on August 29, 2010
I have owned the Oregon 550T for a year now and I think I have used every of its most important features, accessories and software. My overall rating is that there is room for improvement, its accessories are very expensive but it is one of the top hiking GPS products compared to others. There is so much stuff that can be reviewed so I'll try to cover purchasing decision factors and how-to tips that I think will be valuable for the ones looking for real and tested decision information.
- ACCURACY: I have used my Oregon mostly in the Shenandoah, VA area and have done hiking in South America as well. One point in behalf of the Oregon is its ability to quickly pick satellite reception and pinpoint your location. I have noticed though that when you drastically change your location, let's say North American vs. South America, the GPS will need more time to discover the satellites in that area, but after that, it reconnects quickly.
One not pleasant detail is that even when you walk back and forth over the same trail and spot, the GPS shows your tracks several feet apart. The accuracy of the GPS from my measurements is around 25 feet and often more. You may want to remember this when hiking and trying to find the trail the GPS tells you is there. You may find it 25 feet "around" you and not exactly in the direction the GPS is telling you it is. I think its accuracy requires improvement.
Initially I thought this is a problem in my GPS so I contacted Garmin's support and I was told basically what I suspected. The accuracy is not 2 or 3 feet but a whole lot more. I think is not too different to a car GPS in this regards. I also found that once you tap on the satellite signal in the GPS it will provide you the GPS accuracy which often displays a number between 30 and 49. To me this is something that requires urgent improvement. The mission of a GPS is ultimately let you know where your trails are, not providing accurate information is failing to its basic mission.
- MAPS AND PRELOADED MAP: The Oregon 550T comes preloaded with the US Topo 100K. This is a very low detail map. My experience tells me that many well-known park trails are missing, camp information is missing and basic routes are missing as well. It is just an awfully basic, high level map. I felt very disappointed to know that my over 500+ bucks didn't give me anything better so I contacted Garmin regarding this. I wanted something with more details so they kindly recommended me to get the Garmin Topo US 24K DVD for my area (Southeast DVD) which is $129.99 or an BirdsEye imagery subscription for one year (more about this last one later in my review) but they require of purchasing an additional microSD Card. Expenditures continue.
- ADDITIONAL CARD: Technical support told me that the maximum microSD card supported by the Oregon 550t is 4GB so I got one. Make sure to review the microSD card speed before you buy it. There are several speeds, make sure to get the fastest possible to make sure uploading and downloading data doesn't becomes mission impossible. Installation of the card is hassle free and it got it in quickly. There is very little you can do with the card and the GPS alone if you don't have the necessary software tools to move maps around with your GPS. I'll talk about that later in my review.
- OTHER MAPS, DVDS OR CARDS OR WHAT: If you have been browsing Garmin's website you may have noticed an interesting assortment of products. They have the same maps in several formats: DVD, microSD and download. I contacted support and ask them what format is more convenient and why. Michael S from their technical team gave me this great answer: "Thank you for contacting Garmin International. I would be happy to assist you with this. For most of our maps there are typically 3 options: Getting a disk, doing the download or getting the preprogrammed data card. When you get the disk you have these on both the computer and the unit. You can load these Topo maps onto as many Garmin mapping handhelds that you own since it is not a locked product. With the preprogrammed data card, the maps are just on the card. They cannot be viewed on the computer unless the Oregon is plugged in and Basecamp is running. They also cannot be backed up. It can be put into any Garmin unit that accepts microSD/SD cards as it is not locked to a particular unit, but it can only be in one unit at one time. With the downloadable content, it is downloaded directly to your microSD card. The map can be backed up on the computer, but it cannot be viewed on the computer unless the Oregon is plugged in and Basecamp is running. The map is also locked to the unit you downloaded it to, and cannot be viewed in any other Garmin unit. As for the DVD version of the 24k Mid-Atlantic, the DVD is still forthcoming and will include both the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. The part number for the DVD is 010-11319-00 and will be $129.99. If you have any other questions, please let me know. "
Well, as you can see from this answer you better get the DVD. If you have not purchased the GPS, you may want to plan on adding 130 bucks to your budget if you are planning to hike places you are not familiar with because the preloaded US Topo 100K is too high level.
- THE CAMERA AND DIGITAL ZOOM: When I read that the Oregon can geotag pictures with the location of the shot I got excited. For a minute I was thinking the camera can imprint this information in the picture itself like many digital cameras can do with the date/time stamp. I was wrong, there isn't such thing as that. When you take pictures, information is recoded and kept in the GPS. You can download the pictures using BaseCamp and then upload the pictures to an album in Picassa, and then when you click the picture, geolocation information will be displayed in a text field but not in the picture. I think there is misleading information here, this is what Garmin claims in their website: "Each photo is geotagged automatically with the location of where it was taken". Instead it should say: "Geolocation information is saved in the GPS every time you take a picture. No photo geolocation stamp is available".
Well, aside this fiasco, I find the GPS camera not to be that incredible, just a little phone-like camera without real zoom or wide angle. It will take pictures but any other digital camera will be able to do a better job.
- SUN LIGHT READABILITY: I have been hiking at sunlight and under the forest. I prefer to create a little shade to better read the Oregon. I believe that still you can read it under sunlight. Yes it is not going to be incredible clear but what can be brighter that direct sunlight? The screen can be read better under shady conditions but can handle sunlight well enough to keep you moving and oriented.
- TOUCH SCREEN: The touch screen is really nice. It feels a little like an iPhone. You can tap on the icons and move the screens from side to side, reorganize the icons and move around. You also have buttons to do exactly the same so you can choose.
- DURABLE AND WATERPROOF: The unit is impressively light and it seems rugged but I don't have any plans of testing its durability any further. I just feel that messing with a very expensive toy like this doesn't meet the requirements of my curiosity. The unit also claims to be waterproof and I have seen some demos in YouTube where the unit is operated under the water. Well, the unit connects to a PC using a USB cable and the connector is at the bottom of the device. A little cap is all what will prevent your unit from getting wet. I'm positive the unit will endure some exposure to rain and hopefully will survive a fall to a river. Make sure to keep the USB connector cap well adjusted.
- DOWNLOADING DATA - MAPSOURCE: So you went for your first hike and you recorded your tracks in your GPS. But how do you download this data to your computer? The answer is MapSource. In order to get MapSource installed you need to have a Garmin product previously installed. So install Training Center and then install MapSource. Just Google these names and the word `download' to find them. They are available at Garmin's website and thanks goodness they are free. With this software you can download data from your GPS and review the details of your tracks, modify titles, waypoints and so on. Then you can export your file as .GPX for future use or upload it to some websites. MapSource can compute the profile of your hike and other interesting data.
If you want to see your track in Google Maps or Earth, try using GPS Visualizer [...]. These cool guys created this program that allows importing GPX files into Google and presenting it all together. I also like [...], you can download your GPX data, it will process it and get your the ascent profile, speed, etc. Your GPX data will become available to anyone and you can download files for your GPS as well. Try this example: [...]
While trying to find a way to create my own maps I found TOPO! a National Geographic Product. You can create the topo maps of your hikes and print them out or get the PDF version of them and send them to your friends or just save them for future reference. TOPO! costs 50 bucks. The quality of the Topo maps is so bad but I couldn't find anything better. I hope one day you can merge your GPX files with Google Earth in terrain mode in one tool. Google Earth is still the best Topo maps I have found.
The last tool I want to mention is EasyGPS, a nice small program that will allow you to download and upload GPX files to your GPS and browse the tracks on the screen. It allows some basic editing. I find MapSource a lot better.
- BIRDSEYE IMAGERY AND BASECAMP: For those places where real maps are not available, Garmin offers you the BirdsEye Imagery subscription. It is 30 bucks a year and it only works with one device. BirdsEye imagery is just satellite images (like Google Earth) that you can download to your GPS. BaseCamp is the software that will allow you to download imagery to your computer and create a library. From your library of images you can right click images and upload them to your device. In your device and while hiking they will look like an additional layer. It is nice if the areas you will be hiking don't have a lot of trees. The quality of the images is good but if you plan on downloading a lot of them make sure to get the 4GB microSD and some patience. You cannot download large sections but tiny sections and one at the time.
- BATTERIES AND CHARGER: I'm glad I got a nice couple of rechargeable batteries and the charger in the box. No complains here, I charge the batteries the night before hiking and they last all day long easily. I haven't noticed them drain out because of lack of use. They go strong for long periods of time.
So as you can see it is a very expensive device and although it has some deficiencies it is probably the best of its class. I have compared my Oregon to other GPS devices of fellow hikers and the Oregon seems to be better in many aspects, not perfect but just better.
Well I hope you found in this review enough information to make an educated decision. Happy hiking!
on May 6, 2010
As of May 6, 2010 I have had and used this product extensively for about six weeks. The software on the unit has been updated to the latest which is version 3.40. I do a lot of cross-country driving and I go off road several times a week especially in remote locations with no trails.
For those that do not wish to read the rest of this review let me just say that THE OREGON IS AWESOME and I recommend it to anyone for both On-Road and Off-Road.
Runs on AA batteries which is a godsend when traveling as you can purchase them anywhere around the world. You can also utilize rechargeable batteries. Keep in mind the unit will not recharge batteries but you can make your unit run off of external power conserving your batteries. You can utilize any charger with a USB connection to do this. You must however have the unit set up to Garmin Spanner in Setup>System>Interface setting configured, otherwise the unit will go into USB mass storage mode and you will not be able to use the GPS.
This unit will support navigating to geo-tag photographs. This technology is becoming more prevalent as more and more digital cameras are now geo-tagging their photographs. Not to mention Google has a ton of geo-tagged photographs that one can download. Now if you ever find a photograph you like that is geo-tagged all you have to do is click on the picture in your Oregon and it will take you directly to the spot where the picture was taken.
The size of the Oregon is amazing and it will fit into a pocket quite easily and comfortably which may not be an issue when you're outdoors and have a pack but when you are walking the city streets it is a huge advantage over the Garmin 60csx.
Let me just say I have owned the Garmin 60csx as well and I will make some important comparisons to that unit that are relevant for everyday use. Please note that the Garmin 60csx is also a phenomenal GPS and this review is not meant to discredit the unit in anyway.
Let's get to the point of accuracy. Plain and simple the Oregon is not as accurate as the 60csx. Having said that it is plenty accurate. In most situations I will get around 13 feet of accuracy on the road on the Oregon. The 60csx in a similar environment will get about 9 feet of accuracy. For driving it is not that big of a deal. For outdoor use in most situations it makes no difference. This unit will lock on to satellites indoors in most structures just like the 60csx.
As far as locking onto a signal I never have problems with the Oregon. The first time out of the box took maybe 2 minutes for it to lock on. Ever since then it takes less than 2 seconds even when I have a few days that goes by without using the unit which is not often since I love my Oregon.
Addressing the screen. As far as brightness goes, again the 60csx is definitely brighter in direct sunlight. In other environments you really cannot tell the difference. What most people don't realize is that the Oregon screen has a much higher resolution then the 60csx which is a lot more crucial for reading topographical maps and for general navigation. It is because of this higher resolution screen that you have less brightness associated with the Oregon.
The brightness in direct sunlight is not an issue for me with the Oregon as a matter of fact I turn the brightness down to zero and the display can be read perfectly well in direct sunlight (you will have to play with the angles in which you view the device more so than with the 60csx). The capability of having a touch screen is a huge advantage over the 60csx in my opinion. The one thing that the Oregon doesn't have is a dedicated Mark Waypoint button that I miss from my 60csx, this is a huge feature missing from the Oregon.
The actual software is pretty good on the Oregon however I wish it would have used some of the neat features they developed for the 60csx. Having said that the software and the trip computer are for the most part completely customizable. There are too many to get into in this short of a review but there is plenty of information comparing the two software versions on the Internet.
The Oregon does have profiles which can be set and this is very useful not only for setting up the GPS for different environments such as Off-Road and On-Road navigation but also for the preferences of different users.
To anyone interested in how this unit performs in the car the answer is simple, GREAT. I have no issues for using the Oregon to navigate the roadways anywhere I go. Although the Oregon does not speak the street names it will give an audio beep for upcoming important notifications. You can have custom POI. You can have proximity alerts.
There are routable maps available which means the unit will notify you when you need to make turns and on what side your destination is located on. You can send addresses from Google maps directly to the unit with the Garmin plug-in installed.
Off-Road this thing is AMAZING. In a lot of the aspects I liked it a lot more than the 60csx. I have had no issues with the unit off road. I will not comment more on Off-Road use as there are a lot of other positive reviews addressing the Off-Road capabilities of this unit.
The 3-axis Compass is AMAZING. It works phenomenally well and is extremely useful. One thing that I love is that you can actually insert it into the trip computer which for me works a lot better than the dedicated compass screen as you can see a lot more useful information along with the Compass.
This unit is marine capable but I have not tested the unit out on the open water.
For the most part the Altimeter on the Oregon is completely useless.
on April 7, 2010
Received my Oregon 450T on April 2. Setup was very straight forward and within minutes I was downloading geochaches directly off the computer....way too cool not having to print pages, manually type coordinates etc. The touch screen is great, very similar to ipod or iphone and common sense oriented. Screen view quality is very good and don't understand other reviews on Oregons I've read that rated this poor for the screen view. The 3 axis compass worked great and is a huge improvement over older gps's. Overall I was very happy with this product until:
After 4-5 hours playing with this, I set the unit down while still "on" to see how long the batteries would last. Next morning, I picked up the unit, touched the screen and got a low bat warning as expected. Shut the unit off, installed new bateries, turneed "on" and the unit automatically went into DEMO Mode and locked up. The unit in the demo mode would not connect to my laptop for software updates etc. Called Garmin tech support, was on hold for 25 min. before getting a tech on the line. The tech asked me to do a number of things that didn't work before asking me to hold another 10 min. for a different PC Tech. After another 20 min on hold, the new tech had no idea what to do stating that this is a hardware issue, maybe a demo unit or something and told me to just return the product to Amazon. Not impressed with Garmin tech support. After googling this issue, I found multiple forum discussions with the same problem. Seems logical that Garmin Tech's should have been more informed on this issue, especially since there's a firmware upgrade in the system to fix this.
Ordered a replacement from Amazon. I plan to download the new firmware (if needed) then do the very same setup and battery check to see if it locks up as well. Overall, think this is a great product, but, feel that Garmin is using their customers as "beta testers" instead of loyal customers. My confidence in product reliability to take this GPS on a Backpack trip or Elk Hunt is nil at this point. This product is a great geocache toy, but, will stick to my old Magellan for any serious treking.
on July 27, 2009
After using the 550t for several weeks, I find the unit good but not perfect. It still has some issues, one of which I have been in touch with Garmin over. The main issue I have is it will periodically corrupt the track file and stop showing the tracks on the map or allowing for elevation plots on the tracks. The only way to clear it is to attach the unit to a computer and replace the track file with a new one from the computer.
The compass sometimes loses it's way and needs to be recalibrated.
I have not had an issue with the accuracy under tree cover, that some have reported, but I have had a few tracks that were not 100% accurate. Walking on known roads, it will be several 100 feet off in some cases. I am not sure if this is an issue with the preloaded Topo 2008 maps, or the unit's accuracy.
I love the camera and the tagging of each photo.
For a new unit, it is not bad, but it still shows a few rough edges.
Just an update - After comparing the tracks for accuracy, I found it was the 2008 Topo maps that were off. When superimposed over the City Navigator NT 2009 Street maps, the 550t was dead on. So the accuracy concerns I have are shifted from the 550t itself to the topo maps it comes loaded with.
on July 3, 2010
Very easy to use addition to the Garmin product line. I've owned many Garmin units in the past, including most recently a GPS 60CSx, and this is best so far. Definitely recommend it for someone looking for a first unit to enhance their outdoor experiences.
I use GPS units for a variety of activities: hiking, mountaineering, geocaching and search and rescue activities. This unit serves me well for these activities.
Though the unit has a touch screen don't immediatly think "like an iPhone." The screen is not multi-touch so you are limited to selecting icons displayed and to panning the map.
One of the biggest complaints other have had about this unit is screen visibility in bright light. No screen is going to be easy to view in directy sunlight, but I've actually found this unit to have better contrast/visibility on sunny days than my 60CSx. The trick is to hold it so that you don't have the sun directly on the face of the unit and to take off your sunglasses.
Quick summary of other pro's and con's:
- Very easy to use
- Fast acquisition time
- Ability to re-arrange icon's in the screen layout
- Ability to customize for different uses
- Built-in digital elevation model
- Different types of maps available (but they will cost you)
- Large, expandable memory
- Long battery life, especially with lithium batteries
- Touch screen is balky if the unit is cold or wet, and doesn't respond well if you are wearing gloves
- Cost of Garmin's additional maps and imagery: Garmin should take Delorme's lead and offer a yearly subscription service that allows for one to download maps and imagery of interest versus insisting on $100 DVD's or SD cards for their users and the $30 Birdseye subscription for aerial imagery. For that same $30 from Delorme you get unlimited annual downloads of maps and aerial images, plus a better software package.
- Multiple, confusing software and web-based service offerings (MapSource, Basecamp, MyGarmin...). Create an integrated package
on March 9, 2010
Bought this as an upgrade from a Oregon 300. I wanted the topographical maps preinstalled so that I could still have the memory slot available for a data card. The screen on this unit is better than that on my 300 in bright sunlight and the high-speed USB port transfers maps and images much faster. I still use my 300, but give it too my wife so she can link with me and share maps, waypoints etc.
I noticed that another reviewer of this item gave it rather low marks. It was obvious after reading the review that the unit was purchsed for automobile navigation. THIS IS A HANDHELD UNIT! It is not intended for auto navigation but for activities such as geocaching, hiking, etc. Go to GARMIN's site and select the GPS based on your primary usage. GARMIN's road navigation units still have all of the excellent features that people need for this type of use.
The only reason that I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 is that I wish GARMIN would build in the capabilities to charge the Ni/Mh batteries in the unit when it is plugged into a USB port.
on August 22, 2009
I recently just bought 2 new Garmin GPS units to upgrade my aging Garmin Legend (Original Model). I was hesitant to purchase the Oregon due to the mediocre reviews on Amazon, but ultimately I decided to take a chance.
First I bought the Garmin Dakota 20, and I really liked it. Small, Battery Efficient, Easy to Use, and Paperless Geocaching using the touchscreen. Good stuff. I called my friend who likes to have the latest and greatest, and he told me he had purchased the Oregon 400t when it first came out last year. I took a drive to his house to compare it to my new Dakota 20... Very similar in capabilities, only smaller and less resolution on the screen. After seeing his unit, and how well it ran I found myself craving the higher resolution screen, and 3D Terrain features, so I went up and bought another one, this one, the Garmin Oregon 550. I decided against buying the Oregon 550t because the 550 had a little deeper discount than the "t" version. Ultimately I chose to purchase the 550 since it was around $60 off retail, VS. only $1 less than retail on the 550t. I figured I could add the TOPO maps later. Plus I had also just purchased the Dakota 20, and the $160 difference in cost was sounding pretty good. I have completely busted my mad money for now.
Ultimately I find this unit to be right in line with all of the other Oregon models software wise... it works exactly the same way. So go and read some reviews on the other Oregon models sine this unit doesn't have many reviews yet. It is VERY similar in capabilities, but this one has a few added goodies.. 3 Axis Compass + 3.2MP GEOTagging Camera (Good stuff)...
Another observation between the new 550 and 550t models... Garmin's specs say the these models have equivalent storage, but in fact this is not the case, the 850MB seen in the specs relates to the free space after taking into account the included maps. In reality it is more like 550 = 1GB, 550t=4GB internal memory. Mostly a non-issue since both have a Micro-SD slot behind the battery, which happily accepted an inexpensive 4GB SDHC card, and since SDHC was supported I would expect you could add an even larger one.
Like the other reviewer stated I noticed that the roads on Garmin's 2008 TOPO maps are slightly off.. this is easily recognizable if you load a driving map, calculate a route, and then disable the driving map, you will see the driving route is not exactly on the road. To me this is all the more reason to just get the 550 model (at this point) without the TOPO maps. You can add them later once the road data is fixed. On second thought, the TOPO features themselves on the 2008 map seem fine, only the road data is a little off, so if you are using the maps as they are intended this is probably a non-issue. At the time I just felt like the 550 was a better bargain, only $90 more than the Dakota 20 I had just purchased, which also was still at the full $350 retail price since it is still a brand new model.
The only other glitch was with the Compass calibration, which went haywire for a moment, but resolved itself after a reset, and hasn't happened since. We'll see if it becomes an issue.. but I doubt it. The reset was very fast as this unit boots up very quickly.
I decided to make these purchases since my girlfriend has expressed an interest in "Re-Taking Up Geocaching", we really haven't done it in a while (Since '02), and its such a great outdoor activity. The original point in making these purchases was the ease at which you can add Geocaches into the unit directly from the website with a single mouse click. She was having trouble getting used to adding the co-ordinates into the old Garmin Legend with that tiny joystick, it was VERY TEDIOUS.
So now she has the Dakota 20, and I have the Oregon 550, and we can easily transfer geocaches back and forth wirelessly, and it is easy as pie to download them from [...].
To me, these new Garmins are a huge upgrade from my old "Legend", and they are waterproof and rugged as ever.
I would have given this product 5 stars had it not been for the couple of small glitches, which I expect will be fixed in the future via a firmware update / map update from Garmin.
Truely.. the new touchscreen Garmin units are to GPS's, as the iPhone is to mobile phones. In a class by itself.
on September 7, 2009
So, I've used this device on a regular basis for over a year and it has definitely become a "don't leave for the woods without it" device. My initial complaint about battery life is still valid, but as I understand it, fast battery drain is a GPS device characteristic. To be sure, the battery indicator has a life of its own, run the battery down until the indicator goes red and you'll be fine. Just carry spares. That being said, I still dont have much faith in the re-chargeables. The other complaint, loosing waypoints, has vaporized. I'm not doing anything different so I'm assuming the firmware updates took care of it. I still like how this thing feels in my hand and it is DEFINITELY rugged. At one point I had hung it from the hand on the dog leash and the dog suddenly yanked the leash out of my hand and charged down the trail; garmin bouncing. The silicon rubber housing barely registered the abuse. Another incident; I'd snapped it to a D ring on my back pack and while lunching on a rock in the creek the back pack had kind of slipped off the rock and was part in the water, 550 fully immersed. NO problem. Also, the geotagging camera is very addictive. Pictures that place them selves on a map. How did we ever do without that?
end of update
Having "played" with this device for few weeks now, i'm still not convinced it was worth the money.
Mostly there's the trust issue, I'm not entirely sure I can trust it. I've repeatedly lost waypoints. I feel REALLY naked without a fix point of where I parked my truck and I'd like to be able to get a fix to the last waypoint, which works fine as long as you have the waypoint. If you loose the waypoint, you are well, kind of lost. Seems like the only reliable waypoint you can have (at least I haven't lost one yet) is to take a picture. Problem is that taking pictures burns batteries even quicker and batterylife is a real issue with this device. real issue. waas off, compass off, back light low and time out set to a few seconds, you still burn batteries FAST. and what is worse is that it is more like catastrophic failure than a slow decline, one moment you have 5 bars of battery and the next, its panic time. Not sure I understand this, what I do understand is that lithium batteries are kind of pricey. Forget the nihm batteries that comes with the device,I've no good experiences with those. If you are going anywhere without paved roads and cell coverage be sure to bring an 8 pack of lithium batteries, may just save theday. Also, bring a back up device, if I haven't been there before I save the truck's location on the Nuvi and bring that too, then I pull out the nuvi and save a waypoint occasionally. That has saved me before and seems 100% reliable. The oregon ? not so much.
Back to the waypoints,I've had TWO issues with waypoints, one of which I opened a ticket for (with Garmin) and another one I'm just going to wonder about,I can't reproduce it at will. Occasionally when you save the current track the waypoints dissapear. Garmin suggested I do a device reset. Has happened twice after that. The other issue is probably even worse, save a waypoint, just tag it with the default name (an incrementing number#, 1 for the first, 2 for the second and so on.. then find out that while the counter incremented you have NO waypoints saved. Thank goodness I found that out in a place I've been before. And today it failed to connect to my lap top. Had to do another device reset. YAY!
Its a pretty device though, and it feels good in the hand, has real potential if they fix the issues. I really DO like the waypoint function, it is by far the easest, fastest waypoint save around, just fix the reliability issues. That has got to be a software issue.
ONE feature I REALLY like: the trip timer, very addictive.
on February 25, 2011
I am a hiker in Oregon, USA and needed an upgrade to my Magellan 315 GPS. I read the reviews and decided on the Oregon 450t. OMG what a mistake!
I have a favorite spot to hike in Central Oregon and wanted to get a topo view of the area by scrolling around on the (provided) map on the 450t. After TWO HOURS trying to scroll from Portland to my area, I was UNABLE to do it. WTF!? As I was sliding my finger across the screen to move the map, the display would suddenly and unexpectedly flip to show North at the bottom of the screen or to the right (normally North is at the top). OK, well I can probably deal with that by resuming my scrolling in a different direction. After scrolling a bit more, all of a sudden the big red pin would show up in the middle of the screen. Again, WTF? (I found that by pressing the "X" I could get rid of the large red pin in the middle of the screen.) Still trying to move to my intended destination by sliding the map, all of a sudden I would "transport" hundreds of miles to the West and be viewing the coast near Astoria!
Why should this unit be so incredibly difficult to use? I can't even imagine the frustration I would have felt in the field if I had not attempted to use it at home first.
In the end, I found it all but unusable as a map/topo tool. I am very, very disappointed with the usability of this unit. I did rate the quality as good because it appears to be solid, but rated the usability as poor.
I use Google Earth on my server and wow, wouldn't it be nice to have something like THAT on a hand-held unit!!! I would use my iPhone for this purpose but I get no reception in the mountains.
This brand new Garmin 450t will be on eBay soon. I am now researching alternatives.
Update: Although I am not real fond of this unit, I could not dump it right away and take the $ hit without trying to figure out why it doesn't work very well. I loaded the 24K map into it and discarded the usless (above-reviewed) 100K map that was included with the unit. With the new map, it's now better with respect to the map detail shown, but is still almost impossible to scroll around any distance. If you have marked positions and do not need to scroll much, it can be useable if you simply GOTO the previously marked position. If you get one of these units, you will need to work around the deficiencies like the scrolling issues and the frequent 'pin' showing up in the middle of the screen. As most GPS units do, it eats batteries. I spoke to the Garmin folks at the Sportsman's show, but they were not really interested in customer comments and feedback. If possible, do what I did not do and try out a GPS unit at the retailer before making a decision. I would give the unit a better rating after updating the map to the usable 24K version and finding that it works better now.
on June 3, 2010
I have been waiting on the side lines for literally years for a hiking GPS. Decided to finally take the dive. After now months of internet studies I decided on the Oregon 450 (550 was my preference to have the camera but cost played a factor). My biggest concern purchasing this unit "sight unseen" was screen visibility. I am sensitive to this because I have had retina issues and my contrast is not a good as I would like. I am convinced I made the right choice and really love this unit ... nice job Garmin.
The screen was very readible and I think this is a non issue. I firmly believe Garmin trully engineered this screen considering vital factors like direct sunlight (which actually enhances visibility on this unit), touch screen technology and (very important) battery life. Is it bright like my HDTV? ... no ... is it more than effective in the field? ... absolutley yes. I love it ... case closed for me.
Last weekend I took my daughter and nephew to Mackinaw Island, Michigan for a day of mountian biking and ended the day searching for a geocache which I downloaded off Garmin "Extras" site. The Oregan made the day lots of fun because we all learned to use the GPS to guide our adventure. I started Tracking once off the ferry and stopped once we left the Island. When I got home and downloaded the trip the Garmin site displayed a very cool summary of the days ride trip ... elevation and speed strip charts, Track overlayed on a map of the Island and a great summary of time, distance, ascent, descent and then even an dynamic review of the track.
So far the only annoyance is software user friendliness. If I wish to calibrate the compass my intuition is to find the option under "Compass" ... nope ... look under the "Heading" softkey on the main menu. Not sure if I can customize by relocating such actions but I will have to look into it more.
Note: I have an 8GB Kingston micro-SD card in the back with 1:24k Northeast U.S. Topo maps installed with just under 4GB left for more.