Geowoodstock XI is over, I've got > 75 caches found on the unit and it's time for an updated review.
- Boots up much faster than previous generations
- Faster Sat lock times
- UI much more intuitive than previous generations
- Nice cache filtering features - Very good UI with this.
- Nice touch screen that's on par with mid level smartphones
- Pin on screen is much more precious, easy to move to a cache (or move map under cache w/ fast redraw capability of screen.)
- Screen is a lot more visible in direct sunlight EDIT: Completely visible with 0 backlighting in direct sunlight – no glare off the screen – like reading paper.
- Ability to rotate screen (or lock it to one orientation depending on preference - I locked my to standard orientation - I do this with my smartphone too while caching.)
- Ability to hold a lot of very large GPX or GGZ files, and GGZ file supporting HUGE quantities of caches. (Waiting on people to start hosting large GGZ's of their caching area's) I had ~30K caches in my unit while going to Geowoodstock and it handled them like a champ.
- Accuracy – See more below – Very nice accuracy based on field testing of close to 100 caches in 5 states.
- Compass – A very stable compass that doesn’t seem to get upset as you’re handling the unit – Also seemed to still be perfectly accurate after a battery change.
- Screen resolutions is still a dismal 240x400 (480x800 is considered subpar for a smart phone these days, at least get to subpar level if you're going to support camera functionality) EDIT 5/28/13 – After consideration of this being a reflective display that doesn’t require any backlighting when used out in the sun, the resolution limitation may have more to do with the screen technology used. I have no evidence for this. That said if this is true, then it would be a more than fair trade off for anyone who wants this and doesn’t care for the camera – which would include myself.
- Screen size is still very small - there's enough space to get to a small smart phone screen size (iPhone size.) This can be done while keeping it a ruggedized design and should be done.
- Very poor quality basemaps shipped on the units. This can be rectified by getting free offline OSM maps (and other sources) but this isn't something everyone knows to do and can be a daunting task for others.
- Loss of Wherigo functionality - Not too big of an issue as most cachers have smartphones and can use the App. The stability of Wherigo SW is shaky and often frustrating no matter what tool you're using - having more than one Wherigo cartridge player is often nice to have.
- Orientation of the mini-B USB plug. The rotated the orientation 90degs such that you need to pull the carabineer clip off in order to plug in the mini-B USB plug. Oversight during testing? Maybe they didn't have people using the clip who also needed to connect to the unit. Moving it 2-3mm south of it's current location or orienting it the same way it was on the previous generations and this wouldn't have been a problem.
Meh's (this is personal opinion) :
- Optional 8G pixel camera (650 and 650t only) - Something most of us don't need or want as we all have smart phones, most with superior camera capabilities and Geotagging supported. Is it worth an extra $80 - Not in my opinion, but others may like this.
EDIT: I talked to a couple people at Geowoodstock that felt this most definitely work the extra $80 as they don’t own a smartphone, and would like to avoid carrying another device for pictures.
- Expensive Rechargeable battery that's effectively two AA's taped together to be able to push a button to enable charging. Personally this adds little to no value for me. I use a pair of AA's that tested to 2600mAH that I could go over a weekend of caching w/o coming close to running down, but always carry two pair of eneloop AA's with me as backups for me, and anyone who may end up caching with me. I mean $26 for a pair of NiMH AA's taped together listed at 2000mAH, who are you kidding. That's the retail price for a 4 pack 2000mAHr Eneloop's. I say get some tape and have fun if you really want this feature (Note that I have not tried this, nor will I warranty any damage resulting from doing this, but I suspect it will work just fine - I will try it out after I get back from Geowoodstock.)
Battery Life – Surprisingly good. I used a pair of 2600mAH NiMH AA’s that I’ve had for a long time. First used them on Friday 5/17 when I bought the unit, took them to Geowoodstock XI (trip started in Houston, TX Wed Morning 5/22 – at one point left it on for 4hrs of driving w/o realizing it was on, cached in New Orleans, LA that evening. Cached some more (but sparingly) on the way over and down to Lakeland on Thursday. Hit three events, did a number of caches on Friday, when to Geowoodstock on Saturday, did 9 cache types (7 of them at Geowoodstock – the Wherigo was done on the phone but the Garmin was live this during this.) And the batteries finally ran down on Saturday Evening while going to the Almost Midnight Madness event. At this point I popped in a spare set of Eneloops for the rest of the trip. Overall very impressed with the battery usage. Part of this probably has to do with the fact that I had the backlighting turn down to the lowest setting much of the time. The reason for this is the display technology used, It is a reflective display technology. In the dark you use the backlighting of the GPSr itself, but when out in the sun, this isn’t required, actually when in sunlight it’s like looking at a piece of paper.
Accuracy Update: There have been some grumblings on the forums regarding the reported accuracy (what the unit reports as its accuracy.) This number as any experienced user will tell you can be wrong. For me it was reporting usually around 30’ or more for the Error. But it was consistently right on top of the cache (well within a respectable 10’ which is reasonable for the cache placement itself.) It never led me astray, and I actually experienced significantly less overshoot than I would have with my Oregon 400t. Overshoot in this case is when your GPS takes you beyond GZ while it’s catching up to where your current location actually is. As far as I’m concerned the ‘Error’ reported by the unit is a case of Garmin being cautious as to the reporting. I’d expect this to be updated in future FW revisions. That said, I’ve only seen this displayed when it the ‘Satellite’ info page, so it should scare the typical cacher while hunting for a cache.
No rain so I haven’t tested the screen when it’s wet, but sweaty fingers didn’t seem to give it any problems. The three smart phones I’ve used have become progressively better at being able to handle rainy conditions and they screen still work until it got to some level of saturation. Same was true of my Oregon 400t touch screen. We’ll have to test this another day on the Garmin 600.
Update 6-10-13: Well I did 23 Cayaking caches as part of the N CLAPS series with some friends on 6-9-13 (8.4 Mi of yaking from 8am - 12pm) at about 11am we started getting light rain for about 10mins, then it picked up to much heavier rains for another 15mins plus. Luckily this was on the paddling back of the main part of the caches and so we weren't opening caches to sign logs. Ok, back to the Garmin Oregon 600. It performed admirably during this. I had it face up and rain was hitting it during this entire time. It didn't sense the rain drops at all, and I intentionally interacted with the 600 during this period of time, navigating menu's, selecting caches, etc and it worked just the same as when dry. I was very happy about this, as I've had smartphones which with much less water on the surface make the touch screen next to useless.
Marking caches as found and adding comments was quick and easy – Much more intuitive. I haven’t tried all the logging features but what I tried was very easy to use. I was able to quickly mark done/log/go to next cache. I did not dump or upload logs from the unit as I tend to log from the field on my phone, or at a minimum mark it as saved on the phones app and go through the history to log. That said, this is a feature I will do a bit more testing on and report back.
Chirp: Enabling Chirp was put in the ‘Geocaching’ link in setup, making it quick to find and enable (and disable as well as there was a cacher walking around Geowoodstock with a chirp in his pocket – great way to introduce yourself, but after the 3rd time walking by it was time to turn it off.) I did a chirp based cache at Geowoodstock and Met another cacher because of it. This was a much more positive experience than what I’ve experienced in the past with Chirps, but that may be more do to relatively fresh batteries in the Chirp itself. Hard to say for certain.
Cool feature: When in map mode when in Geocaching Profile, the top of the screen lists the closest cache (this can be easily ‘rolled up’ by clicking a small arrow below it, and ‘rolled down’ again by clicking the arrow so it’s not allows consuming map real estate.) I didn’t notice this at first, but was riding down the road (I wasn’t drivingJ) I noticed it changing between caches. This is a pretty nice feature to have.
Compass performed admirably, much better than my Garmin 400t, and slightly better than my Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4 perform. It was very stable while finding caches, and didn’t lead you off in the wrong direction before you realize that the path being drawn on the screen is not the direction you’re wanting to go, which would happen to me with the Oregon 400t a bit too frequently.
Marking and editing waypoints: On the Oregon 400t, this seemed like a chore, and I always had the ‘Fat Thumb’ issues, and is the big reason why I’d never edit names on them. On the 600, it was much closer to an experience of adding and editing a waypoint in your favorite geocaching app.
Edited by TAZ427, 10 June 2013 - 09:29 AM.