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Explorist Vs. Etrex – Satellite Reception


Anarion
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Ok, I know all about the lack of connectivity with the Explorist etc. Please base your answers for this comparison STRICTLY on the grounds of Reception Quality.

 

Between the Explorist and the Etrex, which unit is better at receiving satellite signals?

 

I see that the Explorist will receive 14 channels compared to the Etrex’s 12 channels. What kind of advantage does this make?

 

I have found only a few first hand reviews of the Explorist (mostly on Amazon.com), and though all seem to claim great reception quality, I would like to see an experienced comparison between the two.

 

I am researching for my first GPSr purchase, and to me, the ability of my receiver to receive satellite signals is very important, especially in tree-cover. (Like Algonquin Park)

 

Hands-on experience would be especially appreciated. :)

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Ok, I know all about the lack of connectivity with the Explorist etc.  Please base your answers for this comparison STRICTLY on the grounds of Reception Quality.

 

Between the Explorist and the Etrex, which unit is better at receiving satellite signals?

I have had both units and have used them both extensively, so perhaps I'm qualified to answer. First, let me state that this report is based on my experience only, and I'm not affiliated in any way with either Garmin or Thales.

 

For me, the Magellan wins out over the eTrex in terms of accuracy and holding signal lock. I was always frustrated by how much my eTrex's signal reports "jumped around", especially under heavy tree cover (where I spend most of my geocaching time!) and my Magellan eXplorist 100 simply does not do this. I'm not sure if it has to do with the 14 vs. 12 channels or WAAS in the Magellan; all I know is that I no longer use the eTrex for geocaching.

Edited by Buzzygirl
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I'd be curiouse to know if the Explorist continues the tradition of Magellan's guestimating your location even when they don't know (a feature you can turn off).

 

Funny as it sounds, I'd also like to see the ability for Garmins to have the option to turn this feature or one like it on as I have seen where it does some good.

 

Edit: All eTrex have WAAS with the single exception of the basic yellow eTrex.

Edited by Renegade Knight
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I'd be curiouse to know if the Explorist continues the tradition of Magellan's guestimating your location even when they don't know (a feature you can turn off).

Is there documentation about this "feature" somewhere?

 

I've seen this mentioned a bunch of times in the forums, but I think it's simply a myth. I've never noticed my Meridian giving me my updated position when the satellite page shows I've lost my signal.

 

I can turn it off? Where is that?

 

Jamie

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I'd be curiouse to know if the Explorist continues the tradition of Magellan's guestimating your location even when they don't know (a feature you can turn off).

Is there documentation about this "feature" somewhere?

 

I've seen this mentioned a bunch of times in the forums, but I think it's simply a myth. I've never noticed my Meridian giving me my updated position when the satellite page shows I've lost my signal.

 

I can turn it off? Where is that?

 

Jamie

I would say the Explorist is a good GPS out in the Geocaching environment.

 

My Etrex Vista was always losing lock out in the woods.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Alot of the Magellan problems are due to not turning ON, the ALARM to warn you of lost signal, and also the Auto Averaging can cause problems too, when seeking the cache.

 

Best GPS I ever had for caching was the Meridian Platinum, and what I did with it, was to disable WAAS and I turned on the LOSS of Signal ALARM, so Id say that much of the Garmin/Magellan problems are how you set them up, in the Setup menu.

 

With the Garmins, turn off WAAS, when out in the woods, and also keep Battery SAVER turned OFF.

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Personally, I don't believe the oft-repeated line that "Magellans lose lock just as often as Garmin, they just guess rather than tell you". My ST Pro tells me immediately as soon as it loses lock (within seconds if I drive slowly under a freeway overpass). Also, averaging only kicks in when you are not moving (yes, it also tells me when it is averaging). And the much maligned "Magellan slingshot effect" that some users complain about is, IMO, nothing more than a slight delay caused by a bit slower processing time than Garmins, but it is only a few seconds in my experience, and has never caused me any problems while geocaching (people who say they regularly end up 50-100 feet past the cache because of this must be running to the cache! ;) ).

 

Back on topic, I don't think that having the ability to "see" 14 satelites rather than 12 will gain you anything at all. The unit may be able to pick up that many at once, but only if there are that many visible in the sky at once. I can't ever remember seeing any more than 8-9 satelites at a time on my screen. Whether it has the "ability" to see 12 or 14 wouldn't change that.

 

If the Explorist uses the Quad-Helix antenna, then it will more than likely get better reception under tree cover, while the ETrex's Patch antenna will work a bit better (from what I've been told) in deep canyons or urban jungles (tall buildings, etc.). Also, the yellow ETrex is not WAAS enabled, so that may hurt it as well.

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I'd be curiouse to know if the Explorist continues the tradition of Magellan's guestimating your location even when they don't know (a feature you can turn off).

Is there documentation about this "feature" somewhere?

 

I've seen this mentioned a bunch of times in the forums, but I think it's simply a myth. I've never noticed my Meridian giving me my updated position when the satellite page shows I've lost my signal.

 

I can turn it off? Where is that?

 

Jamie

It's not a myth.

 

The tools of comparison are a GPS V and a Sport Track Pro since that what Night Stalker and I used to cache with.

 

In the final analysis the Pro would use some means of dead reconing to determine your position when it did not have a lock. The V flat out didn't do that. After Night Stalker turned on the loss of signal alarm, we noticed that both units (quad helix antaneas) lost lock at about the same rate in actual use. Using the "gee lets see if we can get a signal inside the house" method the V was a notch above the Pro.

 

The boomerang effect is also real, though I've read a couple of tricks to compensate and the rare occasion I've had to use them they seemed to work. Night Stalker having to come back to the cache location though was not an uncommon occurance.

 

4x4 Van and I have discussed this behaviors via email and we agree on certain behaviors but not really the reasons behind them. Magellan needs to do a white paper on the method they use to dead recon your position so when you make a 180 degree turn on a mountain road with no lock (and your loss of lock alarm is off) and you're GPS points you the wrong way you know why. It was that windy mountain road and the debate over who's GPS was right that led us to discover certain Garmin/Magellan differences in operations. The white paper should also cover the boomerang effect. It does happen for a reason and it might be tied to dead reckoning.

 

Based on comments in the forums I think the Sport Track Pro comes with the loss of lock alarm off, and the Meridian comes with the loss of lock alarm on.

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If the Explorist uses the Quad-Helix antenna, then it will more than likely get better reception under tree cover, while the ETrex's Patch antenna will work a bit better (from what I've been told) in deep canyons or urban jungles (tall buildings, etc.).

The Explorist uses a patch antenna. However, this does not mean that its reception qualities are the same as that of the Etrex. The Etrex is known to be the worst unit on the market as far as sensitivity is concerned. More recent units with a patch antenna are much better.

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In my teeny experience using Magellans for about 2500 posts and reading several Magellan forums for about 3 years, there's a lot of fiction above...

 

But to try to help answer the 12 vs. 14 thing, let me steer you a prior post at http://forums.Groundspeak.com/GC/index.php...0entry1039821

 

And include a link that's old text (it was when 12 channel units weren't yet common) but still good stuff: http://www.gpsinformation.org/dale/why12.htm . You do have to "read through" some things that are no longer pertinent (everything is a parallel these days, SA is long gone, etc.) but it's a nice concise summary of the issues involved.

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4x4van!!!!WOW! How refreshing it is to see a post on this subject by someone that actually knows what they are talking about!

Either that or I just lie very convincingly!!! :( Seriously, though, I agree with RK that Magellan (and Garmin, as well) should release something explaining why/how their respective units do some of the things they do, although I'm certainly not going to hold my breath for that to happen! Personally, the slingshot effect has never been much of an issue for me while geocaching, although it did seem more pronounced with an older GPS315 that I used to use. I believe that newer firmware would've helped, but alas the unit died (too many miles vibrating across the dunes on the handlbars of a built ATC 250R, perhaps?).

 

I notice the slingshot effect on my ST Pro only when at driving speeds, and I believe that is caused by a few second delay between the time the unit recieves satelite info and the time it actually finishes it's calculations and "reports" it's location on the screen.

 

In any case, once you get used to a particular unit's idiosyncracies <sp?>, it's all good and you can find the cache! And as I said, whether a unit is capable of receiving 12 satelites or 14 satelites is a moot point, since chances are it will rarely, if ever, be able to actually "see" that many at once, anyway.

Edited by 4x4van
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I'd be curiouse to know if the Explorist continues the tradition of Magellan's guestimating your location even when they don't know (a feature you can turn off).

I was just wondering this myself. I bet it does :)

 

This is the one thing that really puts a big fat :( on the whole "who gets a lock better" discussions. It's not really possible to say without having something more than observation going on because of the software feature of some/most magellan units seem to have in regards to "faking it" when no lock is available rather than coming out and saying there's none.

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It's not really possible to say without having something more than observation going on because of the software feature of some/most magellan units seem to have in regards to "faking it" when no lock is available rather than coming out and saying there's none.

 

I just turned on a Garmin 60CS and a Magellan Platinum side by side at my desk. Both units were last powered up outside several days ago some distance away. Neither unit was moved since it was powered on, so theories of "faking it" based on previous motion are irrelevant.

 

The Plat has a view of four sats and reports my current position.

 

The 60 has a view of 1 sat (and a second one intermittently) overlayed by a red box that says "lost satellite reception <enter>" After ten minutes, it still doesn't have a position fix.

 

But this observation is about neither an Explorist nor an Etrex, so this probably doesn't help the OP.

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I just turned on a Garmin 60CS and a Magellan Platinum side by side at my desk.

I know that the Garmin 60CS needs to be oriented with the antenna pointed up in order to receive the best signal. Is this also true of the Magellan Meridians?

I should have been clearer. I had them side by side with antennas up - in exactly the worst possible compass orientation. They were both leaning on a plastic frame thingy this time, but my experience shows they'd deliver the same results in hand, laying down, or burning a goat.

 

It's true the Plat works better in that position, but not enough so that it's something I'm normally conscious of while caching. But even with the deck stacked in this way, in this example - and it's hardly contrived or rare - the Plat gets a perfectly lovely 3D lock and the 60 gets zilch.

 

The 60 isn't exactly always forthcoming about it losing lock, either. Many times I've observed it showing an unchanging but non zero speed while I'm standing still (or a zero speed while I'm moving) and no sats in the sky and no changing position. Several minutes later, the red box will finally pop up and offer to disable the receiver for use indoors.

 

Don't get me wrong - both brands have good things and bad things, but I'm tired of seeing the acceleration averaging (the 'overshoot' thing) being confused with "not really having a lock and lying about it".

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I observed that whenever it turns out that the coordinates of a cache are off, the hider invariably used a Magellan to measure them :P

But is that the meridian being off or the garmin in the hands of the hunter being off? My Garmin is off frequently. I found a cache that was a position X. I found it and was standing 3 feet from it. The Garmin legend, had me bouncing from 0 to 35 feet away (with no movement, great weather, and no tree cover where I was standing.)

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But is that the meridian being off or the garmin in the hands of the hunter being off?

That's a very good question. The fact is that I have neither a Garmin nor a Magellan yet. I'm using a Pocket PC with a Globalsat GPS unit plugged in the CF slot. In a few cases when I found the cache coordinates to be off, at home I used USAPhotoMaps to check whether my GPS or the hider's GPS was off. In all cases, the areal photo showed my GPS to be accurate and the cache coordinates actually being off. Of course, USAPhotoMaps can be inaccurate, too, but it's unlikely that it's the same way off as my GPS.

 

My CF GPS uses a patch antenna and I believe it behaves very similarly to an Etrex. It loses lock under tree cover relatively easily and it doesn't show any sign of noticeable dead reckoning. I also noticed that in the cache logs, if I complain about the coordinates being off then other people with Garmins complain, too (and they find the given coordinates at the same location as I), and the hider used a Magellan.

 

I believe others reported that in difficult conditions (canyons, etc.) the Garmins usually lose lock while Magellans hold it but they report extremely inaccurate positions.

Edited by as77
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