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Customer Review

69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly accurate GPS, with a bright screen - and horribly expensive maps, 11 April 2014
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This review is from: Garmin Oregon 600 Handheld GPS (Wireless Phone Accessory)
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I've been using an old Garmin eTrex GPS for years. The Garmin Oregon 600 is a massive step forward from the eTrex. The technological leap is the equivalent of moving straight from a Nokia 5110 mobile phone to an iPhone 5 - the additional functionality, the readability of the screen and the ease of use are initially a bit overwhelming. Unfortunately there's a bit of a learning curve too.

Firstly, it has a touch-screen, and its in colour. Secondly, it connects easily to my PC, using standard (mini) USB connector. Thirdly, you can download maps, and this alone makes a massive difference to the usability. Be aware however that maps cost money - you may like to consider buying the version of this GPS that has Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 maps preinstalled, if it is available. I'll come back to maps in a minute.

For folks that haven't used a GPS before, its important to note that the positioning offered by a device like this is far more accurate than a mobile phone. I'm not sure why this is, but I assume it is tracking more satellites than a mobile phone can manage.

Almost all the functionality comes from little app icons. There are four on the home screen and you can swipe up from the bottom to see more. For Geocachers, you can enter coordinates easily (choose the "Where to" icon, and then "Coordinates", and enter the coordinates in decimal format (hddd mm.mmm) - you can reconfigure the device to use hddd.ddddd or hddd mm ss.s formats if your geocaches use those formats, or you can use the Ordnance Survey National Grid format. There's built-in support for Opencaching geocaches, but there aren't any of those near where I live.

Configuring units doesn't allow for the hybrid that we use in Britain (with miles on roadsigns but all other distances measures in kilometres and metres). For walking, kilometres are probably the best bet.

Physically, the device comes with a detachable carabiner. There is no belt-clip (the thing on the back looks like a belt-clip, but it isn't). You need to remove the carabiner to access the USB port, which is annoying - its far too easy to mislay the dratted thing when you're uploading your tracks to your laptop. It is allegedly water-resistant up to 1 metre, although you do need to dry out the USB connector before you use it it is has become wet. I have not tried this out, and I don't intend to. It takes two AA batteries, which can be lithium rechargeables or can be normal alkaline. I've bought some rechargeables, but the two Duracell Plus alkaline batteries that I initially fitted are still going strong after a couple of weeks of intermittent use. If you connect the GPS to a USB charger, it runs off that instead of the batteries.

Screen brightness is very good, even in bright sunlight. If you press the on-off button briefly, it takes you to a brightness-adjust screen that also shows you the time till sunset, your altitude and how far you have travelled in the current trip. Pressing the second button on the side marks a waypoint (you can name your waypoints easily using the touch-screen). Some Oregon GPSes have a camera; this one doesn't.

Now, back to the maps. If you live in the UK, you will almost certainly want to use Ordnance Survey maps. The basic vector maps you get preinstalled on this version of the Oregon 600 are pretty poor, just showing major roads and placenames. Ordnance Survey offers a free 1:250,000 map of the whole of the UK, and Garmin has helpfully made it available for download - but only to the PC Basecamp software. You can't install it on your GPS device. I can only assume that this is to force you to buy maps from Garmin: I suspect that maps probably make as much for Garmin as the GPS devices themselves.

For maps to install on your device you have two choices. There are "Maps" - which you can either download from Garmin or buy from Amazon (on a micro SD card that fits into your Garmin under the battery). They include the reasonably-priced Garmin City Navigator NT Maps UK/Ireland 2012 SD/microSD card - 010-10691-00, which sounds like it would be fine for vehicle-based use or Garmin GB Discoverer (All of Great Britain,1:50K), which is the equivalent of a complete set of the purple-fronted 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey Landranger maps. Unfortunately, the maps are a few years out-of-date now - presumably an updated version is due soon.

The alternative sort of map, which Garmin calls "BirdsEye", is the one you really want, the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer series. And here's the catch. You can't just buy the whole of Britain at this level of detail. You need to set up a Garmin account and buy a multiple of 1,500 square kilometres of the map which you can then select in the BaseCamp program and download. You don't have to select one big area: you can make multiple selections, and they don't need to be rectangular (you could presumably buy a narrow strip map all along the Pennine Way, for example - this is where that free 1:250,000 map comes in handy, because it lets you select the area you want to download more precisely). Once downloaded you can send them to your device. Its great having this sort of map on your GPS, but the price is really a bit steep. And its a pain having to buy the maps little by little rather than just buying the whole of Britain in one go.

Whichever maps you choose, they are linked to one GPS device only, which makes them seem even more expensive. As I said earlier, its worth looking at what preloaded maps you can get with this device, although the version with the Ordnance Survey Landranger maps preinstalled seems to have been discontinued.

This really is a brilliant little GPS. It's superbly accurate, and the screen really is visible in bright sunlight. I do wish the Ordnance Survey Explorer maps were a bit easier and cheaper to install, but that's really my only complaint.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Aug 2015 09:41:45 BDT
Alan Gent says:
If I buy the version with the UK map, is that the 1:50000 version and is it good enough for walking? I always use 1:25000 maps for walking in the UK.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Aug 2015 10:40:08 BDT
Peter says:
Hi Alan. No, this page doesn't currently show the version that comes with the Ordnance Survey Discoverer map series. This alternate version includes the 1:50,000 map series as a bundle: Garmin Oregon 600 Handheld GPS Navigation Unit With GB Discoverer Bundle - One.

The 1:50,000 series is just about adequate for walking if you're following marked footpaths, but if you're doing anything remotely adventurous, I'd strongly recommend using the 1:25,000 series, which includes important detail like field boundaries. Unfortunately, with Garmin that means buying the maps in 1,500 square kilometre parcels, and that can get very expensive if you're not always walking in the same places. You could opt to mix-and-match: buy the whole-country 1:50,000 version for coverage, and then buy the 1:25,000 map parcels to cover the areas you're particularly interested in in more detail.
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Peter
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 149