I returned my Oregon 600 GPS

August 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

The Oregon 600

I am in the market for a new GPS, and after some research, decided that the Garmin Oregon 600 was what I wanted.  Key factors were the added precision reading the Russion satellites, the larger screen that would be easy to see in bright daylight and 16 hour battery life.

I had used a Garmin 9 years ago, a GPS 60, and it worked quite well.  I was interested to see all the improvements Garmin had made in the intervening years.  I was quite surprised as not that much has changed.  The basic capabilities are the same and the UI did not look much different.  The LCD had improved a bit and the CPU was faster but that was about it.  I started to wonder what Garmin had been up to in the last decade - not as much as they could it seemed.

As I started to use the unit the first thing I noticed was I could not find a way to show the current time with any precision greater than the nearest minute.  Why would they dumb it down to this degree?  I planned to synchronize the time with my cameras so I could use a GPS track to geo-tag my photos.  This made it harder than it really needed to be.

The second thing I noticed was the battery drain was much higher than claimed in the Garmin specs.  They claim 16 hours, but the best I could get, operating in battery save mode, was just over 4 hours with freshly charged 2500mAh NiMH batteries.  I got about the same results with Duracell alkaline batteries.  Most disturbing was that the battery life was highly variable - one time I only got 80 minutes.  I just could not depend on the battery life.

The third thing I noticed was as I retraced my steps the tracks would be quite divergent.  With the added accuracy from the the GLONASS satellites I expected better results.  Here is a typical track comparison:

The line between the tracks shows where they were 22 meters apart.  I would often see the unit reporting an accuracy in the 20 meter range.  Where were the results of 3-5 meters others were claiming?

I was still dithering over what to do when the final straw broke the camels back.  My wife and I went for a 5.8 km walk in a downtown park.  We timed ourselves, and we took 61 minutes.  The Oregon 600 was able to get a satellite fix for only 27 minutes, reported we had gone 2.7 km and had track divergences of over 130 meters.

When I returned the unit the manager asked me quite a few questions, and it turned out he had another Oregon 600 returned with the same issues: poor battery life and poor accuracy.  Either there is something wrong with the Oregon 600 units or his store got a couple of bad samples.  He assured me the other models worked fine.

From what I have seen I would not be in a hurry to buy Garmin stock.  I think they are in the same bind as the camera manufacturers - hidebound in a paradigm when the world around them is moving forward.  I see cell phones eating them for breakfast in the not too distant future.


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