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The Nuvi 500 has grown up and we now have the Overlander.

Maybe before I start with this review I should state that I have never been paid for any of my reviews of satellite navigation devices and I have written for SA 4×4 on this subject since September 2004. My point being that I am completely impartial in my views

The Overlander is a bigger and newer satellite navigation device with more features and which has been modernized. In September 2019 Garmin announced this new satellite navigator, the latest in their street navigators / outdoor / 4×4 range. I reviewed this new device last year but due to being in Turkey at the time, it was only a paper exercise for me with my son Christopher having the device at hand to check it out. I now have one in my hands so that I can do a practical evaluation.

As I have hinted above, the device is a multipurpose street navigator similar to the Garmin Drive devices and the older Nuvi 500. The Nuvi 500 was made for the outdoor lifestyle and was a winner – in fact, one of Garmin’s top sellers in its day. The Overlander is designed and made for the social and recreational 4×4 enthusiast. Its name is even synonymous with its applications. It is rugged and with a rubberized feel to it that will take the knocks.

My standard statement when writing such reviews is that I do not consider a cell phone or tablet with navigation programs or apps ideal for 4x4ing. They do come with limitations and those invariably kick in when the satellite navigation technology becomes necessary in the sticks when no one else is around to help you find your way. They are made for street navigation in towns and cities only!

Another statement that I regularly make is that when navigating in the sticks you should navigate with a primary navigation device but that you should also have a secondary device as a backup to confirm the primary when in doubt. A point to remember is that navigation is a lot of common sense, so when in doubt sit down, calm down and try again.

My findings and comments follow:

  • I believe that the large 7 inch screen makes the device ideally suited to the recreational market – large enough to see the content, but not big enough to obscure your view of the road. An important point to consider due to its size is the location where you position it in the car so that it receives good signal and that it will not create problems if the vehicle’s airbags were to deploy. The Garmin 276Cx screen is only a 5-inch screen
  • The device is a rugged 7-inch tablet with an Android Operating System.
  • It is built to IPX 5 standards (dust proof) and MIL-STD-810 (a USA Department of Defence test standard). The Overlander is a street navigator that is made for the outdoors (4x4ing) that should not break if it falls.
  • It has the new magnetic tight-fitting Garmin Bracket like the older NUVICAM and the box includes a compatible RAM ball adapter.
  • The Overlander will navigate you to your destination even if there is no mapping information between you and your destination (by using a bearing). This is essential for navigation in remote and unknown areas.
  • This device is able to receive signal from the GPS (American), Glonass (Russian) and Galileo (European) Satellite Navigation Systems – which means that if one system goes down (as has happened), the device will continue navigating with the satellites from the other two systems.
  • The standard maps loaded are Europe, Middle East & Africa including some Tracks4Africa data. I am not certain if this is a full version of Tracks for Africa, but as I have often said before, travelling into Africa without Tracks4Africa is equivalent to getting lost. There are also Topographical maps loaded with contours to be used under the “I Explore” function.
  • The street navigation I found to be good in the areas that I have travelled. The instructions have been clear with ample warning for me to prepare to change my direction of travel.
  • There is 64GB of internal memory available for additional mapping but it also has place for a micro SD card for additional memory.
  • The device has an internal Lithium battery which should last three hours but this will be determined by the settings of the device,. e.g using the backlight feature would reduce battery life. The Overlander is not made to walk around with in the field but to be used in a vehicle.
  • A feature that I have never seen before in a Street Navigator is a digital magnetic compass that needs to be calibrated from time to time (unlike the previous street navigators where direction was calculated from your positioning therefore you would have to move to be able to get a bearing).
  • It also has a barometer to give a better height accuracy and is not reliant on satellite positioning to give height (which could be out at times).
  • Another feature I have not seen before is the Pitch and Roll gauges which can be calibrated. This is a very nice feature and adds value which is not necessary but definitely nice for the 4×4 enthusiast. This also needs to be calibrated every now and then.
  • The device does have the standard Track Log capability of the outdoor devices and newer street navigators. It is known to have 87 000 points more than any previous devices I have known. I believe that this is where the true value of the Garmin devices. It does not have the track back capability but track back can be done manually.
  • The Overlander can pair with the Garmin inReach communicators (sold separately with a fee for airtime) which is a satellite rescue communicator for two-way text messaging for emergency assistance.
  • The device includes Traffic reporting – which is very useful in congested cities. This feature has drastically improved over the years.
  • The device is also compatible with the Garmin BC 35 Backup Camera. I believe this is a “nice to have” that could add value if you have a large vehicle or trailer / caravan.
  • The device does have voice control.
  • The Overlander, like most street navigators today, does allow for hands free calling via the Bluetooth capability which again is an added safety feature while travelling where there is cell phone connectivity.
  • I believe that this device has an understandable menu logic, and will take a short while to get used to the navigation system. If you are used to the Montana and Garmin GPSMAP 276Cx, be aware that it is slightly different.

One shortfall that did disappoint me was that the device could not take an external antenna. Whilst this is not necessary for most people, for me it is a nice to have. I found the external antenna was not necessary in my vehicle.

The other issue that disappointed me was that the device seems not to have a Satellite configuration screen enabling you to see which satellites are been used to calculate your position.

If it was to be taken a step further I would like to see a built in Dash Cam.

Currently there is nothing in this device’s price range that can match its capabilities and features for which it is designed, especially when considering the included mapping.

The Overlander is not the Alpha and Omega of off-road navigation but I would consider it to be one of the most comprehensive satellite navigation devices on the market today.

A point that should be remembered when purchasing this device: be sure that the sales person upgrades the device’s firmware as well as the maps before leaving the store as my updates took a good 4 hours and (if my calculations are correct) used about 12Gb of data.

A last comment is that this is not a device that I would mount on my motor cycle or bicycle and not something that I would use to go hiking with as it is not made for these applications.

The negative comments on these and similar devices normally come from people that do not understand the technology and do not know how to use the device correctly.


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