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Hands-on Gear Review
Garmin Montana 680 Review
Cons: Large, heavy, expensive.
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: The Best Handheld GPS Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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.
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.
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.
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.
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's not as easy to use as the Garmin Oregon 600t. You can only use one finger to control the screen (versus two).
Similar to all other touchscreen devices, you must use the touchscreen as a keypad to enter waypoints 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.
Earning top marks in this category, the Montana 680 was the fastest of all units tested. Even though the Oregon 600t 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 600t, 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.
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.
$550 is expensive and one of the downsides of this device. Even though it has many great features, it wasn't that much different than the Oregon 600t or GPS MAP 64s. In addition, the Magellan eXplorist 510 had similar features with a ticket price of only $279. Even though the Montana has better performance than the eXplorist, we did not think it was worth an extra $150. Overall a great unit with a very high price tag.
The Montana 680 is a powerful handheld device. It scored high in all categories but lost points for its large design.
Garmin Montana 680t
-Preloaded TOPO 100K maps
— Amber King
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