The new GPS from Garmin is one of those ideas that make sense after you read about it or see it in action, like suction stubby holders, remote controls and square beer cans.
The 620 model GPS has just been released and converts from a street finder to a reef finder in a couple of seconds. So instead of having several hundred bucks invested in a separate unit for the car, and another for the boat, this unit does both jobs.
You also get to take your valuable investment along in the boat rather than leaving it unattended in the car. Having had my car windows smashed twice by thieves, I hate leaving good gear for grubs to take.
Transferring the 620 from your car to your boat is ultra simple. The GPS comes with two different memory chips, one chip contains streets, and the other contains charts. Simply change the chip between boat use and car use and you’re right to swap.
With a holder in the car and another in the boat, and you just flick a lever, take the unit from the car and drop it straight into the boat holder. There are rubber moulds designed to protect the pins on the boat holder from corrosive salt water too.
The main unit comes with possibly the best lithium ion battery I have ever used on an electronic item. If you don’t have the proper holder, you can run the unit straight off the battery pack.
Now I’m used to the Garmin 72 which runs on AA cell batteries. The 72 is a great little unit, but the AAs you put in when you leave the boat ramp generally run out before you get the cast net out of the bucket. The 620 battery seems to last for hours, which is amazing, as it runs a fair whack of screen and options.
A GPS is a crucial investment so I’m going to review the Garmin 620 in two parts. This month I’m reviewing a trip out to Mud Island, just off the mouth of the Brisbane River. I’ve been out to Mud a couple of times, but I’m far from comfortable with the trip.
Next month, I’ll review how the unit worked in areas I know pretty well. This should give you an idea of the 620’s potential in both familiar and unfamiliar grounds.
Being unfamiliar with Brisbane a little, I used the 620 to get to the Pinkenba ramp. I’d been once before, and so was able to mark the ramp on the touch screen and transfer it to favourites. So before I left home, I dropped into favourites, chose Pinkenba Boat Ramp, and pressed GO. Easy.
If you’ve used street maps on a GPS before, you’ll be getting pretty much the same as usual with this one. Again, the touch screen works well, and there is a great screen which gives you trip information like average speed, top speed and distance travelled on a simple basis.
One beef I have with Garmin is they don’t seem to have a facility to take a detour. You can go off track but it tries to take you straight back to the direct route as soon as possible. Sometimes you need to take another route entirely, not just a block or two, and I can’t seem to make it do this.
However the unit got me quickly and cleanly to the ramp. It has spoken street names though my unit seems to miss words here and there. You can easily zoom in or out at the touch of the symbols on the screen.
Once at the ramp, I simply popped the traffic chip out, slapped the chart chip in, and banged it into the holder on the boat. All this took 5 seconds, good work, Garmin.
It’s on the water that you really begin to appreciate this bit of gear though. The list of information and charts is astounding, and they’re logically available. You can put more or less clutter on the screen. Given I’m not familiar with the unit or the water I was travelling through, I went for middle of the range so I didn’t get confused.
Heading out from Pinkenba to the mouth of the river can be confusing. There are buoys everywhere, with tugs, trawlers, and large container ships that won’t bend much if you run into them, so you have to be aware of where you are. Between the 620 and my eyes, I managed.
You can use a number of views as you travel. There is something called ‘fish eye’ which is a little beyond me, but ‘mariner’s eye’ is great, as it gives you a perspective from the floor of your boat looking forward. Of course, you can go for ‘chart’ which is the usual GPS view, except in the 620 you get some amazing detail, similar to Google Earth.
I left the unit in ‘chart’ view and left the river mouth. I tried to set a course but there are so many options it became confusing. The 620 shows depths so I just left it on that and motored out to a likely spot.
In true Dudd fashion I caught three fifths of bugger all despite a good four hours of fishing through sunset and into the night. Then I headed for home.
It’s at this stage the 620 came into its own. The massive cranes and silos of the Port were lit up like a 4km Christmas tree lying on its side, but the broad open waters of the bay had taken on a sinister look in the dark. With the naked eye, I knew roughly where I needed to head, but not how to get there.
There was some chop, so I dropped the Stacer into mid range revs, and slapped my way forward. A lovely black dotted line told me where I’d been so I couldn’t get lost, and as I neared the river mouth, that got really important.
It was impossible to see which lights were which, but the detailed map on the 620 made it a cinch. Every beacon and buoy was marked. All I had to look out for were those pesky container ships. A couple tried to push me off course but I held my line and they gave way.
The amount and number of lights makes seeing markers almost impossible, but with the 620 I was able to zoom in so that I knew where every buoy was. The chart and the screen corresponded beautifully so I was able to chug along well at 25 clicks.
To summarise, the 620 has a massive touch screen and is like a plasma tv in your boat. The touch screen works well, but of course in rough weather can be a little difficult to use, although you can adjust the settings on the screen to help cope with this. The ability to drag the map is a real positive, as you can see where you’re heading to with a flick of the finger.
One negative with the screen is I have an open boat and I couldn’t easily adjust the settings to allow for bright sunlight. To be fair, that’s a problem with every device I’ve seen or used and I’ve not yet read the instruction booklet to the nth degree.
At night it’s brilliant, with bright colours and markings as clear as crystal. The maps are accurate and easy to read, the tide, sun and moon charts are an added benefit, and the depth markings all seem to be on the money.
Overall so far, I would highly recommend the 620. It is user friendly, with logical menus, a massive, high-quality screen, and the ability to change between car and boat, which is a big step forward.
I will take the 620 into familiar territory in the Sandy Strait next month for a further investigation of its potential.
This is the same area but with most detail and least detail options chosen. A sliding bar allows you to choose how much clutter you want on the screen.Reads: 2765