Why I picked out the Garmin GPS-76S as my GPS Receiver
By Doug Wilson

1)  Why you picked out the GPS you did.

Actually, it was a gift but I had an eTrex Vista and I wanted an external antenna which is present on the G-76 models.

2)  What you like about your choice.

It has an external antenna, the screen is larger than the eTrex, it seems better suited to using in the car yet is still small enough to use backpacking. Also, I find the interface easier with the 76S compared with the VISTA.  I use it for outdoors (Hiking/canoeing) and in the car and it seems like a good compromise for these types of use, i.e. itís not as small as the eTrex but the larger screen & external antenna are worth the extra size/weight. I also like the same things about the 76S as the eTrex, i.e. larger map capacity than most, WAAS accuracy, Map Source software, etc.

3)  What you do not like about your choice?

I would like to see more detailed maps, similar to USGS 7.5í quads for hiking and also, for car use, rest area & local information on non-interstate routes (I prefer to travel back roads and it seems like the ďroadsĒ information is geared towards interstates). However, these are Map Source issues. But While Iím on the subject it would be nice to be able to export a coordinate file in ASCI format (or other CAD/GIS format). As far as the 76S, so far I donít see features on other units that I would want to have.

4)  Your experiences in using your GPS receiver.

Theyíve come a long way. I use my 76S for hiking/backpacking (off-trail & night time) and in the car. Iíve had trouble in dense trees with reception but not any more than I would expect. All in all it seems like an ideal choice for someone who uses it in the car & outdoors.

5)     Does your GPS perform as you expected?

Yes

6)  How is the manual?

I donít know, I havenít used it much because I was already familiar with the eTrex.  I was able to go to the 76S by experimenting with the buttons a little.
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1)    Why did you pick this GPS?  By  Doug

Relatively large map memory and a good experience with my Garmin 12Map.  The high screen resolution is also quite nice.  I had some problems with my Magellan Meridian and sent it back for this unit.

2)    What do you like about your choice?

The high res. screen has turned out to be my favorite overall feature.  I can zoom out to 0.8 miles and still find the display readable.  This enables me to see much farther ahead while traveling than I could with my previous units.

The software in the GPS itself is top notch and quite refined.  There are a huge number of options for turning labels on and off and 3 different font sizes for everything on the screen.  I really like the ability to enter a complex route and have several (3 to 9, I believe) boxes at the top of the map screen giving me useful info such as time or distance to next waypoint  and ETA to my destination at my current rate of speed.  It seems to be calculated based on the route I have set and not just a straight line to the destination waypoint.

Exits are marked on the basemap and when using the Mapsource software.  This is very handy as when you select an exit it gives you info on what services are offered at each one.  Rest stops are also marked.

The overall feel of the unit is very robust.  It's somewhat heavier than the Meridians.  The buttons have a definite click to them as well.  The power button is recessed and you must hold it down for a couple of seconds to turn it off.  This prevents accidental power-off (or ON) if you have it in a case or in your pocket.  The buttons are located on the top instead of at the bottom which is easier for me to use with one hand.  The Garmin also has a landyard with may seem trivial but I really missed this on my Meridian.

3)    What do you not like about your choice?

The screen has a slight green tint and is not as 'clean' as the Meridians. It's still easy to read but the Meridian was easier except when zoomed out at say 0.8 miles when the high detail is set on.  Then the high res really has a nice advantage.

There's no ability to add a memory card.  This would have made it perfect in my opinion.  The 24MB of user memory is nice and is enough for me but if I did a lot of driving out of state it might be a problem.

4)    What are your experiences in using your GPSr.

It acquires and keeps satellite lock much faster and in more diverse conditions than my Garmin 12Map.  Still, the Meridian did seem to keep lock a bit better although both were able to get a lock on 4 to 6 satellites while in my house while upstairs.

The compass on the Garmin is very fast and there are two white marks on the case to line up if you're trying to set a heading.  It does need to be held nearly level (within maybe 10 to 20 degrees of level) for it to function. The Meridian uses a different compass design and could be held almost vertical and still function well.

I take the Garmin almost everywhere just to have fun with it and it's held up great.  A trip to Canada really tested it as we were fishing and it was out on the boat all day.  I had no problems with it, rinsed it off several times under running water without any seal problems.  The Mapsource maps for Canada are much better than the Magellan Canada maps, at least for boaters. There is great lake detail.  I can't really comment on the road detail up north as I didn't really explore the Magellan Canada maps in this regard.

5)    Does your GPS perform as expected?

Yes.

6)    How is the manual?

I would say it's pretty good although it could be better.  I still had to learn some functions on my own.  The Magellan manual was similar in this regard.

7)    Other comments?

The Garmin Mapsource maps beat the heck out of the Magellan maps as they contain exits and pertinent points of interest such as Universities, parks, hospitals.  Magellan's maps do have a wide array of POI's but they left off many of the ones I'm finding I use most.  Of course this is personal preference.  Lake detail on the US and Canada  Garmin maps are quite nice with boat launches and coves clearly marked.

8)    Garmin's updates seem to come out quite often for the firmware.

Garmin's way of choosing what detailed maps you enter into the GPS requires you to pick the entire county even if you only want a small section.  This can hog memory if you're trying to load a long route, such as a drive to Canada.  By comparison, Magellan's software lets you draw a box around whatever you need and doesn't force you to add anything you don't want. Garmin's system is much quicker to 'compile' the maps and get them ready to transfer to your unit however.  I guess you can't have it both ways.

I really didn't intend to compare the Magellan Meridian Gold/Platinum series to the Garmin GPSMap 76S but it just turned out that's what I was doing when trying to pick a GPSr.  Both companies have come out with a nice product and it seems Garmin always leaves some feature missing on each unit forcing you to choose what you want most.  Magellan seems to try the all in one package approach with the SD cards and such.  Still, from the day it arrived in the mail I have been convinced the GPSMap 76S is head and shoulders above the Meridian line with a more robust design, higher resolution screen, and seemingly endless options in the built-in software.

If you're in the market for a mid priced GPSr you'll do yourself a favor by actually seeing and touching all the units you're considering.  Had I done this in the beginning I would have gotten this unit.  It's not cheap but it once again confirms you get what you pay for.

Doug