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New Garmin 695 - World First Information


Guest Michael Coates
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Guest Michael Coates

IT’S not often that Garmin manage to keep an all-new product very secret: in the industry, they are watched as closely as firms like Apple, and keeping new kit under wraps is hard when there is army of bloggers out there tracking the firm’s every new move – some real, some imagined.

 

For months there has been talk of a new GPs unit, tagged variably the 497, the 595, the 596 – names plucked from the air it seemed. Well, now we know what it is, it’s the new 695 that was revealed this morning to the US market, and worldwide.

 

If it were not for the company badge on the front you might be hard pushed to guess that the GPSMap 695 is the latest portable GPS from Garmin. With its tablet-style form factor and considerable bulk it doesn’t look much like any of the company’s previous GPSMap portables.

 

 

 

Measuring roughly 19 cm x 14 cm x 4 cm the new Garmin weighs in at just over 1 Kg. The Nickel Metal Hydride battery alone weighs 400g – that by itself is as much as a GPSMap 495. The reason behind these dimensions, of course, is the screen. It’s big – providing about three times the display area as a 495.

 

To the right of the display is a similar set of buttons to those found on the 495, but with the addition of a FPL key to access the Flight Plan pages. The 4-way rocker pad from the 495, however, is transformed into a combined rotary knob / joystick similar to that found on the G1000. There is also a row of 5 context-sensitive “soft keys” below the screen. These controls are all combined into an operating logic that is a mixture of GPSMap 495, GNS430, and G1000.

 

In the air the screen is very impressive. We often complain about the display brightness on some portable GPS units, but that’s not a problem with the 695. In a variety of lighting conditions during our in-flight tests, including direct, bright sunlight the display was never less than superb.

 

The big screen helps to reduce the amount of button pressing required because so much information can be shown on a single page. For example, it’s possible to have 6 data fields and a decent-sized HSI shown on the screen simultaneously, and still have enough room for a moving map twice as big as the entire screen on a 495! Or alternatively, a quick twist of the rotary knob allows all the information about an airport – runway information, circuit direction, frequencies, elevation - to be shown on a single screen without having to scroll through different pages.

 

The aeronautical database is about the best we’ve come across. Aerodromes, frequencies, ATZ, MATZ, VRPs, gliding sites, airways, terrain, obstacles – it has almost everything. And the map can be customised to show or hide whichever elements you want.

 

Some of the features that are common with the 495 work particularly well on the 695’s big screen. One such feature is Smart Airspace. This means that the boundary of regulated airspace that is at a level close to your own is shown on the moving map in bold, while airspace that is at a significantly different level is shown less conspicuously. During our testing we flew under the London TMA near Stansted where there are lots of changes to the base level of the TMA. We found that Smart Airspace made it much easier to identify relevant airspace and hence avoid infringements.

 

One of the new features we like is that VRPs are now fully integrated into the navigation functions. So, for example, the nearest VRPs can be listed in the same way as airports or VORs, and VRPs can be added to flight plans.

 

Another significant improvement over the 495 is that relative terrain information can now be displayed directly on the moving map display, and can be toggled on and off using one of the soft keys. Switching to the terrain page for this information is no longer necessary.

 

While the 695 is the ultimate portable GPS, we think that its size, cost and features make it perfect for panel mounting in Permit to Fly aeroplanes, and expect that homebuilders everywhere will soon be checking their available panel space.

 

 

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