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What's Best In The Trees?


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I was leaning towards a Garmin 60cs but I've seen a number of posts saying Magellan units are better under cover. I'd like a color display and the electronic compass and barometer are pluses, but doesn't make much sense if I can't get signal under trees, where I spend alot of time in the Catskills in NY. Would consider Lowrance or other units, would like a color display and detailed topo software where I can build maps, enter waypoints and create my own maps. Good local streets and autorouting are a plus, but must get signal in the woods.

 

Thanks in advance for any feedback. :anitongue:

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At this moment, I have a Platinum and 60CS at my desk. My desk is obviously in a house (brick) and not in the woods, so it's not really answering your question, but it may give you some indication.

 

The Plat has a lock on six birds and I've never seen it lose lock here. The 60CS loses lock about 4/5 times an hour and brings up a menu suggesting we just give up and turn off the receiver circuit. At this moment, it has 3 birds in sight which is resulting in an 80 ft EPE and a 2D lock, but I know it's only a matter of time before it loses again.

 

With that said, it's the first Garmin that I've seen do even that well at my desk...

 

I'm considering writing up a shoot-out of those two units. They're each very good at some things.

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The Garmin 60 series uses the same antenna (quad helix) as the Magellans. The difference between the two is in the firmware. Magellans trick you into thinking that they have a signal (based on your last known movements and projecting those movements forward in time). Garmins are truthful and will tell you right away when it's lost its signal. I'd rather know the truth and get my GPSr in a better position to acquire satellites rather than have the device tell me where IT THINKS it is!

 

THIS THREAD starts out discussing upgrading a GPS V's memory, but toward the end discusses Magellan's autorouting abilities with DirectRoute.

 

Go with the Garmin 60 - you'll be glad you did. :anitongue:

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I think the general statement made by Neo_Geo about Magellans "thinking they have a signal" is wrong. Here is my experience, and you tell me yours. I recently took a 20 mile ocean ferry trip. Inside the cabin, I turned on my Legend and Meridian. At no time during the trip did the Legend get more than 2 satellites and never got a position reading. The Meridian showed at least 4 satellites and mostly 5 to 7 satellites, and for the entire trip the heading, bearing, and speed were consistent and what they should be. (I have made this trip many times and the boat goes the same direction and speed each time.) Arriving at the dock, at a previously entered waypoint, the Meridian showed us pulling right up to it.

My conclusion is that the Meridiian has better antenna or a more sensitive receiver or both, compared to the Legend. Comparing it to another GPSr which also has a quadrifiler helix antenna, one can make comparisons on the receivers.

 

Since Roberlipe is stationary in his house, and the Meridian is receiving more satellites, it must have a better receiver than the 60C. No projecting from a "last position" here, it is reading more satellites, and reporting a fixed position, when the Garmin will not even report this. You might also connect the GPSrs to a computer and use a NMEA monitor in a program such as "Visual GPS".....

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It's one thing to look at the birds the magellan is tracking and know when they have a lock or not and how much of one they have. However, when they do lose lock they don't tell you and keep on averaging your movement faking it as you go. You have to change settings for them to tell you when they lose lock.

 

Edit: That's my experience with a sport track pro.

Edited by Renegade Knight
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I turned on my Legend and Meridian.

Since the Legend has a very different antenna from Gatmin 60 (and 76) series, your comparison is irrelevant to Neo_Geo's observation, and does not indicate that it would be 'wrong'.

Edited by Shunra
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Renegade Knight:

When my Meridian loses its lock on satellites, it tells me. It does not report a position fix when it is not receiving at least 3 sats. Therefore no faking.

 

Dampeoples:

Some radio receivers are more sensitive than others. This would be evident if they are using the same antenna. Of course some receivers have more generous signal strength meters also. (I have seen both in years of playing with ham radios...on the same antenna.) But if one GPSr is receiving more satellites, and reporting an accurate location, and the other cannot receive the minimum to report a location, the first is better. Robertlipe's observation proves the Meridan works better in heavy cover such as under a roof. One can argue that the Meridian's firmware just processes lower received signals, but then you would have to conclude that it is able to process and use these signals better.

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The Garmin 60 series uses the same antenna (quad helix) as the Magellans. The difference between the two is in the firmware. Magellans trick you into thinking that they have a signal (based on your last known movements and projecting those movements forward in time).

If that were true, then the signal bars on the satellite page indicating signal strength would be gone indicating a loss of signal. I think this "rumor" was put out by Garmin detractors determined not to admit that Magellans hold a lock better under tree cover than their Garmin counterparts.

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Renegade Knight:

When my Meridian loses its lock on satellites, it tells me. It does not report a position fix when it is not receiving at least 3 sats. Therefore no faking....

Since my only experience with Magellan is the Sport Track Pro I don't know if the default setting is different from the Meridian. I do know though that until the settings were changed it would estimate your postion when it didn't have a lock. Once it was changed it seemed about the same as my GPS V for lock vs. no lock etc.

 

Since firmware has similarities, you probably could set your Meridian to estimate it's position when it looses a lock. This function has come in handy once while caching when we walked up to the base of a cliff where bad reception was the rule of the day. The magellan said "it's 20' ahead" with complete confidance. My garmin said "I can't get a lock boss". The cache was 20' ahead on top of the cliff.

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The Garmin 60 series uses the same antenna (quad helix) as the Magellans.  The difference between the two is in the firmware.  Magellans trick you into thinking that they have a signal (based on your last known movements and projecting those movements forward in time).

If that were true, then the signal bars on the satellite page indicating signal strength would be gone indicating a loss of signal. I think this "rumor" was put out by Garmin detractors determined not to admit that Magellans hold a lock better under tree cover than their Garmin counterparts.

Totem Lake:

 

It's not a rumor. Where Night Stalker and I first noticed this was when we both had conflicting information from our GPSs telling us different directions to a cache. We were on a winding mountain road in tree cover and my GPS was beeping like R2D2 from signal loss. His was telling us one direction, where mine (a GPS V) when it did have lock was saying something different. Finally during one of those moments he checked his satalite page and flat out had no lock, but the GPS was still giving a direction and bearing to the cache like it did have one.

 

That's when he did some digging and changed his settings so that it would not estimate postion. On a straight path this is no big deal. On a winding mountain road with a lot of interestion this was a very big deal.

 

That has nothing to do with what roberlipe has commented on which is a fair observation.

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I can state that Renegade Knight stated what happened in our comparison correctly, what he left out was that I had to change my Magellan back to its original settings because I was getting tired of it beeping all the time. I did not realize until then how often I was actually losing a signal. I don't want anyone to think that I am bad mouthing the Magellan, because I think it is an awesome device and has led me to over 400 finds to date. :(

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I tested my new 60CS against my older SporTrak Pro in my house. This is not a brick house, but a 2 story. I found that neither would get a lock while in the bottom story, but in an upper story room the Garmin got a lock with 7 satellites while the Magellan could not find any. I am not sure why this was so, but Renegade Knight brought his GPS V over and got similar results.

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the only way to get signal in a house is through the window, in that case position of the recievers have to be exactly the same to make any comparison.

No, many building materials are transparent to GPS and other microwave signals, but anything with a metallic film (like many insulating blankets) or significant water content will block them. I get pretty good reception from the top floor of our house even when away from windows but don't usually get reception from the ground floor. Although the frequencies aren't quite the same, a useful test of whether a given material will absorb GPS signals is to check it in a microwave oven - if it heats up then it'll be likely to block the signals.

 

I did an impromptu test of a couple Meridians (Gold and Plat) along with my Garmin eMap (patch antenna) inside a store at a point not in view of any windows and at least 100' from the nearest one. All three units performed similarly with reception of 3 to 6 satellites and fluctuating between 2D and 3D lock when positioned optimally (eMap flat, Meridians vertical). None of the units got a lock when positioned incorrectly.

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It's not a rumor. etc...

 

==edited for brevity==

Fair enough. I do check my position every 15 minutes, and at the same time look at the satellite page because of what has been said about faking the signal. I have seen averaging cause problems in that respect, but when the MeriPlat loses signal, flat out the arrow goes to the sand hourglass. I'm on default settings and have been since fwv 4.06, and 5.12.

 

In the same vein, I have noted on a recent group hike during a camping event, where the Garmins were losing lock, I would have a minimum of 4 birds locked in. I think one time I was actually down to 3, but that was momentary whereas the 60c's were just showing pretty colors.

 

There was also another hike where Moun10Bike and I compared notes with his 60c and my MeriPlat, and we both had erratic and loss of signal in the same location, with 45 deg angled horizons and the satellites all lined up in a straight line.

 

I think what bothers me about the fake signal argument, is the Garmin users always fall back to this when comparing notes. I've learned a long time ago to trust my Meridian. The "fake" signal has not come into play. Averaging, on the other hand has. It tends to slow down the reduction of distance when standing still to ground zero when you know you are in the specified area. I have noticed Garmins are a lot quicker to do that than my Meridian.

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I tested my new 60CS against my older SporTrak Pro in my house.  This is not a brick house, but a 2 story.  I found that neither would get a lock while in the bottom story, but in an upper story room the Garmin got a lock with 7 satellites while the Magellan could not find any.  I am not sure why this was so, but Renegade Knight brought his GPS V over and got similar results.

 

I had a similar lock as the Garmin 60CS with my GPS V. The 60 had one more satellite it could find and get a lock on, and the bars indicated a stronger lock on most of the satellites, so the edge did go the the 60CS.

 

What was really interesting was that the satellite pages on each GPS had a couple of different satellites showing. Most of them were the same number, but a couple showed upon the V that were not on the 60 and vice versa. That was strange.

 

Edit: If it's not the typo's its the spelling...

Edited by Renegade Knight
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Get a Magellan Platinum ( I don't think to add what is called color is worth the extra money ) I have used a Garmin but the Magellan has been superior under tree cover....we've been under cover for over 8 hours and never lost a lock............my wife and I both use one and I'm about to order another for a spare........get a 128 or 256 card to download your maps to, an automotive power adapter, Mapsend Software, a belt holster, and you're ready to go.

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I have used a Garmin but the Magellan has been superior under tree cover....

"a Garmin" is a bit too general here.

 

Several things prevent me from buying a Meridian Platinum: the size (bulky, heavy, it's the biggest, heaviest handheld unit on the market), the undesirable "overshooting" behavior and the fact that the electronic compass is always on, instead of being on only below a certain speed limit. I think the 60cs is a better unit overall and I believe its performance under heavy tree cover is similar to the Meridian (not much worse anyway).

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I have used a Garmin but the Magellan has been superior under tree cover....

"a Garmin" is a bit too general here.

 

Several things prevent me from buying a Meridian Platinum: the size (bulky, heavy, it's the biggest, heaviest handheld unit on the market), the undesirable "overshooting" behavior and the fact that the electronic compass is always on, instead of being on only below a certain speed limit. I think the 60cs is a better unit overall and I believe its performance under heavy tree cover is similar to the Meridian (not much worse anyway).

The electronic compass can be disabled if that's really a problem with you. But then, why buy the feature if you're not going to use it?

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60CS and MeriPlat in my opinion have identical sensitivity
I honestly think GPS units with the same type of antenna are identical in terms of sensitivity.

I think what we are looking for here is evidence or testing, not opinion.

 

ALSO, ALL QUADRIFILAR HELIX ANTENNAS ARE NOT EQUAL. They can be constructed with vastly different gain patterns. This means that some can have more or less gain lower to the horizon compared to overhead.

Quad Helix antennas

 

The existence of a ground plane under the antenna can also make a big difference.

Look up the Eggbeater II for another circularly polarized satellite antenna.

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60CS and MeriPlat in my opinion have identical sensitivity
I honestly think GPS units with the same type of antenna are identical in terms of sensitivity.

I think what we are looking for here is evidence or testing, not opinion.

 

ALSO, ALL QUADRIFILAR HELIX ANTENNAS ARE NOT EQUAL. They can be constructed with vastly different gain patterns. This means that some can have more or less gain lower to the horizon compared to overhead.

Quad Helix antennas

 

The existence of a ground plane under the antenna can also make a big difference.

Look up the Eggbeater II for another circularly polarized satellite antenna.

Yes, we need evidence/test, but not like the one you provided/conducted.

Edited by vr12
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Renegade Knight and I have made several test. Our conclusions were that once I had my SporTrak Pro set up the same as his GPS V. (So that mine would give me a signal when I lost signal). I found them to be pretty much equal. The other test was between my SporTrak Pro and my new 60CS. This was not intentional but when they were both turned on in my house next to each other the Garmin got a lock while my Magellan did not. In other areas I think the SporTrak Pro is superior because it seems to update more often while my 60 will jump around because of lag. This can be very disconcerting while looking for a cache. This is more than made up for by the 60's auto-routing feature which is just fabulous. I can't even begin to count how much time I have wasted trying to figure out how to get within walking distance of a cache in the past. :D

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