View Full Version : Suggestions for good handheld GPS devices?

Mr. Picklesworth
August 24th, 2008, 03:50 AM
I am looking for a small handheld GPS device as a gift for somebody. My searches are giving me brick walls, so maybe someone here can contribute some thoughts!

The recipient is a photographer, so I think he would appreciate a device that helps him track his movements. In particular, I bet one with a compass would be quite useful. Can those path traces produced by GPS devices contain direction information (as in compass direction) at waypoints?

I thought the Magellan Triton 500 sounded interesting, particularly because I can get a little discount on it where I currently work. Some notable features:

Small and tough. Advertised to withstand submersion under a meter of water for 30 minutes.
Very quick lock-on time. When I tried it, I did not even notice it trying to find an initial lock; it just did. (And this was under a big roof!).
It has a barometer. Successfully calculated that I am 18 meters below sea level, apparently gives weather warnings. (Though the interface is pretty convoluted in terms of which button does what, so I could not find how this was done).
A neat little touch is that it shows precise sunrise and sunset time. Indeed, GNOME's clock applet does this just fine, but it's a nice thing to see in this sort of device and another very beneficial tool for a photographer who lacks a geometry kit.
Nice, sharp and bright screen. Didn't get to test it outdoors, but sunlight readable is always a plus.
Less than $300
For use hiking / as a pedestrian, rather than specifically in a car. (I understand car use is still quite doable, of course, but the form factor doesn't limit the use cases). "Voice assisted navigation is for wimps" :P --- Although, personally, I quite liked voice navigation on my N810, until I had to pay for it...

The downside with the Triton is that every single review I have read has been tremendously negative. Reportedly this is mainly software issues, but I get the impression that they aren't thinking much about polish here. I could not help but notice, on the unit I demoed, that I was located within a giant swath of green intersected only by an unusually straight Highway 99. While the person I am giving this to is more interested in the numbery data than the maps, I am sure he would appreciate if it didn't have a nagging need to buy local maps from the start.
Perhaps someone managed to delete or disable the maps and I just didn't notice.

Garmin interests me (and I understand they use Linux firmwares instead of Windows CE!), but all the devices in this bracket I can find on the interwebs have very discouraging pictures showing off what look like 4-colour screens with the resolutions of Game Boys. I am sure they have better than this, so obviously I'm missing something. (Perhaps these are superbly good, scratch-proof e-ink screens? --Is there an e-ink GPS?).

Well, there's my question quota for today. Do any kind individuals have advice or experience with this sort of handheld GPS device?
Thanks in advance! Your contributions will be rewarded with big yellow stars :)

August 24th, 2008, 03:57 AM
I work for a map company that supplies the data to a lot of the GPS companies and Mapquest, Googlemaps, etc. I have to say that Magellan is really not a good choice. My favorite is the Garmin nuvi. I'm not really a fan of GPS (love paper maps!) but that's what I would go with.

August 24th, 2008, 03:59 AM
I have a Garmin Etrex Venture HC GPS, and it is very good for what I need it for (which is Geocaching). I think a cheaper Garmin would be what you would need.

August 24th, 2008, 09:42 AM
I have to say that Magellan is really not a good choice. My favorite is the Garmin nuvi

I would also rather buy a Garmin than a magellan.

Mr. Picklesworth
August 24th, 2008, 08:25 PM
Yup, Magellan is confirmed nasty: 10 hour battery life advertised (as is if that's good!). For perspective, Garmin's eTrex series generally advertises 25 hour battery life.

I found these two:
eTrex Legend HCx (https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=145&pID=8701#)
eTrex Vista HCx (https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=145&pID=8703#)

They don't look as pretty, but they seem to be very functional.

Sounds like a few people here own Garmins, so does anyone happen to own the eTrex legend? This doesn't need a 100% accurate barometer-aided altimeter, but decent altitude measurement is an important touch that may make the eTrex Vista necessary. I understand decent height measurement really just needs a solid 3D lock, but I don't doubt the possibility of them arbitrarily removing altitude-guessing from the Legend's firmware.
Does anyone have one to confirm that it can, indeed, give a height?

Found out in this nice little overview (http://gpstracklog.typepad.com/gps_tracklog/2007/07/garmin-etrex-le.html).
New question then: It comes with a limited basemap. I still don't like the idea of a nagwarish product that says "you can get 50% of this product's features (eg: turn by turn directions) only if you get a detailed map!". I don't like giving people nagware.
I still can't get to the bottom of this :(
Are the detailed maps a free download via software (just not built right in for obvious reasons) or must they be payed for? OpenStreetMaps springs to mind rather happily, but I think I prefer a completely immediate fix.
I wonder if the WayFinder maps on my n810 are compatible...
If necessary, I guess I could add a MicroSD card with a couple of extra maps.

Depressed Man
August 24th, 2008, 09:19 PM
You can try the Nokia n810 internet tablet. It comes with a built in GPS but it's not a dedicated GPS device. It does the job decently but not great. Plus there's setup required on the user. It comes with a map program, but you gotta pay for navigation. Or you can install maemo mapper (great program, it allows you to use google maps like google satellite, the street ones, yahoo maps, etc..). People have even gotten nautical maps in there.

There's roadmaps which uses the US Tiger government maps. And other projects being worked on.

The only downside is that it doesn't really help you navigate. Besides maps (offline directions and routing but you gotta pay for it. Map is free). All the other programs need an internet access point or cell phone (pair it) to download the route. For maemo mapper you also have to download the map itself (the program can do it with an internet connection and once it downloads it, it'll save it to the storage). Most if not all these programs can do tracking however.

However, the internet tablets are more like computers then anything else.

Edit: haha I forget you were asking (and) bought an internet tablet earlier. So I guess you already know about this.