Thursday, 21 July 2011

OutDoor show Friedrichshafen 2011 - New electronics

Naturally I was keen to get some info on the latest GPS sets out there. I focussed on getting info on the main 3 GPS brands available in the UK; Magellan, Garmin and Satmap....

Magellan eXplorist series

The eXplorist series are Magellan's latest GPS handsets, as well as being available to view and trial at the Magellan stand it was possible to borrow one and test it out. The eXplorist series comes in several models; GC, 310, 510, 610, and 710. All the models

have a loop at the bottom to attach a lanyard (useful feature), waterproof to IPX standards, and include some maps (varies depending on model.

The GC version is designed for Geocaching, and comes with a preloaded database of 1000's of Geocaches. It also comes with a 30 day premium trial on It can hold around 10,000 Geocaches. However it does not come with any maps included. The 310 and 510 include world mapping (roads, river, some relief shading, land use worldwide), however the 510 has a larger 3 inch touch screen, and a 3.2 mp camera built in. The 610 and 710 are the 'big daddy's' of the series and both include topographic "summit series" mapping. The summit series mapping is 1:50,000 and includes all the detail you would expect from a map of that scale. The 710 includes turn by turn navigation (US only at moment).

So all in all I liked the eXplorist series, the signal was very constant (even inside the centre), navigation was simple enough using the buttons, I would imagine the touchscreen versions with larger screens would have been even easier to use! Overall, good range of GPS sets, some good features, and the price point is also pretty good.

Garmin eTrex 10,20 and 30

So having visited Magellan the next stop was Garmin and their new eTrex revamp. The eTrex has been a stable GPS in terms of sales and popularity for some time, most likely due to it's ease of use and cost (the eTrex basic model can be picked up for around £50). However Garmin obviously decided it was time for a change around, so their new eTrex series was created. There are 3 models; 10 (£100) ,20 (£130) and 30 (£150). All models have the same interface which consists of a small scroll stick in the top right, and a number of buttons on the sides which control various functions. They all also feature waterproofing up to IPX7 and have a 2.2 inch screen. The pricing is very good, and with only a 33% difference between the top and bottom model's it would definitely be worth considering getting the eTrex 30 for the additional features. The eTrex 10 is a basic model featuring no maps, the 20 comes with a colour screen and expandable memory to allow new maps to be added. The 30 comes with a barometric altimeter for more accurate height readings, a worldwide basemap and a 3 axis compass, as well as wireless sharing for sharing routes between other compatible units. Overall I really liked these units, they were a good size, had good features, good ease of use, and most importantly the price point was excellent (much cheaper than the Magellan units). It should be pointed out however that the Magellan sets include maps where the Garmin sets do not, so factoring in the cost of expanding the maps brings the costs up to around equal. The new eTrex series will be appearing in the UK soon!
The other unit that caught my eye on the Garmin stand (and OutDoor industry award stand) was the Garmin Montana. The Montana is another big daddy unit and comes in 3 versions (600, 650 and 650T) each with slightly different features. The Montana has a massive 4 inch colour touchscreen. The top version is the 650T, which includes a 5meg camera and 100k topographic mapping. It can be expanded to include 1:25k mapping, and is waterproof to IPX7. However at £500+ this is not a cheap option! And when you consider that £500 does not include any 1:25k mapping it starts to look like a very pricey option, especially when units like the Airo A25 are now dropping in price. Despite the price I did like this unit, it felt incredibly solid, the touchscreen was easy to use, and despite the glare from the sun outside, the screen was very clear thanks to the sunlight readable screen. Overall, if you have he money then this unit is great, however not many people would spent £500 on a GPS set!

Last on my tour of electronics was SatMap. Whilst there were no new products from Satmap this year in terms of GPS units, there were a few extra bits that may be of interest to anyone who has, or is thinking of getting a Satmap set.

First up is the ProShield. The proshield is a rugged case with a belt clip. This is designed to bring the Satmap up to IPX7 standard for waterproofing. It protects the unit from drops onto concrete, water and dust, as well as protecting the screen from scratches and damage. It comes in 3 colours (left) and is very easy to fit. The belt clip is also large enough to fit onto a rucksack loop or strap for ease of access. The second thing is that all 1:25k maps from SatMapSatMaps now have new software which increases their efficiency and reduces the chances of the unit freezing. I guess from Satmaps point of view they have decided "if it ain't broke don't fix it!".

So there you are, new releases and updates on the top brands of GPS available in the UK, some good stuff on the way!

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