For starters, they feature much faster processors, a fact that is quickly evident as soon as you zoom, pan or switch screens. This fast response is not only convenient; it also makes for less heads-down time.
The displays are huge improvements over those in the 400 and 500 series navigators. Both make use of LED technology for brighter colors, more vibrant hues — there are 16 million colors available — and greatly improved sunlight readability.
As you can see in the accompanying photos, both displays are substantially larger than their predecessors.
For the 650, this is true despite it being the same height and width as the 430. Because the 650 is a touch-screen device, the “keys” are essentially built into the display, so the bezel is freed up to do something other than house hardware-based controls.For Garmin, the decision on what to do with the additional real estate was a foregone conclusion: make the display larger. And it did. The screen on the 650 is more than 50 percent larger than that of the 430. It’s also a much more detailed display, with five times as many pixels as in the 430.
The difference in screen size is far more dramatic with the 750, a fact that Jim Alpiser, Garmin’s aftermarket sales manager, predicts will all but eliminate the need for many pilots to purchase a stand-alone MFD for the panel.
This is true in part because the 750 is simply a much larger box than the 530. It takes up slightly more area than a 530 and a 430 combined. For the record, the screen on the 750 is 6.9 inches diagonally, making it just a hair less than twice as big as a 530. While it looks as though the top section of the 750 would simply overlay the panel, it actually takes up a couple of inches of room inside the panel.
For many owners, this larger form factor will necessitate moving or removing a panel-mount device of some kind. It will also require cutting a new hole in the panel and relocating other equipment, both of which could entail some substantial installation costs.
Still, a lot of owners will make the sacrifice and make the 750 their MFD of choice not only because it’s big, but also because it can do some things that other aftermarket MFDs just can’t. For example, the popular G200, Garmin’s current retrofit MFD, will have an impossible time competing against the 750 in terms of price or capabilities.
Apart from size, there are a few important differences between the 650 and the 750. The 750, because of its larger size, has several capabilities available now or down the road that the 650 lacks. Right now the 750 can control a remote-mount Garmin digital audio panel (the GMA35), providing a graphical interface through which the pilot can do all kinds of things most pilots have never seen an audio panel do. (Look for more in an upcoming issue on Garmin’s remarkable new lineup of digital audio panels, both remote mount and panel mount.) The ability to interface with a remote audio panel also potentially frees up space in the panel. This is also true for another of the 750’s abilities, controlling a remote transponder, something the GTN 650 can also do. The 650, for the record, can’t control an audio panel, though Garmin does offer an impressive new stand-alone unit, the GMA 350, that will surely find a home alongside a lot of 650s.
Both units feature touch screens, but the technology, capacitive touch, is different from the infrared display technology employed by Garmin in its panel-mount touch-screen navigators. Honestly, if Garmin hadn’t told me that, I would never have known. The feel of the units is nearly identical.
The touch screens are marvels in ease of use. Touch an icon without hitting it squarely and you get a “bonk” tone, notifying you that the touch didn’t work. Touch a button and then take your finger off in a different area than you touched, and you get bonked again. The displays require an accurate touch, but they do it without being finicky. And because both units are designed with beveled rails along the sides and bottom, you always have a convenient place to anchor your hand. So even when it’s pretty bumpy — I tried it in some pretty good chop — it’s still easy to input what you want to input. So let me put to rest the concern that many pilots will have, that they won’t be able to control these units in turbulence. Based on my experience with them so far, I’m convinced it will be as easy if not easier to get the desired results on a bumpy day with these touch-screen navigators than it is with a 430 or 530 today.
Sensitive to the likes and dislikes of different pilots, Garmin designed the GTN products so that the pilot can control them with no buttons or with nothing but buttons. Both have a “direct-to” button on the right-side bezel, and both have a “home” button on the upper right-hand side of the bezel. The dual concentric knobs and “home” button both feature knob technology that was unknown in aviation even a few years ago. Both barrels of the knob can be twisted in either direction, and the center barrel can be pushed to select or enter a value. Using this knob you can scroll between options — there are no drop-down menus — flip-flop frequencies and toggle back and forth between the comm and nav radios. Likewise, the “home” button allows the pilot with a single short push to go back to the main menu or, with a longer push, to go back to the main map screen. (On the 650, the longer push takes you to a CDI/informational navigation page.)
One dedicated button that I’m not crazy about but which I quickly got used to is the “direct-to” button. My problem with the button isn’t that it’s there — I don’t care if it is or not; my gripe is that there’s not a touch-screen “direct-to” button on the screens where I’d be looking for it to be. Instead, you need to reach for the hard button, which changes one’s focus from screen to bezel unnecessarily.
I flew the GTN 750 and GTN 650 in a dual box center-stack install in Garmin’s Mooney Ovation II. In front of me was Garmin’s popular PFD/MFD product, the G600.