Shopping for a GPS unit. Any Recommendations?

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Davis2001r6
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Shopping for a GPS unit. Any Recommendations?

Post by Davis2001r6 » Dec 14 2003 11:32 pm

I'm in the market to purchase a GPS unit. What kind are you guys using and what do you like and dislike about each one? How easy / hard / or expensive is it to download maps onto it? I saw a lot of the basic units that didn't have Altimeters. Is that a feature that is worth the extra money? Also, I've seen a few of you with the GMRS gps/radios. What do you think of them? Any feedback would be great! Thanks

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Daryl
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Post by Daryl » Dec 15 2003 6:25 am

Every GPS I've ever seen has an altimeter in it. I haven't heard of one without.

Here's my advice:
If you're looking for small light weight and cheap, the Garmen Gecko is great. It has limited mapping capabilities but you won't find a smaller/lighter full function GPS and I've seen them for $85.

If you want more mapping capabilities, the etrex series should have a unit that has the mapping capabilities you need. My wife uses the bottom of the line one (the yellow one) and it suits her fine. It's very easy to use.

If you also use a FRS/GMRS radio frequently, the Garmen Rino might be for you. There are two versions, the mapping version and the less mapping version. I have the less mapping version and love it. It has more features so it takes a little studying to learn to use, but it's still pretty easy.

Note, recently I was on a hike and my GPS fell from it's holder and was rendered useless. If I was relying on it for navigation I'd have been screwed. I'd strongly suggest using a GPS with a topo map instead of relying on just the GPS for navigation.
“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid”
John Wayne as Sergeant John M. Stryker, USMC in “The Sands of Iwo Jima”

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Glitter
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Post by Glitter » Dec 15 2003 7:22 am

Actually, the GEKO 101 and 201 models do not have the altimeter feature, which is why I purchased the 301. It also has a built-in compass and is much more accurate than the other two because it uses WAAS satellites. But if you want to download maps it is limited, I use mine in addition to topos.
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-Chris

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Daryl
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Post by Daryl » Dec 15 2003 7:50 am

Wow, no altimeter on the Gecko??? What was Garmen thinking?
“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid”
John Wayne as Sergeant John M. Stryker, USMC in “The Sands of Iwo Jima”

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ghoster
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Post by ghoster » Dec 15 2003 7:53 am

I use the Garmin E Map, it is discontinued model, but has a larger screen than most and I just saw one on E Bay in the box for 45 bucks. THe you would still need to buy the topo disk to download the maps, and then buy the PC cable to download the info. I have used it for about two years and it works fine. Probably not pinpoint accurate as the new models but works well for my needs. THe price and also the size of the screen were what sold me. It also has an altimeter. THe downside is that it eats batteries, especially if you have the backlight function turned on. But for a few days I just carry a few extra batteries in my pack.
HavingfuninAZ

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bzachar
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Re: Shopping for a GPS unit. Any Recommendations?

Post by bzachar » Dec 15 2003 8:56 pm

davis2001r6:

I've always used Garmins because I prefer their ergonomics over the Magellan's. I can operate a Garmin with one hand because the buttons are above the display, not below it. Having said that, Magellan has it's supporters.

I started with Garmin GPS 45 back in '95 for four-wheeling which I stll have and still works but I never use it because since then I acquired a Garmin GPS V and a Garmin Legend. When I go out now I always grab the GPS V. If it broke I'd go out tomorrow and buy another one. The Legend is good but it's display and buttons are a little small for my tastes. It's also about 1/3 to 1/2 the price of the GPS V depending on where you buy/rebates.

As far as loading maps goes it's just connecting a serial cable (RS-232 or USB) between the GPSR (GPS Receiver) and your Windows PC. Some GPSRs have RS-232 ports and some have USB ports. The same goes for PCs. Make the the GPSR you buy has the same interface as your Windows PC. You can buy USB-to-RS232 adapters but that's another story (and more $$$).

Take note: Only Garmin maps can be downloaded into Garmin GPSRs, only Magellan maps can be downloaded to Magellan GPSRs.


Downloading/uploading of waypoints, routes, etc is another story. ANY of the big name mapping programs can download/upload these items to just about any GPSR. See
( dead link removed ). They can also download tracks (electronic bread crumb trail of where you've been) from the GPSR to your PC.

With Garmin's MapSource application and MapSource maps, I click on the map tiles I want to download to the unit, click the download icon in the app and the maps are downloaded to the unit.


Regarding altimeters, ALL GPSRs have them. They calculate altitude using the same satellite signals that they use to calculate your position on the earth. SOME GPSRs also have barometic sensors on board that determine altitude based on air pressure as well. The barometric altimeters are more accurate but they are affected by passing weather systems so they need to be calibrated daily against known benchmarks. The sat-based altimeters never need calibration.

Since you haven't stated what your requirements and price range is I'll pass along some general guideleines to help you make a decision:

Choose a unit that uses 4 batteries over 2 batteries. It'll run longer before it drains the batteries.

Choose a unit with a monochrome display over a color display. Color displays consume a lot more current than monochrome displays and won't run as long on a set of batteries. Color displays also can be hard to read in daylight because the sun washes them out.

One exception to all the above MAY be the new Garmin GPS 60C. It has color display, is a mapping GPSR and runs 30 hours on two AA batteries.

Garmins' wesbite allows you to compare multiple models agaisnt each other. You can also view the maps on their on-line viewer before purchasing.

( dead link removed )
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( dead link removed )

Buy the GPSR on-line. The prices are much better. I've purchased from the following... the items were in-stock and arrived on or before they said they would:

( dead link removed )
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( dead link removed )
( dead link removed )

The best price on the Garmin Legend was on amazon.com. After rebate it was $150 and it's a mapping GPSR.

If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask.


Bill
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Davis2001r6
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Post by Davis2001r6 » Dec 15 2003 9:14 pm

Thanks Bill,
You had a lot of good info there. Time to do some price surfing.

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MtnGeek
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Post by MtnGeek » Dec 15 2003 9:26 pm

I have the Garmin Vista. It cost about $300. I was fortunate, it was given to me. It uses 2 batteries and goes through them like none other. A set of batteries lasts about 11 hours. I think that is the only downfall. There is so much stuff on it that I don't know what it is all for. I don't know how to work alot of it. I really like it tho. I just need rechargeable batteries to save me some bucks.
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Daryl
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Post by Daryl » Dec 16 2003 7:18 am

The Garmen Rino last about 17 hours with the radio and GPS on. If you turn one or the other off the battery length is longer.
The batteries on the etrex seem to last a long time.

To add to Bill's info, be sure to get a GPS for the purpose you intend on using it. If you're taking it hiking be sure it is durable and waterproof.
“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid”
John Wayne as Sergeant John M. Stryker, USMC in “The Sands of Iwo Jima”

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Davis2001r6
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Post by Davis2001r6 » Dec 16 2003 6:14 pm

Thanks for your input everyone. After your info and the great people at REI I ordered the Garmin Vista. Cheapest place I found it was $150 after shipping at GPSnow.com

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MtnGeek
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Post by MtnGeek » Dec 16 2003 6:28 pm

davis2001r6 wrote:Thanks for your input everyone. After your info and the great people at REI I ordered the Garmin Vista. Cheapest place I found it was $150 after shipping at GPSnow.com
$150, wow, thats a great price. I saw it for $300. I really like my Vista. It does so much, the only pain was learning how to use it. It took quite awhile to get the hang of it.
Mountains are there to be hiked!

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Photosmith
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Re: Shopping for a GPS unit. Any Recommendations?

Post by Photosmith » Dec 17 2003 12:17 am

bzachar wrote:davis2001r6:

Regarding altimeters, ALL GPSRs have them. They calculate altitude using the same satellite signals that they use to calculate your position on the earth. SOME GPSRs also have barometic sensors on board that determine altitude based on air pressure as well. The barometric altimeters are more accurate but they are affected by passing weather systems so they need to be calibrated daily against known benchmarks. The sat-based altimeters never need calibration.
This information is somewhat misleading. I have a GPSmap 76S, which includes the barometric altimeter. I believe it's functionality is similar to that of other units with a barometric altimeter. The default operation is to use the barometer to determine elevation/altitude and auto-calibrate based on the GPS reported elevation. Even times when there is a dramatic shift in air pressure, it usually self-corrects within a couple minutes.

You do NOT have to calibrate on a known benchmark, but you can do that as well if you want to be super accurate about it. You could then disable the auto-calibration and it will report pressure elevation from then until you turn auto mode back on. The auto mode seems to work perfectly well in my experience though.

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Davis2001r6
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Post by Davis2001r6 » Dec 17 2003 2:02 am

davis2001r6 wrote:Thanks for your input everyone. After your info and the great people at REI I ordered the Garmin Vista. Cheapest place I found it was $150 after shipping at GPSnow.com
sorry guys I meant to say $250. Hope I didn't get anyone's hopes up.

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bzachar
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Post by bzachar » Dec 17 2003 8:40 pm

Daryl wrote:... To add to Bill's info, be sure to get a GPS for the purpose you intend on using it. If you're taking it hiking be sure it is durable and waterproof.

Excellent point Daryl. Thanks for bringing it up.

To illuminate it a little more: Anybody buying a GPSR needs to make sure they understand to what degree a unit is water proof or water resistant and that the person selling it you understands the differences. From Garmin's website:
Most Garmin® GPS units are waterproof in accordance with IEC 529 IPX7. IEC 529 is a European system of test specification standards for classifying the degrees of protection provided by the enclosures of electrical equipment. An IPX7 designation means the GPS case can withstand accidental immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes. An IPX8 designation is for continuous underwater use.
Garmin releases new software for it's GPSRs as time goes on which you can download from their website and then into your GPSR. See http://www.garmin.com/support/download.jsp

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ChefTIO
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Magellan vs Garmin

Post by ChefTIO » Jan 30 2004 4:11 pm

I'm shopping around for GPS right now. I'm torn between the Garmin Vista and the Magellan Meridian Gold. From all the posts here I see most people seem to have Garmins. Can anybody give me the plus/minus of each models? I like the fact you can add memory to the Meridian and the ease of use, but I have read that the Vista is more durable and reliable. Looking for some feedback......

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bzachar
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Re: Magellan vs Garmin

Post by bzachar » Jan 30 2004 5:50 pm

ChefTIO wrote: ...Looking for some feedback......
If you haven't already, go to the store and check out each unit's ergonomics by holding each one in your hand and working the buttons. I know Wide World of Maps carries Garmin and IIRC Magellan too.

I prefer the Garmins because I can operate the unit with one hand. If I had the Meridian I'd have to hold it in my left and push the buttons with my right.

It's just a matter of personal preference. You may find it makes no difference or you prefer the Meridian's layout.

Bill

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Davis2001r6
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Post by Davis2001r6 » Jan 30 2004 6:23 pm

I agree with what bzachar said. I like the Vista I have because it is easy to use with one hand. The Vista has the built in memory, compass, barometric altimeter. It's easy to download maps from your computer if you get the Mapsource software. Also easy upload your route onto the computer too. I don't have a basis for comparison but I have no complaints about the Vista and would recommend it to anyone. Very easy to figure out how to use also. You don't really even need to look at the manual. I got mine for $253 after shipping at GPSNOW.COM

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bzachar
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Post by bzachar » Jan 30 2004 7:03 pm

Another reason to check them out in person...

I poked around the Garmin and Magellan websites and found the following screen resolutions:

Meridian Gold 120x160 = 19200 pixels
Vista 160x288 = 46080 pixels

19200/46080= 0.42

The Meridian has only 42% of the screen resolution of the Vista but it's screen size is bigger (2.2"x1.75" compared to 2.1"x1.1" on the Vista).

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Chris86314
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Garmin vs. Magellen

Post by Chris86314 » Feb 01 2004 5:33 pm

Hi All, I have an old Garmin GPS III and just purchased a new Mag. Meridian Platinum. I did a lot of shopping and research (go here for great reviews.. been using them for years.. http://gpsinformation.net/
I have always been partial to Garmin and never looked at the Magellen but after my last research on the web and then in stores to hold, touch and compare I ended up with the Platinum. I was worried about the screen resolution also but after looking at the Vista (great resolution but very tiny screen) vs. the lesser resolution Platinum (Gold is same without compass/altimeter) I chose the Platimum because of the many options that are standard on the Platinum that Garmin doesn't even offer on their new $500.00 color unit. I also looked at the Magellen Sport Color. Its screen resolution is even better than the Vista.. a real real nice unit but then I read that (as with most color units) even with the backlight turned up full (eating batteries) that in the sunlight (like even the best digital camera back screens) you could not read it.. so that ruled that unit out.
Another real nice unit was the Magellen Sport Topo. It is loaded with 100 megs of Topo maps so you don't have to upload anything (thats 100 megs of topo vs. 16 megs of built in street maps that most of the higher end units have) but I wanted to chart my own. Magellen also has removable media (up to 128 meg SD Card) for maps, etc.
Anyway.. it boiled down to features, much bigger display (but less resolution)(don't just compare one unit's res to the other on the web, look at them side by side.. the Platinum's less res but bigger screen is still great.. much more viewing area. I ended up with the Magellen Platinum (which is on the way UPS) because I wanted an electronic compass/altimeter and from the reviews I read, Magellens was much superior to Garmins. I can't wait to get it and hit the trail.. Go to the stores (take your own batteries) and ask the clerks to fire one up for you. I have found that if you take your own batteries they don't have a problem doing this.. Most stores (REI, etc..)don't have good batteries laying around and won't open the ones in the box (which is understandable)(if they do have batteries they are usually dead in a drawer from something else)... I took a handfull of batteries and checked them all out and played with them all. The online stores, TigerGPS, GPS Store have great prices. Just watch some of the real cheap sellers cause they will sell refurbished or used. Make sure you are
getting "Brand New". Amazon has some great prices but a lot of there stuff is refurbished.. be cautious.
Hope this helps..

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Chris86314
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Altimeter/Compass

Post by Chris86314 » Feb 01 2004 5:45 pm

Just need to clear something up. All GPS units have a Compass/Altimeter and operate very well but they operate off of satelite triangulation. The C/A we are talking about here is "Electronic" Compass and Altimeter in addition to the satelite C/A.
Having an electronic C/A means you can be standing still and the compass will work just as if you had a Sunto Compass in your hand. Without the addition of the electronic C/A you have to be moving to have the GPS/Satelite C/A work.
Magellen even goes on step further and has a tri-axis electronic compass built into theirs where Garmin's units with electronic C/A has to be held flat (like a regular compass), the Magellen can be held at any angle and it still works. Both Garmin and Magellen's electronic C/A eat more batteries but can be turned off at any time (and Garmin's kicks out and goes to the GPS C/A mode if you moving faster than 3 mph). So both units can turn off the electonic portion and just use the triangulation method.
Hope this helps clear things up.. so people don't think that some units don't have a compasss and altimeter.. they all do.. just not the electronic type..

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