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Hands-on Gear Review
Garmin Oregon 600 Review
Cons: Sensitive screen that changes easily, expensive, freezes up, limited basecamp interface
The Oregon 600 takes the 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 some 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.
The Oregon's biggest competitor was the Garmin Montana 680 that performed with better accuracy and speed. It also featured a much larger display and 8 MP camera. Even though it performed better, the sheer size of this unit made it a bad choice for any kind of adventure with a "pack-light" requirement. As a result, the Oregon 600 took home the Editors' Choice Award. Also, if are looking for a GPS unit with similar functionality to the Oregon 600 but with a camera, check out the Garmin Oregon 650.
RELATED: Our complete review of handheld gps
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Garmin Oregon 600 is our Editors' Choice award winner for its stunning display, easy to use interface, and fast speed. Like a smartphone in function, this handheld GPS will help you get anywhere you need to go.
The Garmin Oregon 600 features the fastest, most modern touchscreens of all units tested.
We took this unit into canyons, heavily treed areas, and into the mountains to determine how reception and accuracy compared to the rest. We also performed tests to determine which units were able to pick up a signal the fastest. All in all, the Oregon 600 was third out of six units tested for reception and accuracy. This accuracy is attributed to the utilization of both GPS and GLONASS (24 extra satellites) satellite networks and WAAS capabilities. To learn more about these reception details, check out our Best Handheld GPS Review.
When learning which units acquired a signal fastest, the Oregon 600 has last of all the Garmin devices to get a signal. The Garmin eTrex 20x was the fastest. Next we evaluated the navigational capabilities of the devices. We marked a way point and had the device navigate back to that spot. Here the Montana 680 was the best, followed by the Garmin GPS MAP 64s, then the Oregon 600. The Oregon was able to navigate within 75 inches of the way point, while the Montana navigated within 40 inches of the way point. This was still very accurate, but not as good as the Montana or Garmin GPS MAP 64s.
During our field tests the Oregon 600 was able to lock and fixate on a position throughout the journey. When navigating under thick cover, accuracy decreased slightly but we were able to easily navigate from one point to another. All in all, the Oregon 600 has great reception in both open and covered areas.
Ease of Use
Easy peasy! If you're a little challenged when it comes to technology, the Oregon 600 is a great choice. We thought this was the easiest GPS to use. The device has a sensitive touchscreen that operates like the display of a smartphone. You can use two or one finger to navigate, zoom in/out, and select options. This was the only touchscreen device that offered this versatility in screen function. The unit also features two buttons. One for power and the other to quickly get back to the menu (this button was programmable).
The interface (like other Garmin units) is easy to get to know. The menu is set as the default screen and fairly self explanatory. The text is large with the option to be smaller or bigger. It also allows you to customize the menu to make it more adaptable to your personal use. Many of our novice testers were able to navigate the device and deemed it one of the easiest to understand.
What really sets this device apart from the rest? Its display quality! This is one of the reasons we chose this as our Editors' Choice award winner. The durable mineralized glass cover (a.k.a gorilla glass) is more durable and easier to see than other units in all light conditions. Garmin has incorporated special technology that uses the sun to determine how much back light is used. It's also great for those who wear sunglasses.
This display itself is about 2.5 inches with a 240 X 400 pixel resolution. This has one of the largest screens with the highest number of pixels. The only exception is the Montana 680 that features a 3.5 inch screen with a 272 X 480 resolution. We also liked the screen's dual orientation - switching from landscape to portrait depending on how it is held.
The only downside of the display is its sensitivity. Only a few droplets of water caused it to go from one display to another - almost erratically. That said, there is a screen lock option that comes in very handy when encountering hard rain or difficult weather. In all, we were impressed by the display's size, resolution, and its durable mineralized glass cover. It was head and shoulders above the rest.
The touchscreen is incredibly sensitive, making this one of the fastest units tested. We were able to quickly mark and log way points and toggle between menu options. The electronic compass and map redraw was also very fast with little to no delay.
Though this unit was quick, it wasn't as fast as the Garmin Montana 680 (our fastest unit tested). If you prefer buttons to a touchscreen that works quickly, check out our Top Pick for Reliability, the Garmin GPS MAP 64s.
Weight and Size
The Oregon 600 is our third lightest unit, weighing just 6.95 oz. The unit stows away easily in a chest pocket or large pant pocket without weighing you down.
It also has a girth hitch point on the bottom to attach a lanyard if you want to wear it around your neck. If want something a little lighter, check out our Best Buy winner, the Garmin eTrex 20x, weighing only 5.1 oz.
When evaluating versatility we considered additional features, reliability, weight, and size. We also performed a freezer and glove test to determine the limits of each units use!
The Garmin Oregon 600 features a few fancy extras like wireless communication, a barometric altimeter, and electronic compass that make it far more versatile than units without these features. However, unlike the Magellan eXplorist 510, it does not feature a camera, video, or voice recorder to fully document adventures.
We also learned this device isn't really suited for extremely cold temperatures. After putting all units in the freezer overnight, the Oregon 600 was the only one to freeze up. All other units were fine. We also experienced this 'freeze up' during another test that didn't involve any extreme conditions. This makes us question the reliability of the unit.
When using thin gloves, the unit operated easily and without issue. When we increased glove thickness, the Oregon 600 was rendered useless. In these situations we would recommend a buttoned unit like the Garmin eTrex 20x or Garmin GPS MAP 64s. Overall versatility is good for all weather conditions and activities - with the exception of extremely cold temperatures.
Take this Editors' Choice winner with you on any adventure. We would limit its use to all weather except seriously freezing situations.
Even though we love this unit, we aren't thrilled about the $399.99 sticker price. The Oregon is unique in its screen functionality but we think there are other units with better value. For example, the Garmin GPS MAP 64s has better reception and similar features for $100 less - it just lacks the fancy touchscreen display. Overall, we think the price is on the high side, but you may decide the modern screen is worth it.
The Garmin Oregon 600 features a sleek touchscreen display that has the same look and feel as your smartphone. This Editors' Choice winner will be joining us on many adventures to come.
Also check out the following versions:
Garmin Oregon 600t
-includes pre-loaded U.S. 100K topographic maps w/ enough detail for basic adventures
Garmin Oregon 650
-adds a 8 MP autofocus camera w/ LED flash/torch
Garmin Oregon 650t
-includes pre-loaded U.S. 100K topographic maps
— Amber King
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: April 17, 2016
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