20/01/2019

GEAR REVIEW

Garmin Rino 750 UHF radio/GPS – gear review

Do you use a two-way radio when riding? What about a GPS?

Probably 90% of adventure riders nowadays use a GPS for navigation. My guess would be maybe only 5% of riders use a two-way UHF radio.

In some situations a two-way radio can be a great option to have with you when adventure riding for a few reasons:

  • Contact 4WD’s, caravans and trucks on outback roads which is fantastic for safe overtaking
  • Contact other riders over a greater distance than a bluetooth headset will allow
  • Communication between riders and support vehicles in remote areas
  • Emergency communication to base stations such as homesteads or emergency services

In the past, I’ve mostly used two-way radios when riding in outback areas because their range is generally more effective in the wide open spaces and the use cases seem to come up more frequently.

I think in particular I like the security of having one in remote areas because I might be able to contact an outstation to seek help in an emergency.

Garmin Australia recently sent us one of their more interesting products to review. Well actually, two of them!  The Garmin Rino is a rather unique product – its key point of difference is that it is both a GPS navigation device and two-way UHF radio in one unit. How very James Bond!

Introduction 

The Rino 750 is designed with two primary functions:

  • As a handheld GPS navigator
  • As a handheld UHF 2-way radio

The units are designed as a hand held device primarily so their form sits comfortably in your hand – either left or right. Included in the box is a belt clip with large carabiner clip that attaches to the back of the unit so you can hang it off a belt or backpack strap.

There is also a bike mount accessory available so that could be an alternative for riders.

The look of the unit is kind of unique with two antenna sticking up out of the top. One for the GPS and one for UHF. Presumably this is also where the Rino name came from. You know? That two horned African beast!?

So for people that love to get off the beaten track, this unit has a lot going for it by being able to navigate & communicate.

GPS Functionality

If you are familiar with the screen and menu layout of the Garmin Montana GPS then you will quickly be familiar with the Rino. To access the navigation functions is very much the same. You can go “Where To” to navigate to a waypoint or you can load up a pre-planned Track or Route to follow.

One thing to be aware of with this unit is the base maps that are supplied with it are Garmin’s very basic “Worldwide Basemap”. These maps will show the basic outline of countries and mark major towns and cities but there is not much detail in the way of streets, roads and tracks.

To have access to some meaningful maps on this device means you will either need to transfer maps from your computer to the internal memory of the unit or install a micro SD card with maps on that.

Removing the battery allows access to a memory card slot which means you can have access to additional maps other than the preinstalled Topo maps.

Accuracy wise is you should find it very good because the unit utilises both GPS and Glonass antennas improving it’s accuracy to high level.

UHF Radio Functionality

Maybe not so many riders are familiar with the usage and etiquette involved with UHF radios. I have to confess that I am certainly no expert here and there are many other sources of information out there on the pratical use of UHF radios.

I would say the first thing to appreciate is that communication via UHF is on a public network, so mind your P’s & Q’s! Also bear in mind that your conversation is not private.

Secondly, there are 80 channels available for communication and some of these channels are reserved for emergency services or particular user groups such as trucks. So before you head bush with a UHF, become at least a little bit familiar with using the various channels. It’s also really important to designate a channel for your group before you head off bush so you know what frequency to contact each other on.

The power output of the UHF antenna is 5 watts which is pretty much the minimum I would say you want for adventure riding. You can also choose to dial this back to 2 or 1/2 watt output which I assume would save battery life.

The neat thing about the UHF radio on the Rino is you can connect to your helmet intercom by Bluetooth. That’s right! No need to have a seperate dongle just pair the Rino up with your Bluetooth headset and you can receive the audio in your helmet. Of course you still need to be able to press the PTT button and bring the Rino close to your mouth to speak but I love this feature

Bluetooth Connectivity

We all know how wonderful Bluetooth connectivity is for so many different scenarios. On the Rino, Bluetooth gives us two awesome options:

  • To receive the audio from the UHF radio to your helmets Bluetooth intercom. This is great to listen out for transmissions while riding.
  • To pair with your smartphone and the Garmin Connect mobile app to get access to information like weather reports

One of the other neat connectivity features is the ability to share your location to another Rino device. Basically you can save a list of Contacts in your Rino and then request another users location, see their location on a map and navigate to them. I really like the idea of this feature and I hope it becomes more common.

Power

GPS units suck battery power like no ones business so the options to keep it powered up are important. There is a mini USB port on the back side of the unit with a rubber flap covering it. This allows you to plug a USB cable in and keep it powered up either at home or on the road.

You can also purchase additional batteries for $89 AUD so if you were going to be on the trails for an extended period this could be an option if you couldn’t plug into USB for extended periods.

How Does It Work In Practice?

We received these units just before our 4 Day Wild Rivers ride on mid-north coast of NSW in 2018. To put them to the test I gave one of the units to the driver of our sweep vehicle as their primarily GPS navigation source. The second unit I gave to our sweep rider so they could get in contact with the sweep driver in remote areas out of mobile range.

As a radio in practice the Rino is very much like other handheld two-way radios with a PTT (Push To Talk) button on the left hand side of the unit and volume buttons on the right. It really works comfortably whether you are left or right handed. Selecting a channel is where it functions a little bit differently because you select the channel via the touch-screen menu rather than a dial or button. Seeing that it is 5 watt output gives decent radio range but this is such a variable depending on terrain etc.

As a GPS navigator it works very well as the user menu is very similar to a Garmin Montana with very similar functionality. The biggest issue I see for adventure riders is the screen size is relatively small at 5.6cm (2.2″) compared to 10.2cm for the Montana and 12.6cm for the Zumo 595. What this means is you will mostly likely be slowing down on the bike to read the screen and check your directions.

I love that Garmin have been creative in packaging two pieces of equipment into one. It is not the unit I will be relying on as my primary source of navigation when adventure riding but I think it is brilliant as a UHF radio for adventure riders and for use when exploring in a 4WD or on foot with friends.

Our main use for it has been for our 4WD support vehicles on events and this is where it shines by giving us an option to communicate with riders and also follow the same routes our riders are following on the GPS.

Price

The unit retails for  $829.00 AUD. This is relatively expensive but when you consider what you might have to pay to buy seperate 2-way radio and GPS units then it makes it relatively good value.

*Update Jan 2020 – Garmin have also released a Rino 700 GPS model at a lower price point of $499 AUD. The key difference is a monotone screen that is no longer a touch screen but you access functions by the buttons and a small joystick. These are now on sale at $249 AUD at Johnny Appleseed which makes them a really good buy! https://www.ja-gps.com.au/Garmin/rino-700-gps-uhf-radio/

Pros

  • All in one unit can mean a fairly decent weight saving over carrying a seperate two-way radio and GPS.
  • Tough waterproof design with IPX7 rating.
  • Bright colourful screen is easy to read in your hand.
  • For UHF to be useful when motorcycle riding you really need to be able to connect to Bluetooth in your helmet – this does it with ease.

Cons

  • For motorcycle riding at speed the map screen is too small to read on the fly.
  • Expensive if your primary use for it is as a UHF radio.

Conclusion

Do you need to add one of these to your adventure riding kit?  If you are looking to buy a handheld UHF radio then I think this is a brilliant option. I’m a big one for having redundancy when you get into remote areas and by having a second GPS unit on board it could just save your hide.

Our favourite place to buy tech gear is from Johnny Appleseed. Check their online store.

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