Jul 26, 2008 (03:07 AM EDT)
Top Handheld GPS Devices
Read the Original Article at InformationWeek
Now that you're used to relying on a GPS receiver to guide you across highways and through traffic, how will you get around when you arrive at your destination?
If you're walking around a metropolitan area, Google's walking directions can help you. But If your destination is the great outdoors, chances are there's a handheld GPS unit for whatever activity you've got planned.
GPS receivers are becoming more specialized than ever, and nowhere is this truer than in the sport and handheld category, where there are units designed for runners, cyclists, golfers, hunters, fishing and boating enthusiasts, and more. We'll investigate eight highly specialized devices before looking at five others that will meet a wider range of outdoor needs.
A word about maps: Detailed maps can be added to most of the GPS receivers covered in this article. Unlike auto units though, most handhelds don't come with pre-loaded maps; in most cases you'll have to pay extra for them.
With a device that automatically gives you the distance to the green on each hole, it's no wonder that GPS is becoming very popular on the links. Maps of more than 18,000 golf course are available and the GolfLogix, built on Garmin's eTrex platform, also identifies up to six hazards per hole. Other GPS units for golfers are SkyCaddie, and Sonocaddie.
While the Garmin Edge 705 has some navigation features, this device really shines as a training partner. Mounted to your handlebar or stem, the Edge can provide heart rate, cadence, and power data, along with a virtual partner to race against. Ride data can be uploaded for analysis and shared with others. Cyclists who are more interested in navigation features, may find the Magellan Triton 2000 or Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx to be a better choice.
A great device for boaters, the Lowrance iFINDER H2O C accepts detailed charts of coastal areas and inland lakes (at an extra cost, of course). Canoeists, kayakers, motorboat enthusiasts and anglers are all bound to love this unit. Owners of larger boats may prefer a fixed-mount model with a larger screen, such as the Humminbird 785c2 Chartplotter, which comes with pre-loaded base charts of inland lakes, rivers and coastal areas. More detailed charts can be added to either unit, providing depth contours, navigation hazards, tides and more.
GPS goes to the dogs with the Garmin Astro. No, it's not a tool to help your dog find his way; this GPS helps you find your dog. Designed for hunting dogs and their owners, the Astro has two components – a handheld base unit and a wireless transmitter/collar. The handheld unit allows hunters to monitor up to 10 dogs' location and position in real-time, from a distance of up to seven miles. The device can also capture and store data such as location, date, and elevation of prey.
Geocaching is a sport made for GPS. A sort of high-tech treasure hunt, the idea of geocaching is for players to set up caches anywhere and everywhere in the physical world. Players publish the locations of these caches on the Internet, and others navigate to the caches using GPS units. A cache can contain tokens or items of value as a reward. Coordinates can be found on geocaching.com.
It's a fun way to get exercise and a great way to get tech-savvy kids away from their video games and out for a hike. The Garmin Colorado 400t, with built-in topographical maps of the U.S., is the perfect electronic companion for the hunt. The Colorado displays the full geocache description, cache size, difficulty / terrain ratings, and recent logs. One caveat here -- high resolution screens, while they present a gorgeous display, tend to be less bright than those found on other GPS units. Read a review of the Colorado here.
Need to stay in touch with your hiking buddy, snowboarding pal, or fellow mountain biker? The Garmin Rino 530HCx combines an excellent GPS navigation device with an FRS/GMRS radio, allowing you to see the position of your outdoor partner right on the screen of your GPS. Rated at up to 14 miles, line of sight, the Rino 530HCx includes another outdoor goody -- the ability to receive NOAA weather radio broadcasts.
Hiking, Climbing, Backcountry Expeditions
The Spot Satellite Messenger won't help you find your way out of the woods, but it can help others locate you in case you get lost or injured. The Spot has several modes : 911, online tracking, and the ability to contact friends or family for help or let them know you're okay.
Location data is sent via commercial satellites, so the device is not dependent upon the availability of cellular coverage. That's important if you frequent remote locations. Unlike most of the other devices mentioned here, the Spot Satellite Messenger requires a service plan, which will run you $99.99 a year.
For $49.99 more, you can upgrade to the TrackProgress feature, which allows friends and family to track your movements via GoogleMaps.
The company also offers a GEOS Search & Rescue Benefit, which promises "up to $100,000 USD of additional search and rescue resources, including helicopter extraction around the world and reimbursement benefits…for any emergency service expenses." Read a review of the device here.
Like the Garmin Edge for cyclists, GPS wristwatches also tend to function better as training aids than as navigation devices. Ideal for runners (and as the name implies, triathletes), the Triathlon Bodylink comes with a separate GPS receiver and heart rate monitor, which link up with the watch when worn. The Triathlon records your distance, speed, pace and loads of cardio data. An alternative device in this category is the Polar RS800G3.
All-Purpose Handheld GPS Units
Garmin eTrex Venture HC
The eTrek Venture HC is an excellent choice for someone just wading into the GPS waters. Like the higher priced units above, the Venture HC allows you to add detailed maps later on. The Garmin eTrex H is an even lower cost option, but one that I don't recommend. Sure, you'll save a little money, but you'll need to enter coordinates by hand instead of being able to transfer them from your PC, or pay extra for a PC cable (serial only). You'll also end up with a harder to view monochrome screen and lose the ability to load maps.
Magellan Triton 2000
Good for:Use with detailed maps
The Magellan Triton 2000 distinguishes itself from other handheld units with its touch screen interface and ability to load National Geographic TOPOs and free United State Geological Survey (USGS) maps. Step down to the Triton 500 and you'll lose the touch screen and some other bells and whistles, but retain the ability load real topo maps. Unfortunately, the Triton series has been a bit buggy, but hopefully a forthcoming firmware release will help these units live up to their promise. At any rate, Magellan won an innovations design and engineering award at CESthis year for its work on the Triton 2000.
DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20
Want to have aerial photos on your GPS, ala Jack Bauer? Check out the waterproof DeLorme PN-20 which, like the Magellan Triton, allows you to load USGS topo maps. In my own testing, I was quite impressed with how much detail shows up on aerial photos and how helpful they can be in the field. The PN-20 package includes DeLorme's Topo USA maps on DVD for transfer to the unit and $100 of download credits for aerial imagery. Read a full review here.
Garmin eTrex Vista HCx
Ideal for backpackers and anyone concerned about weight or battery life, the Vista HCx mimics the features of the Garmin 60CSx, sacrificing primarily screen size in exchange for the improved specs. As with the 60CSx/60Cx, there is a cheaper option in this line, too -- the Legend HCx, which drops the electronic compass and barometric altimeter.
Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx
It may not have the Triton's touch screen or the Colorado's high-resolution display, but the Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx remains the standard by which other handheld navigators are measured. While the newer, flashier units have problems that may or may not be resolved with future firmware upgrades, the 60CSx simply works. Feature-rich in terms of functions, this unit remains popular with geocachers, hikers, and outdoor professionals. Stepping down to the 60Cxyou'll save some bucks but lose the 60CSx's electronic compass and barometric altimeter.
Some Final Advice
Rich Owings is the editor of GPS Tracklog, and the author of GPS Mapping -- Make Your Own Maps.