Garmin has announced the new successor to the Garmin GPSMAP 64 series handheld GPS units. Unlike the 64 series, there will only be two models in this series, and both will be fully equipped with sensors. The GPSMAP 66S is available for order in Australia now for an RRP of $549. The GPSMAP 66ST is also available now in Australia at an RRP of $599.
Garmin GPSMAP 66ST - Available Now - $599 AUD
Garmin GPSMAP 66S - Available Now - $549 AUD
The GPSMAP 66S has seen some major changes particularly the Satellite Imagery, Wifi/Bluetooth connectivity, Active Weather Radar
- Overall size (6.2 x 16.3 x 3.5cm – GPSMAP 66S | 6.1 x 16 x 3.6cm – GPSMAP 64S)
- Screen size (3” Screen GPSMAPS 66 | 2.6” Screen GPSMAP 64S)
- Display Resolution (GPSMAP 66S 240 x 400p (pixels) | GPSMAP 64S 160 x 240p)
- Available Memory (GPSMAP 66S 16GB | GPSMAP 64S 4GB)
- Waypoint/Routes and Tracklog (GPSMAP 66S 20000 Points, 250 GPX Tracks and 300 Saved Fit Activities | GPSMAP 64S 10,000 points, 200 Saved Tracks)
- Garmin Explore Compatible
- Mag Segment
- Active Weather
- Direct Download Satellite images (no subscription)
- MIL-STD 810G ruggedness for thermal, shock and water performance
- Rinex Logging
- WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity
There are some pretty major changes here, particularly with the direct download Satellite Imagery. This is a very popular feature for handheld GPS users, but the annual subscription cost was a fairly common prohibiting factor. The other change is the Active Weather Radar. This feature allows for quick access to in-depth weather information directly on your position. Keep in mind though this feature does need you to have a Bluetooth connection to your phone with active mobile reception.
What's the difference between GPSMAP 66S and GPSMAP 66ST
The only difference between these two models is that the GPSMAP 66ST comes preloaded with Australian/NZ Topographical maps while the GPSMAP 66S does not come with this mapping. The Topo maps on the GPSMAP 66ST are the Lite version of Garmin's Topo maps. We have more information on the difference between Full Topo maps and Lite Topo maps here but in short, the Full Topo maps allow for routing to specific locations/addresses on the device and have more accurate contours. You can purchase the Full Topo maps separately here, it will come on a micro SD card that can be loaded easily into the device underneath the batteries on the back.
From a design perspective, both devices are extremely similar, with a couple of minor differences in size and display. The GPSMAP 66S has a slightly larger overall size, but the difference is almost imperceptible. The screen size is noticeably bigger though. Apart from the obvious visual changes they feel quite similar to hold. The other changes are the buttons are a little more compact but wider. The buttons functions are the same though the new version has a different menu
The power button is located on top of the unit now. I preferred the position on the GPSMAP 64 better as it was easier to switch on/off but I can see why they may have wanted to make the change as it’s much less likely to be bumped switching on the device and wasting your power.
Other then those changes and the slightly larger screen the ports are all the same, though Garmin has changed the power/data cord to MicroUSB. The Micro SD card slot possible underneath the batteries.
Both devices function on two AA batteries, and typical life would be 16 hours however though that’s mostly dependent on your GPS use and app functions. The new GPSMAP 66 series also comes with the Expedition mode functionality, this dramatically increases the devices battery life by limiting automatic software functions like tracking points, display times and enters low power mode.
How to enable Expedition mode on the GPSMAP 66 devices
Go to the main menu of the device > Select Setup > Select Expedition Mode. Then you will be asked to choose Auto, Prompted or Never.
Selecting Auto will set the device to expedition mode automatically after two minutes of activity.
Select Prompted means that next time you turn off the device, it will ask you to turn on expedition mode instead of turning off.
Selecting Never will turn off any form of expedition mode you already have running (Prompted or Auto).
Software features available on Both Devices:
Both devices can record waypoints/routes and track logs, though the GPSMAP 66 can record more. I’ll list the full amount of software features below:
Area calculation on the devices (just walk perimeter of the area).
Ability to load custom maps – you can load custom maps that are compatible with Garmin devices think Garmin Topo or even City Nav Maps. If you load either of these maps, you will then have access to automatic routing functionality on the devices. *You need to use FULL version Topo Maps for routing.
Geocaching-friendly – geocaching app preloaded onto devices, you do need to register the device though.
Hunt/Fish calendar – preloaded onto devices
Sun and Moon information – preloaded onto devices
Picture viewer function – pretty self-explanatory
Garmin Connect – available on both devices allows activity information to be sent to your Garmin connect account and allows for connected features with your smartphone. Connected features include Phone notifications, LiveTrack, GroupTrack.
Both handheld GPS units have a barometric altimeter, 3 tilt axis compensated compass. The barometric altimeter will be able to give you information about changes to weather conditions (assuming you have stayed at the same elevation) though it does need to adequately calibrated. This sensor can also be used to measure your elevation changes and even measure AVG gradient change when looking at your point to point data.
Software features Available only on the GPSMAP 66 Series:
Garmin Explore App compatibility – Once connected to your smartphone app the Garmin explore app will automatically sync and share waypoints, tracks, and routes with your device. You can also download maps to your smartphone for offline access
Garmin has upped their weather information significantly with this iteration. You can now get a plethora of weather data based on real-time forecast information. They have separate predictive map options for temperature, wind, precipitation and clouds. It also provides live weather radar so that you’re ready to change your plans if you’re going to get caught out. This feature does rely on an active Bluetooth connection to your smartphone that has reception.
We have a full review on the Bird’s Eye Satellite imagery available here. In short though the Satellite imagery functions precisely the same as it did on the GPSMAP 64 series but you no longer have to pay for it.
New to the GPSMAP 66 series is compatibility with Garmin’s Connect IQ store which is basically Garmin’s crowdsourced ‘App Store’. There’s not a huge range of compatible apps for this GPS yet, but more are always being developed. These are third-party apps, so they are generally not as polished. The advantage is that you can get some pretty custom apps and options for data displays.
InReach Remote function – you can control your inReach mini device.
Flashlight and SOS
Another unique feature is the very bright LED flashlight and SOS beacon that can be used to signal for help. The SOS function is just an emergency strobe. However, you can also set the torch to strobe between 1-9 times per second.
The GPSMAP 66 across all aspects is a robust handheld GPS. It shines more in some areas like software features and display size and performs at an expected level in other areas like battery life and GPS tracking. Garmin has done an outstanding job introducing this product, and it stands as an example of great iteration jump.