Sunday, March 18, 2012

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Garmin Montana 600 review

Garmin-Montana-600

Hands on with the Garmin Montana 600

The Garmin Montana 600 is one of three models in Garmin’s newest handheld series. With it’s huge 4” touchscreen, I had initially thought the Montanas were targeted to the motorized crowd (ATV’s, etc.), but after spending over a month with it, I’m convinced that a lot of hikers and geocachers will be attracted to it as well. Before we get into the details, here’s some info on the rest of the series…

Related units

Garmin Montana 600 hardware

Display

The Montana’s 4” display, and the features that the expanded screen real estate allows, are some of the prime factors making this an attractive device. The screen is recessed, giving it an extra bit of protection. BTW, that 4” display offers almost twice the viewing area of the Oregon series (45.19 sq. cm. vs. 23.94 sq. cm.), and more than twice that of the 62 series (19.8 sq. cm.)


Visibility is better than the Garmin Oregon x50 series, thanks to a slightly lower resolution screen (relative to screen size; 2889 pixels per sq. cm. vs. 4010 pixels/sq. cm. for the Oregon series), which means significantly more light can be reflected back to Montana users. Personally, I don’t find it to be a huge difference, but it is still another incremental improvement, making it somewhat better than the Oregon 450.

The screen rotates automatically between landscape and portrait views. Interestingly enough, it only rotates three ways, not four. In the image above, it doesn’t matter if the “Montana 600” text on the body of the device is at the top or bottom in landscape mode, but in portrait mode, the “Garmin” text must be at the bottom; the screen will not rotate 180 degrees from this position. One thing I found as a result of having landscape mode available – I can see all of long waypoint names. Nice!

Screen rotation  is generally fast, taking just a second or two as long as the unit is being held at an angle approaching vertical. Hold it horizontally, flip it, and it can take quite a while to figure it out, even if you then incline it vertically. In actuality, this takes some getting used to, since many users tend to hold the device at an angle closer to horizontal than vertical.

More exterior pics  and hardware details

Here’s a pic of the rear of the device (note that it does not have the spine for the now standard Garmin carabiner clip and mount attachments)…

Garmin-Montana-rear

And with the battery cover removed…

Montana-battery

The Montana comes with a rechargeable li-ion battery rated at 16 hours, or you can use 3 AAs rated at up to 22 hours (for NiMH). You can also see above that I’m holding open the weather cap to reveal the mini-USB port and an MCX port for an external antenna.

On the left side of the device (or top in landscape mode), you can see clips for mounting systems, the power button and a stereo headphone jack that can be used to send spoken directions (when using City Navigator maps) to your car stereo’s auxiliary input.Montana-power-button

The weather caps seemed to secure tightly and easily. Below is the right side of the device (or bottom in landscape mode), showing clips and contacts for the Garmin mount.Montana-clip-side

Finally, on the bottom you can see a lanyard attachment point…

 

Montana-lanyard-attachment

Dual-use

When combined with a Garmin mount that features an external speaker, and City Navigator maps, the Montana can deliver spoken turn-by-turn directions, calling out street names. I have yet to pony up for that combo (though I do plan to test it in the near future), but I have been using the Montana with Garmin’s Topo US 24K, which includes routable roads. I only get a beep, but I am getting turn-by-turn directions, using maps that aren’t locked to a single unit.

Auto-nuvi-mode

As you can see above, there is a “nuvi” mode, which will definitely give you a very nuvi-like experience. It is a true joy to be able to navigate to a cache or trailhead by car, using your handheld. Gone are the days of having to load waypoints to two units.

UPDATE: Here’s a more in-depth look at setting up the Garmin Montana for highway use.

Interface improvements

UPDATE: Here’s a brief video showing some of the improvements:

I covered the items below in my “first looks” post, so feel free to skip ahead if you’ve read this already.

This is where the Montana really shines. The interface brings the best of both worlds, offering the ease of touchscreen input found on the Oregon series, and the easy access to menu items from the 62 series. But that statement doesn’t do the Montana justice; its  access to features is light years ahead of my 62s.

Here’s a look at the Montana’s main menu, which is the screen you’re always greeted with upon startup.

Montana-main-menu

Tap the arrow icon on the right to open the App Drawer.Montana app drawer

You can drag apps between the App Drawer and the Main Menu.

Main-menu-9-icons

If you add more than nine, you’ll lose the names and just have icons. Items in the App Drawer can be rearranged as well.

Also new is a Favorites dashboard, shown below. You can have more than three installed; they will scroll within the dashboard.

Favorites dashboard

Note also the arrow icon at the left of the Favorites dashboard above. Tap it to have the dashboard slide out of sight and get a full screen view of the map. Tap the arrow again and the dashboard slides back into view. Nice!

A Shortcuts feature is available from the Setup menu (also from the Favorites dashboard menu). Shortcuts can be added to the Main Menu, App Drawer or Favorites. This feature is a little buggy, with many shortcuts not working. I did manage to place a working shortcut to the display settings on my Favorites dashboard. Once Garmin works the bugs out of shortcuts, you should be able to access just about any feature with a couple of taps.

One of the big improvements is also one of the simplest, the addition of the menu icon (the icon with the three horizontal bars below at left).

Montana map with menu button

Tap it on the map screen and you’ll see this…

Montana-map-menu

A simple thing, but two less taps than it takes on the Oregon.

UPDATE: See the last part of this post for another menu tip.

One other note – you know how you can tap the power button on most Garmins to adjust the backlight, see the signal strength, time of day and battery status? Well you can add a dashboard there as well. My personal favorite is Shortcuts. So now I can tap the power key and get access to a few functions that would push me past nine apps on the home screen – items like Display setup that allows me to enable screen shots. Very nice indeed. Hat tip to Boyd for turning me onto this possibility.

Other recent features

I recently posted five six reasons to buy one of the newer Garmin handhelds, and the Montana series has all of these capabilities. Follow the link above for more details on each:

  • Garmin BirdsEye aerial imagery
  • Garmin BirdsEye Topo US and Canada
  • Garmin custom maps
  • Advanced track navigation
  • Paperless geocaching
  • Profiles

Garmin Montana 600 performance

Tracklog accuracy

I tested the Montana side by side against the Oregon 450 and GPSMAP 62s on multiple out and back trips. On each of these trips, I checked to see how closely each device could replicate the track it recorded going out with the one it recorded coming back. In general the Montana performed very well; not quite as accurate as the Oregon and 62s, but pretty good for a brand new unit in a test where later firmware revisions tend to improve things significantly.

For example, in one test against the Oregon 450, the Montana exhibited a few track separation errors of up to 35’, whereas the Oregon 450 only had one that large. The Montana wasn’t that much less accurate, but it did tend to exhibit a larger quantity of notable errors.

In a test against the 62s, the Montana had five errors ranging from 33 to 55’, where the 62s rarely produced errors over 21’. The exceptions were a couple of single stray track points laid down by the 62s – one was a 30’ error and another, right up against a large rock face, was off by 45’. At the same location, the Montana showed one error of 15’. This may indicate that the Montana is less susceptible to multipath errors than the 62 series.

Tracklog accuracy shouldn’t be a big issue unless you’re on a knife-edge ridge in a whiteout.

Odometer accuracy

Odometer accuracy was very good, showing results within 3% of that shown by my Oregon 450 and GPSMAP 62s.

Geocaching accuracy

I’ve yet to come up with a good way to test geocaching accuracy. There are just too many variables – accuracy of the cache coordinates, satellite constellation variability, terrain (multipath effects), etc.

So having said that, here’s a very unscientific test. After becoming familiar with the unit, towards the end of my testing, I made some cache runs. I set the units down on top of the cache one at a time and recorded the reported distance to cache. The results are shown below.

Cache Montana 600 GPSMAP 62s Oregon 450
1 5’ 11’ 4’
2 26’ 20’ 23’
3 22’ 22’ 31’
4 16’ 16’ 2’
5 12’ 11’ 20’
Average 16.2’ 16.0’ 16.0’

Pretty good, although I did notice a couple of oddities in testing the Montana. First, it was displaying very bizarre results when I was testing it using the recreational profile. Thirty feet from a cache it would be showing me 300’ away, then drop to a more accurate 30’ or so. When I started testing it using the geocaching profile, this stopped happening. And no, I wasn’t locked to road or anything like that. Furthermore, the tracklogs showed no similar errors, tending to be spot on. Bizarre. Maybe an astute geocacher/reader can point to an explanation.

Even after switching to the geocaching profile, I would occasionally see the compass swing off about 90 degrees from where it should have been pointing. Such incidents were brief, on the order of a second or two, but it does seem to point out a certain immaturity in the firmware.

Altimeter accuracy

I tested the Montana against the Garmin GPSMAP 62s on a number of outings for total ascent accuracy. Testing was done using Montana firmware versions 2.60, 2.80 and 3.10. Over the course of the tests, the Montana reported an average elevation gain of 40.75% over what I was estimating as the actual gain (from USGS topo maps), whereas the 62s was off by only 0.5%. Very disappointing.

However, I’ve seen altimeter accuracy fluctuate wildly in Garmin handhelds from one firmware release to the next, and sure enough the results were very different on my last test using Montana firmware version 3.20. On that outing, the Montana over-reported elevation gain by 9.6%, whereas the 62s under-reported elevation gain by 17.9%. Those readings were taken at the summit. The trip back down had no more than about 30’ of elevation gain as the result of a few slight dips; the 62s reported an additional 15’ of gain on the way back, whereas the Montana added 181’! Sigh. And I’m sure the  numbers will be different again following the next firmware update.

Battery performance

I really like the Montana’s included Li-ion battery. So much so that I never put in three AA’s, primarily because there was no reason to. After a few admittedly short outings (using the backlight timeout), I decided I really should charge the device. Well, it turned out it was still at 80% battery life!

So the tests I ran may not showcase real world use, but FWIW, here they are:

  • No backlight – 10 hours, 57 minutes
  • Backlight 100% – 3 hours, 40 minutes

Both tests were conducted with the unit stationary under moderate tree cover, with the tracklog interval set to record a point every five seconds.

One other nice feature of the Li-Ion battery – you never have to open the battery compartment for charging. Very nice.

As far as recharging goes, it took 5 hours and 42 minutes to fully charge the Li-ion battery via AC power when completely drained.

Garmin Montana 600 pros

  • Large, bright screen
  • Extensive customization options
  • Garmin’s best dual-use unit
  • Li-ion battery (relatively long life and you don’t have to open the battery cover to recharge)
  • Much quicker access to menu items than on Oregon series
  • Accurate odometer and tracklog readings
  • Screen can be viewed in landscape or portrait orientation
  • Easy to hide dashboards to get full screen map view

Garmin Montana 600 cons

  • Relatively bulky and heavy
  • Additional maps and mount required to make best highway use of device
  • No carabiner clip
  • Inaccurate altimeter
  • Immature firmware

Conclusion and recommendation

The Montana series has some great features – a larger and somewhat brighter touchscreen that can rotate between portrait and landscape orientations, an interface that makes it much easier to access settings and switch functions, and a dashboard that can slide out of the way to give you a full screen map view. The ability, at additional cost, to set it up for a nuvi-like highway routing experience is another big plus. I love not having to send trailhead waypoints to another unit.

Garmin has done a pretty good job with this rollout. They were some bugs early on but those are slowly but surely being fixed. In the short time it’s been out, we’ve seen firmware versions 2.60, 2.70, 2.80, 3.00, 3.10 and 3.20.

I’m still not 100% sure what I think of the size of the device, but it really hasn’t seemed too big in my hand. And I’m still waiting on a RAM mount (which is due out any day now) so I can try it on my bike; I’ll be doing a new post on that subject once I’ve tested it.

Most men shouldn’t find the Montana too big; women will smaller hands might be another story, nor is it likely to suit lightweight hikers and backpackers. Yet it should appeal to some other hikers and geocachers, and certainly the motorized crowd (ATVs, snowmobiles, 4WDs, etc.). I guess the clearest statement I can make about size for now is this – if you’re attracted to the feature set, the benefits may well outweigh any concerns about size.

More Garmin Montana 600 reviews

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin Montana 600 resources

Compare prices on the Garmin Montana 600 at these merchants:

 

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

Comments

  1. Nice write-up Rich! I would just add that the Montana has an advantage if you use Custom Maps (maps you make yourself using raster imagery). It will support a total of 500 map tiles whereas all the other Garmin units with Custom Map capability only support 100 tiles. This is a pretty substantial difference, and addresses frequent complaints about the 100 tile limit on other devices.

  2. Thanks for a great write up Rich! Hopefully the accuracy matures like all units before the Montana.

    I’d like to add three things:

    First; the Montana Software Team has been super responsive and very good about addressing any bug or peculiarity no matter how small or user specific. The Oregons software team was good but the Montana’s is even better.

    Second; there is an “.XML” file in the main garmin folder that records crashlog information. If you experience a crash, even if you can reproduce the problem, you should email the software team the XML file as it contains very useful information they can use to identify and fix crash issues.

    Third; setting shortcuts to enable/disable birdseye saves alot of tapping and scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the list. Enabling and disabling any mapset for that matter is made much easier. I know people usually setup profiles for map changes but shortcuts are an even faster way. There are so many great ways to use the shortcuts I’m constantly finding great uses for them.

  3. Rich, thank you very much for producing an informative and useful website. Based on your reviews and user comments posted on your site, I pulled the trigger on the Montana 600 and could not be happier. My primary application is biking and the Montana works and looks great on my bike. I also hike and do not find the unit all that heavy hanging from a lanyard attached to a carabiner on the side of my backpack and stuffed in a side pouch. What I appreciate the most from the device is how flexible it is in configuring it for a particular application and saving the customization as a profile. The shortcut feature is a real time saver. Firmware version 3.20 for me has produced no issues. Installing “open source” topo maps for the NW and Oregon was painless. There’s more advanced features for me to explore, but thus far the Montana has lived up to this technology geek’s expectations.

    Keep up the great work on your site. I’ll be back, for sure.

  4. Firmware ver 3.30 adds a new satelllite dashboard that is the bees-knees! Gives you EPE and GPS elevation along with the satellite status, all in a dashboard!

  5. I see the bug reports coming in for ver 3.30 already. I am running an older version on my Montana 600 (2.x0) and will pass on all these cool new features for awhile. After owning many Garmin products for many years, I have learned to avoid updating firmware unless it has been confirmed to fix some problem I’m having. When we get up to 4.x or maybe 5.x, then I’ll join the parade. In the meantime, I like my Montana fine the way it is. 😀

    • I updated to 3.30, and am getting ready to hit the road for a trip with the Montana. Hope I didn’t screw up!

      • As far as I could tell the only bug was with the sat-dashboard enabled in the map screen and another main menu/Landscape issue which resolves itself when you change profiles. Other than that, no more unstable than version 3.2 or the rest of them.

        Boyd, you must not have an auto cradle. The earlier 2.X0 versions rendered the cradle disagreeable at best. One of the reasons I’ve been updating.

  6. I have the auto cradle and haven’t had any issues with it. But I don’t use the option to automatically switch profiles when inserting the montana in the cradle, and I gather that’s the problem that people were experiencing.

    I found the whole profiles feature pretty buggy on my Oregon 400t, so I tend not to switch profiles very often. With all the other ways to change settings on the Montana I can do what I want pretty easily.

    I’m sure I’ll do an update one of these days, but for the moment I’m content. 🙂

  7. I see that firmware 3.4 was released today… did you enjoy the week you spent with 3.3? This is why I’m waiting, because there are always risks when you perform an update and I’m just not going to do that on a weekly basis. At this rate, if I wait until 4.0 or 5.0 as I suggested above, I guess it will be time to update by the end of the month. 😀

  8. There are actually 5 homescreens which you can use. Just press the left/right arrow when changing the homescreen and drop the new items there (but you probably knew that already)

  9. Hi Rich

    Thanks for all the reviews and information. All the new capability’s are really exciting and appear to make what I am doing a lot easier. My brother and I have 120 acres of woods in Michigan’s UP that I have been making trails and wild life feed plots as well as planing on building a house and moving there in a few years. We also adjoin my uncles and cousins property giving us 440 acres to play on. It goes up from a creek through a swamp to a hillside with up to 20′ high rock ledges and cliffs. And making trails to get to each others property and scenic spots and tie into ORV trails has been tough.

    I have been using my brothers old mono chrome eTrex and the signal leaves much to be desired in the woods. And I also have to zoom out to 2 mile or more range to get my bearings and at that point I can’t tell what my way points are. As not only do I have property corners but also scenic spots I have found and other POI’s.

    I was thinking about the Oregon 450 but I think the lack of a external antenna may be a serious downfall. Not only for the woods but the heavy metal ROPS on my dozer block the signal. Have you used a external antenna. And if so how much does it improve accuracy and does it shorten battery life much.

    Can the 600 show the accuracy in feet from the map page? Some people get kinda excited when you push in a 7′ wide trail on their side of the proper line.

    How updated is is the birds eye view? The last google map for my area was 2007 and there have been a lot of changes since then! With building fields and over two miles of trails.

    Can I export and print maps? I would like to make maps of the property with all the trails and property lines on them. I have a lot of friends come up and I would like to be able to hand them a printed map so when they go for a walk or ride they can find their way around.

    • I don’t have any experience with external antennas, but don’t recall hearing of them decreasing battery life. I’m not sure the cage/ROPS will be a big issue. Is the amount of metal coverage worse than a car or truck?

      Yes, the Montana (and all newer Garmin handhelds) can show the ESTIMATED accuracy in feet on the map screen.

      You can check out BirdsEye coverage before buying it (https://buy.garmin.com/support/searchSupport/case.faces?caseId={49179a70-5310-11df-6ec9-000000000000})

      If you can find a more recent aerial image you can create a Garmin custom map from it and load that to the newer units.

      You can export any tracks and waypoints and print them on a map. There are many mapping programs that will do this.

      Hope this helps.

      • Thanks Rich

        Its not so much that that there is a lot of coverage but what is there is heavy gauge steel. As it has to be strong enough to support the 14900 lbs of the dozer if it should roll over. I have knocked off 10″ dia tree tops and had them fall 20 or more feet onto the cab of the dozer and not dent it. Also since the dozer is all steel down to the tracks on the ground it is well grounded making it act like a RF shield in a computer. With the eTrex as soon as it went into the cab I lost signal.

        But it should be a lot of help as well as fun to play with. It will be nice to be able to get the area of the irregular sized fields I have for buying seed and fertilizer. And I too always loved knowing where I am at and what is around me!

  10. I have a Montana, Oregon and 60csx and have other models over the years as well. I also live out in the woods (much less land than you have, but adjoining a large state forest)and have built trails that I’ve mapped out.

    Never tried an external antenna on my Montana and haven’t needed one.

    The larger and much higher resolution screen will be a huge improvement over your old etrex. Really no comparison there at all, the Montana screen is spectacular.

    I haven’t done any real testing of “accuracy” on the Montana but the chips are the same as the Oregon. Anecdotally, I see some significant errors in tracklogs from hikes I’ve taken. One of the problems is that my home-made belt clip has the unit hanging with the antenna facing down however.

    Any modern unit will get better reception under tree cover than the old eTrex. But all things being equal – outside with a clear sky view – I don’t think you should assume that any of the new units are much better than the old ones. Where the new units make a big difference is the speed at which they acquire the satellites and their ability to keep a lock in difficult conditions.

    All consumer model GPS receivers have accuracy of about +/- 10 meters. They really are not accurate enough for any serious “surveying”. If you are trying to establish accurate property lines, you may be headed for trouble using any consumer unit. The “accuracy” numbers may not be what you think… see this: http://gpsinformation.net/main/errors.htm

    You cannot preview Birdseye imagery unless you own a Garmin GPS that supports the feature and have it connected to your computer. Quality evidently varies considerably depending on location. In my area, it’s excellent. In some places, users are not happy with the quality.

    To make a decent map of your property, you will need to learn how to use “real” GIS software. Garmin’s own software is really only intended for recreational purposes. And you need to keep in mind that their products are really only designed for recreational use, and not accurate mapmaking or surveying. They can be useful tools, but you need to understand their inherent limitations. To get more accuracy you need to take a big step up to professional units costing around $5000, and they are not user-friendly like consumer models.

    • Thanks Boyd

      While I was hopping the accuracy would be better. I was not relying on it as I usually make my trails 50 to 150 feet inside my property line which does few things for me. I disturb the woods less by being able to pick out open area and not take out mature trees. It doesn’t look odd if I swing over to get to a scenic spot. I like winding trails rather than strait roads. And it lest me have some control on who uses my trails after all there is a lot of work and money involved in making them.

      But it is really good to hear that it will work a lot better under trees. Last time I was at the property I took a mile + walk through thick woods that was four miles wide and seven long. From a orv trail back to our place and its not a secure feeling trying to find a spot open enough to get signal.

    • Boyd,

      Thanks for correcting me on previewing BirdsEye imagery. I appreciate it.

  11. Great comparison reviews, Rich. I have some specific questions:
    1. Looking to obtain a hand-held GPS that I can also mount on the console of my fishing boat or kayak. (Large display, easy to read in sunlight)
    2. Want detailed nautical maps of SW Florida Gulf areas. (As add-ons)
    3. Also want the capability of maps of Europe, Viet Nam, China, Cambodia as well as detail maps (topo and roads) of US.

    The Garman Montana 600 seems to fit these requirements.

    Should I write the check?

    Bob

    • I’d say so. I think the GPSMAP 78 series is a little easier to see in sunlight, but it has a much smaller screen and isn’t as dual use friendly.

      As far as point 3 goes, for international maps, Garmin is definitely the best choice.

  12. A few complaints about the Montana:

    1. You can not configure the date/time area of the “Main Menu”. If I have to see the time, I’d like to see the seconds, and change the ugly format of the date. However, I wear a watch, so an option to display something else — barometric pressure? — would also be appreciated. More room for more functions.

    2. When you create a waypoint, the “Note” field is empty. This is in contrast to my Vista HCx, which very conveniently puts in the date and time of the creation.

    3. Also, the Vista would log each waypoint creation in the Calendar application. I discovered this behavior in the Vista only recently and it has proven to be really nice. Alas, it does not exist in the Montana.

    4. Waypoint creation in the Montana is also cumbersome. You have to exit the Map, find “Mark Waypoint” on the menu. When you are done, you have to re-enter the Map manually. On my Nuvi, you just touch the car symbol to begin, and map re-entry happens automatically. The Vista: you push and hold the stick while on the map. Frankly, the Montana is so bizarre compared to other units, I feel I must have missed something.

    5. I have a 16GB card in this Montana. Why is the firmware limited to 10,000 track points and 4,000 waypoints?! Why can’t it just take all the remaining space on the card? This seems to be a common theme in all Garmin receivers, going back to the very beginning.

    6. Can the Montana play MP3 or other audio? As far as I’ve been able to tell, the answer is “no”. Can we expect this as a future add-on from Garmin?

    7. It would also be nice if Garmin would put a lanyard mount on both ends of the unit. This would permit ad hoc bungee cord/whatever mounts to a variety of objects — packs, poles, wrists …

  13. For #1 – you could use the “small data fields” dashboard and have 4 items displayed on the dashboard.

    For #3 – your Montana must be different from mine. When I go to the Calendar, there’s a little yellow tab on every date that something was created. Tapping the date tells you what was saved, for example “2 waypoints marked, 3 tracks logged”. Tapping on this gives you a list of all the items and you can tap them to view or edit. Doesn’t this work for you?

    For #4, there is a better way to do this. Tap the power button, then tap the 3 bar menu > Change Dashboard > Favorites. Now tap the 3 bar menu again and Change Favorites > Add Favorite > Applications > Mark Waypoint. After you have configured this, whenever you want to mark a waypoint just tap the power button and tap Mark Waypoint. No need to exit the map and when you finish saving the waypoint you will return to the exact same screen you were on when you tapped the power button. This is actually fewer taps than the Nuvi and it works from ANY screen that you are on, not just the map.

    For #7 – I agree, Garmin really didn’t come up with a decent mounting solution. We can only hope that they devise something to snap into the slots that are used by the auto mount. In the meantime, I made my own clip and it works pretty well but not as nice as my Oregon. http://stephencreek.com/gpsreview/montana/clip1.jpg

    • (1) Ah, ha! While this is not as slick as the “Status” dashboard, it’s fine. I also see you can install a different dashboard on each “pane” of the Main Menu.

      (3) Two things contributed to that. First, I was only exploring this function at local night on the evening I brought the unit home, and those orange ticks are effectively invisible due to the night color scheme (orange highlight, orange ticks). Second, I must have completely missed the text box below the calendar. Mind you, I recall it being completely empty, even after adding waypoints, last night. Of course now it is working, even track-logs are being noted.

      (4) Though not as seamless as I might prefer, this effectively solves the problem. I can’t seem to add more than 3 such “Favorites”, but that’s a problem for Monday.

      Thank you very much for the response!

  14. You can add more than 3 favorites, but you have to swipe across the dashboard to make it scroll and reveal them. Personally, I think the power button/favorites is one of the most powerful features on the Montana. You can also use shortcuts as favorites, making it even more versatile.

    But the fact that it uses the hardware button (power switch) is the key. That allows you to interrupt whatever you’re doing, execute a command, and return to the exact same place you started.

    For example, if you drag the map around to a distant location and want execute a command, you can use the power button for this and then return to the map browser without “losing your place”. This is something I’ve always wished I could do on my other units.

  15. I’m currently looking for a GPS I could use on my motorcycle and I noticed in your review you were mentioning the fact that your first impression was that this specific model was addressed to the “motorized crowd”. Was that a first general impression or do you find it an worth mentioning alternative to Garmin’s dedicated series for motorcycle?

    • If you are a geocacher or need a dual-use unit for the backcountry too, or if you’re a trail rider, this could be a good solution. For most motorcyclists though, I suspect the zumo may have a better feature set. The one place the Montana beats it is in having a full set of handheld track and tracklog features.

  16. Well I dropped the money on one and got it last nite. Been playing around with it today. And I have to say I am happy with it. One of the things I really like is being able to drag the map back to the center. One of the problems I was having with the eTrex was that all my way points and tracks would be in one corner of the screen and off the map. Also with being able to change from tall to wide I can usually find my way points by turning the screen and not having to zoom out.

    I also like all the home screens it sure does make it nice to find the functions I want with out having to dig threw a bunch of menus. I would have been nice if the manual described what each one did rather than just giving it a name and having to try it out to see what it does. It also took me awhile to figure out how to change the fields on the map dashboard. But once I figured out to tap the field I wanted and I could change it from a list I found that easy to do.

    I was not able to get basecamp to work. But the problem is my old computer. But I was able to get map install loaded and was able to get a topo of the farm loaded but I don’t know if it was the one I downloaded from GPSfiledepo or one that was already on the montana and I changed it from road map to that. But I am really ready to take it to the farm for a real workout.

    I also did not get far enough into it to see if I could put in way points in my property corners and have it draw lines between them. So I could set a boundary in one color line then drive my trails and have tracks put in in a different color for my trails. And I would like to know if it can show multiple tracks in different colors at the same time.

    Thanks Billy

    • Yes, you can show different tracks in different colors at the same time. Use the Track Manager for this. You can’t have it draw lines between waypoints, but you can do this with a mapping program like MapSource and then export that as a track file.

      Sounds like you’re enjoying it. Did you see this…?

      http://garmin.blogs.com/softwareupdates/2011/09/the-need-for-speed.html

      • Thanks Rich

        Its a lot of help to know what I can do with it and how to do work arounds for what it can’t. While I don’t expect it to do everything I want I am really happy with what it does and am looking forward to getting it set to do what I want. And as I figure out how to use it better I am sure I will like it even more as I can see a lot of possibility’s for it.

        • I think you can have it draw lines between waypoints. Just insert the points in the order that you want to connect them into a route. If it looks wrong, then you might need to set routing for off-road (or direct). This should connect the waypoints with a magenta route line. You should also set recalculation to off if using the newest firmware.

          You will probably want to disable guidance text also, so it doesn’t keep telling you how to “follow” the route (unless that’s what you want to do).

  17. Hi Rich. As noted in my GPS Map76 posts, I finally ditched the 76 and got my Montana 600 the day before yesterday. After one day of use I´m undecided as to whether I like it or not. I´ll give you a more considered opinion when I´ve had more time with it, but two things immediately ticked me off, although maybe I’m being stoopid –

    First of all, if I scroll the map away from my curent location to examine something (let´s say there are three locations or waypoints or POIs of interest somewhere), as soon as I´ve finished looking at one POI, I want to look at POI #2 in the same vicinity, but I´m automatically taken back to my current location. Grr – have I missed a simple setting somewhere? Same applies if I accientally generate a pin instead of scrolling (this is happening to me all the time) – as soon as I get rid of it, I´m back to my current location. Can you help??

    Secondly – and again it may just be me – the Garmin mounts seem to require you to use the GPS in landscape mode, whereas I prefer portrait (navigating Track Up, I just prefer to be able to see well up the track). Before I dismantle my marine mount and rotate the cradle (looks easily doable), again, am I being dumb? Am I the only one trying to use Portrait orientation? Should I ditch my old habits and embrace the craze for landscape? Perhaps a “Track left/right” option would solve my problem 🙂

    Finally (at least for now!), the unit crashed on me two or three times during my initial outing. I´ve updated to v3.60, so we´ll see what happens now. I note in the garmin 3.60 blurb that they have added a Page Indicator to the main menu. Um, where, exactly? Are they just referring to the left/right arrows at the bottom of the screen?

    Love the review – brilliant as always – and all the tips and tricks coming out here – many thanks – and look forward to experimenting with the multiplicity of options available on the unit (just as I had mastered the 76, I’m lost again…)

    • Not familiar with the marine mount, but the automotive mounts use a standard Garmin ball and can be rotated into any position you like.

      I don’t quite understand the gripe about scrolling the map. The Montana is pretty much the same as all Garmin products for this. You can drag the map around wherever you like to see multiple waypoints, just don’t punch the return button. Yes, you have to be careful not to actually tap the screen or you get the pushpin. This is pretty easy to avoid once you get used to the feel of it.

      • Thanks Boyd. Ah hah! – well, there´s no ball on the marine mount, and the cradle is attached with 4 screws in the landscape/horizontal position. I´m going to remove and reassemble in portrait position, but it looks like this may interfere with the side adjustment screw (as well as making the cabling untidy). I don´t understand why Garmin should feel that motorists might like to rotate their GPS but boaters won´t! Anyway, we´ll see (I´ll post the results for anyone else intersted in this point)…

        As far as the scrolling is concerned, I´m not conscious of ever having had this problem on my 76, but it could be my dodgy memory. My fuzzy old brain remembers that I had it set so that it did not auto-centre on the current location. No doubt Rich will tell me if that´s right or not. Anyway – I do find it v.annoying: I want to be able to zoom in to a distant POI/waypoint etc, select and view any information, back out, move to the next one and do the same etc – but it is impossible to do this on the go if I’m auto-centred each time (think bumpy speedboat at 40kph – and no, I don´t want to stop the boat every time!).

        As for the pushpin issue, I´ll take your word for it that practise makes perfect!

        • I don’t recall or see an auto-center setting on the 60/76 series. I think it’s just a different setup, as Boyd pointed out. On the Montana, I can move around the map, tap on waypoints, etc. for more info, hit the back button, and the map returns to where I had scrolled. I have to press the back button again to get it to my current position.

  18. Maybe you could attach the whole marine mount to some kind of ball joint, like this speaker mount? http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41HkqCjc4GL._AA300_.jpg

    I still just don’t understand how you would expect the unit to behave in browse mode. On button-based units, like your 76, you use the cursor button to scroll the map around, when you are done scrolling, it returns to the moving map screen. Of course, you can choose track-up mode instead of north-up which always centers your position on the screen.

    If you don’t want the GPS to show your position at all, use GPS simulation mode. You can then choose any location you want as “home base”.

    • Thanks Boyd. The ball joint looks v. sexy, but the one on the pic wouldn’t quite work with the existing marine mount. Still, you`ve given me an idea, and I’m certainly going to have a look at what’s available out there (although getting it here in Manaus would be tricky – it took me 6 weeks to get my Montana & marine mount!). You also reminded me that we’re probably all too spoonfed anyway – yesterday I “mounted” the unit to my motorcycle with two bits of rubber and two bungee cords – it worked fine over 200 miles of dirt and asphalt).

      As far as the scrolling is concerned, I’ve gone back and had another look at what I’m doing, and I think it’s just me not liking the pin and thinking (for some reason) that I had to “return” out of one location before looking at the next one – but obviously this is not the case, so I think I’m happy (apart from the aesthetics of the horrible big pin).

      One other thing – I’d be interested to know of anyone’s experience using the unit in driving rain – the battery cover doesn’t seem to me to be very watertight. Can’t expect it to be like a 76 of course, but it actually looks to me like it ought to have a gasket around it. Mine certainly doesn’t…

  19. Dave Thofern says:

    The answer to this question may have been covered elsewhere, but I’m wondering if it’s possible to load USGS topo maps that have been downloaded from the USGS site onto this unit. I’d like to have the map on my GPS unit match the paper map that I’m holding in my hand. If this is possible, can someone point me in the right direction to find out how to do it?

    Thanks

  20. Sure, it is pretty straightforward to do this, although some knowledge of GIS software will be helpful. This type of map is called a “raster image”. The Montana supports it through what Garmin calls “custom maps”, but there are some limitations. A custom map on the Montana can consist of a maximum of 500 individual .jpg images compressed into a .kmz file. Each image must be no larger than 1024×1024 pixels (1 megapixel).

    Here’s an example of a map that I posted online awhile ago – but note that the Montana has a big advantage because it supports 500 “tiles” where all of Garmin’s other models only support 100 tiles: http://www.gpsfiledepot.com/maps/view/236/

    But really, this seems more like a fool’s errand today, because Garmin recently introduced downloadable USGS 24k maps on their Birdseye service. Unlimited downloads for a year only cost $30, so unless you only want to map a small area or want to make your own maps as a challenge, I think Birdseye is the way to go. See:

    http://gpstracklog.com/2011/05/garmin-birdseye-topo-us-and-canada.html
    http://gpstracklog.com/2011/06/garmin-birdseye-topo-us-screenshots.html

  21. Does the Montana have the ability to pause track recording then resume on the same track log?

    • Not directly AFAIK. One way to do it is to go into Setup > Track > Track Log and set it for Do Not Record. You can set up a shortcut for this. A pause button is definitely a feature Garmin needs to add!

  22. IF this is an essential function for you, I believe you could create a shortcut to stop track recording that would be executed by tapping the power button once. You could then create another shortcut to resume track recording and assign it to a double-tap of the power button.

    But there’s one aspect of track recording that bothers me. You can’t display the track on the map unless it is also being recorded. The only options are

    Record/Show on Map
    Record/Do not Show
    Do not record/Do not Show

    They really should add a fourth option: Do not record/Show on Map

  23. David Combs says:

    I find the Montana difficult to use for navigating to points in the woods. I have not been able to shift from vehicle mode to walking mode. Any hints would be appreciated.

  24. Dave Thofern says:

    Does anyone know why the odometer and track log distances are different and which is more accurate?

  25. There’s a good discussion of this phenomenon here: http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/index.php?showtopic=283256

  26. David Combs says:

    I have another question concerning use of the Montana 650t. I have been unable to interface the Montana with ArcMap. I’m still using version 9.3 of ArcMap. Could that be a problem? Connecting my Garmin 60Csx has always been very easy via DNR Garmin.

    • Your unit may not inerface direcly into DNRGarmin like the old 60 series but there’s an easy workaround…

      Drag and drop your GPX files from your unit to our computer. You can then simply import the files into DNRGarmin and export the data to ESRI via shapefile.

      DNRGarmin has recently announced an update to be released in the near future. It will be compatible with the newer units and have a different name to get away from copyrighted name issues.

  27. Garmin DNR is old software that “talks” directly to the older Garmin units. From what I’ve read, this no longer works with new units like the Montana, Oregon 450 and GPSMap 62. You should contact the program’s authors and suggest that they update their software, since I think this is their problem and not Garmin’s.

    That program turns shapefiles into .gpx files. I am not personally familiar with ArcMap, but I assume it’s a full featured GIS package. If so, there are other (and better) ways to export data and turn it into an actual map instead of a .gpx file (which has a lot of limitations).

    More that I can cover here in a comment, but this forum has a number of related threads: http://forums.gpsfiledepot.com/index.php/board,2.0.html

    • My apologies for the delay in comment approval. This one slipped through the cracks. Comments are held if they contain a URL and I just missed this one. I need to find a way to approve trusted folks like you Boyd, without requiring everyone to register to post comments. Ah the joys of site admin!

  28. No problem Rich, I understand completely. You do a terrific job with the site – just keep doing what you do. 🙂

    Looks like the message go through because David posted his question over at GPSFileDepot and I posted a longer explanation of why DNR Garmin doesn’t work with the new models.

  29. The new data fields in software version 3.63 are worth the upgrade (Boyd). Among them, the “Vertical Dist to Dest.” field finally gives us peak baggers the remaining vertical gain. To borrow a term from the hipsters, it’s “EPIC”!

  30. Dave Thofern says:

    OK, I know this is possible as I did it once before: How can I switch the touch keyboard from alphabetical to QWERTY?

    Thanks

  31. Well, duh! I had it locked in portrait. Thanks for the simple solution as I’d spent a long time searching for the setting that doesn’t exist.

  32. I just bought a Garmin 650t and have been fooling with it for a couple of days. After entering geocaches, I tried to find a good way to delete them (all). The only way I found was to go to the drive in “My Computer” and manually delete the files. Do you know of another way?

    Thanks

  33. Is there a way to install google earth sat. images to a handheld? I have been hunting for this but all I find is how to overlay maps onto google earth to create custom maps. Or is birdseye the only sat images available?

  34. Got birdseye and for my area there is poor quality images, but on google earth it is very good. All I want are small pictures of land and lakes, or parts of lakes. All I can find for custom maps are how to overlay a map onto google earth but nothing to actually get the sat image. Is there a site that has this info? or is it fairly straight forward to get images?

  35. Yes I had image quality set to highest, It seems very spotty where there is good and bad resolution, I had downloaded some images that were poor and some others just several miles away that were excellent, also they quite abit older than google earth coverage

  36. I posted about this earlier, but it didn’t seem to make it?

    You could try GoogleTrail (have not used this myself though) http://googletrail.codeplex.com/

    The Montana is a good choice if you want to make your own custom maps, as it allows a 5x larger coverage area (500 tiles vs 100 tiles on the other models).

    Note that doing this kind of thing violates Google’s terms of use however

    ——————
    5.3 You agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services by any means other than through the interface that is provided by Google, unless you have been specifically allowed to do so in a separate agreement with Google. You specifically agree not to access (or attempt to access) any of the Services through any automated means (including use of scripts or web crawlers)
    ——————

    Regarding BirdsEye quality, see this: http://forums.gpsreview.net/viewtopic.php?t=24582

  37. Thanks for the info I have creatively figured out a way to get the sat. images off of google earth so I will be able to use them for specific spots that I need better definition. Thanks for you site I have learned much and although I myself am not a hard core GPS junkie I am thankful for people that are so people get the best products(including software).This lets me use and learn the maximum benifits of gps.

  38. Another quick question on the 600, I am sure I found a map overlay feature that when two maps are enabled you can move a slider to change the amount the underlying map shows through the top map( topo lines show though sat image), I cannot find this again, I read the manual and it does not say anything about this feature.

  39. I have a Montana 650 and I would like to import the 100’s of Google Earth waypoints and routes I have created. What is the easiest method.

    • I’m not a big Google Earth user, but I do know that there are many ways to do this. Do you have Garmin’s BaseCamp program? If so, you can import a .kml file in BaseCamp and then transfer the waypoints to your GPS.

  40. Hello again Rich
    I’m obviously getting old and stoopid. I’m really not getting on with my 600, and am greatly missing my dear departed 76Csx on my boat trips (I think it all started when I realised my marine mount wouldn’t let me place the unit in portrait position…). Perhaps I should just stick to a compass. Anyway, I now have a 1000km bike trip to plan and of course did my usual – created a path in Google Earth, converted it to GPX and imported it to Mapsource and Basemap. Now I didn’t realise the route-point limit existed on the 600, so when I transfer my route to the unit, it stops at point 250. Question – should I just break the thing up into shorter routes, or if I convert the route to a track using Basemap, and then follow the track, what am I losing in terms of fucntionality? (I really do hate Basemap, incidentally :)… I’ve also just upgraded my firmware to 3.70 – whoopee – well, at least it’s still working, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. Finally, does anyone else have a problem getting their PC apps to recognise the 600? It’s an intermittent issue, but always crops up when I’m in a rush (of course). Never had that problem with my 76 – or my 450 for that matter.
    Keep up the good work.

  41. BaseCAMP – I meant baseCAMP..!

  42. Thanks Rich. That’s what I figured. It seems to work OK – I´m going to do a test run later today. Thanks also for the link – v.useful.

    I find unit recognition fails quite a lot with both Basecamp and Mapsource, requiring me to close the program(s) and unplug and re-plug the USB cable until it comes up. I´m using Windows 7. Perhaps my USB drivers are a bit wobbly, and I´m going to have a look at this when I´ve time. It’s irritating, but not fatal.

    My bike ride will be my first real test for the 600 – normally I have the 450 on the boat, and I use this in split mode (depth and GPS), so all the 600 has to do is sit there and look pretty (and it does, it does :)) On the bike, I will be dependent on the 600. I’ll report back if there´s anything of interest that arises.

    • You might try a different USB port and/or cable.

      • Thanks Rich. In my frustration, I replaced my ports, drivers and cables – problem sorted. Not v.scientific, though – sorry.

        Yes – converting route to track works okay. The limitation is that trackpoints are just a series of numbers, so the points you marked as ‘Crocodiles’ and ‘Bridge Out’ or whatever on your lovely route become ‘289’ and 371′ etc. Not so good. I think on balance it’s better to split the routes. It does make me wonder, though – why, in all the time the number of waypoints and routes and tracks has been steadily expanding, do we still have this limit on route points..?

        • Clive, I haven’t tested it, but if advanced track navigation works with hand drawn tracks, you can add waypoints along the track and have the best of both worlds, being able to see the name of the next waypoint (crocodiles) and the distance to it.

          • Thanks Rich. I tried it, but couldn’t make it work easily. In the end I’ve gone with splitting the original route into six parts. A bit laborious, but I felt I had more control over it that way and knew I would be guaranteed the functionality I want when I’m on the road. I`ll tell you how the unit performs if I get back okay (those pesky crocs can be a nuisance, you know…). 😉

          • Profuse apologies for the delayed feedback. Everything went as planned. Managed to avoid the crocs and return in one piece. The only things I noticed were:

            1. For some reason, occasionally (twice), on a route I had created, the unit suddenly started reversing in terms of distance calcs – anyone else had this problem, or was I doing something dumb? For example I had a route planned from A – B – C etc, say 300km, and the mileage would count down to (say) point B, and then suddenly start counting up again as though my destination was point A.
            2. On the way up I left the unit permanently on…and had to change batteries en route. On the way back, I used the battery-saving mode, and it at least doubled the battery life. Makes a major difference.

            In all, I’m still happy with the unit, although I don’t find it as reliable as the older units and on my boat I always have my Map450S as a constantly-on backup.

            Thanks again for all your hard work and effort.
            Clive

  43. Hi Rich,

    Montana 650t…When preparing for a weekend of geocaching, the first thing I do is to go to the garmin drive on my computer, then Garmin/GPX/delete. Now I have a clean slate to load a fresh GPX file…or so I thought. I just discovered the geocache visits and geocache logs files. I emptied the visits file but don’t have that option with the logs file. Can I delete the folders themselves or might that cause issues?

    Thanks,
    Dave

  44. Other than turning off the screen display, does switching on “battery save” do anything else?

  45. Tim Meikle says:

    Will Garmin 650T export photos and geotags to iPhoto or some other file I can open up in my Mac?

    • I don’t see any reason why not, though I don’t know if iPhoto does anything with geotags. The geotags will become part of the EXIF data included in the JPEG file. You should be able to open them in Garmin BaseCamp BTW.

  46. David Combs says:

    Why are there horizontal lines through the text?

    • Stephen Shoyer says:

      If there are line on the words it’s not visible nor apparent to me. I’ll retype message…
      Hi Rich
      First I thank you for all this expert valuable information you provide.
      I’m planning a coast to coast trip on a Recumbent Bicycle and would love to have your opinion on which Garmin to take with me. Obviously weight and size is an issue. The unit will be mounted on the handlebars and be exposed to UV and Rain and whatever else nature may throw in. I will be stopping at motels so recharging would not be an issue. The most readable in sunlight and also backlighting would be an issue as well.
      Thank you in advance for your time and info.
      Steve

  47. Well Rich I put my hands on several diggerent GPS today at Bass Pro and
    I think Im going with Montana 650, Is there a way to put this unit on a lanyard
    or something? Thanks for the info. on all these units. And I also see lines
    through all the text on our post.

    Thnks
    Ronnie

  48. @Clive

    1. Do you have Setup > Routing > Route Transitions set to Auto?

    2. Check your tracklog settings too.

  49. The big screen is what I look for. But did anyone use it as a chartplotter on small yachts with marine maps from Fugawi?
    ..or the Blue map from garmin?
    Any experience?

  50. Ed Brawley says:

    I just bought the Garmin Montana 600 after reading your very good review. One thing I noticed is that only caches from “Opencaching” are handled as caches, the ones from “Geocaching” are just waypoints. Am I doing something wrong?

    • How are you downloading geocaches? How are you transferring them to the unit?

      • Ed Brawley says:

        I download them from geocaching.com into a file. They ar in *.loc format. Then bring them into a list in Base Camp and then transfer then to the Montana from there. I have tried opening the *.loc file in Map Sourse and then saving it as *.gpx and then into Base Camp and then to the Montana but the result is the same..

        • That’s the issue – you need to download .gpx files from geocaching.com, not .loc. If you’re a premium member you can do a pocket query; otherwise it’s one at a time.

          • Ed Brawley says:

            Thanks. I got it. I started geocaching in 2001 but when they started ‘premium’ and things got complicated I stopped. Now with the Montana I want to start back up but Open Caching has very few caches in Albuquerque and none in the foot hills. Maybe I’ll hide some or maybe I’ll pay the $30/yr. I really like how the Montana has the compass at the top of the map page when navigating to a cache. Thanks for your help. … Ed

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