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Garmin Oregon 600 Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Handheld GPS

  • Currently 4.4/5
Overall avg rating 4.4 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: January 2, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $343 - $480 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Best touchscreen and interface of any GPS tested, ergonomic shape, fast map draws, programmable buttons.
Cons:  Garmin GPS Map 62 series has slightly better reception, push buttons can be more reliable in cold temps.
Best Uses:  Everything except very cold weather.
User Rating:     
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  • 5
 (3.7 of 5) based on 3 reviews
Recommendations:  67% of reviewers (2/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Garmin
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 4, 2013  
Overview
The Garmin Oregon 600 takes touchscreen outdoor recreation recreation GPS to the next level. This device is a huge improvement over all other existing touchscreen units we’ve tested, from all manufacturers. It’s easy to use and it feels modern, unlike most units that operate like arthritic donkeys. Garmin has also improved (over the 62, Dakota, and eTrex series) many other software and hardware components that make for easier navigation and general use. The changes offer striking advantages that make this our overall top rated GPS unit for all types of outdoor recreation.

Check out the complete Handheld GPS Review to compare all of the models tested.

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  • Photos
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Introduction
We tested the Oregon 650t but recommend the Oregon 600 because it offers the best value. The 650t comes with a preloaded 100k topo for the US, a camera and flash, and a rechargeable battery pack, but it costs $150 more than the Oregon 600. Most topo maps can be found free online, the GPS' camera isn’t as good as an iPhone camera, and the battery pack can be purchased separately for less than $30. Therefore, we believe the Oregon 600 offers the best value.

Performance Comparison
Display Quality
No GPS matches the quality of top smartphone screens. BUT, out of all the GPS units we’ve tested the Garmin’s 600 series offers the sharpest and most vibrant sunlight readable colors, and it has most responsive action of any GPS touchscreen we’ve tested. It blows other models from the company’s Montana, Oregon, and Dakota lines, and all of Magellan's and Rand McNally's units, out of the water. And this is VERY NICE; scrolling through lists and selecting objects is smoother and more precise than with other GPS we’ve tested. You can pinch and expand to zoom in and out, and twist two fingers to rotate, in the Map view—all excellent improvements. The greatly improved screen is the primary reason this unit receives our Editor’s Choice award over the GPSMAP 62sc, which held it previously. Watch the 2 minute video at the bottom of this page to see how the 600’s screen compares to other Garmin units.

Ease of Use
The better screen boosts ease of use significantly. So, too, does the 600 series' updated software interface, which operates more like a modern electronic device than an archaic Nintendo controller. Garmin made a special effort to simplify aesthetics and workflow with the 600 series and we greatly appreciate the efficiency improvements.

There are only two buttons and both are located on the upper right side of the device. A power button turns the unit on and off and activates a display brightness/lock screen window when pressed once while the unit it on. Beneath that lies a button that activates programmable one-touch shortcuts, a feature only currently found on the Montana series and one that helps to make up for the lack of other buttons. Change the button's functions by pressing: Settings > System > Configure Keys

The screen works with lightweight gloves on!! That’s right, your cold, wet hands can stay in their fleece/wool liner gloves while you navigate with the 600 series. This is a marvelous feature that allows you to be more comfortable when using the GPS in the low visibility, often precipitating, environments it’s most needed in.

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Sarah navigates with the Garmin Oregon 600 in Badlands, South Dakota
Credit: Max Neale
Fit and feel
The 600 series is the first Garmin unit that fits in the palm of your hand in an ergonomic fashion. Its rounded bottom is comfortable and easy to grab and lets you activate the two buttons with your thumb, if held in the right hand, and pointer finger, if held in the left hand. Other square or odd-shaped units are harder to hold and therefore less easy to use.

The company finally took notice of smartphone designs and eliminated the absurd raised edges that it included on most of its other touchscreen models.

Reception
We found that the unit has excellent reception considering its size and weight. It’s not as good as the GPSMAP 62sc, which has a bulbous external antenna, but it performs very well for most applications. Note: no handheld recreation GPS is accurate to within more than 50 ft. If you want excellent accuracy you need to get a scientific unit (consider those from Trimble), and fiddle with differential correction, and ideally have a backpack antenna. But that setup is not practical for backcountry use. The 600 series is more than sufficiently accurate and it's much better than any smartphone GPS we've used.

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Chris Simrell navigates off trail with the Garmin Oregon 600 while wearing in the Patagonia M10 jacket. Olympic Mountains, WA.
Credit: Max Neale
Speed
The 600 series is quicker than most other devices, but it's not fast. For example, there’s a short display delay after rotating the device from a vertical to horizontal position- something that rarely happens with iPhones. Loading a 100k base map is reasonably fast —not instant. Loading multiple maps at once, such as a 100K base map and a regional 20k map is pretty slow (but still fast compared to other units). For fastest operation it's best to turn on only the maps that need.

The 600 has a tri-axial compasses that provides an accurate reading even when the device is not level. Compared to old dual-axis compasses, this is much easier to navigate while moving. (Recalibrate the compass after replacing the batteries.) Several other useful features include wireless data transfer capabilities that allow you to send waypoints, tracks, etc. to other wireless-enabled Garmin units, and a rail type mount on the back that can be fixed to optional bike, car, and boat mounts. The 600 series also comes with an excellent carabiner/belt clip).

The video below compares the Garmin Oregon 600 and the Rand McNally Foris 850.

Weight/Packed Size
The Oregon 600 weighs 7.4 ounces with two AA alkaline batteries. It is significantly lighter than the Garmin GPS Map 62sc, but also 2.4 ounces heavier than the eTrex 20. For most backpacking, skiing and mountaineering, where we primarily use a GPS as an emergency device, our testers often choose the lower weight model. However, for navigation intensive activities the Oregon 600's screen and power far more than make up for its additional weight.

Versatility
The 600 series performs very well for most activities. The touchscreen and improved display make this unit one that you can pass off to friends and family knowing confidently that they can quickly operate its intuitive system. The unit’s ease of use increases versatility in a sense. The GPSMAP 62sc is more versatile because its push buttons and external antenna increase reliability and durability. However, we recommend the 600 for all but the most extreme outdoor applications.

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Max navigates with the Garmin Oregon 600 while wearing the Haglofs Gram Comp Pull hardshell and Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter pack.
Credit: OutdoorGearLab
Software
Garmin offers its device users Basecamp, a simple and powerful free software tool used to plan routes and manage waypoints, tracks, and maps. Our testers found Basecamp to be user friendly and provided all of the basic tools we needed for planning trips and analyzing routes. Viewing waypoints and tracks in Google Earth was one of our favorite features (see screenshot of Google Earth in photos).

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Garmin's Basecamp is the best free software that comes with a GPS. It is useful for trip planning because you can draw potential routes and calculate elevation gain and loss.
Best Application
Three-season adventures of all types.

Other Versions
Oregon 600: $399, base model.
Oregon 600t: $479, adds preloaded 1:100,000 scale topo maps for the US.
Oregon 650: $479, adds 2.3GB internal memory, 8MP camera, rechargeable battery
Oregon 650t: $549, the 650 plus preloaded 1:100,000 scale topo maps for the US.

Value
The Oregon 600’s updated screen and interface make it a great deal. We think its “modern” features and screen are significant improvements that are worth paying for. Sure, the eTrex 20 costs half as much, but that unit’s design is already outdated and should be updated in the near future. The Oregon 600 is the best value in its series.

What's in the box
-Oregon 600
-Carabiner clip
-USB cable
-Manual

Accessories
The $26 Rechargeable NiMH Battery Pack could save you some money over the long-term. Many other accessories, such as bike and car mounts, are available.

A note about maps
Maps for most areas can be found free online. (GPS File Depot is one good source.) We've purchased and thoroughly enjoyed Garmin's 24k topo maps and recommend them over the 100k series because their detail greatly increases ease of navigation in steep mountain areas.

Resources
Oregon 600 Owner's Manual

How to plan routes with Google Earth

Garmin Custom Maps allow you to upload any map (marine chart, campus map, park map, etc.) your device.

Download Garmin’s free BaseCamp software to view and organize maps, waypoints, routes and tracks.

Videos

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: January 2, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.7)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 50%  (2)
4 star: 25%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 25%  (1)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Jan 2, 2014 - 04:11pm
Datezz · Mountain Biker · SoCAL
I still have and still use a GPSMAP76S, FR305, FR310XT, Edge 705.
I bought the Oregon 600 last month to replace my aging 76 which I have used for surveying and trail mapping for years.

I read a review that warned about the how difficult it was to get the 600 setup and they were correct. However being persistent paid off in the end because this 600 is turning out to be an excellent unit.

The hidden micro card is not a problem for me. I bought a 32gig card from PNY and put 8gig of maps on it. I will not have to remove that card unless I want to load a new map in a few years.

The usb connection is a little slow to start and so is the initial start after pressing ON. I turned off all the maps except for the one I usually use, Topo24K West at 4gig, and both startup times became much shorter so it is a function of how big your maps are that the 600 has to load before starting. Check the bottom of the screen on the 600 at plugin or startup, it says Loading maps….

The usb port gave me no problem….however….I have learned from past experience that the problem is usually the male plug. Run your finger over the corners of the plug. If your skin catches or they feel sharp take a fine metal fingernail file and smooth the corners and front edges. You will be amazed at how easy the plug will seat down to the bottom properly and stay connected.

The screen is crystal clear and easy to read in the direct sunlight that SoCAL is famous for.

The screen lock option is a must for me and prevents all those accidental bumps that can screw up the track log and even mess up the device settings.

The extra programable side button is great. I have programmed it to step thru the 4 screens I use. I do not use the scroll function because invariably the screen I want has just passed by and when it finally comes back I do not need it. Using that button lets me keep the screen I want as long as I want then move thru the other screens when needed and it works with the screen locked.

I did a run time test with a set of old but freshly charged 1800ma batteries by leaving the 600 on my desk running and set on full power, no battery save, Precharged NiMH, 30 second screen off, 1 sec recording and no auto pause. It recorded 14+ hours and then died. I am now using a set of new Energizer rechargeable 2300ma batteries with a new external Energizer 8 battery charger. I just started a run time test with a fresh charge on the new batteries and will report tomorrow on the results.

I have done several 6 mile tracks with all my gps units (see top line) recording at the same time. They all recorded slightly different coordinates when compared at the exact same time but the overall distances are exactly the same for all units after editing the tracks to the same Start/Stop times for all sections.

These tests were on completely open trails with no tree cover or deep canyons. Later on I will get up in the mountains where reception is reduced and see how the 600, with and without glonass, performs compared to the others.

My 4 star rating may change after the mountain testing and I suspect it will go up.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 20, 2013 - 03:35am
For a fancy device like this there are too many stupid things
Yes, it's all modern in terms of software and has a durable casing, but at the same time:
  1. the sd-card is hidden under cover and battery - eh, why not built into the tech part between the microchips, for easier access?!
  1. slowest usb connection to PC, I have not seen such speeds for a long time
  1. with all the tough casing the usb charging port is way too flimsy, loses connection and stops charging if the device is not in a certain position!


Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 4, 2013 - 06:13pm
bluedino · Mountain Biker
I also owned garmin 62s for a month. I sold it for this device.

I just received this little device and usability wise i just love it. Touch is very responsive, screen has great resolution. Now i can actually use the map to find my way.

Will keep you updated with future frustrations :)

I find the screen as usable as 62s

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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