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Actually, I just used an Aera 500 Garmin for my last tour and I like it more than the 296 now.   At first, it's a bit annoying because you think it takes more button pushing. But once I realized th

I only played with an Aera for a bit. It seems to only go down to 0.1 NM where as the 296 goes right down to the nearest foot. So it depends on what you're doing with it. We're slinging loads into spe

The Aera's have their place with the longer flights but when you're at your next waypoint every 30 seconds, you can't beat the simplicity and speed of the 296's. The Aera just won't do it. Try going

I have the Aera 510 and I like it quite a bit. The map is great with the big screen and Topo Canada 4 loaded up (and you can even use a helicopter as your icon). I find it very handy using the onscreen keyboard for entering waypoints. It's nice moving through menus using the touchscreen, and I also have made use of the built in automotive mode and MP3 player quite a bit.

 

Only a couple gripes: Maybe I missed it in the documentation, but it doesn't seem like you can activate a waypoint from the Nearest screen... Very frustrating! You can see your nearest waypoint, but then to activate it, I have to go back through the menus to my waypoints list and find the waypoint that I just had on my screen in front of me to activate it. It's hard to believe Garmin would think functionality like that is logical, but I can't seem to find any way around it. Gripe #2: battery life is pretty bad... I am getting just under 2 hours on low-brightness. Gripe #3: Can't seem to figure out how to disable the terrain warnings. They are super annoying and might make more sense for fixed wing, but helicopters are often close to the ground so it just gets in the way (have to tap them to make them go away). Gripe #4; As mentioned earlier, the precision of the waypoints only shows down to .1 of a mile instead of xx feet. I'm hoping the lack of precision is just in the software and could be rectified with a firmware update sometime in the future.

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Only a couple gripes: Maybe I missed it in the documentation, but it doesn't seem like you can activate a waypoint from the Nearest screen... Very frustrating! You can see your nearest waypoint, but then to activate it, I have to go back through the menus to my waypoints list and find the waypoint that I just had on my screen in front of me to activate it. It's hard to believe Garmin would think functionality like that is logical, but I can't seem to find any way around it. Gripe #2: battery life is pretty bad... I am getting just under 2 hours on low-brightness. Gripe #3: Can't seem to figure out how to disable the terrain warnings. They are super annoying and might make more sense for fixed wing, but helicopters are often close to the ground so it just gets in the way (have to tap them to make them go away). Gripe #4; As mentioned earlier, the precision of the waypoints only shows down to .1 of a mile instead of xx feet. I'm hoping the lack of precision is just in the software and could be rectified with a firmware update sometime in the future.

 

Agreed, the topo is awesome.

 

Maybe there is newer software because mine has an option for User Wpt under the nearest screen. You just select the user wpt you want and the icon that says Menu (has a D-->) next to it, hold that and it activates the direct to. very easy and fast. The terrain can be customized/ turned off from the terrain page - menu - setup terrain. I get about 4 hours battery with my screen on full bright but I usually have it plugged in.

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Another thing I found with the 500 was that if you had some waypoints spelt with capitals & some in lowercase, it wouldn't predict some words, and I agree with the navigating through waypoints often, it was a pain.

I used the plastic end of my ball point pen to type on the touch screen, works way better than big fingers, I just tried to be careful so not to scratch the screen, but works great as a stylus.

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Snap up the 296's while you can. I bought a 500 and returned it after 2 days, for the reasons stated above. I also know of a company that started to switch their fleet over to the 500 but reversed that decision because the LCD screens would become unresponsive in colder temperatures.

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The keypad is about the only handy thing on the 500's. But even to use that I cut the end off the finger on my glove so I could use it and hit the letter I wanted to. It was -3 the other morning and I couldn't use the GPS until the inside of the machine warmed up. Scrolling through weigh points is a royal pain in the ****! Buy a 296 while you can.

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