Back to the Future: Garmin Introduces the 276cx

They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” That definitely applies to the GPS unit that has been sitting on my shelf for the last decade. The Garmin 276c was the biggest and best GPS unit available back when the BMW R1150GSA ruled the adventure market. Suddenly, in 2009 it was ultimately discontinued by Garmin to the disdain on the ADV masses. To our surprise, Garmin just released a modern version of this classic with the fantastic 276cx.

The 276c was hugely popular because it was the only GPS unit to combine a large color screen with the ability to display maps and navigate tracks in remote places. Back then, the primary shortcomings of 276c were limited storage and weak satellite reception. The hardware of the 276c was based on the Garmin 176c that was introduced before SD cards existed so digital storage for maps was limited to Garmin proprietary data cards that were developed to a maximum capacity of 256mb! The swiveling antenna struggled to hold a satellite fix under light tree cover or in a crowded city.


Through the early years of Garmin’s Zumo GPS units (450/550) and countless versions of Nuvi (automotive) GPS units, motorcycle users were crying for Garmin to produce a modernized version of the 276c. Adventure riders had a hard time using touch screens with gloves and constantly wiping dust off the touch screen with unintended consequences. The feel and function of dedicated buttons is hard to beat on a motorcycle when you don’t want to take your eyes off the road.

After 7 years of waiting, many of us had given up hope that Garmin would produce another GPS with dedicated buttons. It’s almost as if Garmin had been listening all along but wanted to wait until no one was expecting this new GPS unit. Garmin has done EXACTLY what we were asking for with the release of the 276cx.


It’s hard to believe how similar this new GPS unit is to its predecessor the 276c. Pulling the old one of the shelf for a comparison reveals:

  • Buttons are in the same pattern with nearly identical labels and function
  • Startup screen looks similar and the menu that opens upon boot-up is a near carbon copy of the original 276c.
  • The screen is the best we have seen on any motorcycle GPS unit to date. Removing the touch screen element from the screen makes it MUCH more clear and very easy to read in sunlight. The 276Cx screen is a 5” diagonal with twice the pixel density of the original 276c.
  • The 276Cx is a big GPS unit at 7.5” wide. The screen alone has nearly same footprint as a complete Zumo 660 GPS unit and when you add the buttons to the side it gets even bigger.
  • The original 276c had a flip up antenna that was not useful under any type of canopy and even suffered from poor reception on cloudy days. The 276Cx uses Antenna technology proven to be excellent in the Garmin Montana and Zumo 595LM.
  • The 276Cx has 6gb of available space in the internal storage and the memory is also expandable with micro SD cards up to 64gb.

This is the first Garmin GPS unit that has almost no learning curve for those of us who remember the good old days. There is something very refreshing about the no frills layout of the 276Cx, it brings you back to an era when electronics were tools rather than entertainment devices.

If you ever wished that your old 276c had bigger more readable screen, a better antenna, faster processor, cheap expandable storage, and a more reliable 12 volt power cable, then this unit is for you. It has the best GPS screen on the market today and just simply works. If you are planning a to use tracks for a ride like a BDR or the Touratech Rally, this might just be your top choice. Our GPS experts are standing by to answer any questions you have (800) 491-2926 or you can buy online here.

If you want the full geek-speak dissertation on the 276cx, visit the Globeriders website for a review by GPS guru Dan Townsley.