Top positive review
61 of 62 people found this helpful
Great device for geocaching
on 26 October 2009
First things first, this GPS receiver is really targetted at the outdoor enthusiast and is not really intended for in car use. If you are looking for an in car navigation device, then I suggest you look elsewhere. If you are a Garmin fan, the NUVI series are pretty good. These in car devices are both cheaper and more appropriate than this device. If you are looking for a device for walking, geocaching, cycling etc, then read on.
I have the 550 model - the one without the maps. I find the software based maps of limited use (prefering to use the real paper based ones in the mountains) and find the free maps from the OpenStreetMap initiative more than adequate for my needs. They have contours and paths as well as routable roads and Points of Interest (POIs). The whole of the UK comes in at around 250MB, so it will easily fit on the SD card in the device. A quick internet search will take you to the appropriate download page.
The device boots up quickly and seems pretty accurate. I bought this device specifically for geocaching (more on this later) and currently use a GPSMAP60csx. The Oregon seems as accurate as the 60csx and works well under tree cover. The device is easy to set up and configure - everyone seems to set theirs up in a slightly different way.
For geocaching, it is a really great device. You can run a pocket query on geocaching.com (you need to be a premium member to do this) and can then load the subsequent GPX file onto the device (this involves copying it into a directory on the device). The GPX file contains all the information you need for each cache - description, location, previous logs and even the hint. Using this approach, I have loaded up all of the caches within a 20 mile radius of home. It means no more printed out pages and enbles me to look for caches on an adhoc basis. It is even possible to log your attempts on the device and then upload the file to geocaching.com. These attempts can even contain field notes. This comes into it's own when you are logging a number of caches per day or logging caches over a number of days before you can log them on the internet.
So, now the not so good features. More niggles than anything, but here there are! The user interface is a bit cumbersome. The use of a touchscreen has led to a very convulted UI. For example, when geocaching I often flip between the map page, the compass page and the cache description page. Each time you move between pages, you need to go back upto the main menu. On the 60csx, you can just flip between the screens. Another thing to bear in mind for geocachers is that if you put the answers to clues into your field notes on the device, these cannot be read on the device. You have to load them up to the internet to be able to access them. So if you are looking for a bonus cache and want to do the calculation in the field, then take a paper and pen with you.
Battery life on AA alkalines is pretty poor, but much more respectable on the rechargable NiMHs supplied with the unit. You can use battery saving mode to extend the life of the batteries, but this just turns the screen off after every few seconds and gets annoying. I can spare alkaline AAs as backups for the rechargables.
The unit will run off power supplied to it via the mini USB cable, but it will not charge the batteries via this cable. Shame.
The touchscreen can be difficult to see in bright sunlight and can be scratched. I already have a scratch on my unit, but then I tend to leave it loose in a rucsac pocket.
The 550 does have a 3.2MB pixel camera, but it is pretty limited in terms of camera controls. My advice is don't leave your camera at home. However, if you do, you could use the 550 at a push. The good news is that it does store location data with each of the picture that you take. Thus, when you browse through the images in the album, you can navigate back to that location. I haven't had any reason to use this feature, but I can imagine that there are other users out there who might have a need for this.
All in all a great device. I am hoping that Garmin will improve the UI and this will be available through software updates.