Avionics Report

December 2009 Issue

Garmin aera Navigator: Toggle-Free GPS

Garmin ported over touchscreen logic from its street navigators and the result is streamlined, faster operation with a full feature set.

Was it really four years ago when Garmin blew us away with the GPSmap 396, a stunningly capable portable that offered datalink weather and even traffic? Indeed it was and now the 396 is about to be consigned to the boneyard, an inevitable victim of the relentless product cycle. The new arrival doing the displacing is called the aera and itís being sold by Garmin at four price points, each with a different feature set. (See the chart on page 6 for details.) In aviationís glory days, the manufacturers frequently introduced what we called "parts bin" airplanes, new models fashioned from the bits of existing airplanes in the product line. Garmin has done its version of the same, leveraging the hardware from its terrestrial or marine lines into aviation products and vice versa. The aera products were morphed from Garminís street navigator suite, specifically a premium product for the motorcycle market called the zumo. But weíre told itís more clean sheet than adaptation. Unlike previous portables, the aera represents a substantial operating logic departure in that itís entirely touchscreen drivenógone is the rocker switch and the push-enter-to-activate-editing function. In fact, gone are all the buttons and keysóonly one remains: the power switch. The operating logic seems to more or less parallel Garminís nuvi line of street navigators, which is to say the menu structure is icon based and as simple to use as an iPhone. No one should have trouble learning this device.

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