Garmin's New Colorado GPS Unit - A Quick Look
The Colorado appears to be the successor to the 60 and 76 series of handheld, outdoor GPS units. It is their top-of-the-line handheld outdoor system, featuring broad compatibility with their map data ranging from detailed topographic maps to turn-by-turn routable city maps. While the Colorado received some notable improvements over its predecessors, the question of whether it is a worthwhile upgrade is a difficult one to answer.
Garmin's press release:
Colorado 300 comes with a built-in worldwide basemap with shaded relief and accepts SD cards for all your outdoor activities on land or water. Just take your pick from Garmin’s preprogrammed SD cards including street maps, topographic maps, coastal charts or inland lake data. The card slot is located inside the waterproof battery compartment, so you don't have to worry about getting it wet.
With Colorado 300 you can share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches wirelessly with other Colorado users. Now you can send your favorite hike to your buddy to enjoy or the location of a cache to find. Sharing data is easy. Just select “send” to transfer your information to other Colorado units.
Rock on. Find Fun
Intuitive and fun, Colorado features a Rock ‘n Roller™ input wheel for easy one-handed operation and supports Geocaching.com GPX files for downloading geocaches and detail straight to your unit. Customize Colorado's interface based on your favorite activity. Even show off photos of your excursions with its picture viewer. Slim, lightweight and waterproof, Colorado is the perfect companion for all your outdoor pursuits.
Keep Your Fix
With its high-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver, Colorado 300 locates your position quickly and precisely and maintains its GPS location even in heavy cover and deep canyons. The advantage is clear — whether you’re in deep woods or just near tall buildings and trees, you can count on Colorado to help you find your way when you need it the most.
Get Your Bearings
Colorado 300 has a built-in electronic compass that provides bearing information even while you're standing still, and its barometric altimeter tracks changes in pressure to pinpoint your precise altitude. You can even use the altimeter to plot barometric pressure over time, which can help you keep an eye on changing weather conditions.
Here's an example of how the interface uses the Rock 'n Roll wheel control.
The Geocaching support on the Colorado will make it a hot seller in the Geoaching community.
If you're a GPS geek, then the new features definitely make it worth an upgrade:
- Taller, higher resolution screen.
- The Colorado 300 comes with 384MB of built-in memory while the 400c/400i/400t models come with preloaded detail maps of coastal water ways, inlake lakes, and topographic maps.
- Wireless data transfer between other Colorado GPS units. Finally, we have the ability to exchange waypoints, routes, and tracks directly from one GPS to another.
- The ANT SPORT wireless network technology used by the Colorado may allow the unit to interface with other peripherals such as keyboards, data loggers, cameras, laptops, etc. This is all speculation right now, but the possibilities are tantalizing.
- Built-in support for GPX XML data files. Geocachers' dreams of paperless geocaching have been realized with the Colorado. Just dump your GPX data file into your Colorado and you've got all the information required to hunt for your cache. No need for paper printouts or additional software on PDAs to help you manage the information.
- New "Rock 'n Roller" input wheel looks like it will be an improvement over the traditional buttons. Works in a similar fashion to the circular controller on Ipods.
- Built-in picture viewer.
- Uses SD cards which are much easier to handle and used by many more devices than the micro-SD cards used in the 60/76 series.
But what if you're not a GPS geek and you just want a GPS for exploring the backcountry? Are there significant advantages to using the Colorado over the 60/76 series?
- From a receiver standpoint, the SIRF chipset used in the 60/76 series is already very, very good. Even in the densest of tree canopies, I've never lost satellite lock when fourwheeling with mine. And I don't even use an external antenna. The Colorado uses a Garmin designed receiver which is supposed to be just as good as the SIRF unit. So it's a draw here. No real advantage to upgrading.
- The wireless communications ability could be very useful but the big question is what devices are going to support the ANT technology? If it were Bluetooth, then yes, the possibilies are very enticing. But until we see more ANT-enabled devices, we're only cautiously optimistic about the possibilities. On the other hand, wireless data transfer between GPS units is a very handy feature and one that we've been wishing for for a long time. Yes, it's a bit limited since it only works between other Colorado units, but in time, that situation should improve. But again, Bluetooth would've been nice in this case, too.
- The 400c, 400i and 400t models are great if you have to live in the United States, because that's the area covered by those built-in maps. Canadian users are better off buying the 300 model and uploading their own maps.
- The 3d shaded relief view is a very cool feature but isn't a necessity and not enough to warrant an upgrade.
- Unlike the 60/76 series with their Cx and CSx models, the Colorado range has no models that do not come with a barometric altimeter or electronic compass. And the compass is listed as a 2-axis compass, which means it could be as ineffective as the one used in the 60/76 which is very picky about being held perfectly level. Switching to a 3-axis compass like the one used in some Magellans would have pleased many Garmin fans.
If you're in the market for a GPS, I would strongly recommend waiting until the Colorados hit the shelves. You may find its feature set to be worth the extra cost. But even if you don't, the arrival of the Colorado will drive down the price of the 60/76 CS and CSx units so it's still worth waiting until the Colorados reach the stores before making your purchase.