Garmin GPSMAP 296

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Garmin GPSMAP 296

The Garmin GPSMAP 296 shows the impressive results possible when you stuff sophisticated electronics into a 5.7" x 3.2" x 1.9" case. It expands upon the usual aviation GPS navigation features to include a built-in obstacle database, topographic data, and terrain alerts. And like its Garmin predecessors, it works equally well on the road or water as it does in the air.

You get layers of information with the Garmin 296, starting with its basemap. The map covers from local roads and rivers to interstate highways and ocean coastlines. If you need local points of interest when on the ground, Garmin has map CDs with additional data. You download a map from the CD to a Garmin data card using your computer. There's USB interface cable included or you can get an optional serial connector cable. The CD map data includes such things as local lodging and attractions with phone numbers and addresses, and marine navigation or anchorage information.

In addition to the basemap, the GPSMAP 296 has a built-in, detailed, Jeppesen database. The information for each airport includes its name, location, elevation, fuel available, runway layout and dimensions, communication frequencies, published approaches, and weather (ASOS, ATIS, and AWOS). Equally comprehensive data is given for VORs, NDBs, intersections, airspace boundaries, Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC), and Flight Service Stations (FSS). Updates to the database are available online every 28 days.

Besides these basic navigation guides, terrain information is also provided when flying. Garmin's GPSMAP 296 can show an overhead view of your flight and the terrain. A display page divides cautionary topographic features in two levels of 1000 feet and 100 feet, below the plane. If you're flying too low, while other information is displayed on the unit, a small pop-up warning screen will alert you. This alert also covers obstacles and descent rates. You can adjust both the alert elevation and the 'look ahead time' for the warning. Besides the visual warning, there's an optional audible alert.

When flying, the most important GPS information is displayed on the what Garmin calls the "Panel Page". The display for the GPSMAP 296 emulates an instrument panel to graphically show direction, ground speed, altitude, vertical speed, and rate of turn. Shown as numbers are the ground speed, distance and time to the next waypoint, and altitude. The graphical compass includes a pointer for the desired course and a course deviation needle. When used with an adjustable course deviation scale, course corrections are simple.

For maximum accuracy, the Garmin 296 GPS receiver is Differential GPS (DGPS) and Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) ready. The navigation information is displayed with a 256-color LCD screen measuring 3.75" diagonally. Its power comes from a lithium ion battery usable for 5 to 15 hours before it needs a recharge. Alternate power can be had using either the cigarette lighter adapter or the AC power adapter, both supplied with the receiver. Separate mounts are supplied for placing the receiver on the yoke or glarescreen. To get the best GPS satellite signal reception there's an external antenna provided for remote mounting.

When you're not in the air, the Garmin GPSMAP 296 has modes for land and water use with special features for each. For traveling on land, you can get automatic route generation including voice prompts at each turn. The marine mode includes the ability to simulate a loran receiver and convert GPS coordinates to loran fixes. And with optional maps, you have get access to such things as depth contours, the location of inter-tidal zones, restricted areas and anchorages.