At AOPA's Summit event in Hartford, Conn., next week, Garmin will roll out its newest portable GPS navigator/plate reader, the aera 796. The 796 is a follow-on product to both the GPSmap 696 and the aera product line, which brought touchscreen control to Garmin's lineup. The new navigator features capacitive-type touchscreen control similar to the iPad and some smartphones, so it can be finger scrolled and pinch scaled. It will be available in two versions, the $2199 aera 795 without weather link and the $2499 aera 796, which includes an XM receiver for both weather datalink and entertainment.
Although synthetic vision has been used in portables previously, the 795/796 mark Garmin's first inclusion of this feature in its portables. Garmin calls this feature 3D Vision and it appears on the display screen as a miniature airplane flying into a horizon defined by the GPS-derived synthetic view. The detail is similar to Garmin's panel mounts, such as the G500/600 series, and such details as color-coded terrain, obstacles and airport runways are clearly visible.
According to a report in the October 2011 issue of our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, the most impressive feature of the 795/796 may be its improved charting functions. Although the GPSmap 696 had approach plates, it didn't have low- and high-altitude charts or sectionals. The new 796 has all three, easily accessible through a dedicated button at the bottom the screen. All of the charts are fully georeferenced on both the visual and the instrument charts. Weather depictions appear only on the navigator's base navigation map. The capacitive interface also allowed an additional feature: an electronic scratchpad that allows you to quickly jot down notes or clearances. Garmin says improved battery technology -- lithium ion -- has extended battery life to between four and eight hours.