Garmin has grabbed market attention with a compact GPS chartplotter that features Google type, high-resolution satellite imagery. Test report, Andrew Galwey.
The GPSMAP 450 certainly offers big capability in a small package. The small aspect of this package may be, in my view, its only limiting factor. The GPSMAP 450 screen has an ultra bright 800 nits of brightness, 320 x 240 pixels, 4” (102 mm) diagonal QVGA 256 colour, sunlight readable display. The display, 62mm wide x 82mm in height, gives the user good portrait display, however, its width of just 62mm is a little restrictive, especially when used for mapping or navigational purposes.
Readers of my past tests will be aware that I have a fetish against smaller screens. Anything under 5” (127 mm) causes my eyes to literally glaze over. However, I do concede that the smaller units do have a place in the boating scene. Many smaller boats and those with smaller budgets, do have a need for the smaller screen units. Nonetheless, I take the view that any vessel with the space capacity for just a 4” (102 mm) screened unit, is unlikely to require GPS mapping! If for some reason they do, then the Garmin GPSMAP 450 will provide them with functions beyond belief. Garmin, unlike some brands, will provide you with the display quality required for small screen visibility. The GPSMAP 450 performed perfectly in direct sunlight and equally well in total darkness. The imagery was crisp and clear and viewable from amazing peripheral angles. In this respect the unit simply could not be faulted. However, with the combination of a bouncing boat, user's distance from the screen, saltwater spray, sunlight and reflection, this screen is marginally sized to capitalise on the massive array of functions and information it provides.
The Garmin 450 series comes either as a 450 stand-alone Chart-plotter or as the 450s combination chart-plotter/sounder. Unfortunately, I wasn’t provided with the combination unit! The portrait screen is ideally placed to provide a reasonably sized fish finder display. In past experience I have always found Garmin fish finders to be honest units. Admittedly, I would not be overly happy having to work this size screen in split-screen mode.
Garmin have an enviable reputation when it comes to GPS technology. Long before the concept of car navigation, Garmin lead the GPS technology, their smaller units, such as handheld GPS’s, were without doubt unequalled. Over recent years the company has become a front-runner in the car navigation field and that has lead to even greater development and research budgets. The spin-off from that is clearly reflected in this latest unit’s capabilities.
Garmin has once again lead the field by enabling the GPSMAP 450 to display maps in a Google type, high-resolution satellite imagery. It is something one has to see to really appreciate. I found it absolutely fantastic and can’t see myself settling for anything less in the future. This feature is driven by the optional BlueChart g2 Vision card.
A worldwide basemap comes standard on this unit, allowing you to get straight on the water without the need for additional cards or expense. The option of the BlueChart g2 Vision card, however, provides the high-resolution aerial reference photos for help navigating tricky harbours and channels - or locating spots like areas within marinas, fuel stops or restaurants.
The g2 Vision plug-in data card also allows the GPSMAP 450 to graphically depict a true 3D “mariner’s eye” topside view or “fish eye” underwater navigation perspective. When on the water it is very simple to toggle between either the high satellite imagery or the standard fishing view.
With the optional BlueChart g2 Vision SD card, you can add a whole new dimension of exceptional features to your chart-plotter.
- 3D mariner’s eye view or fish eye view provides you with a 3-dimensional perspective of map information, both above the waterline and below it.
- High-resolution satellite images and aerial photographs help you orient yourself in unfamiliar areas.
- Auto Guidance technology searches through all relevant charts to create a route you can actually follow — one that avoids obstacles, shallow water, buoys and other obstructions.
Obviously, the latter is one of the spin-offs from the now proven technology of the car navigation systems and will certainly come in handy for those that operate in the more heavily congested areas such as Sydney Harbour, etc.
The Garmin GPSMAP 450, has its own internal receiving antenna, however, comes with the provision of an alternative exterior connection when required to work from deep within a boat's cabin.
Working the Unit: The unit is sleek and a good looker, measuring about 145mm wide x 150mm high (on stand) and will require approximately 140mm in depth with plugs attached.
Menus, although extremely simple to follow, do require multiple selections before you get to your favourite or previous page/display. For example, to get to the main navigation display you would need to select the home button; there you are provided the following menu options: ‘Charts’, ‘Where to go’, ‘Information’ and ‘Configure’. You must then toggle and select the option you want. If you selected ‘Charts’, you are then presented with another list of menu options which include: ‘Navigational chart’, ‘Fishing chart’, ‘Mariner’s eye 3D’, ‘Fish eye 3D’ and ‘Chart Setup’. You must again toggle and select your required option. It is only after this selection you will be provided with the page you required!
Another point is, when presented with a full screen of options or waypoints, you are not allowed to simply toggle through to the next screen's display. You have to actually select the next page option. This becomes monotonous, especially when toggling through a long list of waypoints.
Entering or editing waypoints is quite simple. The unit provides excellent point enhancing capability when you are out on the water. Names are limited to 8 characters, which is a little limiting. I would prefer to see a minimum of 12, or even better, with 15 characters.
The ability to store and quickly select favourite pages would make this unit more convenient to use, especially on the water. Maybe even an on-screen selection method for some of the options. Garmin tells me that their recently introduced large screen units have touch-screen facilities, we are, however, talking big dollars here.
The go-to function on this unit is terrific. Once a waypoint or position to travel is selected, a very bright yellow arrow points clearly towards that destination. Information on bearing, speed and distance to travel is clearly displayed at the top of the screen.
Summary: Reading back over the above it appears I’m maybe being a little tough on a unit I actually enjoyed using! Most of my criticisms are nit-picking points.
The quality of the display on the water was as good as I’ve seen on any unit and as I mentioned earlier, the high-resolution satellite imagery really is an advancement on GPS mapping and one I welcome.
Route creation is a breeze on this unit and its ability to store up to 1500 waypoints is fantastic. The tidal and celestial info is displayed superbly.
The unit also provides easy-to-use data transfer facilities where waypoints, tracks and routes are simply transferred to and from an SD card.
It's easy to be critical of a smaller unit that provides and acts as a larger unit. The Garmin GPSmap 450 certainly is a small package providing all the bells and whistles of the larger units. At this stage, however, none other than Garmin provide the high-resolution satellite imagery, and that, along with their wonderful GPS technology, is going to place this unit on the “must look at” list of any of us out there buying a GPS.
Garmin does have a larger version of this unit of this model the Garmin 550. Although an extra $400 to buy, I think I would happily pay that, certainly if I were going to go for the Chartplotter/Sounder combination. I’ve yet to get out on the water with that unit but am certain I’m going to enjoy every minute of doing so.
The GPSmap450 isn’t at the cheaper end of the GPS price range, with a recommended price tag of $1,349. The BlueChart g2 Vision SD card come in two packages, the smaller coverage (approx. 1/8th Australia) costs $299 and the larger (approx. 1/3 Australia) costs $439. The Garmin 450s (sounder/chartplotter) costs an extra $200, a total of $1,549.
The larger screen model, the 550s, costs $1,949. I simply can’t imagine why one wouldn’t go for the combo units when you consider the small cost differences and the quality of Garmin fishfinders.
Yes, they aren’t the cheapest, however, they provide a hell of a lot and that satellite imagery really will impress.
• Ultra-bright 4” diagonal QVGA display, 320 x 240 pixels - 800 nits of brightness
• New streamlined user interface offers easy selection of modes and features
• Preloaded with marine map detail of the UK & Ireland plus a worldwide satellite imagery internal map
• Single SD memory card slot for optional BlueChart G2 VISION cards
• AIS compatible
BlueChart G2 VISION cards provide:
• High-resolution satellite imagery which can be overlaid on the basemap
• 3D charting information for a true ‘mariner’s eye view’ perspective
• 3D perspective below the water line for displaying bathymetry in a ‘fish eye view’
• Auto guidance technology suggests the best course to a destination
• Navigationally significant aerial photographs
• Coastal roads and points of interest detail
• Built-in receiving antenna with remote antenna capability - BNC connector for optional GA29 antenna
• Backlit keypad for easier operation at night
• Two NMEA0183 I/O ports
• Unit dimensions: 5.7”W x 5.0”H x 2.7”D.
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