Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible. Pertinent guest posts are always welcome.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Garmin Colorado Review

by Joe Dabes (FLT Map maker and 5 time FLT end-to-ender)

Java Joe here. I have purchased six Garmin GPS units (3 field, 3 auto) over the last 7 years, and never been disappointed -- until now. I purchased this Colorado 400t (t for topo), in spite of the poor reviews that I had read. I've had it for just three days, testing it extensively, and it is going back to amazon.com tomorrow for a refund. Do not buy this unit, it has many flaws. If you are considering a field (hiking) GPS unit buy the highly reviewed Garmin GPSmap 60CSx, which many of us have.

Problems with the Colorado:
  1. The very skimpy manual leaves so much out.
  2. Battery life (with 2 alkalines) is only 3 - 4 hours, even with backlighting and electronic (magnetic north) compass turned off. GPSmap 60CSx with same batteries lasts 15 - 20 hours.
  3. After only an hour or two, with new batteries, the unit kept turning itself off when I performed operations on it. Perhaps I had a defective unit, but I have read reviews where this problem is common.
  4. Screen is pretty, but hard to read, as tiny fonts used.
  5. Although I couldn't verify this, some reviewers, mostly from geocachers, found that the track of this unit can be off by as much as 400 - 500 feet (they blamed this on a new chipset). I have always found the 60CSx to be accurate within 10 to 40 feet.

And if you are considering getting our soon to be released (hopefully) FLT track (nearly 900 miles) and TH waypoint files, consider the following:
  1. Along with active (hiking) track, Colorado can show only one saved track (always violet) at a time, 60CSx can show up to 20 saved tracks at a time (in colors similar to the blaze color, except white blazes shown as black).
  2. When this FLT track and waypoint data is available for sale, included instructions will be written for the 60CSx, which a near majority of my so far 11 testers have.

Don't buy this dud Colorado, which costs nearly $500; 60CSx is about $300 and a much better unit. Make sure you also get Garmin MapSource Topo 2008 ($80, and yes, now 25' contour lines, instead of 66 foot (20 meter) contour lines!), so you can load FLT track and waypoint data into the unit, and also save your own tracks and waypoints. Also nice: a 1 or 2 GB micro SD card ($10 - $20) so you can load half to all the U.S. topo maps from Garmin MapSource Topo onto your unit.

Cheers, and Happy Trails, Java Joe

P.S. I just read a number of reviews of the newer Garmin Oregon 400t touch screen field GPS unit. Seems it has problems similar to the Colorado 400t, although battery life may be better. The big complaint about the Oregon was dim screen that is hard to see in sunlight.

2 comments:

Doug Welker said...

I too just bought the Colorado. I have not had it outside yet because, well, I had expected to use it mainly when there was no snow on the ground.

My only gripe so far is, as Sharkbytes points out, the skimpy manual. I downloaded the online manual, hoping that it would be more detailed, but it was the same thing; the manual left me in thin air when it came to how to use many of the applications. Also, it came with no tutorial.

The other gripe I may have is that, at least according to the minimal instructions, there seems to be no way to have the device automatically register a waypoint every X seconds, like the Trimbles do. If it indeed a mapping gps, I should be able to use it easily to map trails and routes continuously. Before I bought it, I was assured by Garmin folks that I could do that.

I have not had the unit long enough to attest to the short battery life.

In summary, if Garmin cannot supply me with a detailed instruction manual, and the unit cannot map continuously, it's going back.

Steve Seeger said...

I have a Garmin eTrex Legend HCx and like it as much, if not better, for hiking than the 60CSx as I used to have.