maps. The TOPO US 24K maps, for instance, provide greater topographical detail at a 1:24,000 scale.If you have are subscribed to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery, you may add high-quality satellite images to your maps too. Adding City Navigator maps can effectively turn the Montana 650t into a pretty efficient car GPS navigator complete with turn-by-turn directions. Boaters can also add BlueChart g2 cards to get the proper mapping functionality on the water. The proper mounts are required for these extra functions.
The Garmin Montana 650t provides simple geocaching tools for geocaching fanatics. Downloading the information to the device is simple and you can then share the info wirelessly with other people that own a Garmin handheld GPS device. Route, track and waypoint information can be shared as well.
The amazing thing about the Montana 650t is how long the battery lasts. For general usage, you should be able to use the device for more than a day. The battery is rechargeable and it keeps the compatibility with AA batteries so you can carry extra batteries just in case you cannot charge the battery during the trip. With this dual-battery system, you can also do things like charging the rechargeable USB battery in the car with the USB car power port charger and then using three AA batteries to continue your trip.
Another cool thing that the Garmin Montana 650t has is a 5-megapixel camera planted on the back of the GPS device. It may not outperform the point-and-shoot or smartphone you may take with you on your trip but it should be able to take decent shots of outdoor scenery. Plus, you can immediately geotag the pictures you take to conveniently associate every photo in the collection with a location. These photos can be transferred to the computer via USB cable with the help of the Garmin BaseCamp software that is available in the Garmin website as a free download. Even if you don’t add an SD card, the Montana 650t has a storage capacity of 3.5 GB which should be able to store thousands of images.
The newly announced Garmin Oregon 650t features a similar feature set to the Montana 650t but the Oregon has a smaller screen and a superior camera and internal processor. It is likely that Garmin will bring these extra enhancements to the upcoming Montana devices so you might want to wait if you really need a better camera. But right now, the Garmin Montana 650t remains as one of the most versatile Garmin devices to date. If you don’t have any other GPS devices, it could be a smart move to spend $599 on this device since you can always buy mounts and maps if you want to do more things with your GPS device. If $599, you could save quite a bit by getting the Montana 650 which lacks the topographical maps or the Montana 600 which doesn’t have a rear camera.
Update: There is a newer model > Garmin Montana 680t