Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Garmin Introduces The Touch-Screen 650 And 750


The Garmin 430 and 530 revolutionized the avionics world in 1999. Now, Garmin hopes to do it again with the even-more-talented 650 and 750.


It might be logical to expect I'd resist the new nav/com suites, but that wasn't the case when I climbed into the company's Ovation for two hours of flying around central Florida. Everyone knows an airplane cockpit makes a terrible classroom, and accordingly, I had spent an hour at Garmin's booth becoming familiar with the system's operating principles with West Coast Regional Manager Mike Young as my guide. In the airplane, Garmin's Dave Brown led me by the hand through most operations.

I was far from prepared for the deluge of new technology incorporated in the 650 and 750, but at least I didn't feel totally out of my depth when I fired up Garmin's Mooney at Lakeland on the last day of the show. The touch-screen interface is about as telegraphic as it gets. You need only touch a menu item, and the system instantly provides you with options for that item. Fortunately, you still can do most functions the old way, a clever tactic on Garmin's part. It means you can start using the systems immediately, programming in the familiar way; then, gradually introduce more and more touch-screen technique until you're weaned from using knobs.

Right up front, you'll notice that both the 650 and 750 have much larger screens than their dozen-year-old ancestors. Specifically, the 650's screen is more than 50 percent larger than the 430's but manages to maintain the same footprint. That's because most of the controls are now incorporated into the screen, so many of the peripheral buttons and switches used on the 430 are no longer necessary.

The 750's screen is almost double the size of the 530's, about seven inches diagonally. Coincidentally, that's the same dimension as the company's king-sized, portable 696 GPS nav. In fact, the 750 is roughly the size of a 430 and 530 combined, so you'll need considerable center stack space if you plan to install the two in the usual center position.

The big screen makes it possible to view an entire approach plate using Garmin FliteCharts and ChartView. You also can display integrated audio if you select the new, optional GMA 35 remote mount audio panel. In combination with the integral transponder, also optional, similar to that incorporated in the popular G1000, this can eliminate two more boxes from the radio stack, and make life a little simpler for pilots flying older, steam-gauge airplanes with limited panel space.

All this innovation makes the 750 more reminiscent of a glass-panel MFD with built-in nav and com capability than a GPS/NAV/COM in the traditional sense. The contrast between the old and the new displays is dramatic. In addition to offering a larger screen, Garmin has packed over five times more pixels into the new 750, specifically 650 x 708 (a total of 425,000), so the sharp LED display is crisp and brilliant, with all the detail you could ask for. The 650 sports a pixel count of 600 x 266 (for 159,600 total), but since the 650's screen is smaller, resolution is still excellent.



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