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Recommended GPS Receivers?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the post-xmas-electronic-purchases dept.

Christmas Cheer 54

vergere asks: "Christmas has come and gone and I've got the go-ahead from the SO to make one of those big once-a-year electronic purchases. I've decided to get a handheld GPS receiver, so I'd like to draw on the collective knowledge of Slashdot and ask for recommendations. I'd like a good set of features (nothing too basic) and mapping capability - the more bells and whistles I can get for my budget of $350 the better. I'm currently looking at the Garmin GPSMAP 76S - any user experiences with this particular model would be welcomed."

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54 comments

It seems to have all the features (2, Insightful)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814569)

including the most important - the ability to download data. I would see the floating part demonstrated as well as the waterproof before I trusted it however.

As for accuracy, any GPS can be affected by how fast you walk vs how fast it updates, so it takes a little practice.

www.gpsnow.com seems to be where to buy it (3, Informative)

jcwren (166164) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814584)

I've not checked every possible nook and cranny on the 'net, but GPSNow.com [gpsnow.com] has the cheapest price I've managed to find anywhere.

--jc

Re:www.gpsnow.com seems to be where to buy it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7821549)

Actually I believe www.ultimatepassage.com is the cheapest. Although this is a shamless plug, it is relevant to the slashdot crowd. We can provide GPS's cheaper than anyone else because we are a bunch of geeks that use open source software. We use Gentoo Linux, Apache 2.0.4, Perl 5.8.2 combined with the GPL shopping cart interchange. The good folks at netcraft provide a detailed history of the infrastructure changes to our site. The bottom line is that our overhead is just about zero. We mark up our products an average of only 7% and we still turn a profit.

Forget GPS receivers (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7814585)

check out that chick in the red from the osdn personals ad! now that's a "jizz receiver" if I've ever seen one!

Garmin GPS V (2, Informative)

jaredmauch (633928) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814595)

I have two of these. Work quite well, only problem is you periodically have to complain to them about map quality. Get the Deluxe package, it'll cost you about $400 last time I got one. Excellent handheld and Car (auto-routing built in, no need to calculate routes offline) use.

I also have the US topo map CDs and have used them for hiking as well. These are accurate as they are provided by the USGS and not their other map vendor (Navtech).

The 4.01 North America City Select fixed a lot of the accuracy issues, but be prepared to pay $120 every year or so for updated maps if you are going to want them.

Do you really need mapping? (Or to spend $350?) (3, Insightful)

Exocet (3998) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814615)

I've had a GPS receiver with mapping and one with out. My current GPS, the Garmin eTrex Summit has all the basic GPS features plus fine-grain elevation-related information.

I've found that I don't miss the mapping capabilities because now I simply plug the GPS via a serial cable into the available nine pin com port on my laptop. I use Streets and Trips from MS and USA PhotoMaps for down to 1 meter photo views. I plug the GPS in when I'm stumbling for wireless AP's, too.

I occasionally use the GPS while Geocaching and while snowshoe hiking. Again, both hobbies don't really need/make use of the maps. I simply set a waypoint for the car before I leave and, if necessary, I can use the backtrack function to find my way back. Otherwise, you just walk towards the waypoint you made.

MS's S&T is about $30, USAPhotoMaps is either free or there is a small donation requested. A Garmin eTrex Summit GPS is $180-190 (via froogle.google.com). Streets and Trips will outstrip the maps on the GPS by FAR, assuming you already have a laptop and won't have to suffer that additional expense.

Otherwise, the eTrex Legend has mapping capabilities and is $160 at Wal-Mart and has mapping capabilities. No need to spend the full $350! The eTrex line is nice, IMO. A friend of mine has the basic yellow eTrex and we've used it (and my Summit) on the water, in the cold (snow), heat, etc. They've both been banged around a bit and haven't suffered at all from our adventures.

Re:Do you really need mapping? (Or to spend $350?) (1)

Alrescha (50745) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814961)

I think this is a good question - do you really need internal maps?

Many years ago, I bought a Garmin GPS 12XL. Excellent receiver performance, built in LCD shows breadcrumb trail, waypoints, etc. No road maps, etc. When I want those I connect it to my PC.

When it came time to replace it, I looked around at all the fancy new features, maps, and all. What did I buy? Another Garmin 12XL. Fits in my shirt pocket, now has US city database.

Can be had for less than $200.

A.

Re:Do you really need mapping? (Or to spend $350?) (1)

topham (32406) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814997)

The Garmin 12XL is an excelent unit, I picked one up for my dad a few years ago. (gift from my mom to him, I picked the unit). It has been excelent.

I have the GPS 48; basicly the marine version of the 12XL; different antena hookup, and has additional navigation aids. It has worked well in the time I have had it, although the internal battery is toast. I sent garmin email and they confirmed that it is still covered. They expect the internal battery to last a lot longer than it did, so even though the waranty is up they will cover it. THAT is what i call customer service.

(That said i haven't been quick to send in the unit, the internal battery hasn't been an issue for my usage, yet.)

Informative (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815642)

THAT is what i call customer service.
You got my attention. For these fragile, non-hackable little gadgets, good customer service is worth more than any number of features.

Re:Do you really need mapping? (Or to spend $350?) (1)

Demolition (713476) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816416)

At the risk of posting a "me too" comment...

Yes, the Garmin GPS 12XL is a fantastic unit. I've used one since 1998 for work purposes and have absolutely no complaints. Like Alrescha, this is my second unit (the first one was stolen from my truck) and I had no qualms about getting another. The latest revision of the 12XL (circa 2001, I believe) added several new features such as track area calculations, a power-saving mode, higher-capacity battery, and others.

I must say that it is a definite improvement over my previous GPS receiver, a Magellan GPS Satellite Navigator supplied to me by my company in 1993, I believe. A very nice unit with the rotating quadrifilar antenna, among other things. At that time, not many portable receivers had those sorts of features, although it was not up to par with the improved technology of the Garmin GPS 12XL. Sadly, that one was lost when our helo's belly-pod cargo compartment opened in mid-flight and spewed our belongings into the wilderness below.

Anyway, well, I can't comment directly on the GPSMAP 76S directly, but I can definitely second the positive comments made by other Garmin owners about their respective GPS receivers. Garmins are top-notch. I'd buy one again, and so recommend them to others.

D.

Magellan Merridian Plat vs. Garmin Etrex Venture (3, Insightful)

Gudlyf (544445) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814624)

I've owned both of these units and I've found the Magellan to be a better buy:

  • Etrex Venture [garmin.com]
  • Pro: Small, lightweight
  • Pro: Easy to use
  • Con: Does not work indoors
  • Con: Put it in your pocket or walk under tree cover, *poof*, no more signal.
  • Con: Almost too small of a display to read.
  • Con: Joystick can be fragile.

  • Magellan Meridian Platinum [magellangps.com]
  • Pro: Can insert MMC cards to store maps, uncluding roads and topo maps
  • Pro: Works indoors to some degree and works very well under treecover and in your pocket/backpack.
  • Con: A bit larger/bulkier to carry around.
  • Pro: Comes with an initial U.S. Map installed.
  • Con: Doesn't have a neat "range ring" based on your satellite reception.

YMMV, but those are my observations. My father got an ETrex for Christmas from someone this year, and I told him not to even open the package, return it and get the Meridian. The Etrex's patch antennae works for sh*t in my experience.

Also be sure to check the forums over on Geocaching.com [geocaching.com] -- this subject has been talked to death there.

Re:Magellan Merridian Plat vs. Garmin Etrex Ventur (1)

mkoz (323688) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814719)

check the forums, but just FYI...

in my experience the Magellan v. Garmin is a low key religious war... Not unlike the choice between certain operating systems. They do things differently, but they both will get the job done. Personally I find that the Garmin interface is a bit more natural to me, but it is religion not science. Play with the particular model you want... interface is everything.

Re:Magellan Merridian Plat vs. Garmin Etrex Ventur (1)

Gudlyf (544445) | more than 10 years ago | (#7817141)

Almost forgot. Another huge pro of the Magellan unit is that it has a compass that works regardless of satellite coverage. Turn it on and you can use the compass right away.

The Garmin unit (at least the Venture and those below it) has a sort-of compass that only works if you have satellite coverage and are moving.

Re:Magellan Merridian Plat vs. Garmin Etrex Ventur (1)

Deagol (323173) | more than 10 years ago | (#7818686)

Some of the eTrex models have a true magnetic compass capability. I have an old Garmin GPS III. My only real gripe is that while geocaching, it sucks to try and get a bearing while standing still (can't be done) or moving slowly (painful at best).

BTW, do any eTrex owners know if the mag compass funciton does automatic drift correction (or whatever it's called -- the magnetic bearing offset that's provided on topo maps)?

Re:Magellan Merridian Plat vs. Garmin Etrex Ventur (1)

HawkPilot (730860) | more than 10 years ago | (#7820988)

BTW, do any eTrex owners know if the mag compass funciton does automatic drift correction (or whatever it's called -- the magnetic bearing offset that's provided on topo maps)?

You are talking about magnetic variation. In Garmin units you can set the display to read True Heading or Magnetic Heading. The variation is computed by the unit based on your lat/long and its magnetic model. I think you can override its computed setting and set your own however.

Your topo maps have another north line on them. That is sometimes refered to grid north. This is the north you use to calculate bearings on the map and convert it to true or mag north. This can not be calculated by the gps because it depends on the map you are using. If you don't see a grid north, then chances are it will be the same as true, because magnetic variation changes every year.

BTW, I have an Etrex Legend and I love its design, capabilities and layout. However, I have had problems with the display. A couple of months after I bought it the display stopped working. I had it replaced under warrenty and now the second display is intermittent. Your results may vary.

Features to look for (2, Insightful)

nocomment (239368) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814675)

How well does it work indoors (if it works indoors it works under wet trees with cloud cover)
Waterproof
if you fish then floating might be neat
Does it give you a bearing if you are standing still? This could be soved with a simple compass but still, it's nice to have embedded in the device. Maps are nice, does it have pluggable modules?
Also, if you are going to be in the woods, like say geocaching with buddies, it's nice to have one with the built-in two way radio.

Re:Features to look for (1)

topham (32406) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815008)

Having a unit work indoors doesn't tell you ifit will work in tree cover; it might be a good hint but I wouldn't trust that.

Trees contain, or hold a lot of water and that is what will generally kill the signal.

Re:Features to look for (1)

nocomment (239368) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815099)

I agree completely. My point is, you have a better chance of it working in poor weather under a forest canopy if it will work inside a house, without a clear line of sight to the sky. Of course it depends on many things, how well the roof is built using what materials for houses, and how wet and dense/how many layers in the canopy, and how thick and wet the clouds are.
If it doesn't say "Works INDOORS!" chances are good that it will lose connection when it's in your pocket. That's all I'm saying.

I have one - like it (4, Interesting)

Foredecker (161844) | more than 10 years ago | (#7814963)

I have a Garmin GPS Map 76S. I've used it to navigate cross from Biscayne Bay FL to Bimini Bahamas and surrounds. A GPS with WAAS is dead nuts accurate. I took marks on my way out and navigated my way back too them on the way back. In every instance, the 76S was spot on. All my marks were verifiable by simple ded reckoning.

I've also used in the colorado mountains and in Puget Sound. Accurate in all cases. By accurate I mean that all marks and the electronic maps matched up with paper maps using simple ded reckoning or orienteering techniques.

Other notes:

The 76S will run about 8 hours reliable on a set of AA batteries - be sure to keep one new set of batteries in reserve for emergencies. It will run only 4 to 6 hours on rechargable batteries.

The unit does float :)

The on-screen mapping function is usefull, but you must scroll frequently. Be sure to take paper charts/maps with you.

The UI is easy and relativly intuitive to use. I found no mamor problems.

The tide table feature is really usefull! It always matched the navigation softare I use on my laptop.

The unit works well with the various laptop based navigation and mapping software I've used including The Captain and Microsoft Mappoint.

The Garmin downloadable maps work well and are worth the cost, but don't expect a lot of detail for the Marine (Blue Chart) maps - the do a good job of augmenting good paper charts, but never rely on them by them selves.

Note that with the 76S you are paying for three tings: 1) more flash memor 2) a barometic altimiter, 3) a magnetic compas. Here are some notes regarding each:

The flash memory holds a LOT of map information, way points and tracks. You probably really don't need the ammount of memory in the 76S.

I've never used the barometric altimeter - it must be calibrated and this is a pain. Do you really need it?

The magnetic compas is the relativly usefull and seemed to always be accurate enough. However, it is no substitute for a god hand held compas or a ships compass.

All in all, I've been very happy with my Garmin.

Offtopic: ded vs. dead reckoning (1)

Mantorp (142371) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816248)

Having never seen this term in print before I decided to look it up. Straightdope.com [straightdope.com] reckons it's probably dead.

Re:Offtopic: ded vs. dead reckoning (1)

Foredecker (161844) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822870)

Both are generaly accpted as correct. The use of "dead" is more modern and a natural simplification of the term. However, the use of the term 'ded' is common in navigation texts such as Bowditch's American Practical Navigator (quoted in Straight Dope's article).

E.g. neither is more correct than the other though I general find that people who are versed in the art of navigation often use the term 'ded'.

Also note the assertion by the Straight Dop questionier that "dead reckoning refers to a primitive form of aircraft navigation' is quite wrong. Ded or dead reckoning isn't primitive at all but a highly refined skill of marine piloting - anyone who navigates coastal water and can't handle basic ded reckoning is an idiot. I'm not a pilot so I can't comment on the techniques use for navigating aircraft. Though I would suspect that an accomplished pilot should be able to use charts and a compas to figure out how to get home if his instruments fail.

Re:I have one - like it (1)

ptomblin (1378) | more than 10 years ago | (#7817222)

You don't need WAAS for that sort of accuracy. I have a Garmin GPSMAP195, and after they turned off Selective Availability a few years ago, I can look at my ground track after a flight and tell that I took off from the centerline but landed to the left or right of centerline.

With a good unobstructed view of the sky, tracking 10 sats, I see Estimated Probable Error values approaching 4-5 feet. Tell me you need more accuracy than that in a hiking GPS?

Re:I have one - like it (1)

Foredecker (161844) | more than 10 years ago | (#7822813)

mmm..... lots of satilites are good. WAAS can keep accruacy high even without a relativly high number of satilites.

Re:I have one - like it (1)

Cyberop5 (520141) | more than 10 years ago | (#7824251)

I got a Garmin 76s for my birthday about a month ago. It does have about every feature with plenty of RAM for maps and waypoints. The only complaint I have (I don't know how it it is on other units) is that it compains if I am not holding it level with any of the applications that use the magnetic compass. Obviously this is expected, except when i use it in my car and can't hold it level and lean over the display. I'd like to be able to hold it againt my steering wheel and get a heading, but alas, it'll complain after a few seconds.

The barometer can be a bit flaky if moving irradically, but accurate when still.

It works great for wardriving with a serial-usb converter (I use an io gear one). I haven't tried it camping or anything else yet.

GPS units (3, Informative)

Tandoori Haggis (662404) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815062)

Another contender is the Silva Navigator.
This unit features GPS, barometer and electronic compass. Check the description and tech spec at
http://www.gpsw.co.uk/details/prod171.html

Battery life with the suggested strategy is perfectly adequate for 2 weeks from to AA cells.

Note the low minimum operating temperatute.

Built in maps sound like a nice idea but some units have functions specific to certain areas only(North America) which you pay for. Some places you might visit may not be that well served by maps.

Personally I'd either go for this or one of the Magellan GPS receivers.

Good luck.

Garmin Rino 120 (1)

gristlebud (638970) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815187)

I've been issued a Rino 120 at work, and I've been really happy with it's features. It has built-in mapping (not especially detailed, but it does have almost all cities, interstate, and primary highways. It is also gaining support from the freeware GPS software writers.

It includes WAAS support for ~10ft accuracy (or so it says), and even if you don't need the FRS radio now, you'll come up with uses for it.

Garmin's information page for it is here [garmin.com] It also comes with an RS-232 cable, and can stream data in both Garmin's format, as well as NEMA, so that it's easy to interface with just about any off-the-shelf GPS enabled hardware. I've hooked mine up to an iPaq running ArcPad, and it worked like a champ. It also states that it can recieve Garmin DGPS corrector vectors for ~10cm accuracy, but I've never tried that.

eTrex serious fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7815283)

Be careful if you buy an eTrex [garmin.com]. I found that if I set a waypoint, when I "tabbed on" from that setting, the coordinates changed randomly. At the time I was using the Swedish grid system, and I haven't checked if this applies elsewhere. I was aiming for a point a couple of miles away, and the error was about 1.5 miles. At the time I was walking into Sarek [naturvardsverket.se], which is
  • not
the sort of place where you want to be alone with a dodgy navigation system. It may have been a one-off fault or confined to that coordinate system, but I'm not inclined to forgive a fault in a safety-critical system.


BTW, the readout of current coordinates was not affected and was within the expected margin of error.


[tengwar]

Garmin eMap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7815373)

If you will be using the GPS in urban enviroments or on interstates, I would suggest the Garmin eMap and a set of Mapsource maps. The eMap has expandable memory capability, whereas many other GPS units have non-expandable memory built into the GPS.

questions Re:Garmin eMap (1)

obtuse (79208) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815469)

What is the memory format in the eMap? I've got one, and they have the single most expensive memory format I've ever seen. I'd love to hack a replacement.

Also, is there a good howto on getting NEMA maps into these devices? I'd rather not spend a hundred bucks on their software, but will if I must.

Re:questions Re:Garmin eMap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7816473)

NEMA is the format for communicating with the GPS unit. It allows you to setup the type and format of the GPS information (Position, Speed, Heading, Atomic Clock Time, etc) that is sent over the serial line. It doesn't have anything to do with map formats.

Just serial output for a laptop for $99 (2, Informative)

hab136 (30884) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815468)

Another thing to consider are GPS "mice", so named because they're about the size of a mouse. I bought mine for $99. The one I have is here:

http://www.rayming.com/products/tripnav_tn200.htm [rayming.com].

It works great with Street Atlas, is weatherproof, and has a magnetic back. No display, no internal maps, in fact nothing but a USB cord and one blinkenlight. But if you're just going to hook it up to a laptop, this is what you want.

Garmin and Trimble make similar ones - look under their OEM/sensor sections. Some are larger and more accurate.

I have experience with the 76S (1)

xDaedalus (735736) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815488)

The 76S has been in my hot little hand for a while now, and I did a fairly indepth write up on it here [internetfaction.com]. As others have said, the eTrex is alright but far too basic for you. I recommend the 76S, it's a great receiver if slightly lacking in battery life. HTH.(and the opportunity for self-pimpage is welcomed :))

Garmin 60CS (3, Informative)

Tricot (12160) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815539)

If you can wait for about 2 months, then a new one coming out in a month may be a better option:
The Garmin 60CS [garmin.com] has the same features as the 76S, but also has:
  • Color screen
  • USB interface (map uploads are VERY slow over a serial interface)
  • 56Meg of map memory (vs 24 for the 76S)
  • Longer battery life
  • Auto-routing with appropriate maps


It looks like a sweet little unit. If I hadn't bought a GPS V 6 months ago, I'd seriously consider getting one myself.


-- Mitch

PDA+GPS (1)

deicide (195) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815624)

How about a CompactFlash GPS module (about $100+ from places like http://www.semsons.com) and a PDA (which you might already have). This and one of several available mapping applications will make for an excellent GPS unit, in-car navigation system and of course, it'll still serve as a PDA.

CF GPS unit may even work in a laptop with a PCMCIA->CF adapter.

I have a Meridian Platinum... (1)

starfighter_org (530923) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815701)

It took a bit to get used to the interface, after owning a garmin etrex (the yellow one) I'm REALLY impressed by the performace of the meridian platinum. It works inside my duplex, which no other unit has done. The antenna in it is a superb design. The lame part is that there is no external antenna port. The built in maps can be helpful for road trips, but they're mostly useless. I've got the software for it, but I've yet to pick up a sd card to upload stuff to. The etrex fits your hand nicely, but mine lost signal in trees, while the magellan kept full lock.

Meridian Color GPS Traveler Value Pack (1)

the_ambient_one (415217) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815726)

Magellan has some new "Traveler" kits out recently. They bundle various meridians with a memory card, mount, routing software, etc.

Amazon had the color traveler kit for about 450$ when i looked a couple weeks ago. Theres also a gold traveler kit (non-color lcd) thats cheaper.

That would be the route i would go if you want to do any vehicle navigation.

Drop it. (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815738)

  1. Drop test. Onto cement or concrete. From a decent height (say, over your head, at minimum)
  2. Float test. Be sure that its waterproof and floats.
  3. Bright color. Yes, yellow is kind of ugly. See the first two points above, and you'll be glad of this.
  4. Mapping capability. Not quite as important, depends on your interests and needs.
  5. Data transfer capability. See where you went and how long it took you... Not quite as important, depends on your interests and needs.

Re:Drop it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7816255)

  1. Drop test. Onto cement or concrete. From a decent height (say, over your head, at minimum)
  2. Float test. Be sure that its waterproof and floats.
  3. Bright color. Yes, yellow is kind of ugly. See the first two points above, and you'll be glad of this

Please tell me how the color ugly yellow makes the thing bounce off concrete from vast heights and swim like a fish. Why will I be glad of this?

Where do I find a shop that lets me try these steps before I pay?

Have you been smoking along to Cheech and Chong movies tonight before posting?

Re:Drop it. (1)

Basje (26968) | more than 10 years ago | (#7817158)

After it drops and floats, how are you going to find your camo green GPS in the morning mist between the tree roots at the slippery edge of the lake...?

Re:Drop it. (1)

topham (32406) | more than 10 years ago | (#7818047)

Without comment as to the other points; actually a visible colour is a good idea.

Black isn't horrible, but I can't imagine dropping a camo unit in the bush and trying to find it.

My unit, the GPS48 as mentioned is white. Seems to be a marine thing. But I am glad it is, it makes it highly visibble if it is dropped while hiking. As for durability, all the garmin units I've seen and used have been quite durable. There are complaints about the durability of their PDA unit, but then, it -is- a PDA.

(Note: I bought the GPS 48 when it was being discontinued, saved about $80 or so over the GPS 12XL which is its virtual twin; except the Navigational aids in the 48; which i don't have a need for anyway).

Features? (1)

NetJunkie (56134) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815778)

The big question is, do you want turn by turn directions? If so look at the Garmin GPS V. I have that one and it's great. You can take it out of the car and carry it with you or leave it mounted. If you don't need that then the 76S is very good and was my choice had I not needed turn-by-turn.

Magellan Sportrak Pro + Mapsend Topo - $350 (2, Informative)

SchnauzerGuy (647948) | more than 10 years ago | (#7815803)

First of all, you should buy a GSPr with built-in mapping. Even for simple A->B uses (like geocaching [geocaching.com]), having a built-in map is invaluable. For example, a non-mapping GPSr will tell you that point B is 1.5 miles straight ahead. A mapping GPSr will show you that there is a stream and steep canyon straight ahead, and going a less direct route will be much easier. The only downside is cost - a mapping GPSr will cost about $100 more than a non-mapping model, and if you want detailed maps, you'll need additional software (~$100).

For a mapping GPSr, I highly recommend Magellen's SporTrak Pro. It is lightweight, durable, waterproof, and has been reported to be one of the most accurate GPS receivers [gpsinformation.net] available. It uses 2 AA batteries and has about a 16 hour battery life (using NiMH batteries). It also has 23MB of non-removable memory, which is enough for all of Southern California + the SF Bay area, for example. Some other receivers have more memory or removable memory cards (e.g. Magellen Meridian), but 23MB is plenty unless you will be travelling long distances with no access to a computer to upload new maps. The unit comes with some maps built in, but to get street level and topo maps, you'll need to buy the $100 MapSend Topo CD-ROM.

The SporTrak Pro also doesn't have a lot of the more gimmicky features, like a color screen, electronic compass, and barometers. All of those are more or less useless and just drain the batteries faster.

The less expensive alternative is a non-mapping GPSr. Look for a used Garmin GPS12 on eBay, or consider its new replacement, the GPS72 for around $150.

Finally, be sure to go to GPSInformation.net [gpsinformation.net]. It is an excellent source of information and reviews, and even an article [gpsinformation.net] which recommends various GPSr based on price and your needs.

Garmin 76s (1)

priceb (629287) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816090)

I have one of these and am very pleased with it. I use mine for everything from mapping to geocaching. I has plenty of memory to store MapSource data (Garmin's maps), is very accurate (down to 2yds at times), and is completely water proof. It also has the added bonus of a barometer and magnetic compass. However, it is most definantly a power hog. Cheap batteries won't even power it with all the features turned on and some of the fonts are a little small. But for the money it is a great buy.

DGPS, is there any need any more? (1)

kinema (630983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816214)

Since Selective Availability has come to an end. Does differentially corrected GPS (differential GPS or simply DGPS) provide any more of an accurate position then just plain GPS? In the area I live in I have access to two U.S. Navy DGPS signals. What kind of accuracy can one expect from GPS and DGPS now days? Do the nicer units provided more accuracy possibly due to better timers/clock generators? Where should I look for a highly accurate display-less unit for connection to a laptop/embedded system? Are there specific units out there that are maybe "survey grade"?

Re:DGPS, is there any need any more? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7816439)

WAAS has eliminated the need for DGPS in alot of cases. You can get WAAS built in, where almost every DGPS I have seen is an add-on unit that uses a data cable. Even with SA turned off, the DGPS on my boat is much more accurate, about 3 feet in most cases, which is a must for the wreck fishing and diving we do.

Re:DGPS, is there any need any more? (1)

kinema (630983) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816578)

Is it possible to combine WAAS and DGPS to achive a more precise position?

Re:DGPS, is there any need any more? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7816454)

DGPS is always better because you have one more reference point. There are GPS units with an accuracy of within one meter, which are meant for vehicles. If you are interested in these types of receivers, StarLink is one company that produces and sells them. For surveying, GPS has a few problems with determining the altitude, which is corrected by setting up your own correctional transmitter on site. However, these systems are expensive.

you can get alot for that price (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816335)

i got a magellan 315 of $150 and it has yet to not do anything i've wanted ti to so far. and if there is something it cant do i just hook it to my laptop (you know you wanna do this geek boy) and with the right software, can do anything. if you want advanced mapping features you need to go to something else for that, the handheld units just arn't that great for it. while i havent used all the units out there, the ones i have just dont have the map detail for doing anything off road, like hiking for off road driving.

you didnt get too specific about your wants/needs so i cant make too many guesses about what you'll need but i say get somethign cheaper (like a magellen 315 or so, it does float! hows that for rugged?) and then use the extra cash left over to get a datacable and some nice software to go with it, you'll be far better off for any GPSable task you might want to do. whats the fun of geocaching if the map shows you right where to go? i'd rather have it give me the arrow of the direction of where to go and set off on my own.

but thats just me.

GPS II Plus for -either- Car -or- Pocket (1)

ivi (126837) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816607)

This is in the same generation (I think)
as Garmin 12XL, but has a triangular form,
viewed from the end, so - in a vehicle -
it sits nicely on a dashboard (preferably
on top of a layer of 'blue-tack' as a shock-
absorbing stabilizer)

Screen ROTATES 90 deg's at the push of a
button, so you can view it when standing
on an end or when setting on the dash.

But... hey! Why aren't we just
sending people off to the USENET newsgroup:

sci.geo.satellite.navigation ...where this question is more than
adequately answered, even as models
change...?

Don't spend too much! (1)

floydigus (415917) | more than 10 years ago | (#7816885)

I have a Garmin GPS12 and it suits me fine. You can pick them up in the UK for under 100 (~$250).
This, like most handheld GPS units, has a serial port that you can use to interface the unit to a PDA (I have personally connected mine to a Handspring Visor, again, a very cheap option) or a laptop. There is some excellent freeware out there that will let you do all kinds of stuff that the device doesn't natively support e.g. tracking altitude.

I use my GPS for dicking around with when out hiking but I mainly keep it just for safety's sake and it lives at the bottom of my rucksack until I really need it (like the fog rolls in or I need to call the mountain rescue team).

Vista info (1)

TravelSizedMonkey (585629) | more than 10 years ago | (#7821571)

I upgraded from the basic Garmin eTrex (aka "Old Yeller") to the Vista model 6 months ago, and it's 100 times better than I expected. I started using my GPS receivers for geocaching [geocaching.com] and expected the Vista to be an improvement, which it was. However, I use it more frequently when I drive to a new place. With the Mapsource software (about $90 online) I can pretty quickly set up a route from point A to B and it's completely accurate on the road. In fact, it's so accurate that I rarely need to consult a copy of written directions until I get down to a few last minute rapid street turns. The Vista seems comparable in functionality to the GPSMAP 76S.

With that said, however, there's one thing that I would still look for in a new model: autorouting. If you're going to seriously use it for driving, autorouting is a huge help. Without it, you can't easily plan a route away from your computer. Also, once you've downloaded a route into the non-routing GPS, the route displays over the road in a straight line, rather than following the road itself, resulting in a slightly shorter route and a hard to read map. Unfortunately, it looks like only the more expensive models contain autorouting.

Oh, and the Vista has a thumbstick control. That thing rocks. With that in mind, see if you can find a store or someone that will let you hold and try out the GPS before you buy it. The Vista feels very natural to me.

How about a Garmin iQue GPS+PDA ? (1)

tefster (632140) | more than 10 years ago | (#7824034)

No-one seems to have mentioned them yet, but its well worth looking at the Garmin iQue 3600 PDA which has inbuilt GPS and which also supports Differential GPS.

The iQue comes with street level detailed maps of the US (or Europe depending on where you buy), voice-prompt navigation and routing, and you get the bonus of an MP3 player and a PalmOS PDA built in - handy if you need to justify your purchase to the other half<g>

They are a little outside of your budget if you only want to buy brand new (a quick price-search turns up quite a few places doing unit+ramcard for $450), but if you don't mine a used one then you should be able to pick up a Garmin iQue + MMC card for not too much more than $350.

You will need to budget for an MMC card though, the iQue's internal 32MB is sufficient to hold the full world basemap but for the street-level detailed maps a 256MB (or more) MMC card is a must.

I use the eTrex Legend (1)

kill-9-0 (720338) | more than 10 years ago | (#7827819)

I use the eTrex Legend and I'm quite happy with it. The mapping software that is available is top notch, but expensive (around $100 per CD) The one real drawback that I have with it, is it won't work indoors, or under moderate tree cover. It's quite easy to use, and is chock-full of good features. Combined with a laptop, it's extremely poerful and useful on long trips. If you want to use it for hiking, make sure you are not going to be too heavily covered by foliage. The range circle is a nice feature as well. If you are going to be using it indoors, or under coverage, one of Magellan's models may suit you better. They have an external antenna, and are larger, but give good results under brush, and even some usefullness indoors.
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