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.
The most powerful handheld offering the best reception of all units tested. We just weren't a huge fan of the size or price.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 the fastest of all units.
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 - 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.
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 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.
As mentioned above, this unit works in all four-seasons for 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 the large screen, which makes it a great option for motor-sport navigation.
A great unit to use for automobile navigation.
$550 is expensive and one of the downsides of this device. 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 with a very high price tag.
What comes in the box? Garmin Montanan 680, rechargable NiMH battery, USB cable, plug adapters, user manual.
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 did fantastically. They just didn't like the extra weight to lug around.