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Garmin 796 Review
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.
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.