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Garmin Aera series

Nov
2
2009

Garmin introduced a new series of GPS devices today aimed at recreational pilots who want a single GPS to keep them aligned to the airways and highways. The Garmin Aera series devices include both aviation charts as well as road maps.

“Customers who use Garmin products in their plane and car often ask us to create an all-in-one GPS that combines our aviation expertise with the operational simplicity and clean exterior design of our automotive devices,” said Gary Kelley, Garmin’s vice president of marketing.

garmin-aeraUntil now, most people wanting a single, portable, aviation and road GPS have relied on various hacks available to place aviation maps on their Nuvi. With the Nuvi form factor, widescreen, touchscreen, obstacle data for flying, POI data for driving– this GPS will be a dream for many private pilots. Perhaps the best feature is these devices are IPX-7 waterproof.

About the only thing not to like is the steep price; you are going to pay up to $2,000 for the top end model. Due to the steep price I think we will still see many Nuvi owners continuing to perform their own modifications to get aviation charts on their GPS.

aera 500 – $800 aera 510 – $1,300 aera 550 – $1,500 aera 560 – $2,000
5 HZ GPS update rate for near-real-time updates of panel page
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Patented aviation panel page
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Terrain and obstacle data
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Private Airport data
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
XM WX capable and GXM™ 40 antenna included (XM WX subscription required)
No
Yes
No
Yes
Standard 30 arc second terrain/obstacle data
Yes
Yes
No
No
High resolution 9 arc second terrain/obstacle data for a more vivid depiction of proximity hazards (over 11 times more onscreen resolution than the standard 30 arc-second)
No
No
Yes
Yes
SafeTaxi® with over 950 US airports
No
No
Yes
Yes
AOPA Airport Directory
No
No
Yes
Yes
One year complimentary aviation database updates (obstacles, terrain, SafeTaxi, NavData and AOPA Airport Directory)
No
No
Yes
Yes
Preloaded auto maps with voice prompted directions that speak street names, “turn right on main street”
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Bluetooth capability in automotive mode
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Ruggedized and waterproof (IEC 529 IPX-7 standards)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Enhanced auto features (lane assist, junction view, and speed limit notification)
No
No
Yes
Yes
NAVTEQ automotive traffic compatible (requires purchase of accessory cigarette lighter adapter with integrated FM traffic receiver)
No
No
Yes
Yes

13 Responses


  1. Just bought an Aera 560 to replace my GPS 496. A capable unit with many nice features, however after a side by side comparison, Im returning the 560 and keeping the 496. I fly an open cockpit aircraft and in direct sunlight the 496 is very legible while the detail on the 560 is very difficult to see. Also the compass rose on the 496 is much more responsive than the 560 which has a noticeable lag time. Its not much better than a whisky compass which makes it difficult to roll out precisely on a heading from a standard rate turn. The touch screen is nice but not very useful if you cant see the detail. I like it as a automobile unit but at $2000 one would be better served to buy a NUVI and a used 496 and pocket the change.

    John - November 16th, 2009
  2. If you’re used to the 396/496, you may find these omissions on the new unit really annoying. All of these can be fixed by Software upgrades, but I wonder why the step backwards from the tried and true function of the 396/496. Even with all these errors, the touch screen is great however. I traded my 396 in to get the aera, I hope they update the aera SW soon so I can get back to similar function as my previous unit.
    1. CRITICAL SERIOUS OMISSION: You can’t see if an Airport has approaches available and which ones, like the 396/496 by reviewing the waypoint/airport info. This is a real loss of function for the traveling pilot who is facing unexpected weather and is looking for options to land.
    2. HIGH PRIORITY ERROR: Black screen and auto turn off after looking at destination airport info screen from tapping on destination airport when simulator on.
    3. HIGH PRIORITY: Add runway numbers to the runway extension lines. This was a very helpful feature of the 396/496.
    4. MED PRIORITY: On the Flight Plan List page. Why are the tabs not customizable and or scrollable? If they are fixed, it seems that Enroute Safe Altitude is not the best choice. Don’t most pilots want to know ‘Dist’, ‘Time’ (for currently selected Aircraft) and ‘Est Fuel’ as the main items about a flightplan without having to review or ‘activate’ the Flight Plan? These are the first critical items I always want to review.
    5. MED PRIORITY: On the Flight Plan List Page, or even the Flight Plan Review Page. What happened to the 396/496 ability to ‘view map’? I realize the touchscreen interface may not have been optimal for editing on map, but how about at least letting me view the plan on the map (without having to ‘activate’ the plan)? Getting a sense visually of the route is quite helpful.
    6. MED PRIORITY: On the Fuel Timer… I fly Cessna. And on the 396/496 I could set a timer for 3 hours 30 minutes to remind me to recheck my fuel burn and ETE etc. I used this as a ‘fuel level needs escalated attention now’. Why does the aera limit me to 60 minutes? This is good for a low wing switch, but not useful for aircraft with cross-fed tanks.
    7. LOW PRIORITY: On the Weight and Balance page. Why can’t I have a negative weight? (the 396 had this problem too). Many Flight Manuals call for startup and taxi allowance of minus 8 pounds and the associated moment.

    Rick - November 29th, 2009
  3. I recently purchased the Garmin Aera to replace my 396. Although there are the usually trade offs/differences between models, the biggest problem I find with the Aera is the added steps to activate navigation in “nearest” or “direct to” modes. In an emergency, you want to activate navigation as soon as possible and I can’t understand why Garmin made this more convoluted. Hopefully it will be correct with a software upgrade.

    Roger - December 4th, 2009
  4. I have used the 496 and decided to ungrade to the 560 and came out very disappointed, the 560 has many many things I hate about it and will be returning it, Garmin has dropped the ball on this one and has taken something so simple and made it into a pain in the rear, first the screen is not bright enough, the touch screen is a royal pain, navigation sucks, the features like adding icons to waypoints they have got rid of the icons like fule pump and hospital etc, these come in handy for user way points. It is just to difficult to navigate through not as user friendly as the 296 496 series.

    Cody - March 21st, 2010
  5. Thanks for these reviews, people! Very helpful. The 560 was looking very attractive but clearly they need to work on this concept more… perhaps the next generation will prove to be worth it.

    jack - July 12th, 2010
  6. I agree with all the comments particularly the ones from former 496 users. In haste I sold my 496 and wish I had it back.

    Joel - August 6th, 2010
  7. Needing to remove the battery cover to plug a USB cable in is the dumbest design choice I have seen in a while.

    Dave Hornford - November 6th, 2010
  8. I love my good old gpsmap 396, but regret it does not have the option to include taxiways, and Aopa charts, so I looked at this ‘Aera’ gps.

    Thanks for the input, I think I’m going to stick to my 396 (and paper taxiways diagrams) for a few more years.

    Carlos Pereda - December 4th, 2010
  9. I am glad i didnt sell my 296 as its easy to use compared to the area 550. No compass arc. cannot change page layout.Will be putting 296 back in. anyone want to trade for 396 or 496.

    jim - December 19th, 2010
  10. Thanks for all comments!!!
    I was going to purchase the Area 560 today January 15th, 2011. However I have changed my mind; clearly the Area 560 has a few bugs and design issues that Garmin will need to address. I will not purchase the Area 560.

    David - January 15th, 2011
  11. Just bought the aera 500 and I agree with most of the reviews. I want to add about the difficulty to see the runway ref. paths that are now just daughted green lines instead of the bright and wide arrow form paths of the 396 that I was lucky to keep while getting used to the aera. I preffer the bright screen and pilot friendly Garmin 396.

    Xavier - March 15th, 2011
  12. I have to agree that as it stands the area 500 series seems like a backward step for Garmin especialy as they seem to be forcing the product by discontinuing the 296/496 series. The area 500 series does have a number of interesting features (some mentioned above) but having tried one out over several weeks i have to say that i much prefere my 496. I except that it takes time to get used to any new system but i am not convinced that the area 500 is the way to go. I have yet to meet any other pilots who prefere it to their 496.

    Philip - August 16th, 2011
  13. I recently purchased the Garmin Aera 560 and although it has some very nice features, there are several disturbing issues that have me wondering why I purchased this unit. Sometimes after powering the unit on, it will shut down automatically and not turn back on. After numerous tries, it will power on, but just as quickly power off on its own, which lends this unit totally useless. This has happened at least twice on two separate trips in the past 2 months. If I had known I would have to use pilotage and dead reaconing for my trips, I would not have spent money on a GPS that cannot be relied on for navigation. Garmin had me reset the unit, but the problem still exists. I will be returning it and hopefully they can fix the problem. The second issue that I find annoying is that during certain lighting conditions, the screen is very hard to see.

    Marge - December 25th, 2011



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