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Battery Satellite

June 17th, 2007

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What king of handheld recreational GPS system is the best of all?

I am looking to buy a recreational GPS to go geocaching with and I was just wanting to know what kind was the top of the line system to get before I buy one and it's not worth the money.

At the time of this writing there are three main brands to consider: Garmin, Lowrance, and Magellan.

Of the three, I would heavily consider Garmin and Lowrance. Magellans tend to get a very bad rap among geocachers(I'm not exactly sure why as I have never used a Magellan). However, I do have the blue Garmin Etrex. This unit has been great for my geocaching needs. It has good accuracy, a data transfer cable(I think this is a MUST) so I don't have to input the co-ordinates by hand, and good battery life. If you wanted a FANCY model I suggest checking out a Garmin 60cx.

I also do not have much experience with the Lowrance brand but have heard really good things about them. Here is a review about one from a geocacher named ICHTHYS -

"Here are some first impressions of the new unit. I owned a Garmin Legend for 2 years and have used a 60CX only a little bit.

I purchased a Lowrance H2O C from Cascade GPS. I ordered it on Friday and got it today. It was well packaged.

Out of the box my wife said it didn't look as good as my last GPS, but I think it looks nice.

The screen is very nice, is large and the high resolution color is excellent. Without the back light on the screen is kind of dark, but once the back light is turned on the screen is very bright and easy to see. The contrast and brightness can be changed and it also had settings for nighttime and high contrast. There are also several settings for how long the back light stays on before turning off automatically.

The unit comes with a 12 volt plug to use in the car. This is a nice feature that you don't have to buy extra. One thing I am VERY happy with is that when you unplug the car adapter the unit automatically switches to battery use. With my old Legend when the power from the car adapter (which is sold separately) is lost either by unplugging it or the connection being loose the power shuts off in 30secs unless you hit a button. But did I ever hit the button on time? No of course not, so I would have to power the unit back on and wait for it to find satellites again. Also, when the unit is powered by the car adapter the back light stays on, even though I had it set to turn off in 15secs. This is a nice feature that overrides the auto-off setting when running on batteries.

Satellite acquisition was lightning fast. When you first power on a GPS or have moved more than 100 miles from your last location it can take a few minutes for the GPS to find you as it has to figure out what satellites to look for. With this new unit it told me it had a position fix and 4 satellites within seconds of the startup screen finishing up. Initial location finding took maybe 20-30 secs tops. I also turned the GPS off and drove several miles to a new location and then turned the GPS back on again. I had signal acquisition by the time the start up screen was done. The GPS had satellite fix within 5 secs or so. Very nice.

I used the unit sitting in my car. With the unit sitting on the front seat surrounded by a computer, radio, radar and other electrical equipment it still found and held several satellites. My Legend would lose all satellites if it wasn't in the front windshield. The H2O C also held satellites under the all metal canopy we park our patrol cars under. It held a signal in my house until I went into the basement. Under tree cover it performed very well also.

I found the menus and options easy to use and they were not confusing. Even after using a Garmin for 2 years I was easily navigating through the menus and settings of my new GPS with ease.

This unit can be customized to show the info you want very easily but I found the documentation of what some of the acronyms and settings meant or would display lacking. With trial and error I figured them out. This could be improved upon.

The manual is approx 120 pages long and holds a lot of info, but some information is missing. For instance, each page can be customized to show certain information like speed, bearing, EPE etc, but there is no documentation on what this data means and what it will display if you choose it. Some trial and error figures it out, but documentation in the manual would be nicer.

I haven't found any Geocaches with it yet, I was working after all. So I don't know how that will go. But that is a situation where no GPS is going to lead you right to the cache every time. I placed a cache that I used a 60cx to average 250 waypoints to get the location of the first stage. A week later another cacher with a 60cx told me the coords were off by maybe 20-30 feet. Well that's caching for you folks, so I am not expecting to be walking up to and not having to actually search for caches with this new unit.

But it will hold a lock very well so signal loss will not be what I am cursing in the woods, only my own ineptitude to find the cache!

All in all I am very, very happy with my purchase and the H2O C is a great value for the dollar as mine only cost $220 shipped.

I don't have the MapCreate program that has the maps, I am holding out for the newest version that I am told is in the works. So when I get that I can let you know how all that goes also. I am looking forward to using the SD memory card capability in the near future."

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