Garmin 696/695 and Sporty’s Checkout DVD

image Garmin recently announced the 695/696 handheld GPS, and it’s showing the unit this week at AOPA Expo. Sporty’s has already produced a DVD, Garmin 695/696 Checkout ($29.95), which I’ll review here.

First, a few words about the 696 series. It’s clearly a cousin of the G1000 system that I’ve flown with and taught for several years. In fact, it looks like a compact version of the MFD in the G1000, and it shares many controls that duplicate or resemble those on the MFD bezel of the G1000, including softkeys, a joystick, and several dedicated keys (RNG, FPL, D, NRST, ENT, etc.). The 696 also shares many features with the 393/496 units also available from Garmin. For more details about the 695/696, download the user guides (free PDFs) from Garmin.

If you’re not a manual reader, Sporty’s is the first out of the blocks with an overview/training DVD to help you get your bearings and put the $3600 (696) unit to work quickly.

I noted in a recent review of a similar Sporty’s DVD, Flying Glass Cockpits, that Sporty’s often doesn’t take advantage of the menu/chapter features available with a DVD, forcing you watch the programs linearly. Garmin 695/696 Checkout addresses that deficiency by dividing the 51-minute program into eight chapters, which makes it much easier to review specific features:

  • imageIntroduction
  • Controlling the 696
  • Understanding the Pages
  • Basic Navigation
  • VFR Flight Planning
  • Utilities

The program itself is a straightforward, Sgt.-Joe-Friday tour of this snazzy new box from Garmin. The host notes that it’s not a substitute for the complete user guide, but watching the program a couple of times should provide most folks with a briefing sufficient for a VFR flight, provided a safety pilot rides along to look out the window while the proud new owner admires the map, charts, and other features on the 696.

The DVD focuses on the unit itself, not the host. The high-resolution video shows the screens and controls clearly, and it’s easy to follow the sequences of knob twists and button presses through scenarios that show you how to use the 696 on typical VFR and IFR flights (n.b. that, being a portable unit, the 696 isn’t approved for IFR operations). You won’t master the box in one viewing, but as noted above, reviewing specific sections of the DVD is straightforward, provided you’re checked out on your DVD player’s remote.

At $29.95, the DVD may seem pricey, but it’s a lot cheaper than an hour of a CFI’s time, especially since you can watch it as often as you like. In fact, I’m now ready to get my hands on a 696 and try it in the air.

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