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Garmin Montana 680 Review

Price:   $550 List | $417.18 at Amazon
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Pros:  Best reception, large display, 8 MP camera, compatible with several mounts, dual orientation, wireless communication, electronic compass, waterproof.
Cons:  Large, heavy, expensive.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Garmin

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a power handheld GPS with most of the bells and whistles, the Garmin Montana 680 may be your next big buy. This device proved to be our fastest receiver with the best reception. With many fancy features such as a 8 MP camera, several mounting options, and a 4 GB internal memory, this device is ready to go on your next big adventure. This receiver is the most powerful of all tested, giving it the best accuracy and reception. It also features a very large screen and easy-to-use interface (similar to other Garmin units). The rechargeable NiMH battery pack (or use of 3 AA batteries) is perfect for the traveler who uses their GPS unit often. Even though we loved how powerful this unit was, it was not as versatile as other units like the Garmin GPS MAP 64s. It was the largest and heaviest of all tested, and proved to be a poor option for backpacking or lightweight adventures.

If you want to learn how this device compared to others, check out our Best Handheld GPS review.


RELATED REVIEW: Tracking Down the Best Handheld GPS Models

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Dimensions (in.) Display Size (in.) Display Resolution (pixels)
83
$400
Editors' Choice Award
2.4 x 4.5 x 1.3 1.5 x 2.5 240 x 400
80
$300
Top Pick Award
2.4 x 6.3 x 1.4 1.43 x 2.15 160 x 240
75
$550
2.9 x 5.7 x 1.4 2 x 3.5 272 x 480
71
$200
Best Buy Award
2.1 x 4.0 x 1.3 1.4 x 1.7 240 x 320
56
$279
2.57 x 5.04 x 1.45 1.5 X 2.7 240 x 400

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Sunday
April 17, 2016

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The Garmin Montana 680 proved to be our most powerful device, featuring a large screen, mounting options, easy to use interface, and 8 MP camera with the best reception of all units tested. It was also the heaviest and largest.

Performance Comparison



The most powerful handheld offering the best reception of all units tested. We just weren't a huge fan of the size or price.
The most powerful handheld offering the best reception of all units tested. We just weren't a huge fan of the size or price.

Reception


Of the all units, the Montana 680 had the best reception. Utilizing a high sensitivity receiver, the Montana 680 picks up both GLONASS and GPS networks with WAAS compatibility. When testing in deep canyons, high mountains, and covered areas, we discovered it was the second fastest to lock on a location. It maintains a recorded accuracy within eight feet in both open and covered areas. In our tests we set a way point and tried to navigate back to it. On average, the Montana put us within 40 inches of the initial way points while Garmin GPS MAP 64s put us within 73 inches.

The Montana 680 was the most accurate in navigating us back to way points taken in our accuracy tests.
The Montana 680 was the most accurate in navigating us back to way points taken in our accuracy tests.

We also double checked our hypothesis by walking an area of 7000 square feet. Using the area calculator function, the Montana calculated the area to be 7080 square feet. The rest of the units calculated square footage to be between 7309 - 7769. What does this tell us? This unit is pretty darn accurate.

Here we see a comparison of tracks while driving. Light blue = Garmin eTrex 20x  dark blue = Garmin Oregon 600  Red = Garmin GPSMAP 64s  Green = Garmin Montana 680. The Montana was the most accurate in this test.
Here we see a comparison of tracks while driving. Light blue = Garmin eTrex 20x, dark blue = Garmin Oregon 600, Red = Garmin GPSMAP 64s, Green = Garmin Montana 680. The Montana was the most accurate in this test.

Display Quality


The dual orientation color display features the largest screen (3.5 inches) of all tested. Due to its size, it's perfect to use as a navigation system for automobiles, motorcycles, and ATVs. No other unit was as easy to use while driving.

Here Kelly and Dan compare the screens of the (left to right) Garmin Montana 680  Magellan eXplorist 510  and Garmin Oregon 600. The Oregon's screen was the easiest to see and crisp in these high light conditions. The Montana 680's screen is large but produces glare on high light days  as does the Magellan. These are the three touchscreens we tested.
Here Kelly and Dan compare the screens of the (left to right) Garmin Montana 680, Magellan eXplorist 510, and Garmin Oregon 600. The Oregon's screen was the easiest to see and crisp in these high light conditions. The Montana 680's screen is large but produces glare on high light days, as does the Magellan. These are the three touchscreens we tested.

Even though the screen size is great, we found it produced more glare than smaller units with similar quality screen (such as the Garmin eTrex 20x). That said, its screen quality was much better than units with plastic screens like the Magellan eXplorist 510.

Ease of Use


The interface of this unit is similar to any other Garmin handheld. There is only one push button on the side for power, while the rest is completely touchscreen. While the unit features these touchscreen capabilities, it is not as easy to use as the Garmin Oregon 600 (Editors' Choice). You can only use one finger to control the screen (versus two).

Entering way points is easy. The dual-orientation screen is easy to see and flips from portrait to landscape. It also has a screen lock option.
Entering way points is easy. The dual-orientation screen is easy to see and flips from portrait to landscape. It also has a screen lock option.

Similar to all other touchscreen devices, you must use the touchscreen as a keypad to enter way points and other information. We did like the big display and easy-to-use menu format that some of our novice users thought was pretty simple. In comparison to the rest, we thought this was the second easiest unit to use for the complete beginner.

We really liked how we could recharge this GPS. The back cover comes off easily with a turn of the screw. Here you can use either a rechargeable NiMH battery pack (comes with the unit) or three AA batteries.
We really liked how we could recharge this GPS. The back cover comes off easily with a turn of the screw. Here you can use either a rechargeable NiMH battery pack (comes with the unit) or three AA batteries.

Speed


Earning top marks in this category, the Montana 680 was the fastest of all units tested. Even though the Oregon 600 was a little more sensitive to touch, we found the Montana 680 was a hair faster. Instead of waiting for short pauses when redrawing maps, the unit was flawless and took no time to respond. When comparing the electronic compass on all units with this feature, we noticed the Montana's compass did not stick or lag. We could follow our tracks from one place to another very easily.

The electronic compass is the fastest of all units.
The electronic compass is the fastest of all units.

Weight and Size


Losing some serious points here, our testers were not thrilled about the weight and size of this handheld GPS. Still able to fit into only LARGE pockets, this unit is bulky and heavy.

The Garmin Montana 680 is large. It does not fit into small pockets - just big ones.
The Garmin Montana 680 is large. It does not fit into small pockets - just big ones.

One of our testers brought this unit up to Alaska. With a limited number of days in the range she decided to not take this unit out on a long tour because of its 10.3 oz weight. All testers agreed this was better for day hikes and not recommended for long excursions. As a result, this unit earned the lowest score of all units tested in this category. If you want something similar with less weight and size, check out the Garmin eTrex 20x.

Versatility


We did like the versatility of this device. Many add-ons like an 8 MP camera and several mounting options makes it perfect for a wide range of activities. We really loved the idea of taking a picture for a way point instead of spending the time to type in descriptions. We thought this would be especially helpful for large groups who like to share way points and navigational information.

The large screen accommodates large touchscreen push buttons. The easiest touchscreen to use with thick and thin gloves.
The large screen accommodates large touchscreen push buttons. The easiest touchscreen to use with thick and thin gloves.

Furthermore, this unit worked well with light gloves in gnarly weather. It was harder to use with thick gloves but better than most given the large screen size. Our testers also didn't like it for backpacking because of its weight. Overall, the unit was a little more versatile than the Oregon 600, but because it didn't have as many fancy features as the Magellan eXplorist 510 (a video and voice recorder), it scored average in this category.

Best Uses


As mentioned above, we think this unit is best used for four-season activities, day hikes, fishing, hunting, or other recreational purposes. It is not our top choice for long backpacking trips due to its heavier weight. We did like the extra mounting options and large screen that makes it the a great option for motor-sport navigation.

A great unit to use for automobile navigation.
A great unit to use for automobile navigation.

Value


The price tag of $549.99 is very expensive and the one of the downsides of this device. Even though it has many great features, it wasn't that much different than the Garmin Oregon 600 or Garmin GPS MAP 64s. In addition, the Magellan eXplorist 510 had similar features with a ticket price of only $279.00. Even though the Montana has better performance than the eXplorist, we did not think it was worth an extra $150.00. Overall a great unit with a very high price tag.

What comes in the box? Garmin Montanan 680  rechargable NiMH battery  USB cable  plug adapters  user manual.
What comes in the box? Garmin Montanan 680, rechargable NiMH battery, USB cable, plug adapters, user manual.

Conclusion


The Garmin Montana 680 is a powerful handheld device. It scored high in all categories but lost points for its large design.

Our testers brought the Montana 680 out into the wilderness and it did fantastically. They just didn't like the extra weight to lug around.
Our testers brought the Montana 680 out into the wilderness and it did fantastically. They just didn't like the extra weight to lug around.

Other Versions


Garmin Montana 680t
-8G memory
-Preloaded TOPO 100K maps
-$599.90
Amber King

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Most recent review: April 17, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
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4 star: 100%  (1)
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