Hands on with the Garmin 64s
When the Garmin GPSMAP64s was announced this winter, I was pretty excited. The older 62s is my go-to handheld, and I was psyched to see new features like GLONASS, smart notifications and preloaded geocaches. So let’s take a closer look at them…
The 64s offers not only GPS, but support for the Russian GLONASS constellation as well. GLONASS has a reputation for being helpful in northerly latitudes and canyon-like environments, so I was curious to see how well it would perform in the the absence of those conditions. All my testing was done in the southern Appalachians.
I was a bit surprised to see that it actually seemed to outperform my 62s. In the image below you can see a place where the 62s (in red) threw a few stray trackpoints on a straight stretch of fire road.
The same thing happened in a more canyonesque environment too…
The above image is from an out and back mountain bike ride, which allowed me to look at track separation — how faithfully the unit records the same track on the return portion of the trip. The 64s had a bit more tendency for track separation, but the glaring stray trackpoints error of the 62s bothered me much more.
Still not convinced? Check out the 62s’s tendency to wander at two breaks I took on another ride (below).
I did not have time to do any waypoint or geocache testing with the 64s, but I was impressed with its track recording performance.
With 250,000 preloaded caches from geocaching.com, you’re likely to always have some nearby caches loaded when you travel. The screenshot at right shows coverage in downtown Charleston, SC.
Owners of an iPhone 4s+ can get texts, emails and alerts, right on the screen of their 64s. The Bluetooth-enabled 64s also allows you to use the Garmin Connect mobile app to share your location via LiveTrack (as long as you’re within cell phone range).
I’m an Android user, so I didn’t get a chance to test this feature out. According to a recent news release from Garmin though, this feature is coming to Android users.
Buttons vs touchscreen
Should you go for a touchscreen like the Garmin Oregon series, or a unit with buttons like the 64s? Here’s a couple of use cases where they may make a difference…
Mountain biking – With the buttons found on the 64s, you can change screens on the fly, without having to take your eyes off the trail. This would apply to many other fast moving trail sports such as snowmobiling, etc.
Entering waypoints – No doubt about it, if you’re doing extensive naming of waypoints in the field, a touchscreen is much faster than the virtual keyboard found on the 64s.
Other performance notes
My 62s has a bad habit of picking up my prior location and including it in the current track, even after I clear the tracklog at the trailhead! I never saw this occur on the 64s.
Mileage and elevation gain data appeared to be accurate, generally with 1-2% of the numbers reported by my 62s.
The interface is nearly identical to the 62s, which means less bugs but it also means you won’t see things like the new style of track manager found on the Oregon 600 series.
All the returning features
I won’t go into all the details here, but you’ll find many of the features that have made it worth upgrading your handheld in the last few years — compatibility with BirdsEye satellite imagery and topo maps, Garmin custom maps, advanced track navigation, paperless geocaching and activity profiles.
While I did not have the time to put the unit through the rigorous tests I have in years past, from what I have experienced the 64s has perhaps the most mature firmware of any new Garmin handheld released in recent years.
The only bug I’ve noticed is the need to go into settings to manually disable and re-enable my tempe temperature sensor each time I use the 64s. Hopefully that’s a bug they can straighten out in short order.
- Drop down to the GPSMAP 64 and you’ll lose wireless data sharing, the barometric altimeter, triaxial electronic compass, smart notifications and live tracking
- Or step up to the GPSMAP 64st to add pre-loaded 1:100,000 scale US topo maps to the 64s feature set (but with all the free maps available, there’s little reason to spend the extra bucks)
- Stick with the older 62s and you’ll lose GLONASS support, smart notifications and the preloaded geocaches
- To see how the GPSMAP 64s stands up against other Garmin models, check out my Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart.
Other Garmin GPSMAP 64s resources
- The Garmin GPSMAP 64s owners manual
- Use this chart to compare the 64s to other Garmin handheld GPS models
- The official Garmin GPSMAP 64s web page
Compare prices on the Garmin GPSMAP 64s at these merchants:
- Check the current GPSMAP 64s price at Amazon
- Check out the deal on the 64s at REI.com, where satisfaction is guaranteed and members get 10% back on eligible purchases
- Buy the Garmin GPSMAP 64s direct from Garmin