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Old 10-12-2012, 07:00 PM   #1
jondirt OP
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Joined: Aug 2011
Location: New York City and Berlin
Oddometer: 37
Offroad/onroad combination - Montana vs 350LM

Currently, I run two GPSs on my bike: a Zumo 550 and an Edge 800.

The Zumo 550 hits a sweetspot as a great onroad device - its good at recording log tracks, showing fuel/speed stats, and routing on US roads with City Navigator. Its robust and doesn't crash. However, when I load routes in from Basecamp, even with the same maps, the autorouting on the Zumo is different from the Basecamp routing, especially on offroad segments, and there is no way to see the original route generated by Basecamp (I wish there was a way to see both the original route in a gray line and the current autoroute in a different color... but nope). I can turn off autorouting, but then if I make a wrong turn I have to manually figure out how to get back on track. Also when I zoom out, the smaller trails disappear, so its hard to see navigate offroad. I restort to a game of turning autorouting on and off and zooming in and out - its easy to make errors. More so since the fine dust of Moab got into my Zumo 550's screen and made the touch sensor flakey.

A buddy has an Edge 800, which shows exactly the same route as the route produced by Basecamp. Its not designed for motorbikes, it sometimes crashes, but it does offroad pretty well, has a robust touch sensor, and shows good detail for smaller roads, so I started carrying both units on my bike, using the 550 loaded with City Navigator maps for the road segments and relying on the smaller Edge 800 with Topo maps for offroad segments. Cumbersome but it works.

Recently I started riding in Europe. My Zumo 550 doesn't handle the 2012 Europe City Navigator maps well (that or the maps are buggy) - it tells me to take exits that are actually overpasses... So I decided its time to look at the newer Montana and the 350LM.

Garmin has this trick where things that you imagine should be easy are hard. Map data is a good example. You imagine that once you buy a map, its like buying an ebook - you own it and can use it on your devices. Certainly, if you buy an sd card map, then its fairly easy to move the chip from one device to another. But every time you want to open the map in basecamp you have to plug a device in and wait for the maps to be transferred into basecamp, which can take a very long time. Plus you may not have that USB cable with you, its easy to misplace those chips, they don't label the MicroSD chips, and once you have multiple maps you cannot merge them onto one chip... So perhaps the DVD option seems good. Sure enough, if you buy the dvd version, the maps can be installed on a laptop easily, and run nicely with basecamp, but the unlock code is tied to a single device, its $$$ if you upgrade to a new device, and you now have to transfer the map data to the device, which takes a long time. The download option is similarly restrictive. You end up with choices that all have subtle corner cases where none of the options give you a sense of satisfaction and freedom you expect.

The new Montana/350LM devices are much the same.

Montana is very close to being an ideal onroad/offroad device, but as an onroad automotive device its missing some features:
* Doesn't have a fuel odometer, or multiple trip odometers, or low fuel warning.
* Claims it is glove ready, but the onscreen layout has smaller buttons than the Zumo, hardly easy on the fingers.
* Doesn't come loaded with city navigator maps - unclear how to put topo and street maps on the device at the same time since there is only one chip slot (see above).
* Doesn't give junction previews
* No physical-buttons, all touch-screen buttons. I like the 550s physical buttons when riding for common functions like toggling screens.
* No avoidances support
* Bulky compared to the 350LM

Zumo 350LM appears to be a well rounded 550 upgrade, although they deleted the media player features of the 550. Still, it has cons compared to the Montana:

* Same road disappearance issue as the 550 (the Montana shows more details, important offroad)
* Screen is less bright than the Montana
* No Garmin connect support
* No custom map support
* No BirdsEye satellite imagery support
* Unclear how well it handles autorouting for routes generated in Basecamp that mix offroad, direct and autorouted segments

I haven't looked at the touch screen technology, its unclear which device is going to handle fine Moab dust better... they are both expensive.

Garmin seems determined to keep their devices differentiated enough to make both the Montana and the Zumo less than ideal as adventure gps devices. For now I'm holding off buying until I see a single winner that clearly beats my two device setup. Perhaps someone out there has some other research to share on this?
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jondirt screwed with this post 10-13-2012 at 05:10 AM
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