Customer Reviews: Garmin aera 796 Portable Touchscreen Aviation Navigators with 3D Vision
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on November 24, 2011
Unlike the trouble free Garmin 696 when it came out 3 years ago, the Garmin 796 has been riddled with software issues. I have about 50 hours now on it. I was one of the first to buy it several months ago. A month ago I was ready to return mine. There were too many bugs. In addition to running too hot to touch in my airplane in the afternoon sun, there were a number of menu items that were included in the 696 that were missing from the 796 such as measuring distance between two points and rubber banding of flight plan legs. I sent Garmin my list of problems with the unit. They paid attention and now with system 2.3 the bugs, as far as I can tell, are down to four: the flight logging which was so useful on the 696 is totally intermittent in its logging of flights: the data logging doesn't separate out individual flights as it does on the 696: sometimes the flight plan is not displayed on the map after a flight plan is entered; and finally sometimes while scrolling through the XM channels, the whole unit freezes and needs to be rebooted. However, I'm not willing to send mine back just yet. While the pages are not set up as conveniently as in the 696, I have found that I can get around much,faster than with the buttons of the 696. Garmin added some new shortcut menu features with System 2.3, and a new system is forthcoming. I haven't had the heating issue, since I got a new exchange unit. I recommended some upgrades that could make navigating the screens easier. Garmin support has been very open to suggestions. When the 696 came out, I quickly was able to enthusiastically recommend it. While at present I cannot recommend purchase of the 796, if Garmin continues to fix the problems that make it unreliable for use in the cockpit, I hope to be able to update this review with a positive recommendation in the not too distant future.

UPDATED 2/7/2012
With the System 2.5 update I can now highly recommend the purchase of this GPS. Two minor software problems still persist, but they are insignificant compared to the improvements made to this product. A Climb Gradient data field has been added to the list of data fields along with a significant improvement to the 3D Vision Page, the addition of a VNAV glidepath window and a VSI tape with a carrot showing VS necessary to track that glidepath. "Field of view" lines have also been added to the split screen 3D Vision Page like the G1000 has. While the 796 still can't measure distance between two points like the 696 can, the additional features give it more useful functionality than the 696, and I wouldn't want to fly now without it. I'm upgrading the review to 5 stars.
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on November 8, 2011
I was quite excited about this product when I was first introduced to it. However, after using it on several flights I do not consider it reliable in its current state. I have had numerous "lock-ups" where the software stops responding and appears to be in some sort of loop. This has occurred more frequently when trying to access the weather products and then return to navigation. Occasionally the keyboard seems to lose its calibration which makes it impossible to continue its use. The only resolution to the problems has been to power off and then back on. This disrupts the weather updates, and they are not available until the normal update sequences are re-established. All of this makes it highly suspect during a critical aspect of flight such as an instrument approach. The potential of this product is very high, but I am waiting for an update to the software that will correct some of these issues. The unit already required an initial software update that corrected issues from the factory installed software.

11-9-11 After contacting Garmin support I received an email directing me to the process for installing the latest update. I was familiar with the process, but I did not know there were additional updates available. There have been notable enhancements in addition to the bug fixes with this latest update. The unit is evolving to the level I have come to expect from Garmin, and I also think it will make five star status within a reasonable time. Used on several flights, and it is extremely useful with situational awareness.
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on December 30, 2011
This is my fourth Garmin in my Bonanza. The 796 is full of potential but there are some bugs; I hope Garmin works them out. It appears that this unit was rushed to market in time for Christmas 2011 without some things getting tested or fixed first. Here is what's wrong in my opinion:

1.)Software is not ready for prime time...I am on my second 796 in two days because the first one loaded up the opening page and then went to a black screen. The second one did the same thing but I discovered that if I looked at the dark screen in a dark room a very dim text could be seen. At the bottom of this screen was a notification that the display data was corrupted. Tech support asked me to re download the VFR/IFR data base and limit the download to less than the full USA. This fixed the problem. I suspect that this glitch is what produced the black screen on the first unit. We had thought this was a power/battery wasn't.

2.) I removed the cigarette lighter adapter and hard wired the unit to my airplane's avionics buss because my airplane's cigarette lighter was removed years ago as AD (FAA Airworthiness Directive) was issued on that. I have not seen a cigarette lighter in any modern airplane in years and years....Garmin should have known about that. After I talked about this with Tech support they have sent me a replacement input cradle which can be connected to the buss with the proper in line fuse. Tech support thinks that fuse is a 3amp fuse...but my avionics shop says the required fuse is 3 milliamps...big difference. Given the alleged power problem as in item 1, above, this is a big deal.

3.)Use of the "Direct To" button produces a "course line" in magenta from the place the intended flight path is initiated to the destination...usually from an airport to an airport. This course line stays on the screen(s) until the route is completed or deleted. This is a problem which some of my previous Garmins had but which could be remedied in their software but the 796 doesn't have that capability. What is needed is the option to select a BEARING LINE...not a course line...that starts from the airplane's present position to the intended destination or waypoint. Garmin's engineers apparently think that an airplane can/will fly a direct a VOR to VOR airways course the destination. But flying VFR around Class B airspace or mountains (I fly in So California where there is a bunch of that) requires many, many deviations from an intended course line. IFR flying ALWAYS includes deviations from an intended course line too. The 796 can display a numeric bearing to the target and that's what we use around here...but the unusable magenta course line clutters up a screen which is already full of stuff. An option for show a bearing line is needed here...IMHO.

I suspect that Garmin will update the operating system again to correct some of this. But I think these problems are pretty serious ones and any competent pilot would have pointed them out before the 796s were released. Tech support at Garmin has been very helpful and knowledgeable...the "course line" problem above was well known to one of these guys who happened to be an experience pilot....he couldn't help with fixing the problem, though. I also found that calls to Garmin's HQ were exceptionally tough to complete...multiple menus to go through and then routing to a voice mail system. I am a very experienced leader of a very large team of employees who know that a customer is the ONLY reason for a corporation to exist. Garmin apparently hasn't quite figured that least in its inbound call handling system at HQ.

But...bottom line...when these glitches are worked out the 796 will be/is a magnificent and utterly useful tool for any pilot. :-)
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on May 8, 2013
The synthetic vision with terrain is a safety feature unparalleled in GA cockpits. Add full featured weather and XM music through the headsets and it is the cheapest and most valuable docking station avionic in the stack. I have bought two and may buy a third. I am trying to use my Foreflight in the 3rd plane I fly with it's new terrain but it isn't even close in safety. In the panel of the 414 it looks good with the 530 and MX20 but provides better information. The yoke mount in the 182 is better for approaches then the panel mount because you can read the information up close. In this feature the Ipad wins out for the big screen. The 530 cross fill to the 796 makes programming easy. I still keep an Ipad on trips for IFR filing and internet features where 3G is available. The terrain features on the 796 allow you to select sensitivity so alerts or red terrain only show when it is seriously perilous. The 530 alerts me constantly to obstacles when the 796 shows I have a safety margin. Night, MVFR and IFR I don't like to fly without it.

I have had trouble the 796 but the bugs have been worked out. Watch out for the Air Gizmos docking station "ON" button touching the 796 "ON" button if you don't pull it up all the way. This will cause the unit to freeze up, shut down, keys not work etc. That was a pain to troubleshoot. Make sure you update to the latest software. The unit you get may have been sitting on the shelf since the latest version was released.
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on March 17, 2013
This is one awesome GPS. So bright and clear. Very easy and intuitive to operate. Touch screen much preferable to buttons. In Tidewater Virginia the terrain feature not very useful but would be in mountains. 3-D view also not very exciting. Expensive to keep up all the database, but I am glad of my purchase.
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on February 5, 2014
I switched from a 696 to the 796. This was definitely not an upgrade. While the unit works well, the logistics are not good. 1: the unit will not update via an SD card. It has to be removed from the aircraft and tethered to a computer for updates. 2: and updates are another issue. The Garmin site is not very effective in installing updates, especially if you want to load more than a few states. Failures are very common after extended periods of downloading. You better have a super Internet connection 3: the unit will not be powered by tethering to the computer. You have to use one of the power cords. If you are using it in a jet or other aircraft with the 110v ac cord, you'll need to pull that out as well as the unit to take inside for updating.
A nice unit with nice features but peripherals fail miserably. I wish I still had my 696. Not really designed for turbine aircraft or any aircraft that travels over several states or regions. Better used in light sport or a C150.
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on January 10, 2013
I bought this used on Amazon and I can see no difference between it and the new ones. I did notice in turbulance I must have hit something on the screen that locked it up. I tried to shut it off and couldn't and finally had to remove it from the panel and remove the battery pack for a few minutes. I reassembled, reinstalled and it's worked fine since then. Must have been "cockpit error", but I still wonder what caused it and glad I was VFR at the time.
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on June 2, 2013
Flying through Oregon in April and deverting around snow storms and using the 796 it suddenly without warning quit on its battery. It was connected to the aircraft plug in but still refused to work. Another brand of GPS (a back up) worked fine in the plug in and saved the day. Garmin said it needed updated and that seems to fix the problem but I do not trust it and will sell it if I can. I cannot recommend buying one.
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on April 22, 2013
The 796 is much faster than my 496. I love many of the added features like synthetic vision. It has several fatal flaws however.
First it crashes either by going black or freezes. If you're following fir charts this is inexcusable
Second, when you take off below protected airspace, you can't see it until you're n it which means you earna violatin. Pretty bad stuff. I use a back u iPad since it cannot be trusted. I just bought this and was assured all, the bugs were fixed. If you value your license, save your money
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on July 13, 2014
Absolutely awful device. Downloading data is terrible and NEVER occurs without an error. The difficulty in downloading data base updates makes the unit particularly useless. I would never recommend this unit to anyone.
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