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Delorme Earthmate PN-20 Reviews

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I recently purchased a Delorme Earthmate PN-20 as an alternative to the Triton 500 that I had planned to purchase, but couldn't because of Magellan's delays on shipping and problems.

 

I have used the Delorme Earthmate PN-20 for about 2 weeks now. I have taken it out on several geocaching trips and read the manual threw entirely. I have also been using Delorme Topo USA 7.0 with the GPS. I will try to make this review as detailed as possible.

 

I purchased the Earthmate for 299.95 from TigerGPS.com.

The box contained:

  • Delorme Earthmate PN-20 GPSr
  • Delorme Topo USA 7.0 Software DVD / 3 PN-20 Details map DVDs for East, Central and West regions
  • Getting started DVD
  • Owners Manual
  • $100.00 worth of map data downloads
  • 2 Energizer AA Batteries
  • Lanyard
  • 1G SD card
  • SD Card Reader
  • USB Cable

I Installed the batteries and turned on the receiver, It took about 15 Min the first time I turned it on to download the satellite information, since this has been done, on average I would say it take less than 30 seconds from a cold start to acquire a 3D signal, from a warm start it takes only a few seconds. I was very impressed with the signal quality, as I can set in my living room (in a 2 story house) and receive 5 good bars.

 

When installing the software it took quite a while. Be Very Patient! it took me at least an hour to install everything onto my hard drive. The interface is quite different from what I have seen before and took some time to get used to. Once I had figured out how everything worked with the software I found it Very useful, as Roads, trails, Poi's, and many other features can be added to the map.

The detail maps for the GPS are premade on the regional DVDs included in the package and can be easily downloaded to the SD card. I HIGHLY recommend using the SD Card Reader to transfer maps over or you will be waiting for HOURS!

In the Handheld Export Tab, you can select sections of the map to download and at what zoom level you will see them, it is preset but you can set them up any way you like, this looks to me to be a bit confusing so i don't mess with it and everything works great. In this tab you can also download and upload waymarks, routes and geocaches and other map data in seconds (NOT Maps though, Use the SD card reader)

The software also allows the GPS to be used in real-time on the software when plugged in using the USB cable. The software can be set to be used for traveling with the GPS plugged into it.

Another really nice feature is that the GPS uses external Power when plugged into the USB port so it does not use batteries.

Other map data that can be downloaded are:

  • Sat-10 images ($0.05/Km)
  • USGS DOQQ Aerials ($0.10/Km)
  • USGS COLOR DOQQ Aerials ($1.00/km)
  • USGS 1:24 Quads ($0.10/km)
  • NOAA Charts ($10.00 Per Chart)
  • USGS Hi-Res 133 City aerial ($2.00/km)

 

Now, down to the GPSr itself.

when you start the GPSr up you get a Delorme Earthmate PN-20 Splash Screen and if set up can also display owner information.

 

The Satellite screen, here it shows you basic information about satellite strength, connection and location. In the menu you can disable the GPS feature and just use it as a digital map indoors.

 

The Map Screen, Here you see were you are, all the detail maps and SAT, USGS, or Aerial images you have downloaded, you will only see some Images at certain zoom levels. and the zoom comes into 20 feet. Also a circle shows your accuracy around your little arrow. the arrow flashes red if no signal, Solid green if 3D and Solid blue if WAAS. I must say this screen can tend to be slow. Not slow enough to be a bother though. I would say it is a drawback though.

 

The Routes screen, here it shows you all your routes, Routes are fairly easy to set up, as you can press the find button, select a waypoint and then select if you want direct route or Road route, it will calculate your best or fastest way to get there via road and it take you there much like a travel GPS does (without voice prompts, although it does beep when you are coming up to a turn) This feature tends to take a few min to calculate your route if you select roads. yet another drawback, but not bothersome. The find button can be difficult to use if you are trying to look up an address. It does work but it takes some time to enter the information and searching is slow.

 

The Waypoints Screen, Here it gives you a list of all your waypoints, one of my favorite features is with geocaches, it does not display them as the container or type they are, otherwise a Gold chest either Open for a found cache or closed for one not found. it also gives some information on the cache, but not much. still not a single device for geocaching yet. although they are getting there.

 

The compass screen, Here it give you a compass, just like every other GPSr out there. not really any different. It is NOT an electronic compass. the fields on this page are changeable

 

The Trip screen, Here it shows your details about your trip, Speed, max speed, time, cords, etc... these can all be changed and customized.

 

There are several other screens I am not going to explain : Track, Route Directions, Device setup, tides, sun/moon, fishing/hunting.

 

You can also change the color of your menu's. This device will also interface with some heart monitoring and cycling computers (from what i have read).

 

I have read some reviews about the buttons feeling cheap. At first I would have to agree. until i used it for a while. they are very sturdy and solid, easy to use with gloves on. the device over all has a very solid feel to it, it is a little bulky but nothing compared to my old Meridian Gold. There are 2 Screws on the battery door compartment and it feels very solid, I would trust it to seal out water. The SD card slot/holder inside the battery compartment could use some work. BE VERY CAREFUL with it . it seems very flimsy.

 

There are a few aftermarket things you can get for it. I have done some research on this.

the USB cable that it comes with it powers the device, so I bought a USB car power/charger to power it in the car and a USB AC power jack. I also bought a RCRV3 1300mAh 3.0v Li-Ion battery from eBay for 6 dollars, It's the same one they sell in the car kit. All I need now is a universal windshield mount. (like the one in the car kit) and I will have the entire car kit, I put together myself for less than $20.00.

 

as for geocaching. I would say it is cheating. I have noticed that when it says your accuracy is within 20 feet, you are usually standing on top of the box!

 

I would give this GPSr a 5 out of 5, How many GPSr do you see that you can put sat and aerial images on? it may be a little slow at some processes but I have compared it to a SiRFStarIII and it works equally well.

I am very happy with this and I would only recommend it to someone with experience. This one is NOT FOR BEGINNERS! (the device is easy to use, the software can be VERY confusing)

 

If you have any questions or want more information, let me know!

 

Subsystem

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Nice review, thanks!

 

800 characters in the comment field coming soon... up from current 256. See your cache description and hints along with other Groundspeak GPX tags. Feel free to post any questions you have about Topo or the PN-20 here or at forum.delorme.com!

 

Thanks,

 

Chip Noble

Team DeLorme

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I've been using the PN-20 for about a year now. You observations parallel mine almost exactly. The unit is almost perfect for geocaching or hiking. One aspect you did not cover is the excellent tracking features of the PN-20. It is very convenient for retracing trails and routes up and down arroyos on southwestern desert jeep excursions. Tne map presentations are what make this unit.

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Great review! I have been toying with picking one of these up myself...I am kind of waiting to see if the PN-20 will ever succeed in getting past the 800 character limitation in the cache descriptions. 800 characters sounds like a lot, but in my short experience it would seem that when you need the description, it is for a multicache or other “tricky” cache, and those can get wordy! I would say many multicache descriptions can be in upwards of well over 1,000 characters. Heck, this short post is already up to 400+ characters (500+ if you count spaces). I will be keeping an eye on Delorme as I have heard a lot of positive things about their products and customer service. Please keep up the good work and keep improving your products.

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Had my PN-20 for about 9 months or so. Long time user of Delorme software, so using it was a snap for me. As far as mapping GPS units go, it's the best out there. Here's an article I wrote on mapping GPS units, if anyone is interested.

 

(P.S. I don't work for Delorme. Nice to see them here, though.)

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I have heard a lot of good things about this unit . The only drawback i have heard of is a slow processor. When you say its slow, how slow are you talking about?

 

Thanks for the info

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I have heard a lot of good things about this unit . The only drawback i have heard of is a slow processor. When you say its slow, how slow are you talking about?

 

Thanks for the info

It all depends on what kind of map you are looking at and at what zoom level. Usually my map redraw times have been about 3-5 seconds. If there is a burb and I am looking at some satellite aerial imagery, add a couple of seconds.

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Here's an article I wrote on mapping GPS units, if anyone is interested.

Need link

I'm sure Klem will come back through here soon, but I happened to have bookmarked his link after seeing it in another thread.

 

I have heard a lot of good things about this unit . The only drawback i have heard of is a slow processor. When you say its slow, how slow are you talking about?

 

DLMR, I concur with Benjamin's times. There were some other kinds of things that the unit was slow with due to apparent programming inefficiencies (e.g., sorting a long list of waypoints), but firmware revisions have helped with those kinds of things a lot. There's a lot of data being processed for the screen, and a beefier processor would be nice to do redraws that we are used to with other less complicated displays.

 

I've compromised in my use by doing things like using north up displays rather than track up, and to typically keep the screen zoomed out a little farther than I might otherwise have it set. These things reduce the number of redraws, and help keep my head within my comfort zone. For some it's not a big deal, for others it is.

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I'm a long time Magellan user and was all set to but a Triton until DeLorme advertised their special on the PN20. After reading all the product literature and forums I purchased one for my Christmas present.

What really sold me on DeLorme was their attention to customer service and Chip's involvement on the forums.

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I'm a long time Magellan user and was all set to but a Triton until DeLorme advertised their special on the PN20. After reading all the product literature and forums I purchased one for my Christmas present.

What really sold me on DeLorme was their attention to customer service and Chip's involvement on the forums.

 

what would really sell ME on one is SOME attempt for NATIVE Mac support...in looking here and on Delorme's own forums, all the responses from acknowledged Delorme reps is more of the sad "there's not enough demand/users/Macs/whatever" excuses...

 

I do NOT want to do a virtual machine on my Mac, I do not want ANYTHING to do with windows, and my eXplorist is starting t show its age. While the PN-20 do look really cool in some regards, Delorme's attitude to my segment of computer users really puts me off. The stories I hear about their amazing customer service makes this attitude all the more puzzling to me, but oh well, I guess they don't want or need my business, or that of the other Mac-heads out there...

 

they could at least TRY...and no, emulation do not count....

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I'm a long time Magellan user and was all set to but a Triton until DeLorme advertised their special on the PN20. After reading all the product literature and forums I purchased one for my Christmas present.

What really sold me on DeLorme was their attention to customer service and Chip's involvement on the forums.

 

what would really sell ME on one is SOME attempt for NATIVE Mac support...in looking here and on Delorme's own forums, all the responses from acknowledged Delorme reps is more of the sad "there's not enough demand/users/Macs/whatever" excuses...

 

I do NOT want to do a virtual machine on my Mac, I do not want ANYTHING to do with windows, and my eXplorist is starting t show its age. While the PN-20 do look really cool in some regards, Delorme's attitude to my segment of computer users really puts me off. The stories I hear about their amazing customer service makes this attitude all the more puzzling to me, but oh well, I guess they don't want or need my business, or that of the other Mac-heads out there...

 

they could at least TRY...and no, emulation do not count....

 

Chip :

Please check into native support for Macintosh, an accelerating market. And don't

listen to the biased 'Microsoft certified' techs, Mac isn't harder to develop, or implement

and certainly is showing strong future potential, and simply just works, always!

I started when OS 7 was going .5 (601 days), have never been infected by virus, never

had an software issue that I wasn't able to recover from on my own, and gave away two

Macs because I wanted to upgrade, not because the old one quit on me. Oh did I mention

growing Market share? . . . Uh, yes, I guess I did!

Who knows? . . . Could even beat Garmin to market, they're obviously not making a

serious commitment, or have too many irons in the fire.

 

Emulation doesn't count, it's a tool(for the right reasons)turned into a crutch(for the

wrong reasons)!

 

Norm

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Who knows? . . . Could even beat Garmin to market, they're obviously not making a

serious commitment, or have too many irons in the fire.

 

Emulation doesn't count, it's a tool(for the right reasons)turned into a crutch(for the

wrong reasons)!

 

Norm

 

Is there a way to set up a poll on this forum to gauge a quick, un-scientific snapshot of the percentage of people who would me more apt to get this unit if it HAD native Mac support?

 

frelancr

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Last time I checked apple only has around 4% of the market vs PC, Heck even Linux has more users. considering more than 80% of the world uses PC windows based machines it doesn't make allot of sense to make a product for such a small segment of customers.

You bought a mac fully knowing it's not compatible with PC hardware and software, its like buying a diesel car and complaining you can't fill it will gas.

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Who knows? . . . Could even beat Garmin to market, they're obviously not making a

serious commitment, or have too many irons in the fire.

 

Emulation doesn't count, it's a tool(for the right reasons)turned into a crutch(for the

wrong reasons)!

 

Norm

 

Is there a way to set up a poll on this forum to gauge a quick, un-scientific snapshot of the percentage of people who would me more apt to get this unit if it HAD native Mac support?

 

frelancr

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Last time I checked apple only has around 4% of the market vs PC, Heck even Linux has more users. considering more than 80% of the world uses PC windows based machines it doesn't make allot of sense to make a product for such a small segment of customers.

You bought a mac fully knowing it's not compatible with PC hardware and software, its like buying a diesel car and complaining you can't fill it will gas.

I don't know that it's necessary for every Mac user to chime in here in a show of numbers; but I am annoyed by the claim that the Mac market is too insignificant to be worth bothering about. The market share numbers that are generally quoted are heavily biased by business sales. In your target consumer market of recreational enthusiasts, there is disproportionate Mac usage.

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Moderator's note This site does not support polls. Even if it did, using it for market research for a commercial third party would require explicit permission. If you have a request to make of Delorme, please use Delorme's channels for that. They have an active forum; voicing your requests over there increases the chances of them being heard by the right people.

 

Please keep this thread on topic about reviews of the PN-20 and not OS market shares and requests.

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Thanks for the great review. I am new to the GPS word, and I've done quite a bit of research but a couple of things still confuse me about the delorme:

 

-1: There is no altimeter built into the PN-20. Does this mean if I take it on a hike it wont be able to calculate the elevation gain/loss? I want to use my GPS unit to gather cycling training data and knowing how much elevation gain is important to me.

 

-2: I really like the National Geographic Topo series, but I don't want to have to pay 80$ for each state. It seems like the Topo 7 included with the PN-20 is as accurate as the NG, or am I mistaken? The information on Delormes website is confusing (at least to me) if the detailed USGS 1:24,000 are included on the Topo 7 disc or if you have to buy individual maps from Delorme.

 

Thanks for any input!

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Thanks for the great review. I am new to the GPS word, and I've done quite a bit of research but a couple of things still confuse me about the delorme:

 

-1: There is no altimeter built into the PN-20. Does this mean if I take it on a hike it wont be able to calculate the elevation gain/loss? I want to use my GPS unit to gather cycling training data and knowing how much elevation gain is important to me.

There is elevation reading on the PN-20, just not the altimeter/barometer like the "S" series on Garmin's. The elvation/gain loss will be read on Topo7, in the Profile Tab, if you import the track from your days riding. Below is an actual screen shot of some mnt bike trails that I have done.

 

elevation.jpg

 

Screen shot of a ride using Topo7 Profile Tab.

 

tn_Profile_0.jpg

Edited by benjamin921

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-2: I really like the National Geographic Topo series, but I don't want to have to pay 80$ for each state. It seems like the Topo 7 included with the PN-20 is as accurate as the NG, or am I mistaken? The information on Delormes website is confusing (at least to me) if the detailed USGS 1:24,000 are included on the Topo 7 disc or if you have to buy individual maps from Delorme.

Delorme sells the scanned USGS maps in a program called TopoQuads, and it's a state-by-state deal similar to NG Topo!, going for $99 each (Delorme has made these available to PN-20 users for a while at half-price; I don't know how long the deal is good for so phone Delorme before any purchase decision if this makes a difference).

 

Those maps can be viewed in Topo7 (and imported into the PN-20). Topo7 and TopoQuads appear to have the same level of detail, but each contains data that may be missing from the other (Topo7 has more roads, TopoQuads has more minor streams and lakes). A recent discussion about the differences on the Delorme forum is here.

 

An important distinction is that NG Topo and TopoQuads are raster-based (scanned) images that are suitable for viewing at certain levels--and, at the levels they are designed for, NG maps are prettier to my eye. The Topo7 data is vector-based, so it looks good no matter close you zoom in. T7 has several different detail levels; the finest displays 10 foot contours.

Edited by embra

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Thanks for the great review. I am new to the GPS word, and I've done quite a bit of research but a couple of things still confuse me about the delorme:

 

-1: There is no altimeter built into the PN-20. Does this mean if I take it on a hike it wont be able to calculate the elevation gain/loss? I want to use my GPS unit to gather cycling training data and knowing how much elevation gain is important to me.

 

Thanks for any input!

As benjamin notes above, the PN-20 does provide atltitude data; however, it is not from an ambient pressure sensor. Consequently, you get a far more representative estimate of true altitude.

 

What is my basis for this assertion? Personal experience as I have one of those multi-functional Casio watches with a barometer which can be selected to display altitude in feet. Now this is fine on the first day leaving for a trip as I live at 5' AMSL, so I just set it to 0'. However, by the next day, the ambient has usually changed by 40' or more which is no more accurate than a GPS derived value. It could be worse however. You see, it is a wrist watch so it is much less affected by ambient temperature fluctuations than would be a free standing barometer.

 

IMHO, if the lack of a barometer were critical to a buy/no buy decision, I'd wouldn't have GPS of any make or model. :(

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-1: There is no altimeter built into the PN-20. Does this mean if I take it on a hike it wont be able to calculate the elevation gain/loss? I want to use my GPS unit to gather cycling training data and knowing how much elevation gain is important to me.

 

We put quite a bit of effort into Topo USA 7.0 targeting athletic data and cycling specifically. You can calculate bicycle routes (no limited access roads) and transfer them to your PN-20 to get maps and directions while you're riding. I use it to lead rides for our Team DeLorme cyclists while we train for the Trek Across Maine... it's kept me on-route through more than one confusing intersection. We also allow you to tie your heart rate monitor to the GPS data. I ride with a Suunto monitor and am able to geotag the heart rate to my GPS track using Topo USA. It's great to see how your heart rate and speed respond to the tough climbs. Check out the Topo USA site for more information on the athletic data and cycling features...

 

I believe benjamin921 and embra answered your questions but feel free to e-mail me if I can help with anything else.

 

Chip Noble

Team DeLorme

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Thanks for all the replies guys, much appreciated. I think I am one step closer to ordering the PN-20. One last novice question, will the unit get reception if I have it in my camel back? From pictures I've seen, I really dont want to mount it on my bike, it looks cumbersome and could easily get snagged on things.

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I have a GPS cover over my Explorist and hook it to my Camelbak using a caribiner clip...easy on and off. I would imagine Delorme makes something similar.

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Thanks for all the replies guys, much appreciated. I think I am one step closer to ordering the PN-20. One last novice question, will the unit get reception if I have it in my camel back? From pictures I've seen, I really dont want to mount it on my bike, it looks cumbersome and could easily get snagged on things.

That is what I used to do until I got the bike mount which is awesome.

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Several of the people that ride on Team DeLorme put the device in their Camelbak pocket. I had the device in my jacket pocket while cross-country skiing and my backpack hip pocket while hiking. It worked well in both scenarios.

 

I used the RAAM mount on my bike this season... once I got over the initial hazing from all the ulta-weight conscious riders I found having the route in front of me to be worth the added ounces. Having the map right there actually gave me the upper hand on a couple of tricky races when the paper map guys had to pull over to check directions and I was able to glance down and see the right road to follow... It's worth it for training at least... although my handlebars show that I tend to be a gadget collector...

 

http://forum.delorme.com/viewtopic.php?p=62729#62729

 

Chip Noble

Team DeLorme

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Great, this sounds like the GPS for me. I ordered one today! Thanks for the responses Team Delorme, the fact that you use it for mountain biking and post here really helped my decision. Can't wait until the snow melts and I can really test it out this spring!

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