Bryan Furnace recently got some seat time in John Deere’s 644 P-Tier wheel loader and gives his take on its performance and features on this episode of The Dirt.
“This is a very smooth ride,” he says.
Deere characterizes the 644 as a midsize loader. It weighs about 20.5 tons and runs on a 249-horsepower Deere engine.
For those unfamiliar with Deere’s performance tiering system, the “P” stands for mid-level features, such as upgraded cab, enhanced bucket and linkage designs, and customizable electrohydraulic controls. The 644 G-Tier is the company’s basic, more economical model, while the X-Tier features Deere’s advanced electric-drive technology.
In this episode, Bryan, who is a professional operator, discovers several features he likes about the loader – especially its smooth ride – and a couple things he’d like to see Deere address.
So to get a close-up look at the 644 P-Tier, watch it in action and hear an operator’s views, check out this episode of The Dirt.
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In This Episode:
Bryan Furnace (00:00):
Hi everybody, welcome back to Equipment World, you're watching The Dirt. I'm your host, Bryan, and today we're here to review the 644 P-Tier Wheel Loader from John Deere. Now, I got to admit, John Deere loaders are just nice. They're smooth machines, I've always been a big fan, and so getting to review the new 644 P-series or P-Tier, if you will, was a very great experience. So with that being said, let's get into the machine. Overall, if you're familiar with the John Deere 644 series loader, there's not going to be a tremendous amount of in-cab changes. This is a very comfortable cab, everything's pretty familiar. I love John Deere's cabs, they've always been very comfortable. Similar to the new P-Tier excavators, you are starting to get the newer seats that have three modes of heat or cooling for your backside, which is phenomenal. As a princess operator, it's one of my favorite features.
A ton of space for a lunchbox, you guys know that's one of my pet peeves with some of the other manufacturers, is they don't take into account the operator having some sort of a lunchbox. John Deere, you've got a great huge space on your left-hand side for your lunch, in your spacious roomy cab, with phenomenal visibility all around the machine. And one of the things I've always enjoyed about John Deere is their consistency since switching to the little keypad that is now on all of their machines. Rather than going and putting a key in the ignition, you have this very familiar keypad with all of your functions. And if you've been in any John Deere machine, while some of the buttons may be a little different, there's always the consistency that you have the same pad sitting there with all of your functions right there. Always enjoyed that about John Deere, and that is continuing to be consistent on the new P-Tier.
Now, you also have a new screen with 270 degrees of view, brought to you by three separate cameras. On each mirror you have a camera facing towards the rear of the machine, that does a great job of covering your wheel wells and all of the area right around the machine where you might have some laborers around, and then you have a backup camera that covers basically the entire rear of the machine. John Deere didn't bother with doing a 360 cam, and I have to admit, I'm actually a fan of not having the 360 cam.
If you've been in a machine with a 360 cam, one of the problems is your machine is sitting right in the middle of that screen, and it takes up a pretty good-sized footprint. And so, it's really nice to not have that footprint taken up by the actual machine emblem itself, instead, you get to use that real estate for viewing what's on the camera. Now, one small critique I have is that these screens are a lot closer to some screens that we've seen in the past, where they don't quite have the resolution and the contrast that... How should I put this?
Makes me confident that I'm not going to miss something. And a great example of this is the fact that when I was demoing the machine at John Deere's facility I was on a giant concrete pad. And in that screen that concrete pad was white, and it washed everything out. And so, if you were standing there, in a white shirt, or a light colored shirt, I'm not confident that I would've really seen you and had you stick out on that screen. Now, why don't you go in and change the contrast settings, Bryan?
Now, I do wish the contrast on the screen was just a little better. In fact, I'm going to mess with that really quick and see if I can change that. Display settings.
I did that, and unfortunately with the way the software handles changing the contrast in that screen, it really blows the image out and it actually makes it worse rather than better. So, I would love to see a little bit of an improvement on the actual screen itself, but as far as the functionality and the view that it gives you, it's a great tool to have, and a great resource to have in the cab. You have the option in this machine to switch between wheeled steering or joystick steering, because it comes with both. And I have become a huge fan of joystick steering. The other thing I'm absolutely loving, as a loader operator traditionally I have hated twin stick. I know a lot of loader operators out there are going to absolutely blow me apart for that, but it used to be that to use twins stick your right hand was spread open wide and you're doing a lot of really large movements, just because of the throw of those twin sticks that they put over there on your right-hand side.
The newer machines, and the 644 in particular, they're very small, they're very ergonomic, and you're able to use the machine really with about two fingers, occasionally, there is the downshift button that you will swing your thumb over to hit. It's really comfortable to run. I've actually gotten to where I have started to prefer the twin stick over the single joystick over on the right-hand side. It was a very smooth machine, I did take this out and rode it a couple of times, and it was a very, very smooth ride.
I will hand it to them, this is a smooth ride. Very smooth ride. Now, this is a nice smooth road too, but that's a pretty stinking smooth ride.
You had total control, even with joystick steering. There was no sway or excessive rocking in the machine, it was a very stable machine. I would love to try this in a pipe laying situation. Now, my last critique on John Deere, this isn't even for the P-Tier specifically, this is essentially for most of their loader lineup. If you've ever run John Deere equipment, and you've run their loaders, you're probably familiar with the complicated system of latches. In order to open up the backend and access your fluid checks, do any maintenance on the machine, this is one area where I would highly encourage John Deere to do a total redesign on the rear hood.
Now, once you memorize the system, of course it's not going to take you that long, but there are better ways to do this, and this is where I would encourage John Deere to spend some time and some cycles in R&D, to do a redesign of that back hood area. Overall, great machine. Loved it. So again, as always, I hope this helps your business. Thank you again to the folks at John Deere for having us out, and we'll catch you on the next episode of The Dirt.