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Map limits ?

I've been using garmin's for years now but I haven't used any of the newer units my Legend HCx is about it.

With garmin coming out with larger and larger maps, more detailed maps, birdseye maps, custom maps are there still problems with ridiculous map limitations?

In other words it's easy these days to buy 32 gig micro sd cards but will the garmin units actually let you USE that space or are they still crippling their units with map/tile limits?

I know with my HCx I can't even get the whole US for topo 100K plus some of my more common areas with their 24K maps using mapinstall because it has a 4 gig limit map supplement limit, and that's not even considering if you want city nav stuff on there or the newer birdseye stuff on there. It appears the newest version of mapinstall still only allows a 4 gig map install.

Is there now a way around that with the new units? So you can use the entire card for maps, without having to swap cards with different map.img files on them or constantly reloading new map sets for every trip etc?

Do any of the new units allow you to load up multiple .img files on the card and then select them on the unit? Say the whole US topo 100k, topo 25K etc. named differently and as long as each is under 4 gig your fine? When I've tried that with my HCx and it won't recognize any *.img file aside the standard gmapsupp.img file, so trying to make multiple *.img files is worthless.

What would be ideal is if you could make a *.img file for the 24K topo stuff, 100K topo stuff, city nav stuff, etc. but not sure if that's possible.

Do I need all those maps at any one time, no, but the memory is out there why not let the units USE it so a person doesn't have to reload maps every trip etc. Same thing for the nuvi, it's much easier to just load all the maps you need into it once and not worry about it, instead of having to reload new maps for every trip.

Tried searching but all I could find was tile limits on custom maps -vs- birdseye etc.



  • Seldom 0 Points
    So many questions and my brain is full.
    You can find most of your answers in Garmin's FAQ:

    There are a bunch of different answers re: Number of map segments.
    Here's a representative one:{e1f8cf10-260f-11e1-73d0-000000000000}
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    You need to understand a little about how maps are made before you can make sense of of the limits. Vector based maps (.img) files are divided into arbitrarily sized "tiles". I say "arbitrary", because the size of the tiles are completely under the control of the mapmaker.

    Older devices like your eTrex had a limit of about 2,000 tiles. The new devices have a 4,000 tile limit. The 100k topo is an old product, and Garmin wanted to make it compatible with units that have very little memory (some of the old models only have 8MB). Therefore they chose very small tile sizes and the result was about 6,500 tiles.

    The DVD version of US topo is still like this, so you can't load it all into any Garmin device (even though the file is only about 3GB). However, the download and SD card versions cram the same data into about 450 tiles. Same thing for the version of US Topo that is included on models like the Oregon 450t or Montana 650t. So you can now have the full US topo 100k map with plenty of room for additional maps without exceeding the tile limit.

    City Navigator also uses large map tiles, IIRC there are less than 200 total. Garmin's 24k maps are another matter. Somewhere there's an old thread where this is discussed. They are regional maps with each product only covering a few states. But the files are pretty big since they contain high resolution DEM (digital elevation model) data. You could probably max out your tile limit if you loaded all the 24k maps. But you would probably max out your credit card first, since each regional map costs ~$100. :twisted:

    As for Birdseye, as a practical matter there is no limit to how large an area you can cover. I think there's a limit of 50,000 tiles. I have used a 16GB card that was full with Birdseye and it worked fine in my Oregon and Montana. I know that others have used 32GB cards as well.

    Custom maps (.kmz files that you make yourself) are extremely limited in size. Each individual tile can be no larger than 1024x1024 and you can only have 100 tiles total. The exception is the Montana, which has a limit of 500 tiles. But Custom maps are global - they are either all on or all of. You can't have individual maps and choose them separately.

    All the new devices support multiple .img files with any name that you like. Garmin calls them "n-Map devices". There may be a limit as to how many files you can use however. There was a recent thread in Garmin's Basecamp support forum where a user was experiencing problems when using ~30 .img files and it wasn't clear what was causing this.

    Personally, I don't think it works well to use huge memory cards with lots of maps loaded. You will find that your GPS takes a long time to start up, especially if you have a lot of Birdseye files. Apparently the device builds some kind of map index on startup and that takes awhile. I found this unacceptable when using the 16GB Birdseye card. If your GPS crashes while navigating, it's very frustrating to have to wait a minute for it to start up again.

    So the bottom line is that you can use big memory cards, have lots of Birdseye available and plenty of maps to choose from. You will need to find the tradeoff between performance and convenience that suits you best though.
  • Todd308 31 Points
    Great info!

    I can see where having more maps than needed can slow these devices down especially with a lot of aerial images. Even a $6000 Trimble GeoXT is no different if you stuff a bunch of NAIP imagery into it, it slows the unit down big time.

    So it would seem that with the newer devices the bigger concern is the number of total tiles, and of course the balance of having lots of maps and how much it slows the unit processing down. Especially if you want to use custom maps which seem to be pretty crippled aside for very small areas, no doubt to encourage users to buy the birdseye topo/image subscription services and probably trying to strike some balance between processing power and speed of the unit.

    It would seem then that purchasing the download version of the current US topo map then since it has way fewer tiles is the best option so I can take advantage of the larger memory available but avoid the tile limits if I would upgrade to a newer device. I can't see paying $30 a year for birdseye topo maps since I'd bet they are based on the USGS 24K maps and those were completed from 1945-1992, and haven't changed since. Plus evidently you have to buy a separate subscription for each garmin unit you have. So that's a topo subscription for the edge, etrex, and then I'd still need a topo solution for the Nuvi (which evidently the birdseye won't work with) thanks.

    Might just sit back for awhile, can't say I'm too impressed with the idea of garmin putting very restrictive limits on user custom maps, though I suppose they are doing it to encourage (force) people to buy birdseye subscriptions to get the feature in a real useable platform and they probably won't change it. Sounds like just continuing to use smaller map sets and change them for every trip/use is the best option for now.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    Some people think the paper USGS 24k topo maps are a sort of "holy grail", and the DeLorme PN-20 was popular when first released because it supported them and other forms of raster imagery. If you feel this way, then the $30 subscription makes sense.

    Yes, Birdseye is locked to a single GPS, but not locked on your computer. So you can download the files once and send them to multiple devices as long as they have subscriptions. Also note that BirdsEye Topo is a separate subscription from BirdsEye aerial imagery.

    I would agree with you theory on why Garmin has crippled custom maps. There is a hack for creating your own BirdsEye (.jnx) files however. Unfortunately it requires hacking the unit firmware so I am not willing to do that.

    Of course, you can make your own vector based maps (.img) files if you want to cover a larger area using third party tools like cgpsmapper, mapwel, gpsmapedit and globalmapper.

    I would say it's a mixed blessing with the download version of the 100k topo. For starters, the maps aren't so great and you will find substantial errors. And a 100k map just isn't very accurate, so that is to be expected. The road data is based on Census Bureau TIGER files and the errors there are well known.

    However, the download version of Garmin's maps are going to be locked to a single device AFAIK. The DVD version is not locked, but they you would have the tile problem. The SD card version isn't locked either, but hardware copy protection prevents you from copying it to another card.

    If you are really a fan of the 100k topo maps, you might want one of the "t-models". Not 100% sure, but I suspect you might be able to copy that pre-installed map to another device. I had an Oregon 400t for a number of years but I gave it to a friend when I got my Montana 600 so I can't test that theory.

    The DVD versions of the 24k topo maps aren't locked and can be installed on any device that you own. You might want to look at the free maps at before purchasing anything though. And, since it sounds like you may have a GIS background, you might want to learn how to make your own. That's what I do. :)

    You might also consider the Montana as an alternative to the Nuvi. I use mine in the car and on the trail and don't think I could ever go back to the Nuvi, even though I have three of them sitting around.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    It appears the newest version of mapinstall still only allows a 4 gig map install.
    I meant to address that before. Your eTrex only recognizes a single map file (gmapsupp.img). So the 4gb limit isn't completely Garmin's fault. All their devices use the Windows FAT32 filesystem which doesn't support files larger than 4GB.

    On the newer devices you can have more than 4GB of maps, but each file can be no larger than 4GB.
  • Seldom 0 Points

    Older devices like your eTrex had a limit of about 2,000 tiles. The new devices have a 4,000 tile limit.
    In surfing the FAQ to answer Todd308's question, I was surprised to find that most of the new generation Garmins support only around 3000 tiles. The OR's support 4000 tiles if they don't have any built in maps, but the link for the Etrex 20/30 tops out at around 3000. I'm pretty sure your Montana is around there too.{d811c140-2610-11e1-73d0-000000000000}

    Boyd, is there any way a peon like myself can include URLs that actually link to something?
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    Forum policy prohibits live links unless they are to this site - sorry. :)

    I find that Garmin FAQ a little hard to buy. There is no way that the 650t and 600 could have the same segment limits since the 650t includes US Topo with 450 segments. The 600 would have to take the basemap into account also.

    But honestly, I could care less. I doubt that I would ever want more than 1000-2000 segments on the device at one time myself. All I usually have is City Navigator and several of my own maps. All combined, that is only about 500 segments I think.

    Heh, in searching Garmin support for "segment" I just found something rather surprising. I am going to start a thread on this in the Nuvi forum...{fe363fe0-211a-11e1-73d0-000000000000}

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How many map segments can I load to my nuvi?


    When using MapInstall or MapSource to send mapping to a device, each map item selected is called a map segment or a map set. You can select multiple map segments and send them all at once to a device or a memory card.

    Although other devices have a limit to the number of total map segments they can read, the nuvi line does not. When sending maps to a nuvi, you are only limited by the following:

    Total available memory on the nuvi, if sending directly to the device

    Total available memory on the SD card, if sending directly to a memory card

    MapSource and MapInstall limitations

    Currently, MapSource and MapInstall will only allow you to send a maximum of 4GB of map data at a time. This means that although there is no limit to the number of map segments a nuvi can receive or read, you may still only send up to 4GB of data at any one time.
  • alanb 419 Points
    Forum policy prohibits live links unless they are to this site - sorry. :)
    Boyd, just to be clear, has that policy changed? The Policies sticky in the Discussion forum ( Policies (always a work in progress)) states "Links to GPS Companies: Links to GPS manufacturers such as Garmin and TomTom are allowed, both in live and plain text formats. Plain text is preferred."

    It seems to me that Seldom's link to the Garmin support site would be allowed by the policy.
  • Tim 1466 Points
    It seems to me that Seldom's link to the Garmin support site would be allowed by the policy.
  • babj615 41 Points
    What? Somebody actually took the time to read the forum posting rules and regulations?

  • Tim 1466 Points
    Yes, that is a good idea for everyone. It will save moderators additional work.
  • Todd308 31 Points
    More great info!

    I agree the 100K topo's are pretty blan and not exactly accurate, I basically use them in remote areas for a basemap since the factory basemap and city nav in those areas is worthless. :) For the more remote areas I go into frequently I do have the 24K DVD's I got before garmin's custom maps option. Topo accuracy in general is a problem though, you go pull a bunch of 7.5 minute USGS quads and head out into the field in the middle of no where with a map that was authored 20-50 years ago and things have changed, especially when it comes to roads/trails on the topos.

    I personally hate the preloaded SD cards, they do have the advantage of working in any unit but it's outweighed in tying up the memory card slot and/or having to swap cards. I played that game with an edge 705 and won't do it again.

    I think with my legend HCx, I'll just continue to put in 100k and 24k topos for the regions I need to keep the total file size down. I even still have an old copy of metroguide 4 (the last version that allows auto-routing on the units and is not locked to a single unit) that I install as more of a contingency plan on my legend if my nuvi has a problem (you'd be amazed how valid much of the metroguide street data still is). Though now that city nav can be downloaded for $60 a unit that's not a bad price to pay for the map/routing use on each unit IMO. Though all my recent Nuvi units are the lifetime maps version and I think that's worth the extra cost.

    I looked at the Montana, but I'm too picky/feature hungry I guess. I think it could be a great solution on the KTM (currently I'm using an older 780 nuvi that's been "modified" to be water resistant) especially since Garmin wants $600-800 for what is just a water resistant Nuvi. However, it's a bigger unit that I'd want out hiking or doing field work, I feel the etrex size and long battery life is ideal for that use. I also like the cycling training functions of the edge unit, and all the lane assist and traffic functions of the nuvi's so I'm stuck in multi-unit land :) I'm also leery of the new super high gloss screens and the durability of the glass touch screens. I'm sure they look great, and sell lots of units in the stores, but outdoors the glare is horrible, and I question the durability of the glass screen. Some of my garmin's in the past have taken some pretty good knocks I don't think a glass screen would have survived. Screen glare isn't a big deal out hiking because you can easily tilt the unit in your hand, shade it, etc., even in a car you can tilt the angle easily, but when hard mounted on a mountain bike or dirt bike you can't. The edge 800 is horrible that way compared to the older 705, love the features, but the visibility in most conditions is much worse. You can turn the backlight up to 100% to help with that, but then you kill the battery life, or get anti-glare screen protectors.

    A buddy just got one of the new etrex's must be the 20 or 30 I'm going to have to borrow that and play with it. I'd like to experiment to see if I can get renamed *.img files on it for each map type (topo 100k, metroguide, topo 24k) and see if I run into the tile limit or not. If nothing else it would be nice to have them all separated as files/layers and easy to turn on/off, backup, move around etc. The older etrex's are really a pain to manage maps on the unit, so quickly being able to turn off/on topo/street/custom maps would be great.

    If I can pull that off, I could see picking up an etrex 30 just to gain the birdseye imagery option to get some of the image data for field work onto it that would be helpful in areas. Plus I do a lot of remote sensing analysis/work and it would be fun if some of that work could be put into custom maps and put into the little garmin unit for days when dragging the trimble around is total overkill.

    I remember when the Delorme PN60 came out we were super excited because we could finally have a small/cheap unit that we could stuff our analysis onto out of ArcGIS/ENVI, turned out to be such a kluge to do it was our best justification or getting a couple GeoXT's.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    I am not familiar with the Edge, but none of Garmin's oudoor/handhelds have glass screens. AFAIK, the only units with glass screens are the Nuvi 3400/3500/3700 series. The Montana has a glossy plastic resistive touch screen. It is beautiful in just about all lighting conditions. Since its transreflective, it looks great in direct sun. Under most conditions no backlight is needed, but the backlight is the brightest I've seen on any handheld when you do need it.

    It is easy to go from ESRI shapefiles to any Garmin device. GPSMapEdit will import them and create an .mp file to compile with cgpsmapper. Mapwel will import them and directly compile an .img file. Or you can use more powerful software like globalmapper to create the .mp file for cgpsmapper. These are all solutions for vector based maps.

    For custom maps (raster imagery) there are a number of programs that can create these as well, including Google Earth.
  • Todd308 31 Points
    That's my mistake then, I thought I ran across a review somewhere saying the montana had a glass screen similar to the newest Nuvi units. In fact it was an REI review from someone who cracked the "screen", but I bet it was probably actually the LCD under it, not the screen itself.

    However, I stand by the glare issue. There are some video comparisons showing the montana outside -vs- older units (I think it was a colorado), and while the back light does seem very bright (a good thing since since the 60 series the back lights have only gotten more and more dim, so kudos to garmin there!) you can easily see the montana has more glare/reflections than the colorado, and the colorado had more glare/reflections than older 60/76 units. I will say though that you are right, it appears they did a very good job on the montana with screen display in sunlight without the backlight compared to the colorado. I believe this is mostly due to the color choices used in the display screens increasing contrast in sunlight.

    It's one reason I still use the old nuvi 780 on the motorcycle, the newer nuvi's have a much higher gloss screen and the glare is much worse. Looks great inside or when it's cloudy, or in a car where reflections are limited, but outside hard mounted to handlebars glare is a problem. The old 780's had a anti-glare screen. It doesn't look as nice inside, and the touch screen is not as responsive, but it has almost zero reflections/glare.

    The newest edge 800 is the same, glare/reflections are much worse outside than the older 705.

    It's a trade off, the glossy higher resolution screens look nicer, and I think the image/text is a bit more "crisp" but the glare outdoors is an issue. It was the same thing when they went from 256 color TFT in the 60/76 to 64K color TFT screens in newer units, they look great but the backlight brightness decreased, and reflections/glare increased. Just the nature of having a higher resolution TFT screen.

    There are always anti-glare screen protector options as well, though I've found that while they do a good job of reducing glare/reflections, they blur things quite a bit. The factory/built in low glare screens seem to do a better job of preserving detail while still reducing glare.

    I'll have to look into some of those options for getting maps into the garmin's seems like that end of things has advanced quite a bit since I last messed around with it a few years ago.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    Well, I can only report my own experience. I currently have a 60csx, Montana, Nuvi 3790, Nuvi 5000 and Nuvi 205. Previously had an Oregon 400t, Legend C, StreetPilot 2620, Nuvi 650 and Nuvi 1350. I would pick the Montana above all the others when it comes to screen.

    The 60csx screen is usually considered the gold standard for transreflective screens. It looks slightly better than the Montana but IMO the difference is not enough to matter and the much larger size and much higher resolution are well worth any slight differences. THe 60csx has a shiny hard plastic screen, just as reflective as the Montana or glass Nuvi screen.

    Here are two pictures in direct sun. The appearance of any transreflective screen is highly dependent on angle of view, so I did two different shots. You can right-click these pictures and open them in a new tab/window if you want to see the full resolution shot.



    This shot, taken in diffuse light adds the Nuvi 3790. This is the worst case for the Oregon and 60csx since they have weak backlights. The poor Oregon 400t just isn't in the same league as any of the others.


    Personally I think the 3790 screen is far superior to the older Nuvi's because of the strength of the backlight that can even overcome direct sun. Notice how the 60csx isn't readable in the shot above because of reflections. The 3790 has the same reflections, but the backlight is bright enough to cut through them.
  • Todd308 31 Points
    Those are great pics and I agree that a good bright back light helps a lot to overcome glare and it's probably the only real significant fix aside shading the unit screen. In the first two pictures are the unit backlights on or off?

    Hopefully garmin can bring whatever they are doing with the montana screen to their new units down the road. There have been a lot of improvements in screen readability the last few years in laptops and such as far as reflections and anti-glare that isn't blurring the screen like a typical matte screen protector does. I'd imagine they've avoided trying to make the backlights too bright in order to keep people from complaining about runtime, though myself I'd rather have the option to set it brighter if I need it.

    The Edge 800 ends up being very much like the 60csx in your pics, not enough backlight to counter reflections but high glare with the glossy screen. I just picked up a Nuvi 3590 and we'll see how it does in the car, I know there were a lot of situations where I was disappointed in the visibility/brightness of the 1450 it's replacing so hopefully the 3590 does better. The 780 that was migrated to the KTM was not only louder but brighter than the 1450.

    It also shows the downside of the matte or anti-glare screens in that while they do reduce reflections they also reduce the backlight that gets through, the colorado was horrible in just about every situation aside indoors in diffuse light. They also tend to "ghost" out in certain situations as shown by your last picture on the oregon in the upper left.
  • babj615 41 Points
    We were just out caching/hiking with a Montana 650 and an Oregon 550t in some rare sunshine this afternoon. Each time we needed to use the Oregon 550t, even on full backlight, we had to continually pivot and tilt the unit trying to get a clear view of the screen, and it never was easy to read. The Montana 650, on the other hand, was always crystal clear and brilliant, in sun and shade, with backlight set to 70% (just happened to be where it was set, didn't change it because I could see everything so well).

    I have four Oregons, and they get very little love from me any more.

    Gave my nuvi 3790 to my better half, and they can have my Montana when they pry it from my cold dead hands!
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    The first two photos were taken with the backlight off.

    Of course, we need to distinguish between devices with transreflective screens like the Montana and 60csx and the Nuvi, where the screen is only visible with the backlight on. Are there any laptops with transreflective screens? I haven't seen one. This is an important feature on an outdoor GPS in order to conserve battery life by not using the backlight.

    I have had two professional Sony HD camcorders with beautiful transreflective screens, and I always wondered why Garmin couldn't do as well. Now a $5,000 camcorder with a big battery is a little different from a $400 GPS with AA cells, but Garmin has done a nice job on the Montana. :) Some of the initial Montana's had screen failures and were replaced though. I was fortunate and haven't had any problems.
  • I was out yesterday all day hiking a trail through the dense tree and brush cover here in the Allegheny mountains on the Laurel Highlands hiking trail. And I gotta say without a doubt the Montana is the best GPS I've used. Never once lost a lock and I had the track log set to detailed (highest collection of track points possible) and after looking it over on Basecamp it's really a excellent product. It's just like the others have mentioned about the screen. Very very readable in the shade or bright sunlight. The backlight is easily the best and easy on the eyes. I also have loaded the maps from a download site out there with the PA topo that was available and was able to put my 100k maps onto the Montana too. I put the whole US into the Montana memory and then bought a 2013 (version 11 whatever that is) NA City Navigator. I am then able to use it connected to my computer and see the maps in Basecamp. When using the USB you'd think it would be slow but with this computer and it's current video driver setup I think that it helps out a lot having a powerful video card backend (as reference I use GT9600's on the PCI express X8 mode with two cards on three monitors). As a contrary post to the other person who hasn't had good luck with Garmin I gotta say that this is the best GPS setup I've ever had. I've been using the routing engine all this past week driving to customer sites and it's been very good. I'm quite pleased with the dual function of the Montana. I purchased a bike mount this week and will put it on my Mountain bike. We'll see how well it holds on. And I need to buy one for my Snowmobile for this winter and I want to get a car mount with speaker too for the voice directions.

    I have loaded some of my Canadian tracks from my Magellan Crossover from the last few winters of riding in Ontario and I see that some of the data up there is weak for accuracy but at least I can see some detailed mapping which I never had on the Magellan (since I was too cheap to buy the Canadian maps for use once or so a year). It's nice to overlay the track logs and make snapshots to show to my riding buddies of where we were at some point in time when we saw the Moose and other interesting places.

    Anyway, I'm a happy GPS user at this point.

  • Todd308 31 Points
    edited June 2012
    That's a good point on the screen type too, and of course power requirements. Though in reality with 3 AA's the stated 22 hour run time is about what I think the 62/colorado etc. would be if you just added another AA to their 2, so they have to have increased the efficiency as well with that big screen and bright backlight.

    I myself prefer AA's, just because you can get them everywhere and you gain some run time over the lion option at the cost of weight. Which is actually kind of odd, if they were using the same space they should be able to get more capacity out of lion -vs- AA's. Though I'm sure there is some give/take when you make a battery compartment do both. However, congrats to garmin for offering a unit that uses both options, too many devices these days are using enclosed only batteries and after a couple years they are bricks once the batteries start to decline in capacity.

    I'd also guess that for 90% of users 16 hours is more than enough run time and at night they are somewhere they can charge stuff etc.. One reason the etrex stays my go to unit is not only it's small size and weight but the fact it runs 25 hours on a pair of AA's, so when I'm out in the field doing multiple days of work I don't have to mess with lots of batteries. Solar is getting close but for now it's still not an easily viable back country option from what I've seen. We've used some of the larger fold up brunton solar units in the field and they just don't have the power required to accomplish much unless it was super bright full sun. Though I've heard some of the newer Goal Zero solar panels are doing impressive things even in indirect light for charging small devices in a compact package.

    I believe some of the hardened labtops I've used in the past have had TFT screens but you could buy a whole fleet of garmins for what those things cost.
  • Oh, and one other thing. If the poster is looking for good hiking GPS I'd recommend the Dakota 20 over the Etrex due to it's better feature set. The Dakota is more like the Montana (I bet they use the same base software coding) with a smaller screen at 2.6" vs the 2.2 of the Etrex. That little bit more screen isn't really all that much but it's noticeable when you use it. You see I had a Dakota 20 for one of my hikes on the Allegheny trail through the heavy tree cover and it was just as good for reception as the Montana but I like the larger screen being able to see further away from your current center point... and it's bigger for lousy eyes too. But, it's more of a handholder than the Montana. I held both for my hikes in one hand and a walking stick in the other but really I didn't notice much of a weight difference. I did notice the bigger screen though ! lol

  • Boyd 1853 Points
    FWIW, the Montana includes a special LiON battery, which is a rectangular thing that fits inside the space that is used for the 3 AA's. I have never used mine with AA batteries, only the included rechargeable.

    I posted elsewhere that I accidentally left my Montana on with the rechargeable battery. The backlight was off, but 16 hours later it still showed 15% capacity. I did not have it set for power save mode.
  • Todd308 31 Points
    That's impressive on the run time it's nice when they actually meet specs!

    Today I took my edge 705 and borrowed a buddies etrex 30 and edge 800 out for a test ride to see how they did. I tried taking pics but they just didn't show the differences as stark as they were in person.

    Basically I took a lap on the mountain bike with each of them mounted on the stem, part of the lap with no backlight and part with 100% backlight. The edge 705 I could see without the backlight fine in just about every condition, even in the trees, but I do use an anti-glare screen protector on it.

    The edge 800 was horrible, it was unreadable in just about every condition, between the reflections/glare and the poor contrast. In order to see the 800 clearly I had to put anti-reflective screen protector on it and turn the backlight up 100%. It seems to have a very blue tint/reflection to it in sunlight.

    The etrex 30 was in the middle of the two, it was okay most of the time without the backlight, and was great with the backlight on without a screen protector. Reflections didn't seem as much of an issue even though it has a very glossy screen. I didn't try and anti-glare screen protector on it, and wouldn't really feel the need to. I'd consider it acceptable on the mountain but not as nice as the 705, but fine for hiking use.

    The mountain bike is a hard setup because the unit sits at a very shallow angle, so there's no option to tilt/shade it really while riding, and it's very prone to reflections. If I was just hiking with them all of them would be fine because I could easily put them in my hand and find and angle that I could see them pretty well even with no backlight in most light conditions.

    I also noticed that while the anti-glare screen protector didn't really change the 705 at all aside reducing glare a bit, it noticeably made the 800 text more blurry and also seemed to make it dimmer when the backlight was used. Must be some interaction between the screen used in both of them.

    Some pics:

    first one is just all three on my truck hood with no backlight. It's not a great comparison because the hood is rounded so they all sit at a slightly different angle. In person the edge 705 clearly stood out, while the edge 800 was overpowered by the blue tint, and the etrex 30 somewhere in the middle. The 800 and etrex 30 fared a bit better at 100% backlight but you can't tell any real difference in the picture I took with the backlights on. If it wasn't for the blue tint I think the 800 would have been a lot easier to read.

    Second is just a reflection comparison between the 800 and 705, neither with backlight. Notice that not only is the reflection horrible on the 800 but it's much darker in the ambient light and we see the heavy blue tint again. Admittedly the 705 has the advantage here because I do use an anti-glare screen protector but putting one on the 800 made it ever darker than it already was.


    With everyone praising how well the montana does outside with no backlight I'm going to have to see if I can get one outside to play with it. Too big to put on the mountain bike but it would be nice on the KTM, and for hikes where size/weight is not a big factor and it still gets really good run time with 3 AA's.
  • Boyd 1853 Points
    I'd be surprised if the Montana were any better than a high quality transreflective screen such as the eTrex. Higher resolution means smaller pixels and they don't reflect as well. And touchscreens have an additional layer.

    If you look at my comments above, I noted that the 60csx was slightly better, but not by much and that the advantage of the bigger higher resolution screen on the Montana made any tradeoff worthwhile.

    If you are looking for the best reflective screen for your bike in difficult conditions, I doubt that any touchscreen would win that contest.
  • Todd308 31 Points
    Oh yeah that really wasn't my point to beat up on the touch screens or montana, just that on the bike screen visibility is really vital as is a bright backlight. The montana is way too big to put on a mountain bike IMO and I crash too much to have that huge thing on the bars! On the motorcycle though it would have the added advantage of having plug in power so the backlight could always be used and one less piece of gear to carry as on hikes etc. on the motorcycle as the montana would just come off the bars where with a nuvi you still need a hiking gps. Plus it would be water resistant.

    I assume the montana charges the lion battery in the unit so that's a nice option if you are using a solar setup to be able to just plug into the gps and charge it as opposed to charging AA's in a separate unit.

    I'll have to see if I can find one locally to play with, it looks pretty big so while a large screen is great it might still be more than I want to carry on most hikes, the etrex size and run time is just so handy to put in it's case and tether to a backpack or even off a belt loop. So far there doesn't seem to be much for case options for the montana.
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