If you are going to embark on a small road trip, all you really need is your smartphone providing that you have a modern device because the latest smartphones come with a plethora of features including GPS navigation functionality. Combine that with your mobile data plan and you should have no worry reaching your destination. But try bringing your smartphone with you on a hiking trip and you will quickly realize how unreliable the device can be in terms of position tracking. Mobile Internet for more reliable mapping is useless if there is no signal. This is where true handheld GPS devices like the Garmin Oregon 650 come in. This particular device continues the Garmin Oregon series by cramming even more features in a compact package that ends up being a bit cheaper than the high-end Garmin Montana devices.
The Oregon 650 is quite compact with a 3-inch display (240×400 screen resolution) but the device itself is pretty thick. This design approach is necessary so you can get a good grip on the device. The Garmin Oregon 650 is also rugged and waterproof making it a more reliable companion for hiking or trekking on tough terrain and difficult weather conditions.
But going back to the display, there are a few special things that are worth noting. The screen is much brighter for better sunlight readability and the touch display now allows multi-touch gestures. This allows you do things you would normally do on your smartphone such as pinch-to-zoom. The screen can continue to be responsive even if you are wearing gloves. While the screen resolution didn’t get a bump from its predecessor, the map graphics look very good for a 3-inch screen.
Good graphics require a lot of processing power and fortunately the Oregon 650 features a new and faster processor to make usability as fluid as possible whether you want to plan a route or do a lot of map panning and zooming. The Garmin Oregon 650 feels more like a smartphone so even new users should feel right at home with the interface. In fact, the main screen is customizable so you can place shortcuts to all your favorite functions so they are easily accessible. Rotate the device and you can also use the Oregon 650 in landscape orientation.
The Garmin Oregon 650 also features more advanced GPS hardware than the average smartphone. With a 3-axis electronic compass complete with accelerometer tilt compensation built right into the device, the Oregon 650 makes it very easy to figure out your bearings.It is both GLONASS and WAAS-enabled with high-sensitivity making the device more accurate. Garmin’s popular HotFix satellite prediction technology is present in the Garmin Oregon 650 as well which assumes the positions of the satellites up to 3 days in advance for even faster operation. You also don’t have to stand still or hold it on level to get an accurate reading.
All this power could theoretically come at the cost of battery life. After all, smartphones with the GPS function turn on really eat up battery life. However, the Oregon 650 doesn’t have all of those extra background services that smartphones have. This is why typical Garmin Oregon devices can last up to 16 hours straight on the rechargeable NiMH battery pack. Unlike the less expensive Garmin Oregon 600 or 600t, the Garmin Oregon 650 comes with a rechargeable battery so you won’t have to worry about purchasing new batteries. But if you plan on going on a long camping trip, you can always bring extra AA batteries as the Oregon 650 can still accept them. Garmin calls this whole thing the dual battery system which was initially present on the Garmin Montana devices.
The Garmin Oregon 650 does not have the U.S. TOPO 100K maps that are preloaded in the Garmin Oregon 600t/650t models but it is still easy to add map packs like the U.S. 24K maps if you purchase them separately. You can even turn the Oregon 650 into a fairly reliable car GPS navigator if you add City Navigator maps. If you need marine charts, you can simply plug in a card that is preloaded with BlueChart g2 data.
Outside the usual navigation features, there are plenty of other cool things that can be done on this GPS navigator. The back of the navigator features an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. Although high-end smartphones and dedicated point-and-shoot cameras still boast better overall image quality, the image quality of the Garmin Oregon 650’s camera is pretty decent. Plus, you can immediately geotag any photos you take so you can easily revisit that spot on a future date. There is also a community you can join called Garmin Adventures where you can easily share the photos you took through USB. The Oregon 650 features 3.5 GB of internal memory with microSD support so there should be plenty of room for pictures.
It also has enough memory to store millions of caches which is great for those that are into geocaching. Usually, you would have to head to a site like OpenCaching.com and find the caches you want to store. But the Garmin Oregon 650 has a feature that lets you download all of the caches on the site. Since the device has a built-in filtering function, you should be able to quickly find the cache you want to tackle to suit your difficulty preference.
Garmin Oregon devices are great to recommend to friends and traveling companions. Once these people get a hold of their Garmin devices, you can also use Bluetooth to conveniently share data with them. This includes any waypoints and geocaches stored as well as photos and maps. ANT+ support enables the GPS navigator to interact with heart rate monitors and cadence sensors too.
The Garmin Oregon 650 will probably not be the only device to bring for hiking but it is the most essential considering the good battery life and powerful navigation features. If image quality isn’t a huge deal, the camera component can significantly add to the overall value because geotagging can be a lot of fun. This comes with a small premium though as you will have to pay $479 for a GPS navigator that lacks the topographic maps. But overall, the Oregon 650 is a massive upgrade over its predecessors.