Garmin Oregon 450

There were a number of improvements from the CSx though these invariably were not well executed, so there was always a “but”.

What I liked.

  1. The time to establish a fix (lock on to satellites) was normally a minute or so on the 450 as opposed to 5-10 minutes on my CSx generally. The reviews I had read said it would establish a lock during boot time, but this proved to be untrue.
  2. I loved the way I could navigate a route and still see where the nearest geocache was thanks to a dashboard (compass widget) I could configure on the map screen. I would have expected to press the compass to see the cache details and (most importantly) the hint, but no. You had to go through various screens to get this information, then all the way back to follow the route again, thus negating any benefit you got.
  3. Discoverer OS maps was a step up from the much over-maligned Garmin Topo GB (though not always). I still can’t believe that Garmin won’t let you move the license to a new device if you damage or lose you GPSr. What a rip off! The downside of Discoverer was that you only got 1:50K, the map images were very low resolution so images were not sharp and downright blurred when you zoomed in and I found it very difficult to see the pointer on the screen. The OS map seemed to camouflage it. Processing power is still low, so re-drawing maps is not as fast as it should be.
  4. Custom homemade maps are possible on this model, though in reality you have to use pretty small tiles before you run into the same blurring issue that you get with the Discoverer maps. It’s quite a painful process too.
  5. Touch screen. I thought this would be an advantage, but compared to a modern capacitive screen this resistive screen was horrible to use. At least it sort of works with gloves on though.
  6. Profiles. I created a profile for Hiking, Geocaching and Car. I then configured usage for each type. i.e. For Car, route along roads, show 3D map, display current speed etc. The downside here was that once the 450 totally lost all profile configuration, which took quite a while to set up again from scratch.
  7. Paperless caching. I always carry a phone, so have tended to use this as a backup to POI GSAK macro on the CSx. Implementation on the 450 is pretty poor. Font size is fixed (for those of us that are at that age that we need reading glasses), some code causes lock-ups and the look is pretty naff.

Now for what I didn’t like.

  1. The first time I took the Oregon out it reported the distance walked as being about 20 miles further than we’d been. When I looked at the track on the PC it had spikes of several miles where we had sheltered by some relatively small overhanging rocks. Later on a trip to Llangattock we had a similar issue with the total distance walked being massively out, but this time there were no spikes.
  2. The screen. This is apparently a huge improvement on the earlier 400 model, but it is still rubbish. You need the backlight on full to have a chance of reading anything.
  3. Battery life is very short. I imagine that much of this is due to the screen needing so much illumination.
  4. While I don’t get the carabiner attachment (it just leaves the device dangling) I did try this from a rucksack. It just ended up getting damaged when I put my rucky down. I like to attach a short lanyard (the one supplied with the CSx) to my belt and put the GPSr in my pocket with the screen turned inwards for protection. While it was really annoying that it kept on beeping as it touched my thigh it more importantly kept the screen awake, thus running the batteries down. This is basic poor design. The screen lock doesn’t even help this scenario.
  5. The device locked up on several occasions most importantly when I wasn’t even interacting with the device, so I wasn’t even aware that my track log was not being updated until some time later. Trying to open a cache listing from the map screen caused a reproducible lock up. Pulling the batteries was the only solution.
  6. There are two main benefits these days of a dedicated hand held unit over a good phone. Ruggedness and battery life. These are only better on battery life because they are so huge. If my phone had batteries this size it would easily last as long.
  7. Sat nav is a joke. For example, my trip to Llangattock there is a simple dual carriageway route almost door to door, but it was as if Garmin were doing their best to avoid this and take all the back lanes which doubled the distance and quadrupled the time. Device configuration was not the issue. Other experiments proved equally as ridiculous. It is possible that this may be a Discoverer issue rather than an Oregon issue.
  8. Probably the most annoying thing of all was the downgrade in accuracy from my 6+ years old device. Sure, the early CSxs had the SirfStarIII chipset, which is still to be rivaled, but when walking a linear route with the Oregon and then walking back to the start point I was shocked at how much the two tracks along the same path strayed from each other. They were often 200′ apart. The CSx always had them within a few feet of each other.

I really tried to get on with this device, but it was truely hopeless. After a week or two I picked up my CSx from the sunny windowsill and it worked. The only problem was that the USB connector no longer worked which meant I couldn’t upload routes to it, but as POI are held on the removable microSD card I could still use these rather than waypoints. I had found myself using the Oregon only for recording my track, which the CSx was now more than capable of (and it did a much better job too). I was navigating using my HTC Android phone. I thought I would chance my luck and try to return the device despite the scratches on the case where the silly carabiner had dropped it several times. Garmin were less than helpful. To paraphrase their response it said, “Try resetting the device (like that thought had never occurred to me!) and if that doesn’t work then go away.” I had previously contacted them about obtaining replacement screws. They wouldn’t even reply. I decided to contact the retailer, which was met with a request to post the device to them, so I did along with a letter explaining all of the issues and the following working day I received the following email.

“We are sorry that you have had a problem with this item. Faults with items are rare and we hope that it hasn’t detracted from your enjoyment in the use of this product. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

You have been refunded to your original payment method.”

The full amount was refunded along with the cost of returning the item. The only thing I lost was the cost of the InvisibleShield screen protector (a rip off £14, my HTC InvisibleShield is much bigger and cost £10), but I was very happy. I would certainly recommend Wiggle, if not Garmin.

I don’t believe the device was any more faulty than any other Oregon after all the issues I have read and heard about, it’s just a rubbish device. Garmin should concentrate on the basics rather than messing around with silly frivolities like Chirp, cameras and wireless device to device transmit.

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