GPS technology has come a long way in recent years. Touch-screens that display Ordnance Survey mapping are now standard issue, but Garmin’s Montana 650t has a massive 4 inch screen and is billed as the ultimate in touch-screen hand-held devices. So what makes it so special, and does it offer the walker anything new?
The Montana has been designed to be rugged, portable and incredibly versatile, so that it matches the need of just about anyone going outdoors. For me the main appeal is the 4 inch colour screen as it allows the user to clearly see around 6 square kilometres of OS 1:50,000 mapping without the need to scroll. That makes route-finding and route-planning so much easier than units with smaller screens (this has been my main criticism of many other GPSs).
Usability is essential with any GPS receiver, though, and the operating system is a breeze to use thanks to very clear icons and a generally user-friendly design. The unit is operated via the touch-screen interface and this does work well, although personally I still think buttons are a little easier when wearing winter gloves for example.
Unlike most outdoor GPS receivers the Garmin Montana 650t is designed to work in a variety of situations and so it includes a wide range of navigational tools including turn-by-turn city navigation software. This is not quite as slick as dedicated in-car satnavs such as the Garmin’s own Nuvi range for example, but as it has OS mapping it is incredibly useful when driving in the countryside and looking for a place to leave the car when going for a walk.
The Montana is powered by a rechargeable battery but it can also be fitted with standard AA batteries, so it is not a great problem if the supplied power pack dies. It’s also fully waterproof and the housing is very tough so it feels like it can take a hammering. I love everything about the Montana, but it’s now time to perfect the price as this would really make it the ultimate piece of outdoor technology for navigation.
Price £430 (Montana 600); £500 (650); £550 (650t)
Display 9x4cm colour touch-screen
Features waterproof; microSD card slot memory; electronic compass; altimeter; OS mapping; 600: worldwide base map; 650: worldwide base map, 5Mp camera; 650t: worldwide base map, 100k Euro topo mapping, 5Mp camera
Power 3 x AA batteries or supplied rechargeable lithium battery
Battery life 16 hours (lithium); 22 hours (3 x AA)
Weight 296g inc batteries
Made in China
Stockists – tel. (023) 8052 4000; www.garmin.com/uk
GPS technology for walkers just took another step towards perfection with the hard-to-fault Garmin Montana – although at this price I’d expect nothing less.
by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine August 2011