Saturday, December 10, 2011
Okay, I've complained a lot about Garmin products in the past year. I've complained to everyone who would listen. The final straw was a dead Oregon one week before GeoWoodstock IX. I bought a Magellan GC and got on with life. Eventually the dead Oregon was returned to us from Garmin. I've spent the time since then looking critically at each of the models pictured above. They range from a 2005 vintage Legend C to the newer platform 62S. These are only the thoughts of someone with a lot of cache finds, but here they are.
Garmin Legend C: This unit is just old. It was great for it's time, but it is old. If you are on a budget, buy one of these used and a sheet of badge magic. The two will make you happy for years. It is a little weak in tree cover, but can be managed.
Garmin 60CSx: This is still a workhorse for Ali when caching. It is fast and accurate. If you travel a lot or are in a cache-rich area, 1000 caches will be a pain for heavy users. If not, you'll have to deal with the lack of a paperless feature, but it is a rock solid cache hunter. Ali's has been around so long the hard rubber casing is wearing through.
Garmin Vista HCx: This is still my favorite gps. I really like the small size. It fits easily in my hand and works wonderfully for routing with City Navigator loaded. It's not quite as good as a 60CSx in heavy tree cover; it lacks paperless capabilities, only holds 1000 caches; and you will eventually need Badge Magic. All that said the unit is rock solid and stable. Like the 60CSx, it is very easy to load using GSAK. I also think it is a super unit in close to a cache.
Oregon 450: The rebuilt unit has been around now for about 600 finds. So far it has been more dependable than the two previous Oregons which were returned to Garmin. The unit was returned with a firmware update which now permits loading of next stages when hunting multicaches without loading as an additional waypoint. That sounds minor, but it was a super improvement. I routinely load 2200 caches. The paperless system works well. The second returned defective unit had stopped functioning with whereigo cartridges, but this one has worked well for the few we've searched since its return. It is a little slower to respond on the trail than the 60CSx or the Vista HCx, but it is accurate. All that's a big improvement over the two failed Oregons, BUT the screen on this unit is horrendously dim. I had heard complaints from other cachers regarding difficulties reading their Oregons in daylight. The older defective unit was bright enough for use under all conditions. Not this returned unit. It is virtually impossible to see under some conditions. Why can't Garmin's products be consistent? If the screen were readable in all conditions, this would be an easy review to write.
Garmin 62ST: I've taken to calling this thing the expensive PDA. It has a really nasty habit of locking up when being used for caching. I think it is called stickiness in some forums. Since it can't be trusted to behave, Ali drags it along on the trail for its paperless feature, but caches with her 60CSx. If she needs to read the cache page, she'll check this thing, but otherwise, it just weighs her down on the trail. When she does use it and when it doesn't lock up, it always seems to be the slowest Garmin to respond. I know she was hoping for this to be a replacement for her 60CSx and a path to get rid of the old PDA's, but it's been a disappointment. I've used it a couple of times to hunt a cache. In general I hop out of the geomobile, get close to the cache location, and use my geosense while it settles down. It usually doesn't figure in the smiley.
Magellan GC: This unit is easy to sum up, 10000 caches and cache pages loaded at less than $150. The screen is small, but brightly lit and legible. The base maps work well. The downside is it seems to be the slowest of all the units to respond. It is easy to walk past a cache, then need to return and wait for the unit to settle. It is also difficult to use when adding waypoints for multis and puzzles, but the Magellan rep at ASP Geobash said that feature was going to be added with a firmware update in late 2012. If so, the unit will only get stronger. The Magelllan rep also note I am missing a few firmware updates which will greatly enhance the features and performance of the unit. The basics of the unit are really easy to master. It's paperless pages are designed so the user can see the size of an upcoming cache very quickly and tell at a glance if there have been any recent dnf's. So which is the winner? For our uses, none really. The 60CSx, Vista HCx, and Magellan GC all do multiple things well, but all lack some key ingredient to be the clear winner. The refurbished Oregon and 62S have such major flaws that they don't show up in the pack. In the end, I expect to buy a car navigation unit to mate with the Magellan GC when the Vista HCx finally wears out.