The 600c attached to the included RAM yoke mount
What do I like?
- Color display + terrain awareness + 3D airspace depictions. Honestly, the increased situational awareness this GPS can provide is astounding... assuming, of course, that you don't spend all the time staring at it when you should have your eyes outside the cockpit.
- It's very simple to use. I did read the manual and play around with it on the ground but most settings and operations are very intuitive. To switch between different displays (full map, HSI, terrain) is incredibly easy - just click the Pages button and scroll through.
- Speaking of the displays, there's an excellent selection. Not only do you get a standard map display (to which you can add/subtract all sorts of aviation and non-aviation features) but there are numerous variations of the HSI and navigation information so everyone should find a version they like. I love the Map Panel, which gives you a moving map up top with a ground speed and altimeter tape-style readout on either side along with a compass below on which you get a CDI needle for navigating along a course. Sounds like a lot (and it a mouthful to say/write!) but it's organized so well that everything you need is easy to spot.
- I'm going to mention terrain again because I think it's that nice a feature. Maybe it's not as useful for me in flat-as-a-board Ohio but aside from the Earth itself all obstructions like towers are included. When you are in terrain mode, they change colors (green/red/yellow) based on your altitude trend (level/climbing/descending) to indicate whether you are in danger along with being labeled L or R for their horizontal position in relation to the plane. Additionally, you can turn on terrain warnings that color the ground below (again in green/red/yellow, depending on your height) when you are less than 1,000 feet agl on all the map displays.
- Signal reception is excellent. I've never before used a GPS that locked on to satellites so quickly. Even inside my apartment or other buildings (not next to windows) it manages to get a 3D (4+ satellites) lock with WAAS reception. Impressive.
- The informational database (AFD + Navaids, mainly) is thorough and easy to use. Put the cursor over an airport, click Find -> Enter, and up pops all sorts of information. Frequencies, runway lengths, phone numbers... it's all there. Put your cursor inside any airspace and it is automatically highlighted, with the controlling agency and frequencies displayed if you press Find -> Enter. You can even enable runway extensions to help line you up with the extended centerline, which could be especially useful in locating a field at night.
- All the included mounts and accessories. You get a yoke mount and a suction mount, along with the cradle for the unit. They are all very high-quality and made by RAM. An external antenna with suction mount is included as well, but I'm yet to use it aside from checking to see that it works. Haven't had to - see "reception" above.
- Pretty simply, it works. Plug it in, enter the route, and off you go. You can make it as complex or basic as you want with how customizable all the displays are, but at the end of the day it provides basic navigation - and does so very well.
What could be better?
- The display is not very readable if the backlight isn't on. Many pilots don't like this fact when it comes to the 600c, but it doesn't bother me. Every plane I rent and use for XC flying has a power jack, and the DC adapter is included in the box. If for some reason I want to use it in the Champ or Cub a set of batteries will easily last for a few hours with the backlight on - and I'll run out of gas before that.
- Some of the menus require you to dig deep (press buttons more than 3-5 times) to get to what you're looking for. But that's also a function of the number of features packed into this thing. Anything you want quickly can be reached quickly, for the most part. I do wish it was quicker to access your saved routes, but even that only takes 5 seconds max.
- The audio beeps for approaching airspace and timers are worthless. There's no way you could possibly hear them in an airplane with a headset on. However, all the audio alerts appear in conjunction with text on screen so the functionality is the same. And they are very noticeable when they pop up on the display. Just don't expect to hear any loud beeping warnings as you approach your local Class Bravo.
- Some descriptions are left out of the manual. It explains how to use the thing, but in a few places the description is along the lines of, "to disable XX, press ENTER to turn XX Off." Well that's nice, but what the heck is XX?!? Just a pet peeve of mine, I suppose. For the record, most settings have help information that pops up on screen and is quite useful.
What am I leaving out?
- Auto (land) navigation mode. I already have a GPS in my car so I've had no reason to try this thing out in that mode. You can download detailed maps to the memory card using the included software (PC only) and card reader, and I've heard from others it works pretty well. In my opinion, if you really want auto navigation it still makes a whole lot more sense to just go buy one designed for that purpose. The ease-of-use will be much improved over something that is really intended to be in the sky.
- Recording your GPS track and saving it for export to create a Google Earth or Google Maps overlay. The 600c can create such track logs, but I already own an AMOD 3080 GPS Logger that I've been using since early on in my training to create Google Earth KML files.
Dual map/terrain awareness screen
Overall, it's an incredible value for a color aviation GPS. The terrain display is a great aid to any pilot's situational awareness as is a moving-map that where you are in relation to airspace in three dimensions. The display is very clear as long as the backlight is on. It picks up a signal incredibly fast, within 1 minute even when I've moved it over 200 miles since it was last powered up. As with any technological wizardry, you have to make sure you don't become too dependent on it. Yes, it's easy to follow the little purple line but you certainly don't want to (and shouldn't!) be lost if the batteries die.
Rating: 5/5 Cubs