Yet Another Cycling Forum

General Category => The Knowledge => GPS => Topic started by: sub55 on September 18, 2010, 10:14:02 am

Title: which gps ?
Post by: sub55 on September 18, 2010, 10:14:02 am
Always looked at these things as damned expensive bike computer. 
However, with the move to doing diy`s electronically,im beginning  to consider one.
Looked at a spec of a few , quite simply dont make sense to me.
So which one would you buy? 
if you were buying a new one ,from scratch, knowing what you know now.
Dont really know what i want but i think it needs to be able to tell me which way to go and record which way ive been. 
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: phil d on September 18, 2010, 10:42:13 am
I work with one of the simpler (but not simplest) Garmin units, the Etrex Legend HCx.  This does everything you list as required, but does not include the extra gismos that units like the 705 have (HR recording etc) which I decided I didn't need.

You will need to consider the mapping software that goes with it.  I bought the microSD mapping of GB & Ireland (and France as well but that's by the by), and also have MemoryMap on my PC.  Between them these allow me to plan routes and prepare my guidance (on Memory Map), download the route to the GPS, and to be guided by an arrow, and have detailed maps on the GPS, and to record where I've been for use as GPS-validated DIY.  The on-screen mapping is adequate, not brilliant.  I gather it's much better on the higher spec units.

It is possible (I have not explored this) that OSM would be able to replace both Memory Map and the purchased Garmin microSD mapping - others here will fill you in on that aspect.  I just haven't needed to explore this option.  Garmin's "Trip and Waypoint Manager" by itself is hopelessly inadequate.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: PaulF on September 18, 2010, 10:44:04 am
I like my eTrex Legend. It does what I want: tracks where I've been and shows me where I need to go. It also has a nice computer mode as well. Only upgrade I'd make is a colour screen. It doesn't do routing but I'm not concerned about that.

EDIT I'd also upgrade to one with an SD card
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: frankly frankie on September 18, 2010, 11:21:32 am
In terms of accuracy and general capability, they are all much of a muchness.
All will record where you've been, with a similar amount of max capacity.
All the Garmin 'leisure' or 'trail' models are also very well weatherproofed, and are generally recommendable.  Other makes are either less weatherproof (Satmap, any smart phone) or generally less suitable for UK use (Magellan, Lowrance, both optimised for US use) and could generally be described as 'non-standard' in this context.

Knowing what I know now (4 1/2 years in) I would buy a Garmin Etrex Vista HCx (the Legend is essentially the same thing) - with the caveat that this is now a fairly old model and Garmin are quite likely to market an updated version (pricier but not necessary better!) quite soon.  So perhaps this is a good time to buy.  However NB that the Etrex is primarily a walkers' GPS (although very popular with cyclists) and the cycle-specific ones are the 'Edge' range.

I would say in a nutshell, the Edge range has strengths in terms of being a beefed-up cyclecomputer, and in particular if you want to use it as a training aid (HRM, cadence, virtual cycling partner etc) - and it is undeniably prettier on the handlebars.  The weakness is its sealed-in battery with limited runtime between recharges.
The Etrex range has strengths as a navigational aid (more capacity for multiple routes etc) and in particular is better for very long or multi-day (or even multi-week) trips because it has much better battery runtime and they are simple AAs anyway.  The weakness is a general physical clunkiness and much obfuscation in the menus and setup department.

Two other Garmin types of interest - the 62 series which is their newest and probably 'best' model, similar functionality to the Etrex but a bit bigger - IMO too big and clunky for bike handlebars, better on recumbent or motorbike.  
And their touchscreen models Oregon (larger) and Dakota (smaller) - these again have much the same functionality and are sleek on the handlebars, and can do HRM, and are generally simpler to operate - but I find the touchscreen is not a good idea on the bike, and also a bit dim to read.  
To re-iterate, all these are walkers' models that can be handlebar-mounted (using Garmin accessory brackets) - of all the models, only the Edge range is cycle specific.

All the types mentioned can display a map (NB usually a hidden extra expense!) and at this stage of the game I simply wouldn't recommend a more basic non-map type (though they are completely capable in their own way).

Dont really know what i want but i think it needs to be able to tell me which way to go and record which way ive been.  

Finally, I personally wouldn't expect any of these to be able to 'tell me which way to go' with any degree of reliability.  In other words, as a cyclist I wouldn't put my trust in SatNav-type guidance, at least not on rural roads (its a bit different in a town).  The way I use a GPS is to pre-program it with route instructions, which it then relays back to me at appropriate places on the road.  It doesn't make any decisions for me.  The capability is there, but I wouldn't trust it and generally don't use it.  Others differ on this - YMMV.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: corshamjim on September 18, 2010, 11:44:50 am
2nd that about the SD card - it makes it much easier loading maps and so on.

I'm very happy with my Garmin Dakota 20 which was less than £200 from Handtec.  Battery life is good, it seems to route very well so long as I haven't tinkered with the settings stupidly, and it takes AA batteries so I can carry spares if on a really long trip.  I've found the OSM maps work very well on it, certainly well enough to convince me not to spend on OS or other commercial maps.  I like contributing to OpenStreetMap too so I can see the improvements I've made on the map as I'm cycling around.

For OSM-derived garmin maps, check out (in no particular order):-

Index of /andyg/maps (http://ravenfamily.org/andyg/maps/) (from andygates of this parish)
FREE UK and Ireland Maps Home (talkytoaster) (http://talkytoaster.info/ukmaps.htm)
 VeloMap.org -Roadbike – Bicycle –  Maps based on Openstreetmap  (http://www.velomap.org/)
OpenCycleMap Shop — Welcome (http://shop.opencyclemap.org/)

Three cheers for the kind souls who build these maps for us!  :thumbsup: ;D

The Dakota 20 can have a number of these maps on the Micro-SD card (until you fill the 2Gb max size) so you can choose between them easily.  You can add a wireless cadence sensor and/or heartrate monitor too if you wish, but I haven't bothered with those myself.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Somnolent on September 18, 2010, 11:57:19 am
I have a Legend HCx but....


Knowing what I know now (4 1/2 years in) I would buy a Garmin Etrex Vista HCx

Couldn't agree more.   Vista has a couple of extra features which some might find useful, or can be turned off to conserve battery, in fact I bought one for my wife.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Sergeant Pluck on September 18, 2010, 12:03:08 pm
I have an HCx. Although I agree these are probably approaching the end of production, I think if I had to buy another GPS now I'd get a new HCx. That's based on a few years regular usage, and regular perusal of experiences posted on this board re the alternatives. For Audax or touring purposes they do all that is needed, they are reliable overall, and there is a wealth of info online as to how to get the best out of them.

If I didn't have to get one right now, I might be inclined to wait and see how the Edge 800 (http://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=37292.0) turns out.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: andygates on September 18, 2010, 12:09:09 pm
After the in-use experiences of the touchscreen users, I'd concur - cold gloved fingers or dark use really are good arguments for feely buttons.  The Vista HCx is the best of the etrex bunch, and they are stupidly robust.  

There's a good argument for device separation.  A combined HRM/GPS is great if you mostly use it to train, but it's a bit arse for driving directions and a bit big in the gym.  A smartphone is awesome, but taking an iphone kayaking makes me pucker with expensive dread, and if the GPS flattens your phone's battery while out hiking in bad weather... how do you call for help?

I'm quite excited by Frankie's rumour that there might be new etrexes -- the thing that dates them now is the low-res screen (and speed, and routing) and a next-gen etrex would make me smile hugely. 
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Genosse Brymbo on September 18, 2010, 01:23:58 pm
Ok, my finger's hovering above the Buy Now button for an eTrex Vista HCx, but first I'd like to find out what else I need to buy.  What other hardware/software must I buy to do the following (assume I already have a Windows PC):

1. Load OSM-derived maps onto the eTrex.  Plan routes on the PC using OSM maps and load them onto the eTrex.
2. Do the above, but with proprietary mapping like City Navigator UK + Ireland.
3. Load recorded tracks from the eTrex onto the PC and clean them up so that they can be used as routes to follow later.

What particularly puzzles me is what use are the SD card-only maps and do I need a card reader or does the eTrex allow access to it as a mass-storage device through the USB connection?  Advice would be greatly appreciated.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: frankly frankie on September 18, 2010, 05:16:04 pm
The Garmin SD card maps are:
a) the cheapest (legit) way to buy Garmin mapping
b) transferrable between units, ie will still work if you buy a different model in 2 years' time.
But:
* cannot be copied or even backed-up unless you have hacking skills.

The Garmin DVD maps:
a) work on the PC as well as on your GPS, much more useful
But:
* are locked to one GPS, if you buy another GPS you need, at best, to buy another 'unlock code'.  >:(

An exception is if you can find a copy of 'Metroguide' which is a very good Garmin road map product - similar to City - but no longer current - the most recent version v9 is about 2 years old now - this is not locked either to your PC or your GPS, you can run as many copies as you like, it covers all of W.Europe to street and house-number level.  Look on Ebay and don't pay more than £40.

All the Etrexes I've bought have come with software called 'Trip & Waypoint Manager' in the blister pack.  This is your basic Tracks and Routes transfer and simple manipulation package.  I'm not sure if this is still the case though - I've read of people buying a recent GPS and finding no software included - which is odd because you do need a Garmin USB driver to transfer Routes/Tracks to/from an Etrex.  Buying any Garmin Mapsource DVD will act as an upgrade to the basic T&WM anyway.  Don't expect pretty software, either way.

I'm quite excited by Frankie's rumour that there might be new etrexes -- the thing that dates them now is the low-res screen (and speed, and routing) and a next-gen etrex would make me smile hugely. 

I must emphasise this is pure speculation on my part, not 'insider info'.  However Garmin have recently refreshed all their other older models, so the only likely future for the Etrexes is either a refresh on the lines of the new 62 series (http://gpstracklog.com/2010/08/garmin-gpsmap-62s-review.html),  :thumbsup: , or discontinued in favour of the touchscreen models  :'(  .  If neither of these futures appeals, then that might be a very good reason to run out and buy a new Etrex while you still can.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Sergeant Pluck on September 18, 2010, 05:33:12 pm
DVD mapping is much more versatile, if you are going for Garmin maps.

Check if the handlebar clamp that comes with it is for normal or oversize bars - could be wrong but I think the standard issue is for normal bars so if you need oversize you'll need to get that separately.

So aside from that, and a card for the maps, that's it.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: PaulF on September 18, 2010, 05:45:14 pm
Standard is for normal bars but a clamp for oversize bars is less than £10.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Panoramix on September 19, 2010, 12:21:06 am
I would advise to make up your mind by trying the various options. 

Although the consensus seems to be that the vista is the best I never really got on with mine. The navigation through the menus was driving me nut. For this reason I prefer the Dakota which I find intuitive to use. Also, if you are a fan of the 1 waypoint per instruction option the Dakota is better because it can display longer instructions.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: DrMekon on September 19, 2010, 08:02:11 am
Another Vista HCx fan here. What put me off was the rep that there are a ton of ways to use it, and that you never feel like you'd got to grips with it. That has not been my experience. I've only used the  Jwo - frankly frankie direct routing method, with a track underneath. It takes a while to do (albeit others suggest they are much quicker than me), and after doing the route, the prep makes it all very familiar (I doubt this would be the case if you trusted the device to work it out for you).

The vista has been worth it for me when geocaching, as the electronic compass is useful then. Otherwise, I think I could have saved my money and got the Legend.

Also, Frankly frankie's auk pages are a godsend if you CBA experimenting with the other settings. Just use all his recommendations, and it turns out great.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: frankly frankie on September 19, 2010, 09:44:05 am
1. Load OSM-derived maps onto the eTrex.

Simplest ways just involve downloading a (big) file and using your File Manager to copy it to the GPS.

Quote
Plan routes on the PC using OSM maps and load them onto the eTrex..

Some online map/planning sites can use OSM, though Google maps is more usual - the roads should be in the same place either way so it shouldn't matter which you use!
To transfer Routes to the Etrex you will need, at minimum, the Garmin USB driver (downloadable) and there is some free software around that can then connect to the Etrex and handle the transfer.  Much easier IMO if you have Mapsource (or at least Trip/Waypoint Manager) installed.  There is a free 'back door' way to get Mapsource installed if like some people you don't buy any Garmin maps.

Quote
2. Do the above, but with proprietary mapping like City Navigator UK + Ireland..

City comes with Mapsource, which is a 1-stop shop for all this (though not a very good one - people frequently resort to other utilities for various tasks).

Quote
3. Load recorded tracks from the eTrex onto the PC and clean them up so that they can be used as routes to follow later..

Mapsource again, or with the right GPS setup you can access the track just with File Manager.

Quote
What particularly puzzles me is what use are the SD card-only maps and do I need a card reader or does the eTrex allow access to it as a mass-storage device through the USB connection?  Advice would be greatly appreciated.

Yes the Etrex has 2 modes of connection via USB.  The default mode requires the USB driver and allows 'connect' mode by which suitable software can transfer Tracks and Routes to/from the GPS internal memory banks.  While connected in this mode, you can use the GPS menus to switch to 'mass storage' mode which disables 'connect' and presents the micro-SD as an external drive.
Though why there is still anyone in this world who doesn't have a card reader, I can't imagine.

NB that the SD card essentially only stores the map.  A 2Gb card is overkill but cheap as chips.  All the other stuff is in GPS memory and in the case of the Etrex is not accessible via File Manager, only via 'connect' mode.  In other more modern GPS models, internal memory is accessible via File Manager, which is much more intuitive and certainly much easier for non-Win types.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: sub55 on September 19, 2010, 10:12:10 am
thanks for all the replies, gentlemen.
certainly some food for thought.
i`ll keep doing my research until i find the particular unit that seems to suit .
before i open this topic , i had only really considered the bike specific edge series of garmin.
i was leaning towards the 705 but had serious issues with the sealed battery system and run time.
i know theres ways around this but thats just more hassle.   beyond that it has the capacity for heartrate/speed/cadence.   which is all very nice but i already have these facilities via my polar equipment .
so was struggling to see the point really . 
what i had`nt considered until reading this thread, is the etrex vista hcx.
which maybe just what im looking for.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: phil d on September 19, 2010, 12:19:54 pm
The battery issue, especially when on tour, is important.  I really dislike gadgets that use specialist batteries - my camera and GPS choice was partly predicated on the ability to use AA batteries.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Auntie Helen on September 20, 2010, 09:04:44 am
I'm a real fan of the Oregon as I like the touch screen, the enormous screen area generally (for mapping) and the lack of restriction for routepoints/waypoints/coursepoints etc. It seems super-easy to use and seems to be a well-built unit. Very happy so far and I would buy another immediately if this one went walkies.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: GrahamG on September 20, 2010, 11:33:00 am
Great thread, thanks for everyone taking the time to contribute to this as it's really hard to find the cycling specific advice that doesn't relate to 'training'.

Like sub55, I'm looking for one as a navigational aid to direct me on pre-planned routes (be it an audax ride, tour or just day ride), and have a few queries to help decide between the etrex range or the newer Oregon/Dakota:

1) Do they work OK in the dark?
2) For a simple planned route, not even worrying too much about a map base, do I actually need to be pressing buttons on the fly? The obvious issue with touch screen is using gloves etc. but I'm not too concerned if I'm rarely going to want to make any changes - what sort of things are you all doing whilst on the move?
3) The range of models seems pretty bewildering, given my desired usage is there anything in the specs of the pricier models that is a 'must have'?
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: PaulF on September 20, 2010, 11:40:42 am
I've only used the  Jwo - frankly frankie direct routing method, with a track underneath. It takes a while to do (albeit others suggest they are much quicker than me), and after doing the route, the prep makes it all very familiar (I doubt this would be the case if you trusted the device to work it out for you).


What is this method? Do you have any more info?

Quote

Also, Frankly frankie's auk pages are a godsend if you CBA experimenting with the other settings. Just use all his recommendations, and it turns out great.

Do you have a link to these?

I'm feeling my way with my eTRex - at the stage of "I should be able to do more" and would appreciate any tips!
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Auntie Helen on September 20, 2010, 12:47:30 pm
1) Do they work OK in the dark?
My Oregon is fantastic in the dark as the backlight is brill.
Quote
2) For a simple planned route, not even worrying too much about a map base, do I actually need to be pressing buttons on the fly? The obvious issue with touch screen is using gloves etc. but I'm not too concerned if I'm rarely going to want to make any changes - what sort of things are you all doing whilst on the move?
All I tend to do is zoom in and out and the buttons on the Oregon are plenty big enough that I can do that fine even with thick gloves. I think Frankly Frankie had problems with the smaller Dakota for this.
Quote
3) The range of models seems pretty bewildering, given my desired usage is there anything in the specs of the pricier models that is a 'must have'?
I went for the Oregon 300, thinking the base model was too base, but the higher models included maps which I didn't need (I've used OSM very successfully) although I think they've now rejigged the Oregon range so it's all x50. I am really happy with my choice, though, as it does all I need and is way more reliable than my Edge 205 was.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Sergeant Pluck on September 20, 2010, 12:54:27 pm
What is this method? Do you have any more info?

....


Do you have a link to these?

http://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=34268.msg644043#msg644043 (http://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=34268.msg644043#msg644043)

http://www.soi.city.ac.uk/~jwo/landserf/audax/ (http://www.soi.city.ac.uk/~jwo/landserf/audax/)

Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: GrahamG on September 20, 2010, 01:04:20 pm
Helen - that's very useful, thanks for the swift response!

I take it that, should there be a lack of OSM map info (highly likely for the UK!), that it will still give route information as to when to turn etc. just without the map background?
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Auntie Helen on September 20, 2010, 01:14:48 pm
Helen - that's very useful, thanks for the swift response!

I take it that, should there be a lack of OSM map info (highly likely for the UK!), that it will still give route information as to when to turn etc. just without the map background?
No, it can't generate a route with no map. The route is when you ask it to take you to the station or something and it chooses its own way.

However, if you're navigating a track (which you made in Bikehike, for example), that works independently of mapping so you'd be fine in that situation.

I've found very, very few missing roads on OSM. However I don't really trust the unit for routefinding unless I have to - I usually pre-plan my journey and download it as a track.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: Panoramix on September 20, 2010, 01:26:16 pm

1) Do they work OK in the dark?
2) For a simple planned route, not even worrying too much about a map base, do I actually need to be pressing buttons on the fly? The obvious issue with touch screen is using gloves etc. but I'm not too concerned if I'm rarely going to want to make any changes - what sort of things are you all doing whilst on the move?
3) The range of models seems pretty bewildering, given my desired usage is there anything in the specs of the pricier models that is a 'must have'?

Answer for the Dakopta (close to the Oregon)

1) Yes, very well. I like to leave the backlight always on but at a low setting.
2) Definitely no if you use the "Jwo method" especially if you make use of the good "screen estate" may be a bit if you follow tracks.
3) the Dakota is good enough for me.

The only drawback worth mentioning is that in map mode the batteries go down quickly (10-12 hours for Nimh). I use the "jwo method" and only use the map if I have a doubt so it is not relevant to me but may be to some people. Using seldomly the map one can just about do a 600 on 2 pair of Nimh batteries.
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: GrahamG on September 20, 2010, 02:21:59 pm
Helen - I didn't even realise you could get something that did on-the-fly route planning! Perhaps useful for cities on the odd occasion or to find a POI?

Thanks both for the input - something for the Christmas list!
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: frankly frankie on September 20, 2010, 04:27:30 pm
Quote
Also, Frankly frankie's auk pages are a godsend if you CBA experimenting with the other settings. Just use all his recommendations, and it turns out great.
Do you have a link to these?

I've got several essays about various GPS topics - mostly related to the Etrex C range or to Mapsource.  I've tried to break everything down into bite-sized chunks.  They aren't listed on the AUK server any more (though the page below is linked) so please find them at:
http://www.aukadia.net/gps/ (http://www.aukadia.net/gps/)
lots of links to other resources there as well.

Although there is a bewildering array of Garmin models they really are all very similar under the skin, with similar capabilities and broadly similar UI - in fact UI-wise the Etrex range now sticks out as the odd one out, all the other Garmins have had a makeover and generally follow the newer Oregon/Dakota way of doing things.  But the Etrex C type are outstanding for their battery runtime, this is really what separates them from the rest - I have a Legend Cx (ie old model) which has run >50h continuous, with some backlight use, on a single pair of lithium AAs.

No, it can't generate a route with no map. The route is when you ask it to take you to the station or something and it chooses its own way.

Helen's right and it seems to me the map is quite important in this regard - for example if you plan on your PC or online using one map (eg Google Maps) and run the Route on your GPS which has a different map installed (eg City Select or OSM) then you will lose some functionality - though you may not miss it, a case of "you don't miss what you never had" I think.
It's because a Garmin route makes use of so-called 'map points' whenever it can - a 'map point' being something like a road junction as an obvious example - and these points have embedded information that can be utilised by the pop-up messages on your GPS.  By planning on a different map you are quite likely to 'miss' (by a few yards only) these points and so miss out on some of the embedded info stored in the GPS map.

That said, Helen is talking about 'follow road' or autorouting - it is perfectly possible to manually program a Route and manually include simple instructions, which are not at all dependent on any map - they'll work even on a non-map GPS such as a Geko.   It sounds laborious, and it is, but it's what some of us do for preference (including me).
Title: Re: which gps ?
Post by: TimO on September 20, 2010, 05:46:04 pm
Helen - I didn't even realise you could get something that did on-the-fly route planning! Perhaps useful for cities on the odd occasion or to find a POI?

It should work OK, but I was using it to find the station in Reading yesterday, and it did a very good job of telling me when to turn off, just after I'd gone past a junction!

I just use Andygates Munky Maps (derived from OSM), and they seem to be pretty good, exceptionally so when you consider the price. ;D

I prefer the 1:50000 Ordnance Survey mapping on my Satmap Active 10, but I've kind of given up on that GPS because there are too many annoying aspects to it.  You reach a point that however good the positive features are, the negative stuff starts to outweigh them. :(