GPS, Magellan or Garmin

I am looking to upgrade my GPS and have pretty much narrowed it down to the Garmin etrex Vista HCx or the Magellan explorist XL. Both models have the features I think I will need butI like the larger screen of the Magellan. I have heard that the Garmin models are easier to use-any truth to that?

I think it is…

– Last Updated: Feb-14-08 2:42 PM EST –

Like a Ford or Chevy thing. They both can do many similar things. Garmin has the market edge. I have heard growlings about both regarding service. I send my Magellan in because it got splashed and was not waterproof as the box said. They proceeded to lose it, and without a shipping receipt, I was out of luck. Luckly I found someone to confirm its receipt and they sent not one new unit, but two!

It is hard to compare the two operating systems without playing with them for a few days. If you can find a manual for each online, you can learn alot. My best advice is to look for the features you think you want.. and may need in the future and develop some specific questions that others with that unit can address.

I now have is around 8-9 years old so I am way behind on current technology. I work in sporting goods but don’t have anything to do with GPS. When I ask around almost everyone says the same thing,“the Garmins are easier to use”. About the only elaboration I can get out of them is that there are less pages you have to go through with the Garmin.

In my observations I like the bigger screen of the Magellan. It doesn’t seem to be so crowded with info. I kinda like the buttons on the top where I can see them also. Just hoping to get some feedback from those that have them in case I am missing something.

Apples to apples?
Focus - IMO, you are comparing the wrong units. The Etrex line is Garmins older series and really not comparable to the Explorist line. You should be comparing the 60 series to the Explorist, as it is more of it’s contemporary, and the 60 series has a bigger screen than the Etrex.

As far as “too much information on screen”, that is customizable by the user in both brands. You just have to learn your way around “setup”. My take on both brands is that the interface is a little more user-friendly on the Garmin units, but I can’t see any reason why one wouldn’t learn to use a Magellan just as well. Both brands make units that are durable and accurate - with the possible exception of the older “Sport-Track” line from Magellan, which has had issues with cracking cases. I think that line has been dropped though.

I love my new vista hcx
Very easy to use- and the topo in color is so much nicer than black & white. I am very happy with the garmin!


re: the garmin
I use a garmin 76CSx. It’s a small screen, but That hasn’t bothered me.

One other point to consider when looking at these units: I was surprised that at the price of the 76GSx, it came without a useable map. The basemap had me kayaking in peoples yards. It was another $150 to get a basic street map that had the water in the right place and a micro card.

The unit does work very well, though.

you do have a good point about the comparisons being newer vs older lines. Our store inventory is low at the moment but hopefully I can look at the two lines side by side. Nice thing is I will get a nice 40% discount.

Magellan the pits
They are both good units, but Magellan’s customer support is the pits.

Garmin’s customer support on the other hand gets consistently high marks.

I have both Garmin and Magelllan units and I find the Garmin user interface to be more intuitive and easier to use.

Reception in both units will be about equal.

If turn by turn driving directions is one of your desired features, Garmin is head and shoulders above Magellan in that department.

Magellan does have a nice file system for waypoints, which comes in handy if you are saving a lot.

Garmin has a lot more in the way of information data fields like distance traveled, top speed, average speed, trip time, time moving, time stopped and other info if you are into that.

Magellan does have distance traveled but not a lot of the other data fields.

Wrong about eTrex
The eTrex line goes way back but is now in it’s third generation with high sensitivity receivers and expandable map memory (on some models). These models are designated with HC or HCX in the name and where just released in 2007.

Comparing the Vista HCx vs. Magellan explorist XL is indeed a valid comparison.

the new Colorado’s
are out- by Garmin.

I wish I had waited to get a new one- i would have gone with one of these, looks reall sweet!

so what did you go with?

Not Yet.
Didn’t get one as of yet. I’m going to help our economy and spend that tax incentive check from Uncle Sam when it comes. I only get the 40% discount at work when they have an “employee shopping event” which is typically around the end of the quarter, otherwise I only get a 20% discount. I will most likely get a Garmin Vista HCx unless I see something new that I like better. Planning on a 1 week canoe/camp trip towards the end of June so will have it before then tax rebate or not.

Which GPS?
Both are good units, Why don’t you place a call to each mfg. toll free customer service number and see which one gives you the best service? I wish I had before I bought the wrong one. I sure hate to be on hold for a long time and never get to speak to a human. Just my 2 cents.

gps maps
One of the things about the Garmin is that there are 3rd party mapping and “compiling” programs available that will let you make you own maps. I’m not going to fool you and say it is easy to make your own maps, but it is do-able. Especially if you have access to good data in vector ESRI shape file format. You can “trace” over raster maps and convert the tracing to vector data, but it’s even more tediuous.

I’m told there are programs that will do this for Magellans as well, but I must admit I haven’t actually seen them.

If you have any interest in making your own maps, I’d vote for a Garmin over an Megellan.

Obviously, there are other criteria to be considered…


I own a Sport-track map and
agree that Magellan’s customer service leaves little to be desired. Also, you would need to compare the Explorist series and the Meridian to a Garmin 60 series to be equal. A friend of mine has a Garmin and it does seem to be more “user friendly.” In the end IMHO they are both quality units. I would try to find individuals that are using units you are interested in and see what works for you. If not I would probably go with the Garmin due to there customer service reliability. IMHO

Since we’re on the subject,
anyone have experience or an opinion about the DeLorme GPS PN-20?

Working in sporting goods
has it’s advantages in that if I have any issues I can talk directly to the sales rep. They tend to take care of us a little better sa we are the ones who will suggest their products or not. It’s amazing how the phrase “I have one of those” can tip the sale.

Do you have one now?
My advice is if you have a gps now, stay with the same company. Getting around the unit will be far easier and you will feel more comfortable with it. I’m not saying it can’t be done. Just speaking from seeing other people who have had one brand than bought the other. All wish they would have stayed with the original brand they had.

I have 3 handhelds and 1 car gps.

Old School.
I have a Magellan GPS 315. On the box it had a selling point of Y2K compliant! The program running is dated 1999. Some of the functions I use with no problems but others can’t be figured out without referring to the written instructions. That’s not how it should be. The unit should be user friendly enough so that needn’t be the case IMO.

No, I don’t presently have any GPS.
But I’m considering those units mentioned in this thread as well as the DeLorme PN-20. It gets good reviews for its maps but seems to be considered less user friendly than the Garmin or Magellan models.

Garmin 60Csx
I just recently invested in the 60Csx and can’t wait to get it out into the field.

I did the usual Internet surfing to research the various brands, but what sold me on this model was a sea kayak trip off the coast of Maine last September. My friend on the trip had the 60 CSx and I was really impressed with its performance. It’s billed as waterproof, and it held up to being strapped atop the cockpit and splashed frequently.

It has an interesting “man overboard” feature in which it will backtrack you along your waypoints.

While it is waterproof, it doesn’t float. Garmin does have a similar model that does float, but it’s about twice as large as the 60 CSx, and I wanted one that could just as easily be carried on a backpacking trip as on a paddling trip.

If there’s a downside it’s that this model runs off AA batteries, not longer-lived lithiums.

For what it’s worth, the 60 CSx also can be used in the car for finding your way.