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Old 01-20-10, 09:27 AM   #1
BigBlueToe
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DeLorme Earthmate PN-40 vs. Garmin Vista HcX

I'm thinking about buying a gps prior to this summer's tour. These two look promising. Any comments? Experience? Suggestions?

Thanks.
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Old 01-20-10, 03:30 PM   #2
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BBT, my new Vista HCx was delivered Saturday. While I have no previous experience with GPS devices, I did my research beforehand, and the long weekend afforded me some extra time to learn quite a bit about the Vista's features. I can't, however, compare the Vista HCx to the DeLorme, though.

I wanted: External memory slot, AA-battery power source, watertight construction and color display. I ended up getting this and more, including a sensitive antenna, what appears to be a strong network of current eTrex owners providing solid information on the internet, and supposedly long battery life among other features.

Multiple online reviews and resources have described the included manual as less than helpful. I agree that it doesn't offer much. However, with the mulitple resources available, this isn't really a handicap. The basemap is worthless for navigation, so plan on acquiring/downloading some real maps.

For example, here's a "basemap" PC screenshot of an area you're probably familiar with, Pismo Beach:


Here's the same shot with City Navigator (also zoomed out to 0.2mi):


In addition to City Navigator (DVD), I installed free topo maps for California. Here's the same Pismo Beach screenshot with just CA Topo:


So far, I've installed the western states from City Navigator and most of the topo maps for California. I've used just under 850MB of my 2GB microSD card:

From what I understand, you can install whatever size microSD card you wish, but the Vista HCx will only read up to 2GB. That's still a lot of space, not even considering the fact that you can use multiple cards.

When you have both topo and street maps installed for a particular location, you can select to view one or the other. However, I've read that you cannot view both the topo and street details simultaneously; this is not true, as I discovered this weekend.

Here are a few screenshots taken from my device; the first is shown with City Navigator only:



Here is the same location shown in topo:



But by selecting the right options:



....you can see both at the same time:



The "trip computer" isn't too shabby:



...and you can change the data fields:
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Old 01-20-10, 03:31 PM   #3
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[...cont'd]

The "Find" menu helps the user quickly locate a variety of locations:



Here I've selected "Shopping" from the "Find" menu. The device quickly shows nearby locations (though I can choose to get locations from other areas easily):



Here I've chosen a location and can see the address/phone info. By selecting either "map" or "go to," I can either see the location on the map or have the device navigate me there:

I can also "save" the location as a waypoint for future use.


The Find menu also allows you to locate by known address:



Just fill in the info...



...and you can have the device locate it on the map or navigate you:



In the settings menu, you can change how the Vista HCx chooses to design your route or navigate you:



Garmin has an option available for the touring or commuting cyclist:


FYI, Garmin's maps are available in three formats: DVD, microSD card, or direct download from Garmin's site. I went with the DVD. The downside of DVD is that the map software becomes linked to one particular unit and cannot be moved to another device, and you must provide your own microSD card (The preloaded microSD card from Garmin has neither of these negatives). But with the DVD, I can manage routes and waypoints on the computer. I can create duplicate cards in the event a card becomes damaged (which could be important far from home). I can also create different cards that are specific for different applications. I can also purchase less expensive updates; with the preloaded card from Garmin, I would need to replace the card entirely at a much higher cost. Finally, you can purchase the DVD at discount online from various online sources; this is also true for the preloaded card, but the direct dowload would naturally be at Garmin's full price.

I could go on describing options and features, of which there are many. So far, I'm pleased with the Vista's capabilities and features. Currently, I need to get some recommendations for rechargeable batteries/charger.
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Old 01-22-10, 01:46 PM   #4
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They are both fairly similar. In my mind the main difference would be the Vista would have better battery life, and the PN-40 would come with more maps.
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Old 01-23-10, 07:49 AM   #5
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desertdork,

Superb review!!! Any idea of what the battery life is? I have a Garmin 305 and it gets about 8-10 hours then must be recharged- a real pain if there's no electrical outlet nearby.

BTW, how do you mount this unit to your bike?
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Old 01-23-10, 12:08 PM   #6
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bobframe, thanks for the comment, but I'm still in the early stages of understanding the GPSr and its abilities. I had filed the screenshots just in case I wanted them for a future review of the Vista shortly before I noticed this thread.

For some in-depth knowledge by an experienced user, have a look at the post by NeilGunton in this current thread.

Battery life: Garmin claims 25hrs, and the comments/reviews I've read indicate that to be a reasonable expectation. While a couple of users stated they'd get closer to 20hrs, others were getting over 25hrs. I'd guess some variance would be expected due to differences in batteries and how the features are being used (e.g., backlight). In addition, since it uses two AA's, it would seem to be more practical for a touring or long distance cyclist.

I don't have a mount system for it yet. It's been a very wet week, so I haven't even ridden with it yet. Garmin does sell a bicycle mount for it, but I understand that many users have experienced failure with it. The mount that Garmin sells comes with a replacement battery cover that incorporates a compatible clip to be used with the mount. This cover apparently doesn't have the necessary recess inside it to accommodate the microSD card. My Vista HCx included a separate clip to be mounted to the back of the original cover, and I suspect that all "x" models would include this clip. It does appear to be a bit fragile in design, though.

For a H-bar mount, it looks like a RAM mount is the more sturdy choice. I read a tutorial elsewhere that decribed how to modify the RAM eTrex holder so it will mount directly to the H-bar or stem without using the bulkier mount assemblies RAM spec'd for motorcycles. This is the route I'll likely take.

Something I learned after buying the Vista regards an ongoing concern with the rubber "gasket" that encircles the device, and this is apparently a concern with all eTrex models. Many users have complained of this band gradually sliding off the device after a period of usage due to failure of the adhesive double-sided tape Garmin uses to secure it. I don't know what conditions exactly contribute to this issue, but I suspect heat, exposure to direct sunlight and possibly high humidy in conjuction with heat would all be valid reasons. Though it seems Garmin has been decent about responding to the concern, some of the owners have been able to resolve the issue with superior results on their own. A better response on Garmin's part would probably be to change the adhesive to avoid these complaints altogether. If the antenna is as sensitive as I suspect, I could see myself just leaving the GPSr in a front bag or h-bar bag during those long, hot/sunny stretches when just want to track my route and don't need to view the turn-by-turn navigation.
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Old 01-23-10, 12:20 PM   #7
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I had the adhesive come unstuck on the rubber housing of my eTrex Vista HCx a few months ago. I had a hunch that it was probably because we had left the unit on the car dashboard at times, where it would obviously sometimes get quite hot from the sun, but I guess it could also have just been a general flaw with the particular adhesive they were using. I didn't know it was a broader problem that lots of other people had experienced. In any case, fortunately I had purchased the unit from REI, so even though it was just over a year old, they replaced it with a new unit without question! REI rocks. And I was also able to convince Garmin to switch the lock on my existing City Navigator from the old unit to the new one (I had to email them proof that I was exchanging rather than just buying a new one). I'm really hoping the new one doesn't develop the same issue. Do you have any more details on how some users were able to "resolve the issue with superior results of their own"?

By the way, the bike handlebar holder works just fine in my experience - never had any problem with it coming off or loosening. I seem to remember the back that came with the mount not working with the eTrex, but I believe I just kept the original one and screwed on the clip and it works flawlessly. You do have to make sure the clip is tightened sufficiently onto the back of the GPS, I wish they had used a real screwdriver slot rather than the one designed to take a coin - it's quite difficult to get good purchase on it for tightening, easy to slip. For a long time I looped the lanyard around the handlebars in order to keep the GPS from falling to the ground if it came off the mount, but I feel a lot more confident about it now and don't bother with that any more.

Neil

Last edited by NeilGunton; 01-23-10 at 12:24 PM.
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Old 01-23-10, 12:39 PM   #8
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Here's an interesting comparison between the two, from a cyclist's perspective:

http://groups.google.com/group/rando...5e90237fc45c47

I posted a very similar question regarding how the Garmin and DeLorme units compare over on the DeLorme forums last year:

http://forum.delorme.com/viewtopic.php?f=131&t=17118

Some interesting stuff there.

Neil
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Old 01-23-10, 12:47 PM   #9
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The big advantage to DeLorme is that they include maps, and you can get annual updates for a very reasonable price. Garmin's can eat you alive with map costs.
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Old 01-23-10, 01:08 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeilGunton
Do you have any more details on how some users were able to "resolve the issue with superior results of their own"?
Hi Neil,

Here are two threads I read @ groundspeak regarding the adhesive issue.

http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/ind...owtopic=202846
http://forums.groundspeak.com/GC/ind...owtopic=186871

That's fortunate that REI exchanged it...and that your were able to get your unlock code moved to the replacement device.

I'm glad you've had a positive experience with your Garmin mount. Given your real experience with it, I might be tempted to at least try it.

I do have two questions for you, Neil:

1. Do you favor a particular battery and charger?
2. Have you done anything to (or felt a reason to) protect the screen?
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Old 01-23-10, 01:35 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by desertdork View Post
1. Do you favor a particular battery and charger?
I have been favoring the Energizer Lithium batteries with my eTrex, since they are very light and seem to have an excellent lifetime. Especially on tour, I try to avoid chargers, since in my experience rechargeable batteries never seem to last very long on a charge, and the charger is just one more thing to lug around. In my opinion rechargeables are better for a commuting situation, where you have ready access to a wall outlet every night.

Quote:
Originally Posted by desertdork View Post
2. Have you done anything to (or felt a reason to) protect the screen?
No, the screen is extremely tough. I've had many other such devices that get scratched very easily, so I can tell that Garmin has used some kind of special material on the eTrex Vista HCx. It's very cool, really. Maybe it would get scratched if you were constantly packing it with other stuff that rubs up against the screen, but honestly in the year I had the original unit, the only visible scratch on that was from the incident with the nail board. Pretty impressive! I think if you use common sense, take normal care and don't abuse it, then the screen does not seem to need additional protection.

Neil
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Old 01-23-10, 01:55 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NeilGunton View Post
I have been favoring the Energizer Lithium batteries with my eTrex, since they are very light and seem to have an excellent lifetime. Especially on tour, I try to avoid chargers, since in my experience rechargeable batteries never seem to last very long on a charge, and the charger is just one more thing to lug around. In my opinion rechargeables are better for a commuting situation, where you have ready access to a wall outlet every night.


So you use disposable batteries? How many hours usage do you normally get?
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Old 01-23-10, 02:41 PM   #13
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So you use disposable batteries? How many hours usage do you normally get?
I haven't done a formal test, but on tour I seem to remember the Energizer Lithiums lasted something like one and a half to two weeks, with the GPS being on all day while riding in order to capture trackpoints. No backlight was needed when riding in full daylight, so that probably made them last a little longer.

Neil
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Old 01-25-10, 10:41 AM   #14
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I was already to buy the Vista eTrex and then I read about the adhesive unsticking and the idea of having to remove the glue and then reattach it without causing a problem seems like something I'd rather not do. Also, the cost of the maps makes the initial price difference meaningless.

On the other hand, the DeLorme PN-40 has really bad battery life, which on a bike seems to be a major shortcoming.

I'm now leaning toward the DeLorme but don't like the idea of having to carry lots of batteries just to keep the GPS working.

Anyone with PN-40 experience on a bike tour out there?

Ray
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Old 01-25-10, 04:22 PM   #15
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I checked out the PN40 at my local REI and discovered DoLorme makes a PN30, as well. The only differences I can see is that the PN30 doesn't have the compass or the altimeter. I can carry a regular compass (though I usually don't) and I've never used/wanted an altimeter.

The PN30 is on sale at the moment for $230 versus $350 for the PN40. So it may be time for
me to buy the PN30 as I can't see spending $120 for an electronic compass and altmeter.

I'll report back when I have something to report.

Ray
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Old 01-25-10, 06:09 PM   #16
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or...get the PN 40 at amazon for 269 (includes shipping) from amazon seller J&R Music and Computer World.

http://www.amazon.com/DeLorme-Earthm...4464458&sr=1-1
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Old 01-25-10, 09:10 PM   #17
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or...get the PN 40 at amazon for 269 (includes shipping) from amazon seller J&R Music and Computer World.

http://www.amazon.com/DeLorme-Earthm...4464458&sr=1-1
I really like REI's return policy and, as a member, I get a 10% rebate next year. Also, price isn't my main concern.

Ray
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Old 01-26-10, 03:25 AM   #18
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Ray,

Great point! Can't beat REI customer service and return policy.

OFF Topic..I just scored a Garmin GPSMAP 76csx from Eastern Mountain Sports for $90. However, after I buy a couple of maps, it will be more expensive than the PN 40. And I have to buy a additional maps for this thing. The base map is plain bad
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Old 01-26-10, 01:01 PM   #19
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would this site be of any benifit to you guy's i came across it on crazyguyonabike it'swww.grough.co.uk/route.if it's any good please let me know i have noidea how these things work.
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