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Which Gps For Me


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Hi,

I am a complete newbie to the world of GPS systems. I was looking for a GPS around 200-250$ range, and if there is something really good avaible will be willing to go above it, but the lower the better. MY needs are a little different

I did a lot of search and came up with the following choices

1. Magellen meridian series

2. MAgellen explorist 400/600 (500 just has color, so I dont need it)

3. Garmin etrex series

 

Now lets come to my requirements.

I will be using the GPS on US roads while walking/cycling/driving. The former two will be done more than the last. So having some sort of route planning is a good thing, but not necessary. For example in cities where the streets are right angled and you can choose any of the routes, it should have a feature where I set a "destination point". The unit should constant point me in that direction irrespective of the route. Something like if you are in wilderness and you want to reach a coordinate. It should also save the track.

Now lot of my driving will be in India(since I live there), and there are no maps for most places. Since I know the city around and there are almost an infinite number of routes, I want the ability where it just points me in a general direction and I keep heading towards that approx. So It should definately have the ablitiy of setting multiple waypoints long, really really long tracks too. Most have like max 2000 points/track irrespective of how big a SD card you put in. Moreover the Garmin series has microSD in which you can store the tracks, and not the waypoints and POI. This is what has put me off garmin. I will be in a place where there are no street maps and I will be navigating by lots of waypoints when I am in situations where I dont know the way. Also there will be some off road driving where the only way of getting to a place is through a waypoint.

 

I was wondering wether you could set POI/Waypoint in the explorist series by just giving a latitute and longitude, or you atually have to go there and then click on set waypoint or something like that?

 

Another feature which is needed is a reasonably accurate compass. I have heard that most GPS have compas which work only if you move. And many have electronic ones which work erratically. So I need a compass, need to ne three axis.

 

There there is the Barometer and Temparature stuff. Its not strictly nessecary, thats the reason I was thinking of the explorist 400 rather than the 600. I read that in GPS systems you do not need the barometric altimeter to know your height, as it shows the approx elevation anyways. Is this true?

 

Also color is not necessary, a 16 level grey scale with do. Same is for automatic routing.

 

Now lets get to the non GPS related features. Interfacing with computer. I need something for which there is lot of third party support. For example I can convert Magellen track files to google earth .kml files and see my route in the satellite view. I read this somewhere in forums that many people see their tracks in google earth like this, and you dont even need premium edition since you are not hooking up with google earth, just providing it the kml file. Do lowrance etc., support that? Is there a way by which I can locate a place on google earth or some other satellite imagery software, once I have the latitude/longitude I should be able to just feed that into my GPS and set a waypoint/destination etc., Direct interface is not necessary, even if third party tools can do the same it will be good

 

Also in meridian series I belive the size of SD card is limited. I have a 256MB SD card which cant be used in a meridian GOLD/platinum I reckon or will it work as a 128MB card?

So guys thats my long post

I will summarize

5 means really must 1 means not necessary

 

Color screen - 3

Barometer/Temparature - 3

Elevation data - 4

Compass(non movement) - 4

Unlimited tracks waypoints etc.,(SD card should be able to store tracks waypoints and not just maps) - 5

Route planning - 3

Sensivity - 4

Lower the price the better - 5

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The requirement for a 3-axis compass immediately eliminates Garmin.

 

GeoBC

Actually any accurate compass is fine, need not be 3-axis. Worst comes to worse I can get a 1$ pocket compass which will be accurate.

The real problem is the limit on no of waypoints and tracks since they cant be stored on SD card in garmin

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For an altimeter, the elevation that comes only from GPS will be no more accurate that the GPS can be, and usually less accurate than the horizontal position. The elevation that comes from an internal barometric altimeter will be only as accurate as its calibration. To calibrate it you need to be standing somewhere where you know the elevation, but keep in mind that the calibration is only good until the air pressure changes on its own for any reason (like any time the weather changes a little bit).

 

If you really need to know your elevation accureatly a good topo map used along with the GPSr will be more reliable than the GPSr by itself, with or without barometric altimeter.

 

I don't know how accurate a built-in electronic compass (that works when you are standing still) is, I prefer a hand compass anyway. :laughing:

Edited by ejnewman
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For an altimeter, the elevation that comes only from GPS will be no more accurate that the GPS can be, and usually less accurate than the horizontal position. The elevation that comes from an internal barometric altimeter will be only as accurate as its calibration. To calibrate it you need to be standing somewhere where you know the elevation, but keep in mind that the calibration is only good until the air pressure changes on its own for any reason (like any time the weather changes a little bit).

 

If you really need to know your elevation accureatly a good topo map used along with the GPSr will be more reliable than the GPSr by itself, with or without barometric altimeter.

 

I don't know how accurate a built-in electronic compass (that works when you are standing still) is, I prefer a hand compass anyway. :laughing:

 

Thanks! Actually accuracy of the elevation is not really necessary, so 50-60 meters here or there is okay. What is very important is something which tells me where north is when I am standing still, and ablity to create waypoints and routes to a level which is limited by only th memory card capacity. This is the feature which led me to strike of garmin.

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Have you looked at the Lowrance iFinder Expedition C or Explorer? Lowrance units are known for packing in a lot of features for the money. They have everything you are looking for, except autorouting. Electronic compass, excellent reception, barometric altimeter, card storage for maps, waypoints, routes, etc...

The number of routes/waypoints is limited. Thats the issue. I wont have many maps in my SD card as where I live there are no maps, its the waypoints and routes which will do all the mapping for me! Imaging being in some place like antartica where more the number of waypoints to guide you to your destination, the better!

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What is very important is something which tells me where north is when I am standing still,

 

If you only need to know it precisely enough to be able to point your finger north then an electronic compass should be more than adequate. I don't know whether I would rely on it to guide me on an accurate heading over a long distance though. :laughing: Also keep in mind that you will go through batteries faster with an electronic compass turned on.

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I will be using the GPS on US roads while walking/cycling/driving. The former two will be done more than the last. So having some sort of route planning is a good thing, but not necessary.

For the routing within the US where there are good maps for the GPS the Garmin models have a definite edge. They let you specify vehicle type (car, truck, pedestrian, bicycle, etc.), let you set intermediate points where you want, specify routing by fastest time vs. distance, and additional customization of the route.

For example in cities where the streets are right angled and you can choose any of the routes, it should have a feature where I set a "destination point". The unit should constant point me in that direction irrespective of the route. Something like if you are in wilderness and you want to reach a coordinate. It should also save the track.

All of the units you're considering will do the above.

Now lot of my driving will be in India(since I live there), and there are no maps for most places. Since I know the city around and there are almost an infinite number of routes, I want the ability where it just points me in a general direction and I keep heading towards that approx. So It should definately have the ablitiy of setting multiple waypoints long, really really long tracks too. Most have like max 2000 points/track irrespective of how big a SD card you put in.

Somewhat of an edge to the Garmins here. They'll store up to 10,000 points in the tracklog plus the semi-infinite number on the card. Plus you may find it handy to use the 20 'Saved Tracks' to display local roads or other features for areas where you have no maps. Magellans let you store multiple tracklogs on the SD card but only one at a time is displayed and none can be over 2000 points.

Moreover the Garmin series has microSD in which you can store the tracks, and not the waypoints and POI. This is what has put me off garmin.

The new Garmins support their custom POI loader which does let you put your own POIs on the microSD card. It's not quite the same as having more waypoints since you can't edit them in the field, but they can be used for many of the same purposes.

I was wondering wether you could set POI/Waypoint in the explorist series by just giving a latitute and longitude, or you atually have to go there and then click on set waypoint or something like that?

For all the units you can enter POIs and Waypoints by their lat/long values rather than actually being there.

Another feature which is needed is a reasonably accurate compass. I have heard that most GPS have compas which work only if you move. And many have electronic ones which work erratically. So I need a compass, need to ne three axis.

If you really need 3-axis then this eliminates all but the eXplorist 600. But I find the GPS compass to work fine since it only requires movement of a few feet to start showing the right direction and that allows me to know my approximate orientation even when I stop. I.e. while I'm walking the GPS tells me which way north is and so I know that, for example, the big building up ahead is toward the east. If I now stop for a while I still know which way is which since I just glance at the building and know that it's east of me. The 2-axis compasses also work fine but do require that you hold the unit level.

There there is the Barometer and Temparature stuff. Its not strictly nessecary, thats the reason I was thinking of the explorist 400 rather than the 600. I read that in GPS systems you do not need the barometric altimeter to know your height, as it shows the approx elevation anyways. Is this true?

Yes, but the altitude might be off for awhile if you have poor reception with only 3 satellites visible. Under good reception conditions the GPS altitude is generally within about 30'.

 

Now lets get to the non GPS related features. Interfacing with computer. I need something for which there is lot of third party support. For example I can convert Magellen track files to google earth .kml files and see my route in the satellite view. I read this somewhere in forums that many people see their tracks in google earth like this, and you dont even need premium edition since you are not hooking up with google earth, just providing it the kml file. Do lowrance etc., support that? Is there a way by which I can locate a place on google earth or some other satellite imagery software, once I have the latitude/longitude I should be able to just feed that into my GPS and set a waypoint/destination etc., Direct interface is not necessary, even if third party tools can do the same it will be good

Garmin will probably give you the best access to third-party support, but viewing tracks in Google Earth should be ok with anything supported by GPSBabel so I think the Magellan and Lowrance models would be ok as well. Garmin has more 3rd-party map support which may be of interest in your situation.

Also in meridian series I belive the size of SD card is limited. I have a 256MB SD card which cant be used in a meridian GOLD/platinum I reckon or will it work as a 128MB card?

No, people have used 1 GB (and prob. 2 GB) cards with Meridians. Maps have to be divided up into muliple files though so you can't automatically route across a very large region.

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Have you looked at the Lowrance iFinder Expedition C or Explorer? Lowrance units are known for packing in a lot of features for the money. They have everything you are looking for, except autorouting. Electronic compass, excellent reception, barometric altimeter, card storage for maps, waypoints, routes, etc...

The number of routes/waypoints is limited. Thats the issue. I wont have many maps in my SD card as where I live there are no maps, its the waypoints and routes which will do all the mapping for me! Imaging being in some place like antartica where more the number of waypoints to guide you to your destination, the better!

 

Limited by what? They hold 1,000 waypoints in memory and many thousands more on the card. The number of waypoints it can hold from as far as I can tell , is only limited by the size of the memory card.

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Have you looked at the Lowrance iFinder Expedition C or Explorer? Lowrance units are known for packing in a lot of features for the money. They have everything you are looking for, except autorouting. Electronic compass, excellent reception, barometric altimeter, card storage for maps, waypoints, routes, etc...

The number of routes/waypoints is limited. Thats the issue. I wont have many maps in my SD card as where I live there are no maps, its the waypoints and routes which will do all the mapping for me! Imaging being in some place like antartica where more the number of waypoints to guide you to your destination, the better!

 

Limited by what? They hold 1,000 waypoints in memory and many thousands more on the card. The number of waypoints it can hold from as far as I can tell , is only limited by the size of the memory card.

 

wow, I was not aware of that. I looked at the specs on lowrance site it told me that only maps etc., can be stored on the card and not the waypoints, like you have in garmin, where you can store POIs on the card and not waypoints.

 

This thread revealed to me 2 things.

1. meridian gold can handle more than 128MB cards which is a good thing. So it comes in reckoning and its a great unit

2. Lowrance can store waypoints and tracks on the SD card, I used to think they can store waypoints only in the internal CD

3. Garmin can store tracks on SD card but no on field storage. This will take a while to figure out.

 

So now I must narrow my search. I want the cost to be around 200$. So I have the explorist 400 which is pretty basic, the meridian gold, any ideas about that?

Then there are the garmin GPSmap series which is more than 300$. How about the etrex series, will it allow me to have waypoints/tracks on the SD card? Do they have a SD card facility. If not, I guess garmin is out due to the high price.

Maybe later when I upgrade I will go to 350$ range, but for my first GPS unit the lower the better!

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Ignoring anything else if you have the time, or know others in India who have worked with maps, there is software to make maps for use with the Garmin Mapsource product. Those maps you could put into your GPS. They would not help with routing (unless you did yet more work to put routing information into the maps and I don't know that you can do that yet).

 

Beyond that your list is easy.

 

You have a rating system,

The GPS makers have specs.

 

Just do the math and pick the one that comes up. Drop anything that doesn't meet your minimum specification.

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I'm pasting a post from a previous topic........you can use large cards in a Magellan Platinum, I use a 512.

 

I started with Garmin and then bought a Magellan Platinum....I now have 4 Platinums and from extensive reading and personal use I think its the best unit ever made. Side by side, under heavy tree cover my two Garmins will lose their signal at times( patch antenna)...not so the Platinum ( quad. helix antenna). The Platinum has a large screen, wonderfull operating buttons, SD card capacity, and an electronic compass ( I would never want to geocache again without this....no more walking around in circles like a drunk) These units are tough.....we dropped one so hard on Stone Mtn. GA the case opened and o-ring popped out but no problems. A cacher visited me at my View Carre' cache site and he had backed his car over his Platinum.......the screen was cracked and it had tire marks on it but it worked fine. I can load multiple detailed maps covering approx. 3-states each as well as dozens of cache files. Being a Magellan fan I was wanting to get an Explorist but from what I've read in these forums...no thanks, besides, if I wanted a patch antenna I would buy more Garmins.

The Platinums are NOT color....no problem for me. You can pick them up on EBAY ( thats where I got my fourth) for less than $200 with plenty accessories. As far as firmware, whats already available works great in my unit.

I'm going to paste a posting of mine which may be of some help to new cachers :

 

On a serious note the following re-print could help new cachers :

 

LIST OF USUFULL GEOCACHING ITEMS

I can’t say that mine is better than any other because I have only used 1 other. But my Magellan Meridian Color with Mapsend Software gets the job done. I can carry the whole Southeast US on my 500 mb sd card and have plenty of room for more. That includes dirt and gravel roads. Last summer, I lead a column of cars carrying 19 people across the Florida countryside in the middle of the night for 4 hours, and I did it from the rear of the column via CB radio. Missing signs were not a problem. That’s real-time mapping capability in a practical application. Superior signal stability under harsh conditions, etc, etc. So Watcha, what kind of Magellan are you using? And what did you do to provoke it?

 

Doggy is right.......again.

Bamette and I each use a Meridian Platinum ( Magellan) with Directroute Software and I have a Platinum for a spare. With the SD card capability you can store maps, lists of caches, etc. ( an immense amount) and you also have an electronic compass, big screen, easy to use buttons, and maintain a lock under heavy canopy for hours. I also have two Garmins but the Platinums are the way to go.

Grab you a couple of Palms on ebay, download spinner and plucker, and you're good to go. On a cross country trip you could load dozens of spinner files ( one for each city?) on your Magellans SD card and use plucker to put each one on your Palm, charge your batteries, and you're ready for weeks of caching.

 

A convenient holster will give you a place to carry and protect your gpsr. A PDA holster will do the same for your PDA. An adaptor for your cig lighter will stretch your batteries life. A probe will help you avoid biting varmints. A mirror with an intense pocket flashlight will get you past those out-of-sighters. I like to use a lensatic compass for precision. I also use a wrist compass clipped to my watchband for qlance orientation. That’s just on the weekends of course. I like it so much that I’m looking for 2 more, one for my dress watch and the other for my son. I guess they’re out of season? If you are really loaded for bear, bring along a metal detector. If the cache has a coin in it or is made of metal, it will give you the edge. I guess that’s about it. I’m not saying I do that. It’s an interesting thought though

 

To add to the geocache tool list you must buy a top of the line MAHA battery charger ( I use three) and a supply of MAHA POWERX Ni MH batteries .....these are the best made ( don't take my word for it, look it up ) then you will have plenty of batteries for your digital camera ( my wife and I each carry one), GPS unit, flashlights etc.

For a small , powerfull flashlight you can't beat a Surefire L4 Digital Lumamax ( 5 blinding watts of LED driven by two 3 volt lithium batteries.....the batteries are $15 for a box of twelve and have a 10 year shelf life....kind of pricy but well worth it...will light up the woods.

I don't know if the most important thing was mentioned....a good walking stick. Local cachers and special guests can get one free at the View Carre' cache.......don't leave your car without your stick.

Also a small pocket screwdriver for digging out micro logs and other probing.

AND DON’T FORGET TO BRING A PENCIL.

LIST From Above :

 

1. Magellan Meridian Platinum GPS Unit + Belt Holster ( If you will have a regular partner , get two )

2. Palm M500 PDA and case ( ebay- buy an extra for backup )

3. 12” metal probe for searching tree cavities etc. for micro caches

4. 2 “ or 3” extension mirror

5. Small, intense flashlight ( Surefire L4 Digital Lumamax )

6. Pencil

7. Sharpie ( Fine Point)

8. Cotton Gloves

9. Pocket Screwdriver

10. Walking stick

11. Plastimo Iris 50 Hand Bearing Compass ( Great for offset caches)

12. C401FSDC MAHA NiMH Battery Charger

13. Maha 2500 mAh NiMH PowerX AA Batteries (GPS,camera,flashlights,etc. )

14. Digital Camera

15. Access to computer w/ internet connection ( premium membership in geocaching.com is best )

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So now I must narrow my search. I want the cost to be around 200$

 

Lowrance Explorer $170 at Amazon.com , $156 at PlanetGPS.

 

checked the specs, it says

# 1,000 waypoints/1,000 event markers/100 routes

Lowrance Expedition C $235 at Rogue Wave Marine

 

checked the specs, it says

# 1,000 waypoints/1,000 event markers/100 routes

For all of them. Does this mean that this is the internal memory limitation?

# Up to 100 savable and retraceable plot trails, with up to 10,000 points in any trail

The second one also, internal momory limitation?

The Expedition C is out of stock!

 

Could you shed some light on the reception capabilities in trees etc., Also how good is third party support. Can I convert lowrance files into .kml files for viewing in google earth?

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I am back guys

Searched the forums and the view which comes across is

1. you got moolah, go for the GPSMAP 60csx

2. You are willing to compromize a little : Explorist 600, but its expensive too

3. You want everything, dont mind flimsy rubber or hard to read screens, ifinder expidition C is the answer

 

Now I also searched about this. Looks like I can use freely available tools to convert track and waypoint etc., files to .kml files for viewing on google earth.

Also it does everything which garmin and magellen do, well thats also great

 

Only one gripe. I did a lot of search about the "5 card limit".

What is it.

Does it mean that I can use only 5 differernt SD cards for maps.

Lets say I dont have any maps, just waypoints and tracks created by me, then also I need to use just 5 different SD cards?

 

Well 5 is a big number, I can get a 1GB card(have a blank 256MB card for now)

What about 2GB SD cards, some people say that 2GB are not supported(the sales team definately says that, but then they say anything above 256MB is not supported!)

 

So it looks that at around 254$ this is the unit to have.

Suppose I want all the features but not the color screen? Then what do I go for. Many online sites sell this MAP and Music ifinder. I did not find this on lowrance site. Is this discontinued? On the websites the price is a lot lower than expidition C, but features look to be the same(Barometer/Thermometer/compass etc.,)

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Sorry for bumping up the thread so soon, but by now I have almost finalized on a lowrance ifinder. But I am unable to see whats the difference between ifinder map and music and expedition C? Is this a processor change which will enable better reception or just minor features change so that it can be sold higher.

I could not find Map and music on the lowrance.com website, so I assume its been discontinued, but when I go to online stores the ifinder expedition C is mostly out of stock whereas map and music is available for much lower price

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