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Garmin Montana 680 Review

A large screen and excellent reception make up for this unit's bulk if you have trouble viewing normal units or use satellite imagery
Garmin Montana 680
Photo: Garmin
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Price:  $550 List | $533.66 at Amazon
Pros:  Impeccable reception, large display, 8 MP camera, compatible with several mounts, dual orientation, wireless communication, electronic compass
Cons:  Large, heavy, expensive
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 17, 2016
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 7
  • Reception - 20% 9
  • Ease of Use - 20% 8
  • Display Quality - 20% 7
  • Speed - 15% 9
  • Weight and Size - 15% 4
  • Versatility - 10% 7

Our Verdict

If you're looking for a powerful handheld GPS with most of the bells and whistles, the Garmin Montana 680 may be your next big buy. This device is a fast receiver with excellent reception. With many fancy features such as an 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, a characteristic of most 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. It was the largest and heaviest of all tested and proved to be a poor option for backpacking or lightweight adventures.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Garmin Montana 680
This Product
Garmin Montana 680
Awards  Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $533.66 at Amazon$450.00 at REI$290.32 at Amazon$449.99 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$200 List
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Pros Impeccable reception, large display, 8 MP camera, compatible with several mounts, dual orientation, wireless communication, electronic compassExcellent reception, large buttons, big screen, smart notifications and connectivitySmartphone-like touch screen, solid reception, activity specific profiles, wireless messaging and communication, tons of waypoint storageEasy and affordable two-way messaging, great smartphone app, feature loaded, proven global networkInexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, great screen quality, long battery life, reliable push buttons
Cons Large, heavy, expensiveExpensive, bulky, complicated connectivity between devicesMore waypoint storage and features than most need, battery hungry, hard to use with glove, can freeze up in coldExpensive initial purchase, largest and heaviest messengerNo electronic compass, basemap is very limited, small screen, owner's manual lacks detail
Bottom Line A great unit if you like larger text and don't mind carrying a bit moreThis model is a top-of-the-line GPS unit for a wide variety of conditionsA smartphone-like touchscreen makes navigating the backcountry straightforward, unless you need to wear glovesAn excellent device with only one weakness - portabilityA good deal for those that just need the basics
Rating Categories Garmin Montana 680 Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin Oregon 700 Garmin inReach Explorer+ Garmin eTrex 20x
Reception (20%)
9
8
7
8
6
Ease Of Use (20%)
8
7
8
7
8
Display Quality (20%)
7
9
9
6
7
Speed (15%)
9
9
8
8
6
Weight And Size (15%)
4
8
8
8
10
Versatility (10%)
7
8
7
9
7
Specs Garmin Montana 680 Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin Oregon 700 Garmin inReach... Garmin eTrex 20x
Battery Life (hours) 22 16 16 75 25
No. of Waypoints 4,000 10,000 500 2,000
Saved Tracks / Points per Track 200 / 10,000 250 / 20,000 20 / 500 200 / 20,000
Preloaded Maps Simple Basemap US and Canada 1:25k U.S. and Canada Simple Basemap
Dimensions (in.) 2.9 x 5.7 x 1.4 2.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 2.7 x 6.5 x 1.5 2.1 x 4.0 x 1.3
Weight w/ Batteries (oz.) 10.3 7.5 6.8 7.5 4.5
Display Size (in.) 2 x 3.5 1.5 x 2.5 1.5 x 2.5 1.4 x 1.9 1.4 x 1.7
Display Resolution (pixels) 272 x 480 240 x 400 200 x 265 240 x 320
Built-in Memory 4 GB 16 GB 2 GB 3.7 GB
Accepts Data Cards MicroSD MicroSD No MicroSD
Touchsceen or buttons? Touchscreen (dual orientation) Buttons Buttons Buttons
Electronic or Differential Compass? Electronic Electronic Electronic Differential
Barometric Altimeter Yes Yes Yes No
Wireless Communication? Yes Yes Yes No
Satellite Systems Used (GPS, GLONASS) Wide Augmentation System Present (WAAS)? All All All All
Ability to add maps? Yes Yes Yes Yes
Automatic Routing Yes Yes Yes Yes
Vertical Profiling Yes Yes Yes Yes
Camera/Video Camera - 8 MP No No No
Photo Viewer Yes Yes No Yes
Geocaching (paperless) Yes Yes No Yes
Hunt/Fish Calendar Yes Yes No Yes
Sun and Moon Information Yes Yes Yes Yes
Area Calculator Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Information 3 AA Batteries / Rechargeable NiMH pack 2 AA Batteries Rechargeable lithium ion 2 AA Batteries
Online Connect Communities Garmin Connect Garmin Connect Garmin Earthmate No
Screen Info Transflective 65k color TFT Transflective color TFT Transflective, color TFT Transflective, 65K color TFT
Interface Information High-speed USB, NMEA 0183 compatible high-speed USB and NMEA 0183 USB USB
What Comes in the Box? -1 year BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription
  • USB cable
  • AC charger
  • Battery pack
  • Multiple socket adaptors
-USB cable
  • Documentation
  • Bird's eye sattelite imagery
  • Carabiner clip
-Preloaded with TOPO
  • USB cable
  • Carabiner clip
  • Documentation
-USB cable
  • Documentation

Our Analysis and 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 incredible reception. It's also big and heavy.

Performance Comparison



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

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, it was always fast 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 waypoint and tried to navigate back to it. On average, the Montana put us within 40 inches of the initial waypoints.

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

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 =...
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.
Photo: Amber King

Display Quality


The dual orientation color display features the largest screen 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 screens. That said, its screen quality was much better than units with plastic screens.

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.

Entering way points is easy. The dual-orientation screen is easy to...
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.
Photo: Dan Zokaites

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.

We really liked how we could recharge this GPS. The back cover comes...
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.
Photo: Dan Zokaties

Speed


The Montana 680 was the fastest of all units tested. 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 mighty fast.
The electronic compass is mighty fast.
Photo: Garmin

Weight and Size


Our testers were not thrilled about the weight and size of this handheld GPS. 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...
The Garmin Montana 680 is large. It does not fit into small pockets - just big ones.
Photo: Dan Zokaites

One of our testers brought this unit up to Alaska. With a limited number of days in the range, she decided not to 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.

Versatility


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

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

Furthermore, this unit worked well with light gloves in gnarly weather — an added bonus for the times you get caught out on day-long hikes, fishing, or hunting trips. It was harder to use with thick gloves but better than most given the large screen size. It is not our top choice for long backpacking trips due to its heavier weight.

The Montana 680 is a great unit to use for automobile navigation.
The Montana 680 is a great unit to use for automobile navigation.
Photo: Garmin

Value


This device is expensive. Even though it has many great features, it doesn't have that many more features than many of the more reasonably priced units. Overall, it's a great unit, just one that carries a very high price tag.

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

Conclusion


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

Our testers brought the Montana 680 out into the wilderness and it...
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.
Photo: Dan Zokaites

Amber King