Smartphones have evolved so much that they now have the processing power of what we used to refer to as a full powered desktop computer. These smartphones are taking over, and it is no surprise that Garmin is also adopting the power and convenience of a smartphone build married with all their navigation and mapping tools.

Expected to launch sometime in the third quarter of the year, the Garmin Monterra is the company’s first attempt at merging Android and their knowledge of the optimum hardware for navigation in the ruggedness of nature. It has practically everything a smartphone should have, save for one key feature – the phone part. Garmin may have married Android, but they made it very clear they are not about to enter the saturated mobile phone market.

A GPS to the Core

The Garmin Monterra seems to be equipped with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a handheld GPS device. You have basic GPS and GLONASS receivers, an array of sensors such as Accelerometer, Gyroscope, and Barometer, and the usual rugged, survival type build. The device is rated with IPX7 protection, meaning this baby is hardly going to give you any worry in the wild.

The radios and sensors in this device are built to be sensitive enough to let you navigate even if you do not have the luxury of a clear view of the sky. Garmin Monterra is no doubt a GPS device at the core.

Android: All Apps in Tow

In addition to all that is the advantage of the complete might of an Android operating system. It all boils down to one factor: Apps. With Android in tow, this device is expected to have virtually limitless potential. It will always evolve and become more useful as more apps for navigation are created. Android’s computational power and vast potential is certainly a key selling point of this device.

Garmin even added in a unique 3D MapMerge feature which allows the user to combine different map sources to display a full 3D environment. This will be a pretty cool feature to play around with when the device finally comes out.

The Power of the Internet… Sort of

This device is equipped with a Wi-Fi radio which will allow the user to access the internet. This is especially important for an Android powered device since it gets all those apps from the internet. It is also important to take advantage of Android’s sharing and easy downloading features. Unfortunately, without the addition of mobile wireless data, the mobile internet capabilities of this device are rather crippled.

Wi-Fi is hardly ever available where you will be in need of a rugged handheld GPS. Being a portable device meant to access far into the wild, a more prudent source of internet connection would normally be a mobile network radio. Unfortunately, Garmin has no intention of getting into that kind of business, so if you ever need internet for an app, maybe you need to hike back into civilization for a bit.

A Shorter Trip

One thing that might concern a user with this device is likely the battery life. Android devices are not known for their longevity due to the heavy resource requirements of a full powered computer operating system in your hands. Android devices are known to barely last a day, and while Garmin promises better battery life than the usual Android devices, without an actual user test, we can’t say for sure how long the device holds out.

At the end of the road

Consider Garmin Monterra as a handheld GPS more than an Android device. While the Android part of the device lets you into a world beyond navigation, the true purpose of Android here is to augment the capabilities of full-fledged GPS device.

If all you are looking for is an Android device, there are plenty out there with actual specs built to take full advantage of Android such as mobile network access. Besides, Garmin Monterra is bred for navigation, durability and longevity. If you abuse the Android counterpart of the device, you may be left hanging when you need a GPS.

If you just need Android, get a better Android. If you need a GPS with nearly limitless potential, get the Garmin Monterra.

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