Sunday, March 18, 2012

Why people love (and hate) Garmin

Garmin recently released a firmware update for the nuvi 2×5 series, which was introduced four years ago and discontinued in June of last year. This extended support for previous generation products is one of the reasons why people love Garmin.

On the other hand, here it is four years later and they are still finding things to fix. That may not be a fair statement in regard to this particular release, but it is true that Garmin and the entire GPS industry have a reputation for delivering products that typically need several firmare updates to straighten out initial bugs. Handheld devices, which  are more complex, tend to see an even longer development cycle to ensure that they work properly. And hate may not be too strong of a word for how some owners feel about that!

So that’s the yin and yang of it. I was just struck by the duality of this release and wanted to share.

About Rich Owings

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


  1. Atlas Cached says:

    Certainly, the Oregon took a couple years to become everything it could be… and be reliable doing so. Of course, I still feel there is much room for improvement with the Oregons.

    Now I have adopted the latest and greatest from Garmin with a Montana 650. It has a long way to go, and I have no doubt Garmin will be improving the unit for at least the next two years. Even out of the box, it does most things better than the Oregon with latest firmware.

    So, indeed, I do LOVE that Garmin continues to update, improve, innovate with their GPSr units, while I certainly HATE having to wait so long for my top dollar GPSr to run as expected and advertised!

    Guess it just goes to show, you can’t have your cake and eat it too!

  2. The one Garmin I own doesn’t have a single firmware release that I know of that is bug free. You have to trade off the bugs you can live with against the features you want.

    Further to that it is thoroughly annoying to install Mapsource or maps (I forget the exact situation) and have it forceably update your unit to the latest firmware without asking.

    Garmin is only king because they are the largest, not necessarily because their products are any better.

  3. I wish I knew how Garmin decides which units get extended support and which do not. I have a first generation Oregon unit, and less than three years after introduction they stopped providing fixes and updates that have continued on the very similar second generation units.

    If I look at the dollars and cents versus years and months, I spent over $100 per year of firmware fixes and updates received. That’s not providing the value I expect.

    • Brian, as another early Oregon adopter I can’t really agree with that. Garmin continued adding significant new functionality to the Oregon series long after its release in July 2008.

      Multiple .img file support was introduced in June 2009
      Custom maps came along in October 2009
      New dashboards introduced January 2010
      Birdseye became available in March 2010
      New geocaching features in summer 2010
      Chirp support October 2010

      You are correct that the last bug fix update appears to have been May 2011, but I don’t know that you can conclude there won’t be more updates in the future. I certainly feel like I got my money’s worth with my Oregon 400t, and I recently gave it to a friend after upgrading to a Montana.

      Garmin has never added new features like the ones listed above to any other products that I know of. They certainly haven’t done this on the Nuvi line. And older products like the GPS60csx or eTrex Legend never got these kinds of updates that added completely new functions.

      Really, the Oregon x00 series leaves a lot to be desired in today’s market, mainly because of the screen which can be hard to read under many lighting conditions. That’s not something Garmin can fix with a software update unfortunately.

      • Hi Boyd,

        It sounds like the only we don’t agree on is value. I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that one. I found the Oregon very nice, but overpriced, for what it delivers (including the new features, although clearly they improve the value proposition; I only use two of them). I’m also disappointed the the bug fixes and improvements for existing features (especially: improved GPS response at low speeds) provided for the second gen units over the last year have not been released for the first.

        • Fair enough Brian. But one of my points was that I would have been ready to replace my Oregon after three and a half years even if Garmin had fixed EVERYTHING with the firmware, since I got tired of the poor screen visibility and wanted other features offered on the new devices.

          No argument that it was an expensive device when I bought it in 2008, but nobody twisted my arm and made me buy it. 🙂

  4. Dion Dock says:

    In my unscientific survey, my friends with Garmin Edge units have a 100% failure rate (Jason, Laurent, Ernie, Shawn) and my Gpsmap 60csx failed (Enter button quit working).

    We must love them, since half the Edge units were replaced and I had my 60csx “repaired”. My $110 repair was easier to justify than the $300+ for the 62.

  5. Rich,

    I was actually really wondering about the latest firmware update. It surprised me when i saw a firmware update available for my old unit.

    The version 5.30 was released well after my Nuvi 760 has gone EOL. Is the update worth it? Am I going to succumb to “the latest isn’t the greatest”?

    The “changelog” that Garmin provided is less than useful:


  6. I need some help picking out a GPS unit. We just moved to Denver. I ride a road bike, we plan on hiking some, and we ski. The main use for the GPS will be on the road bike. I would like to plot out a route before I leave and download it to the unit with turn by turn directions. When we hike we’ll have it with us as well but I don’t think we’ll do any type of serious off path hiking. We don’t back country ski, yet. I would like to download from gpsfiledepot and mapmyride. I don’t plan on making any routes.

    What would be your ideal unit for us and what would be your budget conscious unit?


    • You’ll need to add road maps to whatever device you get to be able to do turn-by-turn directions, so figure that into the cost.

      Ideal unit – Garmin GPSMAP 62s
      Budget model – Garmin eTrex 20

  7. Jerry gonyer says:

    i have 2 garmon hand held gps units, 1st is about 10 years old and i never figured it out. Sat in a drawer. Just bought latest and greatest with marine maps ect, $500.oo bucks down the drain. Small screen, cant read in daylight, confusing to operate, back in the drawer. Turns out a $5.00 download to my smart phone is easy to use, easy to read in daylight, and does more than my $1,000.00 garmon handhelds ever did.
    To be fair th Garmon, the gps in my truck works fine. Any comments from the peanut gallery?

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