Tech tips - Garmin's Montana 650t

19:30, Aug 08 2012
Garmin's Montana 650t is a high-end GPS developed for outdoor enthusiasts.
Garmin's Montana 650t is a high-end GPS developed for outdoor enthusiasts.

Garmin's Montana 650t is a high-end GPS developed for outdoor enthusiasts, specifically those who, such as trampers and hunters, venture into the back country.

Even calling the Montana high-end is probably an understatement, as handheld GPS units really don't get much better than this model.

However, they don't get much bigger either, with the exception of the Garmin Rino 650 reviewed a few months ago. Due to ruggedisation of the device and measurements of 7.5 x 14.4 x 3.6cm, you definitely know you're holding on to one. “It looks like a military-spec PSP [PlayStation Portable]” noted a colleague.

The ‘t' in 650t represents topographical, meaning that this unit comes pre-loaded with a topographical map of New Zealand and a global base map of basic worldwide topographical and major road information.

These maps reside in the 3.5GB of internal memory, and can be augmented with additional maps from an optional microSD card. During my review I used free community developed auto-routing maps of New Zealand available from the NZ Open GPS Project at

I would have used the City Navigator maps, however these weren't provided with the review unit, so instead tested the supplied Garmin mount with the NZ Open GPS city road maps.


The mount features an external speaker, which enables the Montana to deliver spoken turn-by-turn directions including spoken street names. Combined with the Garmin nuvi dashboard provided by the device, this produces a very roadworthy nuvi-esque experience.

Navigation is through a touch-based interface and even works with the user wearing gloves. With the device also rated as water resistant, this means that exposure to water is acceptable, and very practical, considering that it needs to operate when the inclement weather turns cold with rain.

Battery life is optimistically stated as 16 hours utilising the included rechargeable Li-Ion battery, charged within the device through a mini-USB connection. When the Li-Ion runs out, and mains power for the USB charger isn't available, you can swap in three standard AA batteries, which in my test lasted just under 20 hours.

If you're an active adventurer and like spending time in the outdoors, then the Montana should appeal to you.

David Hallett is the chief nerd of Need A Nerd in the Waikato. Need A Nerd can be reached on 0800 633 326 (NEED A NERD). To ask a question email and be in with a chance to win Norton 360 Version 6 by Symantec ($129 for three PCs).

Waikato Times