Garmin Rino discontinued?/ Review of the Garmin 650t
Part 1 of this series is here
To recap, the Garmin series of GPS/UHF radios is a favorite in my small group. We use them as short range radios for coordinating hunts, and other outdoor activities as well.
Rumors online have run wild in the last few months with the most prevalent being the Rino series is discontinued by Garmin.
I have been flooded with messages asking me about this so I did the research.
According to Customer service at Garmin on 12/04/2015—
The 650 and 650t are not discontinued and no plans are disclosed to do so.
The 655t has been discontinued and it is largely due to the camera function. Either no one used it or it was a expensive upgrade no one wanted because of the availability of cheap digital cameras in cell phones or stand alone items.
The only difference between the 655t and the 650t is the camera. And the price.
First of all, here’s the disclaimer. I and my group have again spent OUR money for these radios. Nothing was sent to us for free and we use these because we like the “all in one package” these radios provide. It reduces the gear load significantly and as we all get older it matters a lot climbing up and down hills in high altitudes, in Arizona.
We have fixed income disabled Veterans, retired and some who aren’t, so our money needs to be targeted in the most effective manner.
Why the Rino?
With the myriad of options available and, my outright hard headedness, how did we end up choosing these over ham radio choices or other much less expensive radios using similar frequencies?
I am an Amateur Extra, a Volunteer Examiner, Instructor for ham radio and generally know a little bit about a broad area of radio subjects.
I am a very vocal and opinionated person when it comes to equipment. If its cheap and its junk, you haven’t saved any money. You just have junk.
The 600 series of radio/gps, I’m happy to say have been worth the investment as 1 piece of gear replacing multiple items.
The Frequencies and the advantage of UHF
Most, like Id say 99% of radio buyers and users don’t know UHF from VHF and what the advantages of both are.
Without going into a long post, which to be honest I know you wouldn’t read anyway here is the brief breakdown.
VHF, commonly called the 2 meter band in ham radio speak is Line Of Sight(LOS). This is the band NASA talked to the moon during the Apollo Missions. In a nut shell, and very general terms if you can see it, and put enough wattage behind it you can make comms with it.
Disadvantage’s are exactly the same, its LOS. In rough terrain, the signal tends to hit things like buildings, mountains and other obstructions and bounce off of them instead of traveling through.
It is also the most common band repeaters across the US are using. And you need a license to use most of the band.
UHF is different. In laymen’s terms, instead of bouncing off mountains and buildings it tends to flow around them. This is why business band radios are more often in the UHF band for use in cities.
And when we are hunting in the rough terrain, either in areas with deep washes or canyons UHF is a better choice. And FRS/GMRS radios use UHF frequencies.
Now the Rules
There are always rules.
GMRS radios share frequencies with the FRS bands. Simple solution if you don’t want a license? Set your radio to transmit at 1/2 watt and stay on the FRS channels.
Or spend the money, send in your GMRS license and fee for 5 years and build yourself a portable repeater for your own private use.
I don’t do tinfoil. If you are going to play in the pond, you have to observe the rules. The advantages to a repeater only your group can use is great.
The Rino’s come repeater ready. The vast array of GMRS radios do not. This is important later if you build a repeater in a box for portable use.
I also didn’t like the function in the Rino series that transmits your location when they first came out.
I was worried about the whole world knowing where I was and what I was doing.
Here’s a secret ….. just turn it off.
Loosen up your tinfoil hat, and turn it off.
The advantages I discussed in the review of the 655t, so I’m not going to beat them to death.
In actual use Ive found it to be a nice function. The world ends, and maybe I won’t think so but today its great for keeping track of everybody in the crew.
Heres is some reality to add to the mix.
With the use of Off The Shelf (OTS) components a Direction Finding rig can be built for less than $1000 by an average ham radio operator. It combined with a simple program will pin point your position in less than 2 seconds of transmission. The old style triangulation is no longer used for serious emissions location.
So it doesn’t matter if the position reporting is on or not. If someone is looking for you seriously they will find you.
The 650t and what I think of it
This is the same radio and GPS I reviewed in the 655t package. I covered the how’s and whys in that review and I can say I have not missed the camera function at all.
What I have liked is the ease of use and the touch screen.
In the box is the same charger and battery, its a solid piece of gear and Ive had no issues so far with the entire line of Rino’s as far as battery life.
Saying that we all carry the AA battery pack in case of a battery going dead unexpectedly. I don’t believe any in my group have used it, I know I haven’t.
The downside to the 600 series? You cant charge the battery separate from the radio as it comes from the box. The charger is connected to the port on the back of the radio, so you are out of action until you swap batteries.
Then charge when you get to a 12 volt or 110 source.
Nothing is perfect, and this is the sole issue recurring as we use these radios.
The Rino works with the majority of bubble pack FRS/GMRS radios on the market today. Radios you have now can talk to a Rino, and the Rino can talk to them. The added features the Rino has, of course wont work with the rest but I feel if you try a pair of these you will soon upgrade your teams radios to the Rino series, and slowly phase out the bubble packs.
And a bonus-
In the box comes with a 1 year subscription to the satellite imagery upgrade which I described in the 655t review. You get it free.
New roads, firebreaks, closures and geologic changes are easily viewed with the imagery and the gps superimposes your position directly on the photos just like the map.
The Rino 650t is as capable a radio as the 655t without the camera. It is suitable for a primary team radio with the added bonus of a repeater capability
Garmin 650t UHF Radio\ GPS review