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Choosing a Basic GPS Receiver

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Like many people, I want to buy a GPS receiver not so much because I need one but because it sounds like a fun thing to have after reading about geocaching and the other various uses for GPS receivers. However, I find myself thinking that I should be a bit frugal in buying my first GPS unit. After pricing the units available locally and on the internet, it seems that the most affordable units in the market are the Garmin eTrex yellow unit and the Magellan SporTrak yellow unit.


I would like some input in the pros and cons of each unit. The basic question here is: Which one would you buy?


Thank you in advance for any comments, reviews and/or recommendations.

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The Gekos are quite nice IMHO. I purchased one at the Wal-Mart in Florence, SC for 101.99 (after tax), and the MSRP I believe is 113. Now you can't hook the Gekos up to a PC, and they don't come with any kind of external power source (I use rechargable AAAs), so those are the cons to it. It has a small screen, but the display is crisp and I have no problem reading it. The buttons are above the screen, so you'll need to get used to pushing buttons and not being able to see the entire screen. The backlight is bright for night expeditions, and it has survived a couple of drops already. icon_smile.gif Overall I love it, and would suggest it to anyone that wants a relatively inexpensive GPS receiver that can still do what you need it to do.






William Barnhill



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I started out with the garmin 72. It's easy to use and it has 10 characters for the waypoint names. no maps. ~$150-160. Shop around though. I got mine from gpsnow.com for 149.90 (that price includes the shipping). Of course, after I got it I had to have the cables and a case for it too.


If you're looking for the cheapest one that will do what you want, the yellow eTrex is great. My brother has one of those and he loves it. I guess basically you just have to go make a decision because you're losing valuable caching time!!!!



row, row, row your boat

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I totally understand where you're coming from, I was a poor college student when I got started with all this and my first gps was a Magellan Pioneer, a little 2 channel reciever that I got from ebay. I got it because I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something that I wasn't sure about.

I had it for a week before I bought a Magellan Blazer 12, basically tha same unit but with 12 channels, also from ebay. Had it for about a month and then got a Magellan 320 from ebay, which I think is the best gps without maps for the price, I used it for a little over a year...it would be equivalent to the Garmin Venture which is priced slightly higher because they're more popular icon_wink.gif

The first 2 gps's were about 60 bucks each and the 320 ended up being about 90. I now have base model Magellan Meridian. If I had it to do over again, I'd have strarted with a 315/320 and saved myself the headaches. I was able to sell the others back on ebay, but it was all just a pain in the bum.

I would recommend you start with the Sportrac because it has more functionality than the Garmin yellow...btw, the sportrac yellow is basically a 315 with WAAS in a new case (if I'm wrong someone will corrent me icon_razz.gif)...so if you're worried about spending too much, a 315 may be slightly more affordable.

Hope this ramble helps you in your decision! Good luck and research research research!

dadgum, I sound like my freaking dad.



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There is a catch 22.


If you know what GPS you will need or want when all is said and done and you have experience. That's the one to get to begin with.


Since you don't yet. It's harder.


When I was at this cross roads I opted for the GPS V and routing. I have no regrets. With hindsight I would have been just as happy with an eTrex Vista or the new GPSMAP 76S since I don't use routing much (but do every now and then).


Wherever you go there you are.

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Just got mine a couple of weeks ago, and couldn't be happier. The Geko 201 looks like a nice unit, but for only a little more (Remember the $50 rebate on the Legend) you get a really good North American basemap, and the ability to load MapSource data (and you stuff a lot of it into 8 Mb).

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I just wanted to add to the previous pro-legend comments that since I have had mine(dec.02)I have been able to upgrade the unit's software three times via the internet for free.Also for that price it comes with the cable that hooks to your PC.One last thing,the magellan guys are going to hate me for this but,I got my rebate in six weeks and it was a Bank Of America check from Garmin!


fishin'fool was here!

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I just bought a Magellan Meridian GPS a week ago and I love it! A friend of mine got the Garmin Legend a week before. He told me after seeing my GPS that he wish he'd got the Meridian instead of the Legend.


The features he said that set it apart are the bigger and easy to use buttons, expandable memory, and a larger, easier to read screen.


I bought it for the price and the expandable memory.


It can be had for $109.99 at outpost.com:


Add the topo map software if you'd like for $67:


Then get the $50 rebate:


Add a 256MB SD card for $69:


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it's got the ability to be loaded with TOPO maps and has a 12 channels receiver. Detailed maps are vital when driving around. The 12 channels help with precision and locking/holding sats. My personal preference is the Magellan Meridian Platinum because it's rugged, upgradable and has a large screen for driving. There are others like it of course, but I've never tried them. The bottom line is that I would not get a GPSr that's too basic because it will get upgraded sooner than later.



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I have to second the recommendation for the Magellan Meridian from Outpost.com (currently priced at $110 + shipping). Note that price includes a PC serial data cable for use with Easy GPS, for upgrading the firmware, etc.


Even without the optional add-ons Daddyfish suggested, the Meridian is an excellent GPS. The low detail base map alone puts the $110 Meridian above everything else at the low end of the price spectrum.


The memory expansion chip and map CD can always be purchased at a later time. (I've got the Meridian, the topo map CD and a 128 meg SD memory chip, and I'm very satisfied for what I've got for the money I've spent.)




ICQ: 5563417

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Originally posted by renriquez:

I find myself thinking that I should be a bit frugal in buying my first GPS unit.


I know some argue for buying as much GPS as you can afford, but I think starting modestly makes sense. I bought a used eTrex Venture (one step up from the yellow) and learned what I liked, didn't like, and wanted that I didn't have. Then I made an informed decision to purchase a Meridian Platinum, which I feel is a great fit of features and price for me. I sold the Venture for close to what I paid. It would have taken a lot of luck to make that decision in the first place. You can't really know what you want until you've been doing it a while.


That said, I think the yellow/green Meridians offer great value for an entry-level GPS, and the expansion capabilities offer the possibility of not outgrowing it for a good while. You can add the memory and detail maps if and when you want.



Often wrong but seldom in doubt

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...is most sensible. If you're just geocaching, the most basic units available today are more than adequate. (the only one I would shy away from is the particular Geko model that has no PC interface)


Mapping is nice-to-have, but not essential. It just helps me pick the best street or make sure I'm on the right side of a large lake.


Some may disagree, but I've never found a compass very useful for caching. (I've got one)


I've never had a need for an altimeter to find a cache. (I've got one)


I've never needed to download a detailed map...I have my doubts I'll ever need to (as far as geocaching is concerned)


Removable memory? I'll never need it.


In short, it's far easier to over-buy than under-buy as far as geocaching is concerned. The technical requirements are minimal.



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No one's really talked about size yet. For me, if it's too big, I won't take it anywhere. So I got the eTrex Vista and am happy with it. I have no experience with the new Gecko's.


Regardless, don't get one that you can't connect to your computer. At the very least, you need to have the ability to upgrade the software as your manufacturer puts new/better versions out and as a convenience, you'll want to download and upload information to/from your receiver to your computer for analysis or just fun. As you get into the sport and the hardware and software more you'll definately find more uses for your gpsr than geocaching.


Opinions based on experiences with eTrex Vista...

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...that's what I like about the eTrex series. Its size/weight just feels good in my hand.


One thing I don't like is positioning of the buttons, though. I read somewhere it was designed for left-hand operation, but I just can't seem to get the hang of it with my left. It just feels weird.



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the Garmin 72. The buttons are on the front and they are in a good position for thumb operation. The eTrex buttons are on the side and I was familiar with my dad'd Garmin 12 (the 12 is the "predecessor" to the 72.)


Originally posted by nincehelser:

One thing I don't like is positioning of the buttons, though.




row, row, row your boat

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Thank you all for the great advice. I am really looking forward to buying my first GPS in the next week or two. I'll let you all know which one I buy.


A coworker has offered to let me borrow his Garmin eTrex basic unit. That will help make the final decision easier.

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Look on eBAy, that's where I got my eMap and now that the Gekko's are out you might find a good deal on a used eTrex; BE CAREFUL ON EBAY, check a sellers feedback carefully and even then you could get a bad deal but not likely.


Just remember that the more the GPS unit does the faster it eats batteries and $$$. Also Garmin accessories are quite pricey and can be had for half the price from third parties on eBay.


I'm biased toward Garmin because it was my first GPS and Garmin was the first out with a small unit.


I started with a Garmin eTrex then got an eMap for the mapping capability. Still when I go backpacking I take the eTrex because of its' size and battery life span plus the eTrex is water resistant (Garmin says waterproof) where the eMap is not. The eTrex also has more navigational information than the eMap..


The new Garmin Gekko is virtually the same as the eTrex but uses AAA batteries instead of AA which means even less ON time. Also the smallest Gekko has no PC interface capability. Having a PC interface is real nice to get the cache points to your GPS and to keep a log of them.

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