Author Topic: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...  (Read 2929 times)

Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« on: October 10, 2011, 12:41:20 am »
I have read back on all the threads and I'm trying to get my head round the very confusing array of GPS units out there, but couldn't quite find the answers that I needed, so I thought I'd try yet another thread to see if I could find the perfect answer!  I think I'm getting myself in a muddle trying to figure out which one has what!

I think the eTrex (Vista or 20 possibly) is a good plan, though the Edge is also a possibility.  While I like the idea of being able to change batteries, so many of my gadgets are rechargeable that I'm reasonably comfortable with this-and I'm unlikely to be needing it for more than a few hours at a time, tbh!  I also have a PowerMonkey (indeed, I have two  ::-) ) for when I'm traveling with phone, ipod etc, so not too stressed by battery vs rechargeable.

I do run a Mac at home though, with no regular access to a Windows machine.  I'm also not comfortable partitioning to run a dual boot for Windows.  If I've understood the comments correctly, this is a problem with the eTrex, though it says nothing about this on the Garmin website.  I have a Garmin Nuvi for driving and have been able to update the map software etc on that with the Mac (though it struggles due to my broadband connection, but that's a different story), but haven't used any of the other Garmin specific software.

I'd like one that actually shows a map, not just an arrow in the direction I'm going.  This (as far as I can tell) cuts out the really cheap ones.  I think the Edge has an awful lot of functionality I don't need, but if that's the only way I can get it to work with having a Mac, then I'll buy it.  What I'm really looking for though is essentially the same functionality for cycling that I get from the Nuvi for driving...something that'll tell me where I'm going, that I can download ride routes to, that'll measure how far I've gone, that sort of thing.  I'm hoping to be able to use it on the horse too  :)  I do think that having an SD card capacity is a good thing as it leaves the option of downloading more map than you might be able to otherwise.

I like gadgets that make my life easier-and have quite a few, but I'm not quite as geeky as I'd like to be, so relative ease of use is important.



Jaded

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2011, 07:58:35 am »
I get on fine with Edge 705, Mac and external battery. I use Bikehike.co.uk to plot routes and Ascent to store and analyse rides. I hardly ever use the Gaemin software, only to update firmware and put map tiles on the Edge.
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dasmoth

  • Techno-optimist
Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2011, 08:25:25 am »
Don't forget the Oregon series.  Some of the regulars here seem to really dislike the touchscreen UI, but it works for me -- and you get a nice big (and reasonably bright) screen.  Mine is always good for >12h of active use from a pair of AA NiMHs, and obviously easy to carry spares.

I've never used Garmin software.  Routing using Bikehike, and can update the maps and firmware by just copying files over in mass-storage mode (i.e. on a Mac just drag stuff across in the Finder).
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PeteT

Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2011, 08:49:02 am »
Bryton Rider 50 GPS - does everything you'd need, a darned sight less expensive than the Garmin equivalent and supports MAC users.
Why on earth this unit isn't outselling Garmin's I'll never know - not sure whether it's because the company isn't promoting it enough or it's a case of 'Garmin blindness'. I've had mine a couple of months and it's ace. And you can use the software safely enough!

Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2011, 08:51:16 am »
Ahhh okay, so it's possible to bypass the Garmin software, that makes more sense!  It just seemed as though several people were commenting on the fact you couldn't use the software as an issue and having never seen the actual updating/route creation process, I wasn't sure how limiting that would be.

In that case, it looks like the eTrex is probably a more sensible option for me really, from the point of view of what functionality I actually need!   :)

I've never heard of a Bryton Rider 50 GPS, so I'll go do some research on that, thanks PeteT...more confusion!  ;)



Charlotte

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2011, 09:06:17 am »
Of course, you *could* just get a waterproof case and an external battery for your iPhone...?
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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2011, 09:11:28 am »
+1 for the Oregon, which is exceptionally versatile. I use it for walking, cycling and - with the aid of OSM - driving in farrn' parts, have no issues with the touch screen. Do be prepared to put some effort in to get the most out, although even out the box they will probably do what you want on a bike. The new montana adds voice directions to the unit, for (surprise!) even more money.

frankly frankie

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2011, 09:19:37 am »
You can simplify the decision-making process by asking yourself a few key questions:

Garmin? - or something else?

(assuming the answer is Garmin) -
performance and overall capability is much the same across the board, so -

Bike-specific model (neat and lightweight, and with some training aids, but battery runtime may be an issue) -
or 'bike-mountable' (walkers models, bigger on the handlebars and no runtime issues, some can still do HRM and cadence stuff) ?

Mapping - or minimalist?

Touch-screen? - or button-driven?

Large screen? - or small box?

Mac won't be any problem with the new Etrex BTW - only with the old models.
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.

Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2011, 09:21:52 am »
Of course, you *could* just get a waterproof case and an external battery for your iPhone...?

Which would be a great idea, except for three things:

I can't get the external battery (ie PowerMonkey) I have to stay waterproof inside the case with the iPhone and all the others seem to be about the same price as a Garmin anyway.

The apps I use on the iPhone keep switching themselves off, at which point I have no idea how far I've gone anyway.

And the iPhone won't take the created routes for rides and tell me where I'm meant to be going.



Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2011, 09:23:46 pm »
you could have a look at the satmap .can use either aa batteries or a li lon battery takes os sd card and they have good customer service. it can be set to beep at waypoints.
the slower you go the more you see

Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #10 on: October 16, 2011, 09:20:10 pm »
Is there a really basic, truly idiot, guide to GPS etc on the web? I've tried reading a few of these threads and other stuff and I seem to immediately run into terminology I don't understand. Say I wanted a unit that would:-

replace my existing basic function wired computers, I don't need cadence, HRM etc
allow me to just put in a destination point and be guided on cycle suitable roads/paths
give me a return to home, or new location, option if I get lost
allow me to put in start and end points and do the rest for me
act as a computer only when I'm doing a familiar ride

Is there a good shop/chain to go and view/test GPS units?

I think a good starting resource for reading is probably best as I may struggle to understand some of the answers  ;D
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PaulF

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2011, 09:49:32 pm »
My eTrex works fine with my Mac. It's with the PC that I have problems....

Adam

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2011, 09:51:34 pm »
you could have a look at the satmap .can use either aa batteries or a li lon battery takes os sd card and they have good customer service. it can be set to beep at waypoints.

Although even at full volume, the beep is so quiet, you can barely hear it.  And their Mac support is rather minimal.  But if you want a big, moving OS map, then you can't beat it.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” -Albert Einstein

frankly frankie

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2011, 11:36:38 pm »
replace my existing basic function wired computers, I don't need cadence, HRM etc
Check.  Any GPS will do that.
Quote
allow me to just put in a destination point and be guided on cycle suitable roads/paths
Well - it depends a bit on how you want to put your destination in.  Postcode?  Probably not.  OS Grid Ref?  Probably not.  Lat/Longitude?  Yes.  Just point to a place on a map?  Yes, that is usually the best way (assuming your GPS has maps on board - 90% do these days).
And 'cycle suitable' is possibly not going to give the results you want.  In Garmin-speak (and Google-speak) it includes a lot of unsurfaced or off-road stuff - as a road cyclist I find it's better just to call myself a 'car'.
Quote
give me a return to home, or new location, option if I get lost
Check on return to home.  New location - as 'destination' above.
Quote
allow me to put in start and end points and do the rest for me
Probably not.  Most modern GPS will attempt to do that, and most will do it badly.  You need to give a little more help (such as 3 or 4 intermediate points) - is that so hard?
Quote
act as a computer only when I'm doing a familiar ride
Check.  As point 1 above.
Quote
Is there a good shop/chain to go and view/test GPS units?
I think a good starting resource for reading is probably best as I may struggle to understand some of the answers  ;D

I would say here is as good as anywhere.
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.

Wowbagger

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #14 on: October 16, 2011, 11:42:54 pm »
I have an Etrex Vista HCx. I have always used it with my Mac.

The only thing I was unable to do was the initial load of the maps from the CD I bought at the same time. Dez had a Windows-based PC which did that. However, nowadays I just use Open Street Maps on the Garmin, which are free and easily downloadable. For route planning I use bikehike. It's all dead simple.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #15 on: October 16, 2011, 11:46:44 pm »
I'm a huge fan of my Garmin Oregon which works fine with my Mac.
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #16 on: October 17, 2011, 12:23:53 am »
Thanks Frankie so:-

any GPS performs as a basic computer as well - do they need any form of sensor or is it all via satellite positioning?

suitable roads - well a cycle option would be good for me as one of the reasons I'm considering a GPS is for multi surface exploring type rides on a MTB.

Maps - these live permanently in the GPS memory? what sort of area and scale can it store? are there proprietary limitations around the GPS you buy, as in will only work with their own, or approved, map sources?

Start/End points - your previous answer re return to home or new location indicated I could just find a location on my stored maps and click on it to be guided there. If it can do this then why would it not be able to take two points and work out the route between them for me? I do understand that I might not be getting the best out of it and I know I can plan a route via multiple points. That's what I do at the moment with maps and I make myself up a tip sheet to follow and also carry the relevant map pages printed out as backup. It's not 'so hard' to do this myself but maybe I'm just expecting more bells and whistles for £4-500. To be honest if I'm doing a specific ride then I'll prepare and probably carry some map pages as backup anyway. I think my idea was more around how they function, and which would work best, for 'blind surprise' rides. The type where I just take roads/lanes/tracks/trails at random to see where I end up. I have tried mapping some of these rides via Google maps etc but some of these trails don't seem to exist on there and a lot of the little roads have no road signs. As a result I have managed to get myself hideously lost a couple of times.


Much appreciate the help and will keep reading away...so far I figure that the cycling specific, Garmin Edge range?, probably wouldn't be right for me as they have a lot of functionality I don't need, is that a reasonable assessment? 
Nuns, no sense of humour

frankly frankie

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #17 on: October 17, 2011, 10:28:26 am »
any GPS performs as a basic computer as well - do they need any form of sensor or is it all via satellite positioning?

No sensor, for basic computer functions.  So if you have multiple bikes all you need is multiple bikemounts.
Many Garmins (not only the bike-specific ones) can also do HRM and cadence if required, using Garmin's own sensors.
A typical 'computer' display - the actual data fields shown are very configurable - around 50 choices ...
you can also overlay any 2 or 4 of these on a map display ...
  To me, the 'Distance to Next' is the killer feature of GPS.
Quote
suitable roads - well a cycle option would be good for me as one of the reasons I'm considering a GPS is for multi surface exploring type rides on a MTB.
Maps - these live permanently in the GPS memory? what sort of area and scale can it store? are there proprietary limitations around the GPS you buy, as in will only work with their own, or approved, map sources?

Where auto-routing (or route-finding) is concerned - it seems to be very difficult to achieve the sort of 'intelligence' that can second-guess what a cyclist would see as a 'good' route.  Although some (older) GPSs offer a lot of configurability in this area, there is no single 'right' setting that a cyclist can rely on.  It's also very dependent on the maps you have installed.  But auto-routing isn't compulsory - I use a GPS all the time and almost never don't often use its ability to find a route.

Maps - some GPS can't store or display maps at all, but these days it would be hard to recommend that type as a 'first GPS'.  Mostly they can store far more map than you will ever need.  My (quite old model) GPS has road mapping for all of UK, France, Switzerland, and parts of Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Spain - all down to street level (house-number level in the UK), plus contours as an overlay for all that area.  This takes up around 1.5Gb of a 2Gb memory card, and it's easy to swap this out and put a different map in if I want.
Scale-wise - these 'vector' maps are effectively infinitely zoomable - the closest zoom (biggest scale) is almost out-resolving the accuracy of the GPS, while the widest zoom fits all of Europe on a 2x3 display.
If you want topographic mapping (better rendering of off-road features) then that takes up rather more room (and is much more expensive to buy, per area).
All Garmins can work with free 3rd-party maps, in some areas including the UK these are pretty good, and especially so for off-road stuff.  All modern Garmins can also do OS and IGN mapping (at a price).
It's quite easy to swap maps around, though many Garmin maps are subject to a 'locking' restriction (map license restrictions).  Garmin maps seem very expensive (mainly because it's difficult to buy just the bits you want - you may have to buy the whole of Europe, for example) - but I think they are very good.

Quote
Start/End points - your previous answer re return to home or new location indicated I could just find a location on my stored maps and click on it to be guided there. If it can do this then why would it not be able to take two points and work out the route between them for me? I do understand that I might not be getting the best out of it and I know I can plan a route via multiple points.

Yes you can do all that easily - but my personal opinion is that A-B it's just not reliable, if the distance is more than say 20 rural km.  I would always want to specify a few via points to lock it down a bit.   As a cyclist I view taking a wrong turn as a minor disaster.  If you're looking for a Magical Mystery Tour - well, I think life's a bit too short for that, far better to use a large-scale paper map to find the best roads, then put down a waymark so your GPS can take you there.

Quote
so far I figure that the cycling specific, Garmin Edge range?, probably wouldn't be right for me as they have a lot of functionality I don't need, is that a reasonable assessment?

Well personally I don't see anything wrong with having functionality you'll never use - that's just the way modern electronic chippery works (look at digital cameras).  The Edge is very much aimed at the 'step up from a bike computer' market, and is very neat on the bars.  Personally I don't like the fixed rechargable battery - but many people wouldn't see this as an issue at all.  If you're leaning towards an Edge you'll have to hear from people here who use it!
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.

frankly frankie

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #18 on: October 17, 2011, 11:08:34 am »
I'm a huge fan of my Garmin Oregon which works fine with my Mac.

One thing I would add - given the subject of this thread - is that pretty much all models of GPS seem to get good approval from the people that have them.

I see very few messages of the "I bought this GPS but its rubbish" type, and a lot of messages like Helen's above.
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.

Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #19 on: October 17, 2011, 11:22:29 am »
Thanks Frankie, I wasn't leaning towards the Edge by the way, I was leaning away from that range. As I want maps on screen then only the Edge 800 would fit the bill. But I've also been looking at Etrex, Montana, Oregon, etc. I'm going to try and find somewhere to go and view them as I'm not finding the Garmin site very helpful in getting a feel for how they are and what they do.

I'm also unsure around batteries, part of me likes the idea of AAs.
Nuns, no sense of humour

frankly frankie

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #20 on: October 17, 2011, 11:40:17 am »
They all do the same thing - and they all have the same UI - that's easy!
It's purely a matter of form factor (big screen or small device) and touchscreen or not.  Bearing in mind that the touchscreen models have a resistive screen - iphone they ain't.

FWIW I've been playing with the very new Etrex 30 for several days now and I quite like it, on balance I do think it's an improvement on the older Etrexes (of which I have several ! ).  I've also in the past owned a Dakota (touchscreen model), but didn't get on with it very well, I think if you want to go touchscreen the Oregon would be a much better bet (too big for me though - and the Montana is h-u-g-e).

So I'd suggest it's Etrex 20 or 30 (depending on budget) vs Oregon (mid-range model, don't know the numbers).  They share about 90% in common.  With the Oregon you'll get a bigger but dimmer (assuming no backlight) screen, the Etrex is a smaller box that will perform better in adverse GPS conditions (but this isn't really significant) and have better battery runtime (untested as yet), but the UI isn't so comfortable (because its optimised for touchscreen).  If you're thinking in terms of OS maps (expensive) then definitely the Oregon for its bigger screen - but then there are a few non-Garmin options as well.  The Montana is really a dual-use (car and hike/bike) device.
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.

Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #21 on: October 17, 2011, 11:53:49 am »
Okay, I just did the comparison bit on the Garmin site with Etrex 20, 30 and the Oregon 450t. The differences shown between the two Etrex versions are very minor:-

the 30 has electronic compass, barometric altometer, tide tables and wireless unit to unit transfer - over the 20

The Oregon is slightly bigger and has touchscreen, better resolution, shorter battery life, some preloaded maps, less built in memory, picture viewer and outdoor GPS games(whatever that is)

I don't actually own any touchscreen technology so I don't really know how I feel about that and whether it's the way forward for me. But the Oregon seems to be a fair price jump up over the Etrex, especially if I just go for the 20 version.
Nuns, no sense of humour

Auntie Helen

  • 6 Wheels in Germany
Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #22 on: October 17, 2011, 12:27:27 pm »
I'm a huge fan of my Garmin Oregon which works fine with my Mac.

One thing I would add - given the subject of this thread - is that pretty much all models of GPS seem to get good approval from the people that have them.

I see very few messages of the "I bought this GPS but its rubbish" type, and a lot of messages like Helen's above.
Although this is, of course, a very good point - no-one wants to say "I bought something crap" - I do ride with lots of people with other GPS types (and I used to have an Edge) and find that things seem much easier and quicker for me. Wowbagger has his vista but seems to go off route more easily, doesn't seem able to easily get a Distance To Destination, and it takes much longer for him to browse the map using the button rather than just stroking the screen. I'd never swap my Garmin for his, having seen both a lot, so surely that says something?
My blog on cycling in Germany and eating German cake – http://www.auntiehelen.co.uk


Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #23 on: October 17, 2011, 01:25:10 pm »
Wowbagger has his vista but seems to go off route more easily, doesn't seem able to easily get a Distance To Destination, and it takes much longer for him to browse the map using the button rather than just stroking the screen.

I'd say the first two were a function of the maps - I believe Wow uses OSM.  I don't have those problems using Garmin maps and carefully constructed routes.  DTD is a standard data field, but I can imagine it being useless if the routing has gone to pot.

I'm with you 300% about the scrolling, though.  It's basically useless.  Not so much because of the button interface, which is somewhat clunky, but the lack of CPU power available to render the maps quickly enough for any kind of useful scrolling.  I tend to fall back to paper maps (or Memory Map on my Android phone) for 'big picture' stuff.
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frankly frankie

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Re: Yet another 'which GPS' thread...
« Reply #24 on: October 17, 2011, 01:40:48 pm »
Also the touch screen invites you to scroll the map, so you do - with a non-touchscreen model in normal use, it's not something you really need to do much.
OTOH some people (including me) regard a touchscreen on a bike as a mild safety issue.

The Oregon is slightly bigger and has touchscreen, better resolution, shorter battery life, some preloaded maps, less built in memory, picture viewer and outdoor GPS games(whatever that is)

I would suggest the Oregon is quite a lot bigger.  The button-driven equivalent to the Oregon is actually the GPSMap 62 - the touchscreen equivalent to the Etrex is the Dakota (which is almost exactly the same body size, but still with a bigger screen).  The review thread for the Dakota is here

Memory isn't an issue provided you get a GPS that accepts a memory card - at this stage of the game, I wouldn't recommend any GPS that doesn't (rules out several lower-end models)
It's not dark yet but it's getting there.