Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

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Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

Postby keithy » Sat 05 Sep, 2020 12:04 am

Garmin's newest top of the line Montana series is out with a smartphone-like 5" WVGA, transflective (480 x 800 pixels) touchscreen. They do come with a high price tag however.

Garmin Montana 700 series (Small).png
Garmin Montana 700 series (Small).png (112.76 KiB) Viewed 6190 times


The models are quite the step up from the previous Montana 600 series, much like the GPSMap 66 series was a step up from the GPSmap 64 series. Again, the "i" model designation refers the InReach capabilities.

The models are:


They are quite hefty units though weighing at around 400g with batteries, all heavier than the previous Montana 600 series (290g-335g).

The Montana 700 comes with a replaceable Lithium ion battery pack and weighs 410g. An optional 3xAA battery compartment is also available at $49 (without batteries), or an additional litihium ion battery pack at $89.

The Montana 700i and 750i that both come with InReach built in has a non-user replaceable lithium ion battery.

Interestingly there is only one button, on the left side. Onboard there is 16Gb of memory, and the usual microUSB slot.

A Micro USB port is included - which is a step up from the Mini USB port on previous devices. Disappointingly they didn't go up to the USB C port.

There is an MCX port for an external antenna which I've always appreciated on my older GPS units.

For connectivity you get the usual ANT+, Bluetooth, the micro USB, and Wifi. And there is the usual Barometric Altimeter and the electronic compasses built in as in the older models.

The Montana 700 (without InReach) gets to use GPS, GALILEO and GLONASS satellite systems, while the Montana 700i and 750i (both InReach models) only use GPS and GALILEO systems. I am guessing that GLONASS frequency (1589.0625 - 1605.375 MHz) is very close to the iridium (inReach) frequency (1616 – 1626.5 MHz).

The screen looks great, and after quite a few years of using 5" and 6" phones as my primary GPS over my Garmin Oregon and eTrex I do prefer the larger screens. The pixel resolution (480 x 800) looks quite low when you compare them against modern smartphones which eg. (Samsung S9 5.8" 2960 x 1440 or the Samsung S10 6.1" 3040 x 1440 pixels). But it is a step up from the previous Montana 600 series 4" 272 x 480 pixels screen.

It will be interesting to see how these perform. I haven't seen one in person yet given the lockdown situation in Melbourne.

For me, the main issues against these would be the cost and the weight. There is another whole argument of whether to use two separate devices, a GPS and satellite communicator, or an all-in-one like the "i" models.

I am curious about other's thoughts on these expensive new GPS models.

Will these new models be enough to entice people who currently use their smartphones and a tough case, or a cheaper older model GPS handheld with a separate InReach mini or Spot messenger? Or even those that use existing tough phones with the appropriate software which could compare favourably with the non-inReach model Montana 700 on the GPS navigation/track logging aspect. Would new Montana 700 series be enough to sway those people back to an higher priced dedicated GPS navigator?

As an aside, I am currently reviewing a super budget "tough" $150ish Android phone and how well it can perform as a GPS.
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Re: Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

Postby ribuck » Sat 05 Sep, 2020 5:11 am

It's heavier than a combination of phone plus InReach Mini. A phone has higher screen resolution and a decent camera, plus a wider choice of apps and maps, and a phone also doubles as an eBook-reader and podcast-player. Where the Garmin device beats any phone is with its transflective screen which can be read in the brightest sunshine. With my phone, I often need to shade the phone from sunshine with my body so that I can read what's on the screen.
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Re: Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

Postby north-north-west » Sat 05 Sep, 2020 8:16 am

If it still has the clunky unintuitive user interface of other Garmins, I'd rather use anything else. That has always been the deal breaker for me, along with BaseCamp.
Great hardware, lousy software.
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Re: Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

Postby Lamont » Sat 05 Sep, 2020 8:43 am

Thanks Keithy.
I'm however slightly more interested in your 'aside'. Does it weigh a tonne?
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Re: Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

Postby keithy » Mon 07 Sep, 2020 12:01 am

ribuck wrote:It's heavier than a combination of phone plus InReach Mini..


I agree. I thought my Oregon 600 was getting heavy at 215g. The side view of the Montana 700's is quite chunky compared with smartphones, or even the existing handhelds.

The handheld GPS market is fairly small, and there has been limited innovation and improvement in the past decade. Garmin appeared to have been focussed on their Fitness GPS (and watch based GPS) market for a while, since revenues from Fitness products overtook Outdoor products since 2017.

Now there are GPS chipsets in almost all phones and tablets, and auto-navigation apps abound on both iOS and Android, it is no surprise that Garmin's revenue from Auto GPS products have decreased, in 2019, both the Fitness and Outdoor products markets almost doubled the revenue from Auto GPS.

With the focus on Watch based GPS products, I wasn't sure there was going to be much innovation and improvement in the handhelds category, especially when the updates to the Oregon 700 series were a bit meh.

So I was glad when they announced this, and was waiting on it's release. But as I mentioned, the heft of the unit, and the price tag are definitely the two things that turn me away from it.

To me it's like their watch division went "lets cram more technology into a small device" and their outdoor division went "lets cram more technology and build a bigger case".

ribuck wrote:It's heavier than a combination of phone plus InReach Mini....I often need to shade the phone from sunshine with my body so that I can read what's on the screen.


What I have done with my previous smartphones for outdoor use is use a matte screen protector. This is brilliant for cutting outdoor glare, however, it is seems a cruel thing to put on the brilliant screens of newer high end smartphones.
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Re: Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

Postby keithy » Mon 07 Sep, 2020 12:03 am

north-north-west wrote:If it still has the clunky unintuitive user interface of other Garmins, I'd rather use anything else. That has always been the deal breaker for me, along with BaseCamp.
Great hardware, lousy software.

That's interesting. I've not had issues with Garmin's handheld software interface.

I agree they have had countless software issues with various firmware releases on devices that I have used, that have been very annoying at best, and almost disabling at worst.

The desktop component of Garmin's software has been the worst culprit for me. So much so that I won't use Garmin's software to update device firmwares. I do it manually by installing the GCD file directly to my devices. This has been improving, but feels like they don't put enough resources into testing and using the software before release.

One of the issues I had with Garmin Handhelds around 2010-2015 was that you were forced to enter data with an Alphabetical keyboard rather than a QWERTY keyboard. On my Garmin Oregon 600 touch screen model I could finally enter a QWERTY keyboard, but only while in Landscape mode. In Portrait mode it reverted to an Alpha keyboard.

But generally for the actual user interface, I didn't have too many qualms with it.

I haven't seen the new Montanas in person, but the menus and screen navigation looks better than current models. They have gone with a more smartphone like interface, with shortcut icon row at the bottom of the screen. The menu system doesn't look too bad. The speed of the screen response looks pretty good as well.
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Re: Garmin's new Montana 700 series handheld GPS

Postby keithy » Mon 07 Sep, 2020 12:05 am

Lamont wrote:I'm however slightly more interested in your 'aside'. Does it weigh a tonne?

It has been surprising. It doesn't weigh a tonne, merely 225g (which compares well with my Garmin Oregon 600 with batteries at 215g.

I received it at the end of July, but the Melbourne lockdown has crippled my testing.
I was going to run tests on it side by side with four of my existing Garmins, and my regular smartphones and see their GPS performance, in various conditions and overlay the saved tracklogs to see how much performed. but have been unable to get outside to do it.

I've done some limited backyard testing, battery drain testing, constant logging tests, and have been generally pleased about it.

I'll start typing it up soon.
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