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I would be very surprised if an external antenna makes a difference. In the consumer world, antennas are typically only used when the device is inside a vehicle that has obstructions. The 60 series (GPSMap 60/62/64) has a quad helix antenna that many people feel is the best in the business already.
Tim's point about expectations is right on target. Consumer devices like the 64 are not likely to give you any better than +/- 5 meters regardless of what you do. The very expensive antennas you have seen are probably intended for use with specialized survey grade gps units that cost thousands of dollars. In the consumer space, spending more money is not likely to give you more accuracy. A ~$100 device like the eTrex 10 is going to be just as accurate as the ~$700 Monterra. Spending more money just gets you more "bells and whistles".
To get the best accuracy with your 64, use the "waypoint averaging" feature. If you stand stationary, the device takes a position fix every second and averages the results. This usually gives better accuracy, but there are a lot of variables such as the position of the satellites at the time you take the measurements.
I think the version numbers are only useful in determining whether your device is up to date, or if there's a bug in the new firmware you might want to revert to an earlier version. Aside from that, those number are irrelevant and certainly are not a basis for comparison between different series.
Garmin automotive units have gone through a slow evolution of features. Typically each new series has something slightly different. Looking back, the Nuv 600 series did not offer multi-point routing and did not record or display a track log. IIRC, those features were added with the 700 series. Then another series came along and added the speed limit display, lane assist and junction view came after that and so forth.
Around 2010 they completely abandoned traditional garmin multi-point routes and replaced them with "trips" that could only be created on the device itself. All the new models were unable to either send or receive routes from Mapsource or Basecamp. Why they did this is still a mystery. But there was such an outcry that they introduced one-way route transfer from the computer to the gps in the next Nuvi series. This was still very limited and the whole "trip planner" fiasco continued until 2013 (IIRC) when they finally brought back the full functionality of the old Nuvi models.
The 2012 models introduced an interesting feature of custom dashboards that actually allowed you to design your own map screen. Then in 2013, they removed that feature and never brought it back. http://forums.gpsreview.net/discussion/26442/making-customized-dashboards/p1
They did the same thing with custom speed limits, where the user could enter their own limit if it was missing from the map. Advanced pedestrian mode was something they introduced in 2010 (IIRC), it provided a different map screen and cursor and allowed routing via mass transit if you purchased a special map. A few years later they discontined those maps and removed the pedestrian mode from the new models.
In 2010 they introduced the Nuvi 3790 which was thin and looked like an iPhone. They made a big deal over this, it had its own website. And it was very impressive, I had one. True 3d view including three dimensional terrain and buldings. Completely new user interface. There was a new 3d map browser that used the multi-touch screen to tilt and rotate the map. They continued refining this flagship model with the 3490, 3590 and 3597 and then just dropped it. None of the current models have 3d terrain AFAIK.
For the appearance of the main map screen, the biggest change came in 2013 with a different "flatter" look (apparently Apple-inspired) and tabs that slide open. I think this has been retained on the new "Drive" series.
Now the changes to the newest devices all seem to be based on a bluetooth connection to your smartphone, things like finding parking places, etc. The newest hardware does look nice, with big bright screens. Have only played briefly with them in the store. The problem is, the dedicated GPS is dying a slow death and their sales are way down. They will need to stand out from smartphones somehow. I suppose an obvious way is making 7" screens which would be a bit too large for a phone. ;)
Personally, I'm very happy with the Garmin StreetPilot Onboard app on my iPhone 6s+ which has a 5.5" screen. The user interface is very similar to a 2012 Nuvi, with some features borrowed from other models.
Regarding your question about which models will be supported... roll the dice and that's about the best way to forecast what Garmin will do. See the examples I cited above, they were all offered on Garmin's flagship models and announced with much fanfare only to vanish later with no explanation. ;)
You could check with this company, they repair out of warranty devices. The owner is a member here. http://www.sharc.net/gps_repair.htm
But you really have to ask yourself whether it would be cost effective, since new devices have gotten so inexpensive...
I have moved this thread to the handheld forum.
Yeah, I would not sink that kind of money into an old device the probably has a limited lifespan. Get a factory refurb nuvi, it will have a one year warranty as well as lifetime maps.
It's funny, Verizon notified me that I could get FIOS at my old home about a month before I moved to my new place in 2006. But I decided slow internet was a reasonable price to pay for life in a secluded location way back in the woods with a wild stream, surrounded by state forest. Have never regretted that decision. :)