Garmin Oregon 650t ReviewAugust 1, 2013
- Easy to read, ruggedized, capacitive touchscreen
- 8MP geotagging camera
- GLONASS support can improve accuracy in difficult environments
- Extensive customization options
- Can use NiMH rechargeable battery (included) or AAs
- Preloaded topo maps (many additional maps are available)
- Pre-loaded topo maps are based on 1:100,000 scale maps
- Touchscreen sensitive to slightest touch; you may need to lock it
- Better for handheld use than fixed mount (e.g., mountain bike handlebars)
- While not unusual for new devices, I saw tracklog errors of up to 125’
This is the current Cadillac of handheld outdoor GPS receivers, offering the greatest feature set of any unit currently on the market. It has a great, touch-sensitive screen, a good camera, excellent customization, and good (but not great) out-of-the-box maps. The first generation had some quirky tracklog errors, which we expect should be fixed soon.
The Garmin Oregon 650t is a high-end handheld GPS designed to be ruggedized and waterproof. It features a multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, 8MP geotagging camera and pre-loaded 1:100,000 scale US topos.
Weighing in at 7.4 ounces (with batteries), the waterproof and ruggedized Oregon 650t offers a generous 3” screen, measured diagonally. There is a lanyard attachment on the front, and a rear mounting spine that can be used with Garmin bike mounts or the included carabiner clip. A NiMH rechargeable battery and charger is included and you can switch to AAs in the field if needed.
Most controls are accessed via the multi-touch capacitive touchscreen. There are also two buttons (power and one other) that can be configured to perform different tasks depending upon whether you single or double tap them. The second button can also be set for a third option when you hold it down. Like most handheld GPS, there are lots of menu options. First-time users should plan on trying it out in familiar settings before depending on it in the backcountry.
Besides the configurable buttons, you can customize the 650t’s home screen and slide out “drawer.” Numerous shortcuts can be added to these as well. And like all modern Garmin handhelds, most screens offer data fields that can be set to dozens of options. You can also set up profiles (hiking, biking, geocaching, etc.) and select dashboards (compass, small or large data fields, etc.) to occupy the top portion of many screens.
The 8MP camera automatically adds location data to your photos and can take surprisingly good images. It isn’t DSLR quality, but it’s a lot more convenient than having to bring a second device along.
The 100,000 scale US basemap is useful for frequent travelers, ensuring that you’ll always have a topo map on the device. Beyond that, Garmin sells 24K topos, although there are plenty of free user-made topos available online for the US. “BirdsEye” aerial imagery or USGS topo subscriptions run $30 per year, although there are do-it-yourself “custom map” options available too.
As is common with many new GPS receivers, I saw some tracklog errors that were most likely due to immature firmware. Even so, the largest error I saw was only around 125 feet; in general tracklog performance was good, and better than I often see with new units.
Ease of use
All handheld GPS have a learning curve, and this one has a huge number of features to plow through. Even so, the Oregon 650t does a good job of balancing function and usability.
The Oregon 650t has a great feature set, offering options such as paperless geocaching, aerial imagery support and advanced track navigation.
It boasts GLONASS support, paperless geocaching, advanced track navigation, NiMH or AA battery compatibility, built-in 100K scale topo maps, and an 8 MP geotagging camera. It can also accept USGS topos and aerial imagery ($30 per year unless you want to go the DIY route).
The touchscreen appears to be some sort of mineralized glass similar to Gorilla Glass. We couldn’t break it during abnormally harsh field use.
In addition to common features like customized data fields, dashboards, and profiles, the 650t offers user-configurable buttons, a customizable main menu and drawer, along with various shortcuts.
The tracklog accuracy was good for a new unit, but not great. The camera gave me both good quality images along with some duds, especially on macro shots.
The 650t is certainly pricey, but it is a top-of-the-line model. That means it’s overall value is about average.