The Garmin Montana GPS series is Garmin's answer to a GPS unit for
both outdoor use and one that can also be used for auto
navigation. Just like its name, the Montana is big. It boasts a large four inch screen and is packed
with all of the latest and greatest features. For avid GPS fans, the Montana delivers all of the newest features,
including the 3 axis
electronic compass, barometic altimeter and wireless transfer of
data. One of the favorite features for most users, is the
dual orientation screen, which can automatically switch, depending on
if you hold it vertical or horizontal. It allows for both
portrait and landscape viewing of the screen, an option Garmin handheld
users have begged for. There is a 5 megapixel
camera, which geotags the
photos. It also includes paperless geocaching, and the ability to
customize the unit in numerous ways, through profiles, screens and
dashboards. It features the option of running on either an included rechargeable lithium battery pack or on three AA batteries.
For longtime GPS users, the Montana appears to have everything you have
ever wanted in a handheld GPS, a feel of the classic Garmin products,
such as the Garmin V and the StreetPilot series, but with the newest
features. The only thing not to like about the Montana is the
pricetag--- MSRP $699, not including the
auto mount or City Navigator maps.
We have started to see some lower prices as of late. You can check discount prices here.
The Montana package includes the unit, AC battery charger, USB cable, quick start guide and the lithium battery.
The actual user manual is found in the
memory of the unit itself as a .pdf file, in a folder labeled
"Documents" or can be found on Garmin's Website by following this link.
The Montana supports a microSD
slot for additional
mapping or BirdsEye imagery. There is already 3.5 GB of internal
memory for maps and imagery. There is a high speed USB 2.0
connection, so loading data is much faster. NOTE: The USB
connection is the back of the unit, under a weather cover. External antenna connector above it.
Lithium battery in place. Note camera lens on lower right hand
With AA battery. Note Lithium
battery contacts. USB under cover on lower left.
The battery options are unique in the Montana. It includes
a Lithium battery pack, which in our testing lasts about 15 to 17
You charge the battery while it is in the unit, and this takes about
four to five hours. One nice feature in the Montana, is that
while you are
charging the lithium, the display gives you a percentage of the battery
level. While the unit is on, you also get a percentage of battery
power remaining. You can also add AA batteries, but the Montana
requires three, and you can use alkaline, but NiMH or Lithium AA's are
recommended. You can also purchase additional Garmin lithium
battery packs for about $36.
The Montana offers an improved four inch touchscreen. It is
more readable in the outdoors. The map views with terrain shading are beautiful. The specs list the screen as "a bright, transflective, 65k color TFT
and sunlight readable." The screen will automatically switch between portrait or landscape,
depending on how you hold it. Sometimes this is a problem when
hiking, however you can switch off the automatic orientation and select
either portrait or landscape.
While I have used the Zagg Invisible
Shield on other Garmin handhelds, there have been reports in the forums
that users who have tried to remove the protective shield, have
damaged their Montana touchscreen. Garmin is selling its own
protector, called a "temporary" which you can use. This
particular Garmin touchscreen also has the option to calibrate the
screen, which you can do in about 15 seconds.
As a longtime user of Garmin handhelds, the Montana feels a lot
StreetPilot 2820 when in automotive use, and also reminds me of the Garmin V handheld, with
both the portrait and landscape viewing options. The dual
orientation screen is a huge plus in our minds. You can also
customize the display with different colors and backgrounds and have it
automatically switch to day or night view.
reception is very good with the high sensitive receiver, which has
become the standard in all Garmin units over the past couple of
years. However, the Montana does NOT support GLONASS capability
of the Russian version of GPS, which is part of the new and improved
eTrex series. The Montana is also equipped with an external antenna
connector, if you wish to add one, but in our vehicle
testing, this is not necessary for typical use.
This is a new feature in Garmin handhelds and a great one! You
can create a one touch macro, to do several steps in navigating.
For example, you can create a shortcut that automatically routes you to
a waypoint and brings up the compass page on your Montana. The
possibilities are really limitless.
List of shortcuts I have created
Setup page for creating shortcuts
Configurable Data Fields
While the Garmin handhelds of late, Oregon, Dakota, eTrex have had this
feature, a new software update for the Montana groups these data fields
into categories and adds a few new fields. Our favorite is the
"Vertical Distance to Destination" which shows you that while your
destination may only be .25 of a mile, you are going to have to hike
1,000 feet to get there. There is also the "GPS Elevation Data"
field, in addition to using the barometric GPS altitude. Garmin
has done a nice job of explaining
these new features in a new TrailTech article posted on Garmin.com.
Data fields are listed by category and include ability to view new data
fields Compass page. Note
Vertical Distance to Destination
You can customize the menu page, with several backgrounds and then
select the features you use most, to have quick access on the main
page. On the far right, the trip computer (shown in
landscape view) has a new look and you can quickly customize it.
There is also a menu option icon on the map page, which is a very
welcome addition, something that has been obviously missing in the
Oregon and Dakota models.
The 650t includes
preloaded 100k TOPO maps for the U.S. The 650 and 600 models
include the basic basemap for the U.S. You can either add the
regional 24K maps that
can be purchased from Garmin.com or City Navigator road maps, which
will provide turn by turn directions. There are also several free
or shareware maps available.
gpsfiledepot.com is a good place to start. The Montana supports
Garmin's aerial image product BirdsEye and along with Garmin custom maps,
where you can take a paper map or other map and georeference it.
We have found an easier way to do this is with the newest version of ExpertGPS.
24K map along with BirdsEye aerial
24K TOPO map with terrain shading
Birdseye with 24K TOPO map and waypoints
The Montana has all of the new Geocaching features, including paperless Geocaching and Garmin's version,
Opencaching. Descripton, hints, logs, etc can all be viewed
in the unit. It also supports field notes, which will allow
you to upload your finds back into the websites as you log
online. All of the Montana units are compatible with the Chirp feature in geocaching. As of January 2012, Garmin has added Geocaching photos. It is designed primarily for Garmin's OpenCaching site. Read more here on Garmin.com.
The Montana can be used as a full fledged auto navigator, just like the
Garmin nuvi series. The screen look is the same and it delivers
text to speech voice directions. You can select different
languages or voices and also download any vehicle icon from the Garmin
Garage. You can also use different vehicle icons in any profile
or use of the map. To use the full Automotive features, an
additional vehicle mount/power cable
be purchased for about $50. This includes a cigarette lighter
power cable and a small built-in speaker in the mount. The nice
thing about the mount is that you can easily slip the Montana in or out
and there is not a physical cable to deal with. It connects
through physical contacts on the Montana. Our experience with the
has been very positive. The unit also recognizes it is in the
mount and makes the volume feature available in the settings, to
control the level of voice directions.
You must purchase Garmin's detailed CityNavigator maps to get the turn
by turn voice
directions. However, we also tried a Garmin outdoor 24K
TOPO map and it also provided us with the same voice directions.
only drawback to this is that the outdoor maps are not updated
frequently and the map data is probably at least three years old.
But the 24K product is compatible for automotive use.
Screen images from when in Automotive use are below.
While previous Garmin handhelds have only offered "Follow Road"
or "Off Road" the Montana gives you several options for routing, to add
in automotive, motorcycle, bicyclng or walking. For example, while bicycling and
walking, you won't find yourself on an interstate, but less traveled highways. Here are the
The profiles option allows you to switch the settings
instantly, depending on your activity or mapset you want to use.
Helpful to switch while either hiking or for geocaching. I also
use profiles to switch between different maps, which is much faster
than changing the maps in the map setup page. You can also
customize data fields, menu order, and colors and really have the
Montana quickly switch to your preferences, depending on your
activity. You can create up to 10 profiles and also custom name them.
The Montana has a much improved elevation plot, for use with
tracklogs. You can see where you were, what time and then see it
on the map. Users will find a similar system to what is in the
computer program BaseCamp and it is a welcome addition to have in a
The Montana includes a
built in 5 megapixel camera, with a digital zoom. This is an
improvement over the Oregon 550 and 550t 3.2 megapixel camera.
The lens is an autofocus, controlled by the touchscreen. The
photos are automatically geotagged (as long as you have a satellite
fix) and this is a nice feature while
hiking, or geocaching. These days, there are better cameras in
the average smartphone and many do allow you to geotag photos, but the
Montana does a decent job in daylight. There is no flash
and the lowlight photos aren't very good. That being said, the
camera can come in handy. The 600 model, does NOT have this
feature. The Montana also supports geotagged photos
you load in the memory either from your own photos or Garmin Connect Photos and gives you the ability to navigate to them.
There is also a photo viewer. Below are two photos taken by the Montana 650t.
Montana 600, 650, 650t
There are three models of the Montana, but really other than the color scheme of the case, they are all are basicially
the same. The only
difference in the 600 model is that there is no camera, which
is something we think most people can live without. Both the 600 and the 650 do not
have the preloaded TOPO maps and 3.0GB of built in memory, compared to the 3.5GB in the 650t. You can compare the features of the three Montana units, by following this link on garmin.com.
The Montana supports the trip computer, track manager, waypoint
manager, route planner, waypoint averaging, man overboard and proximity
alarms, along with all of the previous extra features, such as
sun/moon, hunt/fish, area calculation, stopwatch, calendar, calculator,
and alarm clock.
There is no mounting spine or anyway to connect a carabiner clip to
the Montana. You can attach a basic lanyard for extra protection
while using as a handheld. We STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS as the Montana can be hard to hold onto and can easily be dropped.
Waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches are all handled as .gpx
files similar to the newer Garmin handhelds, Oregon, Dakota, and 62/78 series. You can manage
them with the free BaseCamp program by Garmin,
which will actually make changes to the file in the unit, as you make
them in BaseCamp. Be careful when the unit is in USB mode and do
not delete any folders or files unless it is a .gpx file or file you
are familiar with. The Montana allows for more data to be stored,
including 4,000 waypoints! You can also have 200 saved routes and
200 saved tracks. The saved tracks do not include archived tracks.
The Montana is NMEA capable, but I have had trouble with the unit giving me an error message, when I connect the Garmin
accessory cable. This will
hopefully be corrected in a future firmware update.
Dual use for both outdoor activities and auto navigation in a vehicle
Packed with features
Extreme ability to customize use through data fields, display, etc.
Dual orientation screen, can use both portrait and landscape views
Great screen quality to view maps, etc.
Heavy for hiking, geocaching
Have to purchase detailed Garmin maps, including CityNavigator for
voice autorouting (Garmin 24K TOPO will work, but some map data will be outdated over time)
Have to purchase auto mount/power cable to use in vehicle (approx $50)
No mounting spiner for carabiner clip or bicycle use
The owner's manual is short on detail-- only very basic information is given.
(However, Garmin has published a very good article about the new features in the Montana in its TrailTech section. We strongly encourage you to read it.)
The Montana has already
been though numerous firmware revisions fixing some of the early
bugs. There are still a few minor issues around as of this writing, but
in recent months we have seen a new beta update almost weekly.
The current version is 3.80. Overall, Garmin has made
numerous improvements, including adding new features such as the
vertical distance to destination, and there appears to be a good effort
to improve the Montana. Of course, some users
complain they feel like beta testers, however we do like to see these
new units receive new features, as the product is innovated. To look for the latest updates, follow this link here and you will want to
occasionally use the Garmin WebUpdater utility to get those updates, or
check Allory's "What's New" page for immediate notification of when those updates are posted. He is also on Twitter: allory_d
The Montana is now the
flagship Garmin handheld unit. Its pricetag is really the only
negative and could discourage brand new GPS users, but for Garmin fans,
it is the ultimate
handheld device to date. Outdoorsmen, who travel in a 4X4 or an
will find some advantages because of its size. Hikers will also
like it and those who
really want just one GPS for all uses, the Montana is for you. It
has may great new features, which
appear to be increasing and improving in software updates. With
time, hopefully this unit will be priced in a more affordable
range. You can learn
more by checking out the Montana product page here There is also a color interactive ad page.
Questions/Comments: Visit the gpsinformation.net Forum