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  1. #1
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    Recommendations: Edge 800 v. Oregon 400t v. 450t v. Dakota 20

    I ran an etrex Vista C for probably about 7 to 8 years, and it finally starting to fad out, crash. I use it mostly for mountain biking and also for road biking, and primarily save or load maps off the web. Aside from that I'm not a racer. So I was looking at the above mentioned models and wanted to see if anyone has come up with a winning combination. The positive and negatives I've found are as follows: edge has gradient, rechargeable battery, and a slim design going for it; although close to most expensive at $389. The Oregon has good screen resolution, and memory (waypoints, routes, etc); most expensive at $350. The Oregon 400 is $300 (but don't know the dif bw the 400 and 450). Dakota 20 seems to have most features, small so won't look like a brick on handlebar (could also be a negative with screen size), and cheapest at $239; heard bad screen resolution.

    So first off does anyone know the difference bw the Oregon 400 and 450? How bad is the screen resolution on the Dakota, and also size for that matter? Resolution I could see playing the biggest role when road biking in the direct sun. How does the Dakota compare to say my current color etrex's viewing/resolution/capabilities? Also when I compare the Edge and Dakota they have close the same screen resolution and size, but I don't see anyone complaining about viewing the screen on the Edge? How big is the Oregon on handlebars. I would prefer not have something that looks like a brick sitting on there. Any help would be appreciated, for some reason I haven't found a shop close by that has all of these models to compare.

  2. #2
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    I can only talk about the Oregon 450, first here is the size mounted on stem. That is not my pic, but looks exactly the same for me. And FYI, there is a $50 rebate on Oregon if you buy it by the end of Sept.

    I will agree with others, this is not a bike specific GPS. I bike with it, geocache, and auto navigate with it. It does each one well enough for me, and some of the other models will do one of those functions great, and suck at the others. There are some more detailed discussions on pros/cons, take a look.

    I do see myself as an less-than-GPS-educated fanboy of the 450, and I'd buy it again.

  3. #3
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    Don't ignore the updated etrexes, unless you hate the joystick on your current one.

    A few more things to consider:

    Edge is intended for bicycling. Meaning it has limitations for other things.. But it does bicycling well. Better than all the others, to be totally honest. Its footprint on the bars is not a whole lot different than the Oregon in the picture linked (that looks about the same as mine, too) , but the Oregon obviously has quite a bit of thickness to it compared to the Edge. That makes it comfortable to hold in the hand, but gives it more profile on the bars.

    The Oregon is not intended for JUST bicycling. It has some limitations there. What it is intended to be is versatile. It CAN use some extra sensors (HRM, speed/cad), but apparently not at least Garmin's new power meter.

    I use mine for mt biking, geocaching, car travel (esp when traveling), and hiking.

    The Edge 800 is going to be a little more versatile than other Edge models owing to its software, but it still is better for mostly bike use.

    As for batteries - there's a lot of debate there. I tend to prefer replaceable AA's so I can just change them out when they die (this comes from hiking, I think, where I may not be anywhere near a power source and I don't want to wait hours for the thing to recharge with a solar panel). I use rechargeable AA's to keep battery costs down, though. Others are bothered by the inconvenience of having to remove the batteries to recharge them because they're accustomed to Lipo/LiIon packs that can be recharged just by plugging into a USB/power supply.

    As for differences between the Oregon 400 and 450, there's not much. Functionally, they're about the same. The big difference is that the Oregon 400 was early generation hardware when Garmin was still figuring out the screen. Visibility on the 450 was improved, so the 400 was discontinued. Speaking to price, there is the rebate going on, and if you're patient you can find it on sale for $250. I got mine for that price about a year ago, and REI just ended a similar sale (which could be combined with the rebate for a final price of $200). I've seen the $250 price at Cabelas, too.

    I believe Krein on these forums has used a Dakota 20 on his bike. Yes, resolution is less than the Oregon and others, but I believe that was done mostly as a cost-saving measure and it wound up also resulting in improved brightness. Go figure. I have no experience with that model, so I can only repeat what I've seen on spec sheets. It is smaller in size, so if that's a concern, it might be worth a look over the Oregon. I personally would have bought the Dakota 20 for cost reasons if I hadn't found the Oregon 450 on sale when I did.

    I really don't have any major complaints about the screen on the Oregon 450. In direct sun, I have no problems whatsoever with it. In bright indirect sun, it can be tough. But turning so the sun is direct resolves that problem most of the time. Obviously that doesn't help when riding, but should you really be looking at the screen while riding, anyway? Sometimes sunglasses interfere with visibility, so I have to take off my glasses. That's just a deal breaker for me.

  4. #4
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    Here is a good comparison of a hand held vs fitness gps to consider.

    Oregon 450 IMHO not so great as a bike computer

    There are many threads on teh Oregons here, and others, if you browse.
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  5. #5
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    I haven't tried the others, but I have a Dakota 20. Haven't had it too long, but so far I like it real well. I do a lot of hiking as well as riding, so I didn't want to go with a bike-specific unit.
    I haven't compared the screen with an Oregon, but the Dakota resolution seems fine for my uses. I use it mostly for recording tracks, which then go on the computer. If you were going to be using it to follow a lot of routes, I might go for the larger screen. Typing in track and point names is a little tricky on the smaller screen (easy to hit the wrong letter), but it's not a big deal. I like the overall size of the Dakota- it fits nicely in a 100-110 mm stem on the Garmin mount. The mount isn't real user friendly, but it seems to be secure enough if you always check to make sure that the GPS is "clicked" in.
    The touch screen is nice while riding- definitely easier to use than buttons on the fly. It's also nice that all you have to do is touch it to get the backlight to come on, and it'll shut off automatically after 15 seconds (or other intervals if you choose).
    Battery life seems to be good, maybe even a little bit better than my old eTrex.
    I think the only thing I miss from my old eTrex is the ability to reset the odometer (not the trip odometer) without resetting the whole GPS. On the Dakota, the odometer just keeps racking up miles until you do a full reset (which will erase all your other data as well). This is kind of silly for my uses- I'd rather be able to reset the odometer, so I can use it to measure distances between landmarks, ect (while letting the trip odometer record my total distance). I'm hoping that Garmin might change that in a future update if enough people complain about it.

  6. #6
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    I've had a Dakota 20 for 2 seasons on my bike, chosen partly for size, and partly for cost. I wanted a more general purpose GPS for navigation as well as bike computer/data logging functions. I mostly use to see where I've been but I do sometimes load a track on it. Screen visibility on the Dakota 20 isn't perfect but I can always stop for a moment if I need to see things, plus it beeps at waypoints when following a stored route or track. The touchscreen is definitely easier to use than a bunch of buttons and menus and I can always clean up any typos on my computer. The Garmin mount works well on a 90-110mm stem as long the faceplate bolts are set wide enough to clear it (Bontrager won't work, FSA & Ritchey do).
    Compared to an Edge series the Dakota is bulkier but still OK on a bike, and while it handles navigation and will accept a speed cadence sensor, it won't work with a power meter. From what I have seen an Oregon is basically a Dakota writ large so on a bike you have more weight and bulk but a bigger display.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SlowJoeCrow View Post
    I've had a Dakota 20 for 2 seasons on my bike, chosen partly for size, and partly for cost. I wanted a more general purpose GPS for navigation as well as bike computer/data logging functions. I mostly use to see where I've been but I do sometimes load a track on it. Screen visibility on the Dakota 20 isn't perfect but I can always stop for a moment if I need to see things, plus it beeps at waypoints when following a stored route or track. The touchscreen is definitely easier to use than a bunch of buttons and menus and I can always clean up any typos on my computer. The Garmin mount works well on a 90-110mm stem as long the faceplate bolts are set wide enough to clear it (Bontrager won't work, FSA & Ritchey do).
    Compared to an Edge series the Dakota is bulkier but still OK on a bike, and while it handles navigation and will accept a speed cadence sensor, it won't work with a power meter. From what I have seen an Oregon is basically a Dakota writ large so on a bike you have more weight and bulk but a bigger display.
    Where was formerly some overlap between the Oregon 300 and the Dakota series, but now that the Oregon line starts at the 450, it's a more natural transition from the Dakota 20 to Oregon 450. Same software and sensors, but the Oregon series gives you more/better screen, more memory, etc.

  8. #8
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    I own Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, Oregon 550 (new version) and eTrex 30. For MTB I don't prefer touch screen due to mud & dust and some handling features. To mark precisely a point on the map you have to zoom in and during winter time handling with the gloves is not easy.

    New eTrex 30 supports custom maps, fitness parameters and the housing & MTB holder is much better than on the old eTrex series. The readability of the screen is better than on touch screen devices. Of course standard AA batteries..................

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velebit View Post
    To mark precisely a point on the map you have to zoom in and during winter time handling with the gloves is not easy.
    To precisely mark a point on the map, I don't use the map screen at all. Either I will enter coordinates manually, mark the point when I arrive there (then average 100 or so points if I want improved accuracy), or if we're talking about planning and navigating to the point when in the field, I do my planning at home on the computer.

    FYI

    For me, the ridiculous number of button pushes required to enter one letter on the etrex with that joystick is enough of an annoyance that I don't want to use one. for those of you who don't care about that, it's nice that Garmin has updated the guts of the GPS to provide more functionality.

    I do see the new etrex models carving a niche for mt bikers (they were originally the go-to models for mt bikers), but I think it will be a minor one as compared to the Edge models. Maybe they'll eventually take over the Oregon and Dakota models, but I doubt many people will keep an Oregon and add an eTrex like the OP has. I use an Oregon because I want ONE GPS for all the things I do, and the Oregon is more versatile for me.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    navigating to the point when in the field, I do my planning at home on the computer.
    Yes, I plan most of the routes at the home but during my virgin rides I use different maps and from time to time I have to edit my route in the field. Last but not least as I mentioned the handling with the touch screen in the case of mud, dust and with gloves on hands is a pain. I have no problem to enter some short text in eTrex even with the gloves on my hands. I can do this with one hand only. Try to enter some text on Oregon with winter gloves and mud on the screen/gloves.

    During last 3 years I have a lot of problems with Oregon 550. Most of the time I use custom maps, at least 200 waypoints and 5-15 tracks. Oregon has some bugs and each firmware upgrade means some surprise in the field. 6-10 firmware upgrades per year and the unit still has some problems even the new one! Many users report the problems at Garmin Oregon GPS Wiki.

    Anyway Garmin offers many different models so we can try to find what we need. And the competition is slipping .

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velebit View Post
    Yes, I plan most of the routes at the home but during my virgin rides I use different maps and from time to time I have to edit my route in the field. Last but not least as I mentioned the handling with the touch screen in the case of mud, dust and with gloves on hands is a pain. I have no problem to enter some short text in eTrex even with the gloves on my hands. I can do this with one hand only. Try to enter some text on Oregon with winter gloves and mud on the screen/gloves.

    During last 3 years I have a lot of problems with Oregon 550. Most of the time I use custom maps, at least 200 waypoints and 5-15 tracks. Oregon has some bugs and each firmware upgrade means some surprise in the field. 6-10 firmware upgrades per year and the unit still has some problems even the new one! Many users report the problems at Garmin Oregon GPS Wiki.

    Anyway Garmin offers many different models so we can try to find what we need. And the competition is slipping .
    I suspect winter gloves for me might be different than from you. My winter gloves are primarily Marmot softshell gloves, and I have no problems using the touchscreen. I don't have problems with mud - I just don't ride in mud if it's bad enough that it's getting all over my GPS. I do live in a pretty dusty environment (especially with this year's drought) and again, the touchscreen hasn't been a problem.

    I really haven't had any issues with the firmware on the Oregon. I recognize that there are some bugs (there are going to be plenty of those on those new etrexes, too), but they haven't given me any trouble. I keep thousands of points on my Oregon (most of them geocaches) and there's usually a bunch of auto-saved tracks in the archive. I don't tend to navigate previous tracks, though. Mostly mine is used for track recording and visual reference purposes when riding somewhere new. I never use routes.

    short text isn't much of a problem, no. but, when you like to enter a descriptive title and a detailed description in the comments field for future reference on a waypoint, having to click to each letter using several button pushes on the etrex joystick or the rocker switch on the GPSMap series becomes a serious pain in the ass. that's not to say the Oregon's way is perfect. you've found limitations with it in certain circumstances. but that method works better for me.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    I never use routes.
    Me too. I don't use geocaches, so agree we may use the unit on the different way even to enter comment. Most of the time I enter some abbreviations only like TR (turn right) or KL (keep left)......

    Most of my troubles with Oregon are related to the problem with tracks on the screen. If few tracks were turned on the current track on the screen could be interrupted. To be on the screen I have to store the current track and than turn on the stored version. The map on the screen is the custom map (kmz or jnx/BirdsEye).

    Fast scrolling and zooming is the main advantage of Oregon over eTrex 30. Of course the size/resolution of the screen is the second point and I love it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Velebit View Post
    Me too. I don't use geocaches, so agree we may use the unit on the different way even to enter comment. Most of the time I enter some abbreviations only like TR (turn right) or KL (keep left)......

    Most of my troubles with Oregon are related to the problem with tracks on the screen. If few tracks were turned on the current track on the screen could be interrupted. To be on the screen I have to store the current track and than turn on the stored version. The map on the screen is the custom map (kmz or jnx/BirdsEye).

    Fast scrolling and zooming is the main advantage of Oregon over eTrex 30. Of course the size/resolution of the screen is the second point and I love it.
    I see what you're saying. Garmin has always had a clumsy interface for displaying other trails on the device to assist with navigating the trail, but this is common to all Garmins. The current best way to do it is to make or download the trails as transparent vector basemaps. This requires specific software and extra steps - a royal pain in my ass. What Garmin NEEDS to support is loading of GPS data that does not follow the track format (with a location as well as a time stamp so speed can be calculated) in a continuous linear feature. Garmin needs to support loading GPS data as networks (with many intersections/nodes treated as such).

    That way, you could publish one file (.kml would be a good format to distinguish it from tracks in .gpx - With a GIS background, shapefiles make sense to me to use for this, but layfolks probably won't understand shapefiles) that could be dragged/dropped onto the GPS and would overlay on top of all basemaps used. It would be nice if the GPS could support autorouting on the feature without minimal additional processing. Support for displaying multiple tracks at once (say, when there are two networks nearby, but with no connecting trails) would be nice.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    With a GIS background, shapefiles make sense to me to use for this, but layfolks probably won't understand shapefiles) that could be dragged/dropped onto the GPS and would overlay on top of all basemaps used.
    From time to time I used that but it's time consuming. I did some projects in GIS. To do that tracks should be converted into shp and then there are tools like Mapwel to create *.img map. Doing that you avoid the limits of waypoints and tracks. Even old Garmins are supported too. My first Garmin GPS eTrex Vista HCx can display easy multiple tracks and this unit follows the official specification. With Oregon I cannot be sure. I will have to check eTrex 30.

    We are off topics but there are many things Garmin can improve. The function to store, load and delete waypoints & tracks from different folders on unit internal or external memory (micro SD) is my first wish. It can help to view, organize and store multiple trips in the field more easy without external computer.

    I am very happy with custom maps (kmz & jnx) feature because this is the most important improvement and helps me to explore my area. Without this option I would keep my eTrex Vista HCx into the action and save some $ . Ooops and the separate HR and cadence computer with another batteries should be on the handlebar and I hate this.

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    I like my Edge 800, but don't like that the trail maps I bought for it from Garmin (NW Trails) don't support turn-by-turn routing, so if I want to go to a POI, it only knows how to send me there by using actual streets, and can't figure out how to incorporate bike trails into the route. Also, I have to keep it in offroad mode when using trails that are marked as such on the maps that I have loaded on it, which is a PITA when I want to be routed somewhere, because unless I take it OFF offroad mode, it tries to send me there in a straight line. So yes, it is bike-specific, but doesn't always feel like the most useful.

  16. #16
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    The maps have to have routing data encoded into them by the map maker. I do not know of any trail maps that have that, free or paid or anything. In my six or seven years of using a GPS for everything from riding to exploring to designing and laying out trails, I have never seen one, and believe me, I have searched and asked plenty of places.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hernan1304 View Post
    I like my Edge 800, but don't like that the trail maps I bought for it from Garmin (NW Trails) don't support turn-by-turn routing, so if I want to go to a POI, it only knows how to send me there by using actual streets, and can't figure out how to incorporate bike trails into the route. Also, I have to keep it in offroad mode when using trails that are marked as such on the maps that I have loaded on it, which is a PITA when I want to be routed somewhere, because unless I take it OFF offroad mode, it tries to send me there in a straight line. So yes, it is bike-specific, but doesn't always feel like the most useful.
    The usage model you describe isn't really possible.

    I have seen a rare few routable trail maps online. They're rare because the software used to encode routing data is expensive for just encoding routing data.

    It's not a practical solution for trails in most cases for a handful of reasons.

    - It's logistically very difficult to digitize ALL of the trails out there and you're just not going to find a central person/company able to do that sort of thing for ALL of the trails out there AND keep that all up to date.

    - It's logistically very difficult to keep that kind of data up-to-date. Garmin releases street map updates quarterly because it's relatively easy for the mapping companies to digitize new roads with their fancy cars. Nothing of the sort exists for trails that I'm aware of. Add to that the fact that trails are much more dynamic and changeable than roads and you have a recipe for a logistical nightmare. The best solution for trails as it stands now is a distributed data collection model as demonstrated by the many websites out there that allow you to upload and share that data. The next step would be to leverage that data on an automated basis to integrate it into routable maps. But problems exist for that, too. Are those trails legal, public access trails? What are the permitted uses on those trails? Garmin Connect knows no such things and so for them to generate routable trail maps based on the data on their servers could create problems.

    What you CAN do for your usage model is to generate a route on the computer before you go on your trip. Doing this, with preexisting trail data, you can create a route that covers the streets AND the trails you'd like to incorporate into your route. No, you cannot easily do this on the fly on the GPS itself. But as of now, that's the best you're going to get and even it has limitations and issues. Because also as of now, navigation of trails is best done by following an existing track. But that's an impractical solution for the road. And creating a route on the computer to follow a trail that is best followed by a track won't necessarily give you the best time and distance estimates because of antialiasing issues.

  18. #18
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    Quite unrealistic

    Quote Originally Posted by hernan1304 View Post
    I like my Edge 800, but don't like that the trail maps I bought for it from Garmin (NW Trails) don't support turn-by-turn routing, so if I want to go to a POI, it only knows how to send me there by using actual streets, and can't figure out how to incorporate bike trails into the route.
    Quite unrealistic expectations. There would be such a small market for what you are asking for, so they would cost a fortune to make. I ride the same trails many different ways. Either download somebody else's tracks from a web site or make your own and upload them.

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    I don't know much about the underlying technology, but I don't see why it should be unrealistic for a computer to see a line in a map that is marked as a trail and know that it can send you on it in both directions. It's a line on a map that represents a track that corresponds to coordinates. I don't really care what the excuses are as to why it hasn't happened, it should be possible. Also, the damn thing was $800 so I feel entitled to unrealistic expectations. Don't feel like fighting online though, so we can agree to disagree.

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    You are right, you do not know the underlying technology. Many of us do. The reasons described to you are not excuses. They are real limitations. It does not matter if you don't like them. You will not finda single device that can do what you want at any cost.

    Methods to deal with device and map limitations have been described to you. You can use them and get over your righteous indignation or you can stew over your frustration about a piddly issue and return your GPS. Someone will gladly buy your crappy hardware

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by hernan1304 View Post
    I don't know much about the underlying technology, but I don't see why it should be unrealistic for a computer to see a line in a map that is marked as a trail and know that it can send you on it in both directions. It's a line on a map that represents a track that corresponds to coordinates. I don't really care what the excuses are as to why it hasn't happened, it should be possible. Also, the damn thing was $800 so I feel entitled to unrealistic expectations. Don't feel like fighting online though, so we can agree to disagree.
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  22. #22
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    I'll bite

    Quote Originally Posted by hernan1304 View Post
    I don't know much about the underlying technology, but I don't see why it should be unrealistic for a computer to see a line in a map that is marked as a trail and know that it can send you on it in both directions. It's a line on a map that represents a track that corresponds to coordinates. I don't really care what the excuses are as to why it hasn't happened, it should be possible. Also, the damn thing was $800 so I feel entitled to unrealistic expectations. Don't feel like fighting online though, so we can agree to disagree.
    I'll bite. Who would make these maps for you and why would they do so?

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    Quote Originally Posted by hernan1304 View Post
    I don't know much about the underlying technology, but I don't see why it should be unrealistic for a computer to see a line in a map that is marked as a trail and know that it can send you on it in both directions. It's a line on a map that represents a track that corresponds to coordinates. I don't really care what the excuses are as to why it hasn't happened, it should be possible. Also, the damn thing was $800 so I feel entitled to unrealistic expectations. Don't feel like fighting online though, so we can agree to disagree.
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    Considering getting a garmin edge 800 when I am in the States in a week. They are cheaper there, just worried that some newer model will come out, right after I purchase it. Wonder if I should wait?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mattyvan View Post
    Considering getting a garmin edge 800 when I am in the States in a week. They are cheaper there, just worried that some newer model will come out, right after I purchase it. Wonder if I should wait?
    you should always wait. there's always a new model in the works and it will always be better than the one you want right now.

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