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Buyer's Remorse? Vista C

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This morning I finally decided on my first GPS receiver. After reading countless reviews and forum posts, I chose the Garmin eTrex Vista C. Following my online purchase, a friend of mine came to town today for some geocaching. He had a new eXplorist 600 and I used his older Garmin GPSMap60.


We were looking in some relatively wooded areas and his eXplorist was consistenly more accurate, had more satellite locks and better signal strength.


I tried holding the Garmin vertically and horizontally at the cache locations after finding the caches. In one instance the Garmin showed the cache 140 - 150 ft away while the Magellan showed the cache 15 ft away. In another instance the Magellan showed the cache 20 ft away while the Garmin fluctuated between 80 and 90 feet away. Also, I would intermittently lose satellite contact while the eXplorist didn't lose contact once.


Does anyone know why the Magellan was so much more tuned in than the Garmin? More importantly has anyone tested a Vista C against the eXplorist series for accuracy and reception? I have read several posts that say the Vista C gets better reception than older Garmin models, but apparently that's not saying much.


I am headed to my first geocache event in a couple of weeks. I would hate to be be-bopping 150 feet away from the nearest cache while the explorist users walk straight to it! Thanks in advance for allaying my fears.

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This is an excerpt from my post "Magellan Meridian Platinum vs. eXplorist 600"...


<begin quote>


Like I sub-titled the post, the thing about the eXplorist that made me consider it were mostly technology based. GPS chip makers are constantly trying to build more sensitive equipment so that it can pick up fainter signals, especially when dealing with an obstructed view of the sky. (A company called Arc Second recently released receivers capable of detecting such faint signals they can be used indoors!). So in theory at least the newer GPS eXplorist should be more sensitive and thus work with more obstruction and gain a fix faster. (Some company I was just recently reading about can gain a [warm] fix in less then one second!).


<end quote>


So like I was talking about here, they are making them more sensitive, so that even the degraded signal found through obstructions is strong enough to be understood.


I personally have never cared much for the Garmin's. I consider myself a very technologically literate and competent person (and have the degrees to prove it :-) and the Garmin's have always seemed more walk (or more precisely look) then talk. I suppose that could fire up a whole debate of its own (like IBM vs. Mac).


Either way a newer model anything should be more accurate, because it will be using currently manufactured components that are more sensitive then previous generations.


Feel free to Google for the articles I talked about in the quote for more info.


Hope this helped some.

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There are two things going on with the Magellan vs. Garmin thing in the woods.


First Magellan tends to use a moving average while Garmin doesn't. In the woods this means the Garmin is more prone to display the signal bounce (or whatever it is the trees are doing to muck up the satellite signal) than magellan. That means magellan tends to be more stable in the woods than a Garmin.


Meanwhile I've also had Magellan point me completely in the wrong direction in the woods because it lied about having a signal at all and it had no clue where it really was and what direction we were actualy going. The Garmin I had was beeping and buzzing like a pinball machine with signal loss and regaining the signal. It however did point me 100% the right way the entire time, at least when it pointed at all.


The averaging a Magellan does is an advantage in the woods, at least when it's using real data. Newer equipment in general (as has been said) is more able to pick up weak satellite signals than older equipment.

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I have the Explorist 500 and it is my first GPS. I am curious to try out a Garmin Map60c too compare the two. Many little quarks I dislike about the Explorists and many that I love.

My buddy and I just did a photocontest and he used his Garmin and I my Explorist. The idea was too find the object and mark the UTM. It was neat how most of the time are UTM were the same or a metre or two different; however, my accuracy was reading 3-9 metres and his was reading 9-18 metres. Needless to say we one the contest and the $980 cash prize.

I think it was summed up best that it is like comparing Mac to IBM. Too each his own, and chose on what you think has the better features that you would want. For me it was memory upgrade, battery type and geocache manager. Oh, it was $35 cheaper then the Garmin Map60c.

To end, my Explorist has always been extremely reliable in telling me when sattelite coverage has dropped.

Team TeeKay

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That all sounds somewhat disheartening. I guess I will keep my fingers crossed and hope my new vista C will keep pace with the new eXplorists. :lol:

I have never been tempted to throw away my Garmin. Yes I bounce more in the woods, but I also don't walk past the cache and have to come back to it, plus I can figure out how to use the settings much much easier than the Sport Track Pro that I had access too.


When I upgrade it will be another Garmin.

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Mr. and Mrs. Parrothead ordered a "his and her" matching set of GPSmap 60C's. As luck would have it, her unit was a fine, strong example of GPS muscle while his was as wimpy as a wet noodle. Since they were able to do side-by-side comparisons, they quickly determimed that his unit was defective. It was sent back and replaced with a Stalwart unit that has lead them on may successful cache hunts.


The moral of the story is that if you have a unit with particullary weak satellite reception, you might want to check in to getting a replacement under warranty.

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Garmin also has units with quad helix antennas, such as the GPSMAP 60CS and the GPSMAP 76CS. Such antennas are better at picking up faint signals, but such signals are then also often prone to give large errors, since they may be subject to considerable multi-path.


Patch antennas, like the one used in the Vista C, are very good in more open surroundings, but often have trouble in difficult surroundings.

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my 96C which uses the same firmware/reciever gets fantastic lock no matter which way you hold it, although it gets better when you tilt it upright, you can see the bars get longer. It has even warm started in less than 5 seconds...yours should work very well under trees, all of my garmins have. My 76C that i sold would hold great lock on roadtrips sitting in between the driver and passenger seats. These are great recievers.

Edited by wickedsprint
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I had an eTrex Legend. I too had poor reception in the woods. I tried an external reradiating patch antenna, but to no avail. I replaced the Legend with a 60C. I now use an external patch antenna (available from several sources) that I put in a "hidden" pocket on top of my Trimble baseball cap. Doing so provides an unobstructed view of the sky. The antenna is not noticable except fot the wire running down the back of my neck. I have to admit it's somewhat geeky looking, and I catch a good deal of good-natured ribbing from my wife, but it's worth it because the reception is good, even under canopy. I can log a hike in the woods that later review will show few dropouts (but I can manage a max walking speed of over 30 MPH, the obvious result of a dropout!).

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I have a Vista C and it has proven to be very good under heavy tree cover. Recently, I was hunting for a cache where the cache page noted that one of the biggest difficulties with this cache is the heavy tree cover and the weak reception due to it. Indeed, most finders complained about the poor satellite reception in their logs. I went there and I didn't have any problems with the reception, the Vista C led me right to the cache. On another occasion, I met a cacher with a black-and-white Legend. The Legend kept losing the lock while my Vista C had no problems holding it. I carry my Vista C on my belt in a leather case and in the woods it loses the lock easily in that position. However, when I remove it from the case and hold it in front of me, it regains the lock within a few seconds, no matter how heavy the tree canopy above is.


Having said that, neither Garmin nor Magellan uses the latest GPS receiver technology. For about $150, you can buy a Bluetooth receiver with the new SiRFstarIII chip set. The receivers having that chip set are considerably more sensitive than any Garmin or Magellan unit available today. Both Garmin and Magellan are way behind current technology.

Edited by as77
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I've been using the Vista C for a few months now and have cached with people using various Magellans and Garmins to tell the truth I couldn't tell you which one is better. On some occassions mine seemed to pointing right at it and the others were all over the place and sometimes it's the opposite. This weekend I was with a group that the majority of them had the 60CS and they appeared to be more on target more often than my Vista C, which usually happened when we were in the woods. If I had to do it all over again I think I would have spent the extra bucks and got the 60CS.

Edited by Recdiver
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I have a Vista C and it has proven to be very good under heavy tree cover. Recently, I was hunting for a cache where the cache page noted that one of the biggest difficulties with this cache is the heavy tree cover and the weak reception due to it. Indeed, most finders complained about the poor satellite reception in their logs. I went there and I didn't have any problems with the reception, the Vista C led me right to the cache.


I've read repeatedly about how good the Vista C's reception is under tree cover.


Another thing to remember is that the patch antenna (eXplorist) and quad helix (Map 60) have different strengths and weaknesses. Because one outperforms the other under certain conditions it doesn't mean it will outperform it under all conditions.


My wife uses a Geko 201 with a patch and I have a 60CS with the quad helix. Mine usually outperforms hers, but sometimes mine sends me bouncing all over creation and she walks right to the cache.

Edited by briansnat
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...The moral of the story is that if you have a unit with particullary weak satellite reception, you might want to check in to getting a replacement under warranty.

But that's the real problem...


For the vast majority of us "single GPSr unit owners" how the heck can we tell if our unit is a jem or a dud if we don't have access to an identical unit for comparison with? All we can say is the thing "is working." But how do we know if it's working @ 100% capability?

Edited by IVxIV
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I recently upgraded from a 3 year old Vista (patch antenna) to a 60CS. I know better than to get all excited about the fact that the 60 can maintain a lock in my house, while the Vista never could - that is due to the reception pattern of the quad helix antenna, which is better able to capture signals that are low on the horizon - i.e. coming in the window, than the Vista's antenna. But after 100 or so finds with the 60 I can unequivocally say that it consistently outperforms the Vista in terms of reception. Yes, it has gotten confused a couple of times. But I've been pleasantly surprised to find it holding lock in situations that would give the Vista fits. I still miss the easy one handed operation of my Vista, but not enough to go back. As I understand it the Vista C uses essentially the same electronic guts as the 60CS, but it uses the patch antenna instead of the quad helix, which may explain your reception woes.

As for Magellan quality vs. Garmin quality - Garmin definitely doesn't suck, if that was implied. Their build quality is top notch - I know, because I've worked in the electronics field for 25 years. I've carried my iPod and my 60CS geocaching for 3 months. The iPod crapped out - couldn't handle travel in a backpack, I guess. The 60 CS has been dropped in water, on rocks, fallen off dashboards, and it still looks and operates like the day I opened the box. They know how to build their stuff to be tough, and it shows.

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Does anyone have a picture or better description of this quad helix antenna? I've been googling for a while and could't find anything.


And I don't think anyone is saying that any company sucks, just that they favor one over the other. But I have another post for that... :-)

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