Friday, July 18, 2008

First Look: Garmin Oregon 400T

We had the opportunity yesterday evening to take out a Garmin Oregon 400T for a quick find on one of our caches. Our frequent caching partners TeamLegend4 returned their Garmin Colorado 400T to REI and picked up one of the first Oregons only a few hours earlier. Sitting in a local café, we browsed through the screens and functions, checked the interface, and made some observations compared to the Colorado and 60CSx. Then we took the unit on a short trip to a nearby cache we'd hidden which TL4 had not yet had the chance to find. From that short experience I'd like to share my impressions.
  • Garmin has a GSPR which is much easier to handle in the Oregon than with the Colorado. The back fits more comfortably in my hand and the missing inch at the top for the antenna and Rock ‘n Roller. Removal of the battery cover is simple. Though it might be on the bottom and force the Oregon to hang up-side-down like a possum, the addition of a lanyard connection is very welcome.
  • The touch screen is pressure sensitive, not thermal, permitting use of a stylus and gloved fingers. More important is that the pressure sensing screens have a wide range of temperatures in which they will function.
  • Paperless caching mode is much more usable. There's now an internal counter to track your total finds, and the option to add comments to the field note entry.
  • The change I most welcome over the Colorado comes in the form of the text entry. No longer must you suffer through the endless scrolling of characters, but you tap them out through an alpha or numeric key pad on screen. This makes entry much quicker and far less cumbersome.
  • One major drawback though is the lack of mechanical buttons. There's no quick access to a home screen, no single button press to mark a waypoint, just the tapping of drawn buttons against glass and the power/backlight button. While much more versatile, it does seem to take much more time to flip through screens, zoom in or out, and even adjust the intensity of the backlight.
  • While it does appear have the same beautiful screen as the Colorado, the Oregon's touch panel does seem to reduce the amount of light able to pass through. In bright daylight the backlight was still required to read the display.
  • Alas the accuracy of the Oregon 400T we tried didn't seem to match the previous generation of GPSRs. We were about 25 feet from the cache when the Oregon sang the song of being 4 feet from the cache with a 20 foot margin of error. While that's certain not a bad reading, its not the accuracy of the 60CSx nor the Legend Cx (or at least before ours flaked and would constantly read being off 50+ feet).
Overall I'm impressed with the improvements made to the software from the Colorado. I'm still not convinced however about the hardware or use as a GPSR yet. Were I asked today whether someone should buy the Colorado or the Oregon I still couldn't say with any certainty, but I would suggest the Oregon over the Colorado. I'd like to see work done to the software and I need to spend more time in the field to determine the GPSRs accuracy. Perhaps then I'll have been able to form a better opinion, and perhaps then I might actually buy one myself. Till then there's no way I'm giving up the trusty GPSMap 60CSx.

No comments: