After my first foray into the gps world 11 years ago with a Garmin e-Trex Venture, I then plumped for a Memory Map Adventurer 3500 (bought from Cotswold), but after 2 rogue devices that kept freezing (Cotswold were very helpful over this), I opted for the package of a Garmin Oregon 650 GB Discoverer 1:50K Bundle (the map comes on a micro SD card). I’m not sure if Garmin offer a GB Discoverer 1:25K.
Garmin announced the Oregon 650 release for April 2013 but that date was put back and it wasn’t until the end of June that it appeared in the UK and I was able to collect my pre-order from my local Cotswold store.
It took me a while to get to grips with the Oregon 650 and its manual and I’m still unlocking its secrets (many of which I guess I shall never use) but I think I’m going to like it!
I tried out the Oregon 650 for a week’s walking in Yorkshire. I haven’t used it for geocaching/cycling/fitness monitoring.
Below are a few points, pro and con:
• The screen can be customised to be very bright or dim (to save battery life). It’s very clear and readable
• The facilities for tracking your route and making waypoints are fine and, unlike on the e-Trex Venture, the number you can create is more than adequate so there’s no likelihood of your running out of ‘space’ and having to delete old waypoints/tracks in order to add new ones
• After a little trial and error, I managed to transfer the saved waypoints and tracks from my old Adventurer to my Oregon. That was a relief, since I didn’t want to lose all the data I had saved over the years
• There is lots of scope (perhaps a little too much for clarity) for customisation (from the main screen icons, to waypoint icons, to various datafields, screen orientation, screen locking, units of measurement etc). Lots to play around with!
• You can easily pan, zoom and rotate maps by tapping or pinching
• The Waypoint Manager function took a bit of getting used to. It’s handy when looking for a waypoint to be able to spell search, search near, or search by symbol (eg car, picnic table). You can sort waypoints by distance from your current location or in alphabetical order
• The Where To? function enables you to find a location, waypoint or exact address and navigate to it. I used this in the town to locate the nearest petrol station
• I haven’t tried the Route Planner function
• You can pause and restart the tracking facility as you wish and of course, save your track (or part of it) for future reference (in a choice of colours.) There is also a potentially life-saving Trackback facility, should you get lost
• P9 of the online Manual explains about Shortcuts (which I found a bit confusing). I’ve created a few but need more time to explore this
• We got lost a couple of times in the car, once in the midst of moorland and once in a town. I hopped out, switched on the gps and within a few seconds knew exactly where I was. Impressive!
The device has several essential/handy features:
• A compass (I haven’t tried this yet)
• An 8 megapixel camera. A really handy addition should you want to take a quick picture of a plant to identify, a waypoint on your walk etc. The geographical location of each photo is saved and you can then navigate to it. I managed to take reasonable quality photos and then transfer them to my pc with no difficulty
• An alarm clock which even works when the gps is switched off
• A proximity alarm, to indicate when you are approaching a waypoint/point of interest
• A stopwatch
• A calendar which records the tracks/waypoints and other activities of that day. Unfortunately, unlike the e-Trex Venture you don’t appear to be able to add your own notes to the calendar to record what walks you had that day, make personal notes of what you saw etc
• A torch
• A clock and sunrise/sunset times
• A calculator
• Elevation plotting, including a graph of the height you’ve gained and lost on your walk. Always gratifying to review at the end of a hard day!
• A 3D view of your walk (which I always find hard to interpret)
• A calorie counter (to make you feel smug about all that exercise you’ve done!)
• A sturdy carabiner clip. I prefer to wear my gps on a lanyard round my neck so I can see the screen easily as I walk
• You can purchase optional extras (eg carrying case, lanyards, mounts, cables)
• It comes with an AA battery pack, but you can also use 2 x lithium or NiMH AAs. I found I’d used about half the battery life after 4 hours walking, but there are various ways you can extend battery life (eg dimming the screen). Recharging seems to take a good few hours
• It comes with a very basic ‘Quick Start Manual’ but the more detailed instruction manual is online. It needs a much, much better index (though the contents page is very detailed), a bit more detail/explanation for each function and a better troubleshooting section for those struggling with an unfamiliar device
• The gps can be used as a Bluetooth device or linked wirelessly to other devices for sharing. I’ve yet to try this out
• Garmin offer free access to Basecamp where you can plan and transfer routes. I seem unable to upload my 50K Discoverer maps onto Basecamp and am still awaiting a reply from Garmin Customer Support as to whether this is possible
• You can customise your Profile, depending on how you are using your device (eg running, walking, geocaching)
• There is a help menu on the device if you get confused and don’t have the manual to hand
• Screen size is smaller than the Adventurer which can make it difficult to get an overview of where one is and to orientate oneself
• An annoying feature is that when you inadvertently tap the map or when the device bumps against your body when walking a ‘pin’ marker invariably appears with the coordinates of that spot. You then have to remove it by tapping an X (cross)
• A function from the Adventurer I miss is the ability to tap an icon on the screen and the pointer appears dead centre screen to indicate your current position. With the 650 you seem to have to search for your current position at random by zooming/scrolling the map
• It comes with a preloaded Worldwide Basemap which is OK for a general overview but doesn’t have sufficient detail for walking or similar activities
• I got a bit muddled over the option to customise Dashboards with different Datafields. I need to do a bit more homework to disentangle what the options are exactly
• After each walk you need to reset the Trip Computer (a very useful personalised selection of data including current speed, maximum speed, distance travelled, ETA). I had a problem with the device showing a straight line pointing directly back to the previous day’s start point when I failed to reset this and I’m still a little uncertain how this works exactly
• I am still unsure of the exact function of the User key
All in all, I’m rather pleased with my new Garmin Oregon 650 but still need some time to familiarise myself with its various functions and find out what’s appropriate for my activities and what I can ignore. Like any new device it takes some time to understand its various features though having a smartphone and having previously owned a gps helps considerably. My husband did complain that instead of listening to the curlews and peewits I was customising my alarm sound and instead of admiring the cotton grass and foxgloves I was reviewing the distance we’d covered, but then… who listens to the grumbles of others when there’s a new toy to play with!