Jon E. Silks
Field Evaluation - Garmin GPS
By Jon Silks
Aug 25, 2006, 00:30


Garmin is the benchmark of quality and performance in the GPS Navigation market. The company, which started out in 1989, manufactures and markets navigation equipment aimed at serving the aviation, marine, automotive, wireless, OEM and general recreation application markets (including running).

This review focuses on the new GPSMAP 60Cx, a unit that uses the superiorly sensitive SiRFStarIII Chipset, which is incredibly accurate. The new Garmin also introduces an external storage 64MB microSD memory card.

In this first of two parts we will look at the basics of the Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx. This will be followed up by a detailed testing report that will be written after my 7-day wilderness trip this September where the Garmin will be put through the paces.

There is so much to one of these units that I hardly know where to start. First, the 60Cx measures 2.4" wide x 6.1" high x 1.3 deep and weighs in at 7.5 ounces with batteries installed. The 256-color transflective TFT (thin film transistor) display (160x240 pixels) measures 1.5 inches wide by 2.2 inches high. Transflective is a term meaning a cross between transmissive and reflective. This translates into a display that can be viewed in bright lighting because it is reflective or in dim lighting with a backlight. The display and keypad are backlit with an LED. The unit is powered by two AA alkaline batteries, which keep the unit running for an advertised 18 hours.

The 12-channel, Wide-Area Augmentation System (WAAS) capable, receiver by SiRF Technology and a built-in Quad Helix antenna work together to continuously track and update the unit's location. Advertised acquisition times are less than 1 second when warm, less than 38 seconds when cold and less than 45 seconds using AutoLocate. The update rate is 1 X per second, continuous. The GPS has a position accuracy of less than 10 meters (33 feet), 95% typical and a velocity accuracy of .05-meter/ second steady state. The quad helix receiving-antenna comes with an external antenna connection (MCX).

In terms of navigation the Garmin GPSMAP 60Cx offers 1000 waypoint/icons with name and graphic symbol, 50 reversible routes with up to 250 points each, 10,000 point automatic track log, which includes 20 saved tracks with 500 points each that allows the user to retrace their path in both directions. There is also a trip computer that reads out current speed, average speed, re-settable max speed, trip timer and trip distance. A set of alarms can be set for anchor drag, approach and arrival, off-course, proximity waypoint, shallow water and deep water. There are built-in celestial tables for best times to hunt and fish and also sun and moonrise. Map datums are a complicated topic and too involved for this format, however, I will report that Garmin advertises more than 100 plus user datum. Position formats include Lat/Lon, UTM/UPS, Maidenhead, MGRS, Loran TDs and others.

There are five main pages that provide information for basic navigation, the satellite page, trip computer page, map page, compass page and main menu page. At the top of each page is a status bar that indicates the type of power being used (battery or auxiliary), satellite signal status, backlight icon and USB cable connection icon. When showing the battery-powered icon it will give a status on the amount of battery power still remaining. Satellite signal strength will show up in one of three modes, blank if it is still searching for satellites, a 2D fix if up to three satellites have been acquired and a 3D fix if four or more satellites have been locked. To switch between pages simply push the button marked "page". The satellite page lists the satellites that have been acquired in two ways. First, at the bottom of the display each satellite's signal strength is indicated in bar graph form. Second, a sky view array of the satellites overhead appears in the middle of the screen. Each satellite is shown on the sky view at their location in the sky. Acquired satellites appear in a dark blue icon while un-acquired satellite icons are grayed out. The sky view has two circles, the outer represents the horizon and the inner represents a location 45 degrees from the horizon. North, South, East and West are also marked on the sky view. Another feature of the sky page is a position bug, which indicates the user's direction of travel.

The trip computer page can be customized to provide the navigation/ information the user requires. The choices for data fields are:

"    Accuracy of GPS
"    Bearing
"    Course
"    Depth
"    Distance to Destination
"    Distance to Next
"    ETA at Destination
"    ETA at Next
"    Elevation
"    Glide Ratio
"    Glide Ratio to Destination
"    Heading
"    Odometer
"    Off Course
"    Pointer
"    Speed
"    Speed - Maximum
"    Speed - Moving Average
"    Speed - Overall Average
"    Sunrise
"    Sunset
"    Time of Destination
"    Time to Next
"    Time of Day
"    To Course
"    Trip Odometer
"    Trip Time - Moving
"    Trip Time - Stopped
"    Trip Time - Total
"    Turn
"    Velocity Made Good
"    Vertical Speed
"    Vertical Speed to Destination
"    Water Speed
"    Water Temperature
"    Waypoint at Destination
"    Waypoint at Next

The reason I list all of these is so that you can see what the trip computer has to offer. Many of the users I have spoken with never change it from the factory settings and are missing out on a truly great feature!

The map page displays a map of the area around the user's position. The IN and OUT buttons change the magnification, field of view, and detail seen on the map page. The number of data fields shown on the map screen can be chosen from none (map only) to four with all the same data field choices as on the trip computer page. There are two operating modes within the map page, position mode and pan mode. The position mode keeps your location within the display while you are still or moving. The pan mode is activated when you hit the rocker button in any direction. A white arrow appears and moves to wherever you guide it - the screen moving with it. With the white arrow you can pan around the map and highlight and identify items. The purchased unit includes a 64 MB microSD memory card that can be used to load additional MapSource data. This data can be downloaded from Garmin's MapSource CD-ROMs or additional cards can be purchased from Garmin preloaded. The card is located in the battery compartment Included is a built-in Americas autorout basemap with automatic routing capabilities, including highways, exits and tide data (U.S. Only). The internal memory chip is preloaded with a marine point database. Also available with the GPSMAP 60Cx are MapSource data disks and additional BlueChart data. MapSource disks allow the user to view listings of nearby restaurants, lodging, shopping centers, attractions and entertainment. Phone numbers and addresses can be retrieved for each. With the BlueChart data information can be accessed on marine navaids, wrecks, obstructions and anchorage locations. The map page can be oriented like a paper map with North Up or with Track Up, which orients the map in the direction of travel. A map setup page permits customization with options such as detail level, orientation as mentioned above, tracks detail/settings, points detail, text size, marine colors and many more. While on the map page the user can set waypoints. A waypoint is basically a marker that pinpoints a particular location. This marker can be set at the location that the user currently occupies or at another location pinpointed by the pan mode white arrow location. Waypoints can be stored, located and navigated to. Software, Trip and Waypoint Manager, is included with every GPSMAP 60Cx purchase.

The compass page guides the user to a destination with a graphic compass display and bearing pointer. Either three or four data fields can be displayed at the top of the screen. Again, the options for these data fields are the same as those available in the other pages. Choosing either the Bearing Pointer or the Course Pointer shows the direction of the user's travel and direction of the destination. Many options appear in the menu section of the map page including stop navigation, recalculate, course/bearing pointer and data fields. The compass page also has a feature that will tell the user if they are off course, and if so, how to get back on course.

The main menu page is loaded with options including Tracks, Routs, Highway, Setup, Proximity, Calendar, Calculator, Stopwatch, Sun&Moon, Hunt&Fish and even Games. Time and Date are shown at the bottom of this page.

The Tracks Page keeps a running tab of track memory used and a list of saved tracks. This page is also used to set up, clear or save a track log. It is also used to activate the TracBack feature (digital breadcrumbs) for the current track log.

With the Routes Page a user can create a route to a destination. This route is created by a sequence of intermediate waypoints that lead to a final destination. Routes can be in a straight line, along existing roadways or via user set waypoints.

While navigating a route the Highway Page Guides the user to a destination using data fields and a gr4aphic highway. Four selectable data fields can be displayed at the top of the screen. The highway graphic visually guides from one point to the next.

The Setup Page has individual icons that can be selected to change items such as time, units, tones, routing and many more.

Proximity Waypoints allow an alarm circle to be set up around waypoints. This can help the user avoid restricted areas.

The calendar, calculator, games and stopwatch pages are self-explanatory.

The Sun and Moon Page shows the graphic location of the sun and moon relative to the earth. This page also shows sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and moonset. The movement of the sun and moon can be animated as well.

Hunting and fishing tables utilized by the Hunt and Fish Page predict the best times for these activities in list form and also gives an overall prediction for that day (poor, average, good).

Like I said before - these units have so much detail and features that it is almost impossible to explain them all in anything other than a small book! The good news is that it doesn't take much to figure out the features that are absolutely necessary to make good use of the unit. I have been using it effectively from the second or third day that I had it, which was many months ago now, but I still have much to learn. Figure out what you need to get out of it what you need and then learn the rest at your own pace.

To this date my testing has been comprised of hiking trips, mountain biking outings and turkey hunting. During turkey hunting I used it to mark located birds making it super easy to hone in on bird after bird once the season finally got underway. It almost felt like cheating! During mountain bike and hiking trips I ventured where I had never gone before and explored remote areas with confidence. With the unit in your hand you always know where you are and where you need to go to get back to civilization whether it be by a new route or the exact same tracks you got there on.

The real testing will take place during my remote, unguided hunting trip in the wilderness of Idaho this September. Yes - I will be taking the manual! When I return from that trip Part II of this report will be written and posted right here on Bowhunting.Net - STAY TUNED…

For a look at GPS Systems: GARMIN

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