Hands on Garmin Oregon 600 review
The Garmin Oregon 600 brings the biggest update the Oregon series has seen, adding GLONASS capabilities as well as significant screen and interface improvements over the older Oregon 450. Since handheld GPS are such complex beasts and you could write an entire book on the Oregon 600’s functions, I’m going to focus my review on what’s new, starting with the hardware.
- Step up to Oregon 600t to get preloaded 1:100,000 scale US topo maps
- Or choose the Oregon 650 to get an 8MP geotagging camera and internal rechargeable li-ion battery pack
- To see how the Oregon 600 stacks up against other models, check out our Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart
The screen is one of the more significant changes to the 600 series. Instead of the previous resistive screen, the 600 sports a capacitive, multi-touch screen. The glass screen is mineralized, ala Gorilla Glass, for added ruggedness. While this test makes it seem nearly indestructible, it is not. Still, it does seem pretty tough and I have yet to put a screen protector on mine.
The original Oregon screens had significant visibility issues. The x50 series improved upon that but still needed to be tilted to the best viewing angle under certain conditions. The 600 series screens are now comparable to Garmin’s non-touch units, with great visibility in a wide range of conditions. The picture above was taken in moderate shade with the backlight off. I have seen complaints about the 240 x 400 px resolution, but I haven’t noticed it the way I do on my (160 x 240 px) 62s. And the 600’s resolution is probably contributing to it having such a bright display in a wide range of conditions.
I tested the Oregon 600 with several types of gloves. It performed best with bike gloves and leather work gloves, to which it was nearly as responsive as touching the screen with my bare finger. Fleece gloves took a bit more pressure but worked fine, although the unit was completely unresponsive to my big bulky snow boarding gloves.
It also worked fine in tests with water and using it with sweaty fingers.
The screen is incredibly sensitive and I often found that it would switch screens due to a glancing touch. You may want to consider a shortcut to allow you to easily lock the screen. Which brings us to the…
The Oregon 600 has two buttons on the side, both configurable. Hold down the top (power) button to turn the unit on. You can also choose a shortcut to a menu, setting or application for a single or double tap of the button. The lower (user) button allows three options (hold, single or double tap). You can access these by going to Settings > System > Configure Keys.
Following on the heels of last year’s eTrex 10/20/30 models, the Oregon 600 series becomes the second Garmin handheld line to sport not only GPS but GLONASS capabilities too. This should bring improved reception to users in urban or natural canyons, or northerly latitudes. Be aware that though GLONASS use does impact battery life slightly.
Battery choices: AA or NiMH rechargeable
Like the Montana series, you can use AA batteries or a rechargeable Garmin battery pack (available as an accessory for the 600; standard with the 650 series). The latter allows you to recharge it using an AC adaptor or USB cord without removing the batteries.
The form factor has changed a little, as you can see in the image below. The screen is a bit shorter but wider, and there is a lanyard connector in the bottom right corner.
The rear still retains the metal rail for the carabiner clip and standard Garmin mounts.
A note about maps
The Oregon 600 comes with a very weak basemap; you’re going to want better maps for it. I almost always recommend against getting the “t” models with built-in 1:100K topo maps, since there are plenty of free 1:24K topos available from GPS File Depot. Or you can pony up $30 a year for USGS topos or aerial imagery.
In addition to the customizable physical buttons, the Oregon 600 interface has borrowed much from the Montana series…
Customizable main menu and application drawer
You can access the app drawer by tapping or dragging up the two horizontal bars at the bottom of the main menu screen. You can also drag items between the app drawer and main menu, and you can create multiple main menu screens to each side of the main menu. While you could customize the main menu on previous Oregons, it is now easier to do.
New customization options are also available for the Trip Computer screen.
Shortcuts can be created for apps, menus and settings. These shortcuts can be places in the app drawer, on the main menu or accessed via configurable buttons.
Also like the Montana, the Oregon 600 series works in landscape or portrait orientation, and can be set to switch manually or automatically.
There are also some new features not found on the Montana series…
Automatic compass calibration
This is a first for Garmin. According to the manual…
Your device was already calibrated at the factory, and the device uses automatic calibration by default. If you experience irregular compass behavior, for example, after moving long distances or after extreme temperature changes, you can manually calibrate the compass.
These are also new. You’ll see them on the track and geocaching pages.
Total ascent on the map screen
Those flatlanders in Olathe, KS finally figured out that sone of us would like to be able to put the total ascent field on the map screen. You can see this in the picture at the top of the post. For me, this is one of the best changes in the 6xx series.
Four million geocaches
In addition to the other things I’ve mentioned, the Oregon 600 also has profiles, a wide range of data fields to choose from, advanced track navigation, a nuvi-like automotive mode, and much more.
I saw a couple of significant tracklog errors early on, but have not noticed any since then, so it is possible that a firmware update has fixed this. In recent tests the Oregon 600 has been as good as (and in some case better) than my 62s.
With the tracklog interval set to once per second, the Oregon 600 has been incredibly accurate compared to other units, typically within 2-3% of my 62s on mileage and total ascent numbers.
I’ve heard complaints about the scrolling behavior, and they are true. If you scroll through a long list of caches, waypoints or data fields (and you can scroll really fast), it takes the Oregon awhile to redraw the screen. This can leave you waiting 2 or 3 seconds or longer for something to reappear on the screen.
On the other hand, the device boots very fast. With waypoints, tracks and geocaches loaded, it boots for me in about 12 seconds.
While I did not do a battery life test, there is good information on this on the Garmin Oregon 6xx wiki.
Garmin Oregon 600 pros
- Screen is ruggedized, bright, capacitive, multi-touch
- User-configurable buttons
- Relatively mature firmware
- Total ascent can now be shown as a map screen data field!
- Easier to customize main menu
- You can create shortcuts to apps, menus and settings
- Lots of free maps available
- Accepts AA batteries or rechargeable Garmin battery pack
- Automatic compass calibration
- Improved geocaching and track screens
- Landscape or portrait orientation
- Using the GGZ file type, the Oregon 600 can hold up to 4 million geocaches
Garmin Oregon 600 cons
- Barely touching the screen will change it; most users will want to use the screen lock feature
- Weak base map
Conclusion and recommendation
Recommended. I know some of the early reviews for this series were glowing, but it is not a perfect unit. Still, it has probably got the most mature firmware (at release) of any recent Garmin handheld. The list of improvements is long and welcome, and having total ascent available for the map screen may cause me to give up my 62s for mountain biking. I used to prefer the 62s for fixed mount use, since I could easily use its buttons toggle between screens without looking at it, but I mainly used that to get to total ascent on the elevation screen. Hmm, I may have to pony up for a BirdsEye Topo subscription for my 600!
More Garmin Oregon 600 reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin Oregon 600 reviews have been posted at Amazon
- A review from GeoCass UK Geocaching
- And one posted on the Houston Geocaching Society forum
I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…
Other Garmin Oregon 600 resources
- The Garmin Oregon 600 owners manual
- An Oregon 600 FAQ
- Our Garmin handheld GPS comparison cart
- The Garmin Oregon 6xx series wiki
- The official Garmin Oregon 600 web page
Compare prices on the Garmin Oregon 600 at these merchants:
- Check the current Garmin Oregon 600 3-Inch Worldwide Handheld GPS price at Amazon
- Check out the Oregon 600 at REI.com, where satisfaction is guaranteed and members get 10% back on eligible purchases
- Get the Garmin Oregon 600 at GPS City
- Buy the Garmin Oregon 600 direct from Garmin