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Author Topic:   Handheld GPS
whalerajm posted 06-11-2007 09:52 AM ET (US)   Profile for whalerajm   Send Email to whalerajm  
I'm ready to finally get a handheld GPS. I'd be interested in hearing recommendations, and experiences. I don't want to spend a bundle, but would like to be able to read in daylight or night. Really only interested in marine functionality. Would like to hear opinions on Garmin GPS 60 series, GPS 76 Series, Legend CX (or basic) and Vista CX.


newt posted 06-11-2007 10:04 AM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
Whalerajm, I have had a Garmin GPS76 Handheld unit for about 10 years. It is the only GPS I use. There is no mapping capability, but the unit comes with all the navigation aids built in. So long as you have a chart of the area, you can find your way around.

I think you can pick up the GPS 76 with computer cord for around $200 bucks these days. I would definitely buy the Garmin GPS 76 again if I were in the market for a hand-held, waterproof, non-mapping GPS.

gnr posted 06-11-2007 10:05 AM ET (US)     Profile for gnr  Send Email to gnr     
I really like my Garmin MAP76.

No problems reading it in sunlight or darkness.

Pre-loaded with nav. aids.

It has seen some hard use in the boat and in the woods.

whalerajm posted 06-11-2007 10:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for whalerajm  Send Email to whalerajm     
Thanks guys...Now, a stupid question-

I'm not sure what you mean when you say 76 has no "mapping" capability. Does that mean it won't show image of map or chart (or land/water) with your position on that map as well as other items like buoys?

I've used a friends eTrex Legend (inexpensive) and it shows map image with position, direction, etc. So I'm a assuming "mapping" implies some additional level of functionality, right?

HAPPYJIM posted 06-11-2007 10:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for HAPPYJIM  Send Email to HAPPYJIM     
If you liked the eTrex Legend, the 76 is a lot better.
Perry posted 06-11-2007 12:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Perry  Send Email to Perry     
I have a new 60 series and love it. It is easy to read and use and has map capability. Visit the Garmin wenbsite to read up on them. Lots of good info there.
newt posted 06-11-2007 12:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for newt  Send Email to newt     
The garmin GPS 76 does not display a chart or a map. You will see your waypoints, tracks, routes, and all the Nav aids, but you will not see them overlayed on a chart, and you cannot upload a chart to the unit. The GPS 76Map (I believe) will overlay everything onto a chart on the screen.
gnr posted 06-11-2007 01:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for gnr  Send Email to gnr     
The Garmin 76 has very little memory built in.

The Map76 has 8mb (If I remember correctly) built in which enables you to add various topo maps and or navigational charts.

I had a 76 before I got the Map76. Unfortunately the 76 grew legs and disappeared which led me to the Map76.

One big difference I noticed between the two was the difference in the ability of each to keep a signal in less then optimum conditions.

Both worked fine on the boat under the wide open sky.

The Map76 however is MUCH better at keeping the signal in the woods. I can carry it in the cargo pocket of my hunting pants and it will almost always still be locked on when I pull it out.

This probably has more to do with the fact that the MAP76 is newer and may have benefited from some upgrades in technology


The spell checker prompts one to change Garmin to Gaming.

How appropriate.

davej14 posted 06-11-2007 02:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
I used a Garmin Etrex Vista until I installed a larger 5" display Lowrance unit. I do not think you will be happy with the screen size of the Vista (or Legend). Go for a larger screen. Whatever you get, check out the RAM mounts for holding it in place. You really lose concentration on running the boat while trying to hold a hand held GPS, read a small screen and change functions at the same time.
Novi posted 06-11-2007 04:11 PM ET (US)     Profile for Novi  Send Email to Novi     
I use a Garmin Map76 that I purchased about 4 years ago. I just purchased the holder for it and mounted it on my Outrage 21. When docked in a public place I either lock it up or throw it is my pocket. I am very pleased with it. This is the third Garmin GPS I have owned. Sean
David Livingstone posted 06-11-2007 04:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Livingstone  Send Email to David Livingstone     
Whalerjam, for $135 you might want to give the Lowrance H2O a try . It comes with an internal map of the USA major roads. It also contains all the nav aids. I bought one three months ago and have used in Canada, the southeast coast of Florida and through the Florida Keys. Great day and night use. It even had the buoy for Looe Key Reef, plus many wrecks. It's map was so accurate, I kept looking for mangrove trees on it. You can also add Navtronics Gold chips to it. It's the second Lowrance Handheld that I've owned - the other is nine years old and still working.


Frank O posted 06-11-2007 05:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
I have a ~3-year-old Garmin eTrex Vista that I now use as a backup to my larger console-mounted unit. I agree with davej14's comment that the screen size of the Vista will make it more challenging to use on a regular basis compared with a larger unit. I also find it doesn't latch on to satellites as quickly or as well as the console-mounted unit with a separate antenna. And finally, my Vista is an eater of AA batteries -- unless you're looking at running yours off a dedicated power connection, you might pay attention to battery life ratings when comparing units.

Larry posted 06-11-2007 10:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for Larry  Send Email to Larry     
If anyone belives in life after Garmin...consider the Lowrance H20 handheld. I don't think you can find a better value. Get it with the Map Create Cds and you can load whatever detail you want of the whole country on inexpensive memory cards. The color unit is much easier to read. I use mine for both the car and the boat. It works great in both. Although it dosen't show water depths with just the Map Create software they would be hard to read on a handheld anyway. If you want more of a chartplotter performance a handheld might be too small.
PeteB88 posted 06-11-2007 11:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
$130 bucks? It's that good? If that is a yes, I'll buy myself one for father's day. Knowing nothing about handhelds and very close to buying a combo for my 13, it sounds like handhelds are getting better and might be the way to go.

So question is - combo for boat only or handheld? Can't believe $130 bucks works so well.


Frank O posted 06-11-2007 11:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for Frank O  Send Email to Frank O     
Owning both Garmin and Lowrance GPS units, and having mentioned the shortcomings of my Vista, I should mention what I don't like about the Lowrance. (a) I find the MapCreate software really unfriendly -- even something as similar as moving around on the map when working with it on a PC seems like a hassle. (b) If you're into saving your tracks and analyzing things like boat speed later on your PC, the Lowrance units appear to save less data than Garmins do. Specifically, the Garmin records time and speed for each track point, whereas the Lowrance appears to save neither. Of course, if you just want a basic unit to use out on the boat and don't want to mess with data or maps on the PC, these wouldn't be [concerns].

WT posted 06-12-2007 01:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
"I don't want to spend a bundle, but would like to be able to read in daylight or night. Really only interested in marine functionality."

Look at the Garmin 478 or 378. I have the 478 for saltwater charts.

1) Cost a bundle
2) Great screen in day or night
3) Fantastic marine charts built-in.
4) Great automotive gps too.
5) Not really a handheld but portable.


PeteB88 posted 06-12-2007 06:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Are any of these portable GPS units Mac OS compatible?
whalerajm posted 06-12-2007 09:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for whalerajm  Send Email to whalerajm     
Lots of great input...but it sounds ALL of these handhelds have made their owners happy...very few negatives about any except maybe readability on eTrex series.

Right now I''m leaning towards either Garmin 60CSx or 76 Series...60 looks a little larger and easier to read...both will be over $300.

Somebody stop me if I'm making bad decision!

Is color screen worth the extra money?
Are Digital Compass and Barom. usefule features?

Moose posted 06-12-2007 11:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moose  Send Email to Moose     
The Garmin GPSMAP 76 is going to be hard to beat. I've had one since '03 or '04, it's been great. With the marine mount, the power/data cable (wired to your electrical system) and the cost of the unit, your all set for about $225.

This unit replaced a 1994 Magellan handheld that in retrospect was a weak performer, but from a different era. The Magellan had trouble maintaining a signal through a sail or bimini top, the satellites would start fading out within seconds. When I purchased the Garmin for my Outrage there was concern how the signal would get through the fiberglass top of the electronics box and the bimini, when in use. I purchased the external antenna but ended up returning it, not necessary. I mounted it as far aft in the electronics box as closing the door would allow and the signal has been consistently strong, 5-7 satellites at all times.

For the extra hundski I'd get the 76CX for the color screen and the 128MB vs. 8MB memory. You should be able to find it for about $299, plus the cord, mount, shipping, etc.

Marlin posted 06-12-2007 12:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Marlin  Send Email to Marlin     
I've been using a Garmin GPSMap76S for three years. It has performed very well. With 24 MB of memory, it can hold a lot more map territory than the GPSMap76. The compass and altimeter are not terribly useful attributes on a boat (assuming you have a primary compass). The pre-installed basemaps don't have much detail, but they have a fairly comprehensive set of navaids loaded. I load the Garmin Topo maps, which give pretty good shoreline detail and many minor roads, but take away most of the navaids from the basemap.

The accuracy of the 76S is astonishing, and the interface is well thought-out and easy to use. I installed a permanent wiring hookup for power and NMEA communications to my DSC-capable VHF. The 76S will send nav data to the VHF, but will not accept points from the VHF.

In my opinion, as much as I love this unit, the 76-series screen is very marginal for use on a small boat. It can be very difficult to read the screen when running on plane or in rough conditions. The monochrome screen on the 76 and 76S has a somewhat feeble backlight that isn't great for night use. As screens go, bigger is better, and color is good. I haven't tried using BlueChart, but I suspect the screen is too small to make it worth it.

The newer 76Cx and 76CSx have beautiful color screens (actually the identical screen as the 60-series handhelds), which are brighter and sharper but slightly narrower than the monochrome screens. These newer units also have a lot more memory, and a USB connection to allow much faster map downloads than the earlier units. I'm sure the high-sensitivity receivers are nice, but probably not terribly important for most boating uses.

Between the last two weekends, my 76S appears to have gone into hiding. I can't find the darn thing anywhere. If I have to replace it, I'm not sure what I will do. Ideally I'd like to have a larger-screen GPS on the boat, a StreetPilot or Nuvi in the car, and an eTrex to hike with. Or, I could get a 76CSx, which does all of those things but is sub-optimal in each.


Hoosier posted 06-12-2007 01:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
I have a Lowrance H2O-C. It's worth it to get the color display. Mine also came with a 12 v car adaptor. The embedded data chip is amazing, it has gas stations and resaurants for all US Freeway exits. Since I boat in Michigan i got the LakeMaster SD card for Michigan, it has all roads, attaractions and depth contours for most inland lakes and Great Lakes waters.
whalerajm posted 06-13-2007 12:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerajm  Send Email to whalerajm     
It appears to that there is no difference between GArmin GPBMap 60 (Cx, CSx) or GPS Map 76 (Cx, CSx)other than form factor (screen position, key positions, antenae).

The 60 comes with 64MB SD vs 128MV SD card for the 76...

Both are waterproof and appear to be functionally equal...and both cost about the same.

Anyone out there have expereience with both Garmin 60 and 76 series units and have strong preference for one over the other?

Thanks Again

SpeedBump posted 06-13-2007 08:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for SpeedBump  Send Email to SpeedBump     
I use a Garmin MAP 76S with blue chart. ran it on a 13 and my current NAuset. A wonderful unit that is now 5 years old I believe. I use the vhf interface and an interface with a HUMMINGBIRD matrix Fish finder and mount it on a small consol mount bracket. Given the FF interface I have a nice 5" X 5" screen to view while underway that has many gps driven functions. I agree the 76s can be tough to read accurately while underway especially in rough water or while zipping along while on plane, but it takes only a moment to slow down, get your bearings and be on your way. More importantly is when you really need it like in fog even in familiar waters you wont be zipping along at break neck speeds. it is a very intuitive unit to use and if it were to grow legs I would replace it with the same unit. Since I have a bit more roon on my Nauset I also have installed a Standard HOrizon 150 GPS that is color and wow what a world of difference, not only in screen size but the color image is really easy to read. the 76s is easy to see in bright sun as well as at night and is a good back up to my SH 150 C.

Get the Garmin, you wont regret it.

Moe posted 06-13-2007 09:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
The form factor of the 76 series encloses not only the antenna, which protrudes above the 60 series, but the area next to it, essentially encapsulating air. I suspect that's why the 76 series float when dropped overboard and the 60 series doesn't make that claim.

We're going to eventually get a handheld for our small sailboat, but I'm waiting until one includes all the US coastal charts, which are now free in ENC vector format from NOAA.

I don't think there's any way I could've read the small screen of a handheld in our Boston Whaler 150 Sport at speed. That's why we bought the Garmin GPSMAP 178C for it. But I let it go when I sold the Whaler because the fixed unit uses much more power than a handheld and the kicker on our sailboat doesn't have an alternator.

whalerajm posted 06-13-2007 10:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerajm  Send Email to whalerajm     
Thanks All

Going to go with the Garmin GPS MAP76Cx or CSx. West marine has the cx for 299 and the csx for 349...but they offer a 10% new boater discount...I think I can find bill of sale for that Montauk I bought last week! (wink, wink);)

I appreciate everyone's input.

Royboy posted 06-14-2007 11:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for Royboy  Send Email to Royboy     
I have the 76CS model with Blue Charts that I still seem to need on the boat even though I replaced it with a 492. Definately get the Bluecharts if you are in a coastal area. I also have the Fishing Hot Spots v6.5 software and find it has a superior basemap for driving, in addition to a lot of lake contour maps. I have two map sets saved on my PC: one for inland lakes and one for the Great Lakes, depending on where I'm boating.

The interface on the 76Cx models is excellent, and so is the connectivity to a PC via a USB cable. In fact, the only thing I like better about my 492 is the screen size, and the fact that it has coastal charts preloaded for the entire U.S. The deal that West has right now is excellent. I paid over $400 for mine and I probably would again. It's a great unit.


Royboy posted 06-14-2007 11:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Royboy  Send Email to Royboy     
Forgot to mention to steer clear of the Garmin mount for the 76Cx series units. RAM Products makes a superior Suction cup mount that works great on the boat or on your car windshield for around $50. The suction cup mechanism is rock solid, and I've been using mine for three years now. I also have an optional ball mount from RAM for my bicycle that fits the mount sans the suction cup.


highanddry posted 06-17-2007 12:17 PM ET (US)     Profile for highanddry  Send Email to highanddry     
I have been using s Magellon SportTrac and it has performed well. It is small and easy to carry in the pocket and mounts on the Magellon pedistal on top of my console.It is used as backup to the flush mounted 987c. I have used the new Lowrance H20 and I like it a lot, it is bigger and clearer screen.
PeteB88 posted 08-06-2007 07:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
I bought the Garmin 76CSx which is nice but not sure if I am going to keep it. Combo unit probably best for me and 13, not sure what extra map and lake software to get, I guess I have to spend half a day trying to figure that out as well. Too many choices, spendy. Another hundred here and another buck and a half there, I don't like it. I just want to make a simple, clean decision.

Hey, I don't mind a learning curve but I get touchy with these surprises and additional costs unless it makes sense. Furthermore, there is no one in my immediate area who knows enough about these units to 'splain them w/ any level of expertise.

So I will probably drive to Detroit area today or call Cabella's.

Half of the stuff the dudes told me at Bass Pro ain't accurate.

Riverwhaler posted 08-06-2007 05:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Riverwhaler  Send Email to Riverwhaler     
If anyone is interested you can get my 192c on the marketplace area for the same price as handheld.
Hal Watkins posted 08-06-2007 11:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hal Watkins  Send Email to Hal Watkins     
I have been using handhelds for over 10 years...almost all Garmin. I bought the Garmin 60CSX last fall. It is most impressive. You will need to buy the 1 gig chip $30 and city navigator, $99 and also whatever Nav chip you want. You will have a potent land and water navigation system.Hal
Yiddil posted 08-07-2007 12:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for Yiddil  Send Email to Yiddil     
I dont know much about thee smaller units but I can tell you that I have been absolutly in love with my 188C by Garmin...what a great screen day or nite...I hear the newer models are even better but I dont think I will ever spend what I did I this 188c new again!....I would suggest you all check the fleabay for older but new un its by Garmin...Marlin, I LOved it so much, I would never steer you wrong...great at any price but now that its a few years back, can be had cheaper..fantastic unit...big screen, clear and works every time!
PeteB88 posted 08-11-2007 09:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
I did a test run with the handheld Garmen 76 CSx yesterday. Would it work for the 13? Probably. But all things considered I got a refund and will be installing a combo unit on the boat. I really like Humminbird 787 unit for the money and all I need is one chip fr our use.

If I were still living in the mountains, hiking a lot I could see a handheld. Driving - not necessary, I still like surprised and don't mind reading the map.

I am sure the 76 is a fine unit - it really sat on the little console pretty well so the handheld would be okay. I just decided to go combo and a nice one.

eportfolio posted 08-13-2007 09:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for eportfolio  Send Email to eportfolio     
I can't imagine spending $200 for a Garmin 76 that doesn't have mapping capability.

I own an eTrex Legend and I spent $120 for it and it has mapping. I can upload maps to it including marine charts. I can download my tracks to a computer which is also cool. For the price, you can't beat it.

A friend of mine just bought a used Garmin Streetpilot 3 for his boat and car. He loves it. It accepts the Bluecharts also. I'm looking for one on eBay now.

PeteB88 posted 08-13-2007 10:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
I spent $350 plus Colorado sales tax for the 76 CSx which they price matched West Marine who had $100 off deal so the actual price was $449.00


It had a very basic map in it with very little detail, almost unusable. It would track and work but no where near what it is capable of with additional software. To do what I wanted it to do was at least another $200- $250 bucks. Additional power cord, cases, chips, etc even more. Mounting thing made by Ram as recommended by Royboy = $50 bucks. It's a great unit, I even tried it out on the boat. All the add ons just do not make sense - no possible way. If it was $450 with the maps and a reasonable mount I'd be owning one. The Garmin mount kit with a sandbag mounting thing and a bunch of stuff incl wires is $160 bucks or something.

Bottom line - I took it back and am getting a Humminbird 787ci for the boat. Could not possibly justify the expense for my needs.

Good luck.

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