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Garmin Montana 700 Review

An extremely capable handheld unit, with a size and design better suited to mounting on an ATV or touring motorcycle
Garmin Montana 700
Photo: Garmin
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Price:  $600 List | $599.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Huge touchscreen, fast processing speed, shock and water resistant
Cons:  Big and heavy, expensive, less practical as a handheld unit
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 25, 2021
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 7
  • Reception - 20% 9
  • Ease of Use - 20% 7
  • Display Quality - 20% 9
  • Speed - 15% 9
  • Weight and Size - 15% 3
  • Versatility - 10% 6

Our Verdict

As a powerful "handheld" GPS unit — that is likely more useful mounted on a vehicle than actually in your palm — the Garmin Montana 700 is an investment for the serious backcountry sportsman. A high resolution, 5-inch diagonal touchscreen offers superior display quality and easy access to a highly customizable set of preloaded maps, additionally supported by an unlimited subscription to Garmin's database of satellite imagery. All of this is backed up by exceptional satellite reception, a fast processor, and precise altimeter, barometer, and compass sensors. But for all of its capability, the Montana 700 is the largest and heaviest unit of any in this review, making it less versatile for backpacking or hiking. This highly capable GPS is most suitable as a mounted unit, one that will likely appeal to hunters and others who traverse the backcountry in lightweight vehicles.

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Garmin Montana 700
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Garmin Montana 700
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $599.99 at Amazon$450 List
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$550 List$280.00 at REI
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$99.13 at Amazon
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Pros Huge touchscreen, fast processing speed, shock and water resistantExcellent reception, large buttons, big screen, smart notifications and connectivityStraight-forward touchscreen interface, preloaded topo maps, camera for easy geo-tagging and sharingReasonably priced, includes barometric altimeter and electronic compass, small and lightweight, long battery lifeLow-cost, miniature-sized, reliable durability, accurate
Cons Big and heavy, expensive, less practical as a handheld unitExpensive, bulky, complicated connectivity between devicesTouchscreen performance when wet, potential battery issues, expensiveSmall screen, lack of connectivity, tedious user interfaceNearly non-existent basemap, lack of mapping capability, insufficient internal memory
Bottom Line An extremely capable handheld unit, with a size and design better suited to mounting on an ATV or touring motorcycleOur favorite model, this reliable and accurate GPS unit is full of featuresThis touchscreen unit strikes a nice balance between straightforward functionality and high-end capabilitiesThe addition of an altimeter and electronic compass make this lightweight unit one of the most cost-effective options on the marketPerfect for geocaching or tracking your next adventure, but not designed with mapping in mind
Rating Categories Garmin Montana 700 Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin Oregon 750t Garmin eTrex 32x Garmin eTrex 10
Reception (20%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Ease Of Use (20%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Display Quality (20%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Speed (15%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Weight And Size (15%)
3.0
8.0
8.0
10.0
10.0
Versatility (10%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
4.0
Specs Garmin Montana 700 Garmin GPSMAP 66st Garmin Oregon 750t Garmin eTrex 32x Garmin eTrex 10
Battery Life GPS Mode: 18
Expedition Mode: 330
GPS Mode: 16 hours
Expedition Mode: 170 hours
16 hours 25 hours 25 hours
Water Resistant? Yes, IPX7 Yes, IPX7 Yes, IPX7 Yes, IPX7 Yes, IPX7
No. of Waypoints 10,000 10,000 10,000 2,000 1,000
Saved Tracks / Points per Track 250 / 20,000 250 / 20,000 250 / 20,000 200 / 10,000 100 / 10,000
Preloaded Maps US Federal Public Lands;
Garmin TopoActive (regional)
Topo 100k, US and Canada Topo 100k, US Garmin TopoActive;
Routable (OpenStreetMap)
Simple Basemap
Dimensions (in.) 3.4 x 7.2 x 1.3 2.5 x 6.4 x 1.4 2.4 x 4.5 x 1.3 2.1 x 4.0 x 1.3 2.1 x 4.0 x 1.3
Weight w/ Batteries (oz.) 14 7.5 7.4 5 4.6
Display Size (in.) 4.25 x 2.55 1.5 x 2.5 1.5 x 2.5 1.4 x 1.7 1.4 x 1.7
Display Resolution (pixels) 480 x 800 240 x 400 241 x 400 240 x 320 128 x 160
Built-in Memory 16 GB 16 GB 4 GB 8 GB 6 MB
Accepts Data Cards microSD microSD microSD microSD No
Touchsceen or Buttons? Touchscreen Buttons Touchscreen Buttons Buttons
Electronic or Differential Compass? Electronic Electronic Electronic Electronic Differential
Barometric Altimeter Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Wireless Communication? Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+ Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+ Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ANT+ ANT+ No
Satellite Systems GPS, GLONASS, Galileo GPS, GLONASS, Galileo GPS, GLONASS GPS, GLONASS GPS, GLONASS
Ability to Add Maps? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Support Satellite Imagery? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Automatic Routing Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Vertical Profiling Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Camera/Video No No Yes, 8MP Camera No No
Picture Viewer Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Geocaching (paperless) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hunt/Fish Calendar Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sun and Moon Information Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Area Calculator Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Information Rechargeable lithium ion battery pack 2 AA Batteries 2 AA Batteries; Rechargeable NiMH pack (optional) 2 AA Batteries 2 AA Batteries
Online Connect Communities Garmin Connect;
Connect IQ
Garmin Connect Yes No No
Screen Info WVGA transflective, dual orientation Transflective color TFT Transflective color TFT Transflective, 65K color TFT Transflective, monochrome
Interface Information High-speed micro USB; NMEA 0183 High-speed micro USB; NMEA 0183 High-speed micro USB; NMEA 0183 mini USB mini USB
What Comes in the Box? -BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription included
  • USB cable
  • Lithium-ion battery pack
  • Documentation
-BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription included
  • USB cable
  • Carabiner clip
  • Documentation
-BirdsEye Satellite Imagery 1-year subscription included
  • Rechargable battery pack
  • USB Cable
  • Wall charger, w/ AC adapter
  • Carabiner Clip
  • Documentation
-USB cable
  • Documentation
-USB cable
  • Documentation

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Montana 700 is a beefy handheld — more accurately, it is like a very thick smartphone. But it features an unparalleled 480 x 800 pixel, 5-inch diagonal touchscreen — a 50% boost in size from previous Montana models. Thankfully considering its size and price, the unit meets military standards for thermal, shock, and vibration tests, including an IPX7 rating. It supports GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo satellite systems, and the 16GB of internal storage comes preloaded with US Federal Public Lands layers stacked on Garmin's TopoActive regional maps and includes an unlimited subscription to Garmin's BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. It also sports an Expedition Mode, which increases battery life up to a claimed 330 hours for extended field time.

Performance Comparison


This Montana 700 is about the size of a modern smartphone, but with...
This Montana 700 is about the size of a modern smartphone, but with a rugged design specifically tuned for backcountry-vehicle travel.
Photo: Jill Rice

Reception


This GPS seems to have one of the best-designed antennas of any in this review — heavily forested coverage is no match for its powerful receiver, and even testing its capability inside only minorly hampers the satellite signal. This unit is one of the few that supports GPS, GLONASS, and the (relatively) new Galileo platform launched by the EU in 2016; it also has the ability to toggle WAAS/EGNOS for improved position accuracy. Interestingly enough, an average GPS accuracy of 9-feet didn't change from inside to outside — sub-10-foot (3-meter) accuracy rivals that of most publicly accessible satellite information and is much more than adequate for routable, on-road navigation or following contour lines off-road.

Never mind thick cover... we couldn't find an area where the...
Never mind thick cover... we couldn't find an area where the powerful antenna of the Montana 700 didn't have superior satellite reception.
Photo: Jill Rice

Ease of Use


The enormous touchscreen, coupled with extensive preloaded basemaps, makes the Montana 700 easily one of the most capable GPS units in this review. The combination of interactive topographic maps with optional overlays of public land boundaries and an unlimited subscription to BirdsEye Satellite Imagery makes this unit practically a portable version of computer-based popular mapping applications like CalTopo or Gaia, which tend to be limited in their mobile capabilities. To walk through the extent of the features of this unit would take up the entirety of this article, plus some — instead, consider that the Montana 700 is fully customizable for any purpose, from planning routes on the device, to routable navigation for on- or off-road travel, to tracking hunting dogs. However, much of this capability hides behind a series of menus and customizable features, which will likely take a significant amount of time to learn how to set up to your liking.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Display Quality


It's difficult to even compare the display quality of this unit against others in this review. Set side-by-side with much of the competition, the 480 x 800 pixel, 5-inch diagonal, WVGA screen may as well be a small computer. This unit's transflective screen stays clear, bright, and easy to read, even in sunny conditions. Unlike other options where the screen is actually too small to make much of a difference, the dual orientation of this touchscreen actually comes in handy for sharing route information with someone and particularly for routable navigation while driving. While it is technically a "handheld" unit, the size and quality of the display make the Montana 700 our top choice for mounting to a vehicle.

Even in bright sunlight, the size and resolution of the touchscreen...
Even in bright sunlight, the size and resolution of the touchscreen made it easy to navigate.
Photo: Jill Rice

Speed


Tied to the power of its multi-sensor platform — and likely the size and power of its internal processor — the Montana 700 is one of the fastest GPS units we tested. We tested for location time and accuracy both inside (under cover of a roof) and outside, and in each setting, this was the fastest to receive and refine its satellite signal. In many instances, it would acquire its first signal — albeit at a large resolution — within less than 10 seconds and have a practical read on location in an average of 16 seconds after boot-up. Similarly, processing speed is ultra-smooth, with minimal-to-no lag time when adjusting the map, and particularly fast directional and altitude adjustments, thanks to the hyper-sensitive altitude, barometric, and compass sensors.

The Montana 700 is one of the few handheld units on the market...
The Montana 700 is one of the few handheld units on the market designed with contacts (right) purposefully designed to charge from a vehicle mount, making it an ideal choice for routable navigation.
Photo: Jill Rice

Weight and Size


While the Montana 700 may excel in terms of computing power, functionality, and display quality, it all comes at a cost — which is the size and weight of the unit. Most models tend to weigh in around 5- to 7-ounces, while this beefy GPS tips the scales at 14-ounces (with its included battery pack.) In your hand, it feels like a very beefy smartphone, one that is much thicker than we're used to. Compared to other options, it is just too big to reasonably carry around, even to try to fit into a backpack. Just a few more reasons why this GPS unit is best suited to mounting on a vehicle — its portable, "handheld" functionality means that it can easily be swapped between your car, UHV, ATV, snowmobile, motorcycle, or boat.

Though it feels comparatively much larger than other units in this...
Though it feels comparatively much larger than other units in this test, the Montana 700 is really not much larger than your standard smartphone (only thicker.)
Photo: Jill Rice

Versatility


Although the size and weight of this unit severely limit its versatility relative to its GPS capability, we are not trying to reduce it to little more than a portable version of a car-GPS. In fact, the rugged Montana 700 was designed specifically for backcountry use. In particular, it is engineered up to MIL-STD 810 testing standards for heat, shock, vibration, and an IPX7 rating for water, which means that this unit is fully waterproof up to 1-meter (~3-feet) deep. It also includes an Expedition Mode, which limits tracking capability but increases battery life up to a claimed 330 hours. The Montana 700 seems like an ideal hunting unit: it is rugged, can survive extended trips, is capable of mounting to an ATV, UHV, or snowmobile for navigating forest roads, and can reasonably be put in a pack or pocket when traveling on foot.

Even though touchscreens get a bad-rap for wintertime use, the...
Even though touchscreens get a bad-rap for wintertime use, the screen sensitivity of this unit can be adjusted for improved use with gloves. The increased touch-sensitivity and screen size actually make this unit very easy to use with gloves.
Photo: Aaron Rice

Value


Considering its programmable features, the extent of the preloaded topographic maps, and its unlimited subscription to Garmin's BirdsEye Imagery, the Montana 700 is well-worth its substantial price tag. If you are looking for a compact, mobile unit for light-and-fast trips on foot, then this is not your GPS of choice. But for those who will mainly use this as a mounted unit, its advanced features and touchscreen give this GPS boundless capability.

The basic menus of this unit only scratch the surface of its...
The basic menus of this unit only scratch the surface of its capability, which can be easily customized and personalized once you learn how to use this sophisticated unit.
Photo: Jill Rice

Conclusion


For serious off-road navigation, the Montana 700 puts full-fledged GPS capability right at your fingertips. While it may not be as portable as other models, the extent of its design — including detailed topographic map sets and aerial imagery — make this unit a planning powerhouse for extended backcountry travel.

Aaron Rice