Garmin nüvi 500 & GPSMap 640, yipe!


How behind is Panbo? Well, in July I whined about Garmin’s introduction of the touchscreen Oregon handheld before I’d yet written much about the somewhat similar Colorado. While I’ve been testing an Oregon for some weeks (and still haven’t posted here about it), Garmin has introduced two new handheld/portable units of considerable interest to boaters. One is the nüvi 500 above, a waterproof, multi-mode version of Garmin’s 3.5” touchscreen automobile navigator. Which makes it a direct, and probably awesome, competitor to the Lowrance XOG and Magellan Crossover. Fortunately, the able blogsters at GPS Magazine and GPSTracklog have both reviewed the unit, though neither went boating with one. I don’t think anyone has yet seen the intriguing GPSMap 640…

The GPSMap 640 is a whole new product line for Garmin, though it clearly combines features of the high-end marine 5000 MFD series with the “extra wide” 5.2” nüvi 5000. The nüvi 500 above comes with street and topos built in, you add g2 BlueCharts on mini SD card; the 640 not only comes with charts and street maps built in, but purportedly knows which you want to use depending on which mount it’s in. It only has NMEA 0183 for interfacing with boat sensors, but it sure looks like a neat way to make the most of an XM weather subscription. Garmin also recently announced VHF radios and a N2K wind sensor, and is now shipping a heck of an autopilot. There are probably a lot of folks in the marine electronic industry muttering “yipe”.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

7 Responses

  1. John D says:

    I really wish these new units had a switch to go to a very classic theme look. For many of us, the 3D pop-out icon on a 3-D button is just overkill. All those dark and bright edges could be smoothed out and we could get some focus on the actual information being displayed.
    So here’s the request, either include a clean functional theme, or let folks build their own.

  2. Mike P says:

    Maybe Garmin isn’t right for you. If you want old school, classic stick with the bulky square edged furuno’s, that you need to give up closet space to house the enormous black box you need to power the beast. I think you can still get Raytheon on ebay, that’s pretty classic, lol.

  3. norse says:

    I’d take elegant over trendy myself, but you know what they say about beauty…
    Display of content on the other hand is more than just taste. The top photo above shows the boat going 35 knots over a reef. It’s times like this you want a really nice simple, easy-to-use, quick-responding user interface.

  4. Pete Willy says:

    Thanks Ben.. u have made my decision easy… I will make the leap of faith to the 640.. thats what I was looking for.. I have managed to run over the edge of a reef at 35 knots with a multi thousand dollar Raymarine set-up under my nose… not blaming equipement at all .. i should have taken a more conservative route but a quicker response time could have saved me from my most embarrassing boating moment. Shame navimatics dont have a blackberry version… that would be my back-up

  5. Dan says:

    The Nexrad Radar does not work in automotive mode 🙁

  6. steven says:

    looking to purchase the 640
    more important as a marine navigation to be and like the auto option.
    I am a newbie when it comes to marine setups.
    Anyone have/own/use the 640 and have reviews- good and bad?
    happy boating
    Thank you

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Steven, I have a beta unit and have written about it once so far:
    I’ll write more eventually. Note, though, that I lend the beta unit to a fairly experienced local sailor for a few days, and he bought one.

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