Garmin marine GPS navigation systems have been at the fore front of this blossoming field of marine electronics from the beginning.
Their early portable units, like the Garmin 45 used by the Marine Electronics Reviews editor back in the 1990s, led to the creation of the first Garmin chartplotters a number of years later. The company still produces a full line of Garmin portable GPS gear for use on the water as well as many other recreational activities.
Garmin GPSMAP 100-Series
These were the first chartplotters produced by Garmin. The series ran over a signficant period of time and encompassed numerous models.
The original Garmin marine GPS chartplotter was the 120 model, which could store 250 waypoints and used a low-resolution monochrome screen. Moving up to the Garmin 130 increased screen resolution and added a chart card slot. When the Garmin 160 was released we again saw screen resolution increease, this time to a whopping 240 x 240.
One of the later models in the series, the Garmin 178C, added a color screen, even more resolution, and an internal sounder.
One of the biggest sellers in this series was the Garmin 188. This unit was available with grey scale or color screen and with or without an internal sounder.
The last production 100 series unit was the Garmin 198C. This one had a 16-color 5-inch screen with 234 x 320 pixel resolution, was WAAS capable, and could store 3000 waypoints and 50 routes. It also featured a 500-watt dual-frequency sounder.
Garmin GPSMAP 400-Series
The original 400-series consisted of only two sister units, the chartplotter-only Garmin 492 and the chartplotter fishfinder combo Garmin 498C. The latter featured a 256-color 5-inch screen and additional component support for AIS and DSC connectivity.
New GPSMAP 400-Series
The 400-series units are available in three base models, the Garmin 420, Garmin 430, and Garmin 440. We tested the one unit in the series, the Garmin 440s. All feature a full-color 4-inch display screen with 320 x 240 pixel resolution. These units are also available with an ‘s’ designation meaning they have an internal sounder. The 400-series units can use Bluechart g2 Visions cartography and certain models can display weather when connected to optional equipment. The latest versions in this series are designated with model numbers ending in 1, we had a look at the Garmin 441 marine chartplotter.
Garmin GPSMAP 500-Series
The compact 500-series all have a 5-inch screen. We have tested the top-of-the-line in the series, Garmin 545s. This unit, like all other models ending with the number 5, has 480 x 640 screen resolution. The small ‘s’ suffix in the model number indicates the unit has an internal sounder. A recent release has seen the some changes to this line. One of the newest models is the Garmin 546s. It has more waypoint storage and is NEMA2000 network compatible.
Unit model numbers ending in 0, like the Garmin 540s we reviewed have a lower 320 x 240 pixel screen resolution. Certain new release models in this series are designated with model numbers ending in 1, we had a look at the Garmin 541 marine chartplotter. Units with high screen resolution also have a more powerful sounder when so equipped. The middle number in the model designation indicates the type of cartography, 5 is UK/Australia, 4 is US coastal, 3 is US inland lakes, 2 is base map only. All are capable of using Garmin BlueChart g2 Vision cards.
Garmin GPSMAP 600-Series
This new touch-screen series is the newest to hit the Garmin marine GPS small chartplotter lineup. Two models are available right now and both feature extremely high 800 x 480 pixel resolution on a 5.2-inch screen. The Garmin 620 has a base map while the Garmin 640 comes preloaded with U.S. coastal charts. Both of these units can serve in the marine and automotive environments.
Garmin GPSMAP 700-Series
Garmin has just introduced this new chartplotter series. All models in this line feature touchscreen control. The flagship Garmin 740s also has an internal high-sensitivity GPS sensor, and integral sounder, and preloaded detailed marine charts. The chartplotter only version in this line is the Garmin 740.