Hands on with the Garmin GPSMAP 78s
The Garmin GPSMAP 78s brings the first major update to the GPSMAP handheld line in over four years. The reason for it taking so long is that Garmin had a huge hit with the 60/76 series, and instead of messing with a winner, they turned their attention to new interfaces, which were introduced on the Colorado series, followed by the touch screen Oregon line. These new units brought the ability to add custom maps and aerial imagery, paperless geocaching, and high-resolution screens, but the latter made them less than bright (although the latest model, the Oregon 450, has largely solved this problem).
But patience has its rewards and Garmin did well not to rush things. With the 78 (and the forthcoming 62 series, which shares the same interface), Garmin has married the best features of the 60/76 models, with many of the advantages of the Oregon line. Before we get into the details, lets look at some closely.
Garmin GPSMAP 78s display
With transflective TFT screens, the greater the pixel density, the less light that can be reflected back to the user. In order to maintain the bright screen found on the 60/76 series, Garmin left the resolution (160 x 240 pixels) alone. Screen size remains unchanged too, at 1.6 x 2.2”. The 62 and 78 series do enjoy an increased range of colors that can be displayed (65,000 vs. 256 in the 60/76 series). The result is a bright display, not quite as large or as high resolution as the Oregon series, but with much better visibility in a wide range of conditions. I definitely noticed the lower resolution, but these are the tradeoffs you make. Also of note, speaking as the owner of an Oregon 400t, I really didn’t miss the larger screen.
Shown above and below are sun and shade photos, without backlight. It is difficult to capture screen visibility on film, but I would call these two displays comparable in a wide range of conditions.