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60csx vs Oregon track comparison

So... we've all seen comparisons of these two models before, but I finally got around to doing my own. I have been wanting to map the trails on my property, so I headed out today with my SiRF-based GPSMap 60csx (software version 3.70/GPS SW version 3.00) on my left hip and my Oregon 400t (software version 3.81b/GPS SW version 4.46) on my right hip. My idea was to see how repeatable a track was, so I spent the next two hours walking about 5 miles over and over the same little trails.

These trails are just narrow paths, maybe four feet wide. It is a mixture of open and closed canopy oak-pine forest with a pretty dense cedar swamp by the creek (in the Southeast corner of the images below).

WAAS was turned off on both units (I initially tried a test with WAAS on, and both units quickly showed the "D" symbol in most of the signal bars. But as soon as I started walking under tree cover, I lost WAAS lock.

Both units were showing accuracy readings ranging from ~12 feet to ~24 feet when I checked them periodically. Both units had fresh alkaline batteries and registered full bars. I let both units sit stationary with a good sky view for almost an hour before I went out for this test and turned on tracking.

Both units were set to record track using time with an interval of one second. I came close to maxxing out the 10,000 point tracklog limit with ~9,500 points from each unit.

With the 60csx, I first imported the track into mapsource and exported as .gpx. With the Oregon, I copied the Current.gpx file to my computer. Both .gpx files were then imported into GlobalMapper and I made the following screenshots.

Here is an overview of the entire track, with the 60csx in blue and the Oregon in yellow.

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And here are both overlaid on each other.

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I have to say - I was not expecting results like this. The Oregon tracked much more repeatably than the 60csx as I walked the same trails again and again. You can see how the 60csx tended to "wander" as opposed to the Oregon in these closeup views. As a point of reference, the aerial image is from the NJ 2007 orthophotography at 1 foot per pixel.


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The image below shows the area by the creek under the cedars. The 60csx was really all over the place down there. Note the size of the blocky pixels in this image - you can count the feet with these. Admittedly, it is expecting a lot for a track to look clean at this kind of zoom setting with both units spec'ed at 5 meter accuracy.

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I suppose it's possible to argue that the Oregon is doing something to smooth out the track data and the 60csx is saving it raw. I am not sure why the Oregon tracks seem more consistent. I also know that "more consistent" isn't the same as "more accurate". The 60csx did better in areas of open canopy forest, and seemed to fall apart under dense tree cover.

Draw your own conclusions - and do your own tests. To me, it seems like the Oregon software has come a long way.

Comments

  • I have an ongoing 13 track file of an approx 5 mile hike on a narrow single track trail. Part is open and part is in narrow deep canyon country. It goes thru four separate areas where multipath errors are a problem.

    Multiple tracks, on different days, carrying multiple GPSs (76CS,76CSx, 550T, 550, some tracks logged with X antenna, some not. Always with WAAS "ON".

    Some interesting observations:
    Initial 550t tracks were lousy (compared to 76CSx) Several track files sent to Garmin , several times......and complaints about no WAAS.
    After next SW update , hmmm, tracks look better......next update, hmmmm even better.....but never mentioned in update "changes".

    UNTIL, this last update(3.51b)(WAAS improvement) which seemed to make unit more sensitive to multipath error,again. However, 76CSx seemed worse on the last hike also, so it may have been noticeably worse conditions. I haven't done a trip with 3.52b yet.

    The main observation is that now the Oregon 550 is now logging more repeatable tracks than the 76CSx, but I have also been "tweaking" procedures on the O and not on the 76. I've been carrying the 76CSx in my pack with an X ant on top of pack.

    So, your observations on the improved Oregon SW are confirmed!

    Next trip will be with both units on same side adjacent to each other with no X antenna, and with 3.52b.

    WAAS ON DOES log a "smoother" track.

    Which side you wear a particular unit on DOES make a major difference in repeatability.

    Which side a unit is on when you go past any object (direction traveled on a trail), DOES make a difference.

    The two different type of antennas react to interferences differently. The QH is bad about doing it's little "random point" dance when you stop.

    Your 4 ft wide trail is waaay too wide for comparing accuracy unless you made a constant effort to stay right in the middle (or exact same track)

    Think about finding an out and back single track trail where you log a track right over the top of an "adjusted" coordinate Benchmark , but without stopping and do it from two different directions(90deg).Then you'll know not only which is the more repeatable but also which is logging the most accurate track.

    Hey ! SOMEONE has to be out there hiking and suffering....might as well be me.....
  • Boyd 1725 Points
    Very interesting - thanks for your insights. Garmin is obviously trying to address the earlier complaints on the Oregon series.
    Your 4 ft wide trail is waaay too wide for comparing accuracy unless you made a constant effort to stay right in the middle
    Well, I do find that a little hard to believe. You think these cheap consumer units really offer enough resolution to discern whether I am exactly in the middle of a 4 foot wide trail? I doubt that my position varied by more than +/- one foot each time.
  • Tim 1456 Points
    Very well done, Boyd! Great post. I'll share a few thoughts about your experiment.

    I think you did your test pretty well-- there would have only been a couple of things I might have done differently. I might have performed a reset on both devices clearing out any ephemeris data, however when you left them out for an hour sucking down data you likely negated much of any difference.

    As grasscatcher mentioned with the GPS on your hip, which side the GPS was on will make a difference-- not really because of the distance (I agree with you there) but rather because the antenna on each device will be favoring data from a different direction, and thus different satellites which could cause a discrepancy. However if you walked the trails in both directions you'd again negate most of those differences.

    I'd be curious to see the both-01.jpg image side-by-side with the same data but having the blue tracks layered on top of the yellow tracks. (Just changing the order of the track layers.) I don't think we'd see much different, but the track "underneath" might have a perceived bias.

    I've always felt that, like people a GPS chipset can be "overly sensitive" and take in data that should otherwise be ignored. I think the SiRFstarIII was somewhat plagued by this. While overall a very good performing chip it seems that sometimes it is so good at pulling in weak signals that it doesn't disregard some data that is junk making it "jumpy".

    The STM chip while sometimes a little slower to get a lock, and with well documented WAAS challenges, does tend to get more repeatable, consistent data. That is based on my observations of the STM in both the Oregon 400t and with the DeLorme PN-40.
  • Boyd,

    Interesting results. I ran some similar tests this weekend where I had the 60csx and Oregon in my hip water bottle pocket (because I was carrying my Dakota and GPSMAP 78) and the 60csx outperformed the 60csx on a similar type of course running 3.52b firmware.

    Do you know what the PDOP looked like during that 2 hr window?

    Like Grasscatcher I find that wearing the unit in a hip pocket makes a pretty big difference (vs. carrying in front of me or up on a shoulder strap).
  • Boyd,
    No, consumer units probably won't tell you when you're exactly in the middle of the trail, but my comment was meant to be about conscientiously eliminating as much "operator error"as possible.

    You may or may not have already noticed , but I'll bet if you zoom in like you did with Globalmapper where the image (either map or AP) becomes pixelated and you can see individual trackpoints clearly, you'll find that you can see where you stepped off the trail a couple of feet to take a pic or to sit down and rest or ??? If your unit will show that level of detail, and it should, you should expect it to repeat very closely with itself if you continue to do "your" part as "Operator".
    If not on this tracklog, pick another where you can remember a specific spot where you stepped off. I use the Expert GPS program to zoom in and do track analysis just like you did with Globalmapper.

    If you'll look at all your tracks with this level of magnification and operator effort, you'll quickly find that your GPS is waaay more accurate than the maps and the geo-referenced aerial photos. The AP referencing varies greatly from area to area even within a single source of imagery. Then when you change between sources like Google Earth, Terraserver, NAIP, etc some are really noticeable.

    It's apparently all done with a "best fit" concept .

    It's all a totally Non-scientific experiment /test but it sure is fun trying to figure out what works/doesn't work while doing it.....

    Your's was an excellent post. I too enjoyed it. Do some more !

    If REI will get on the stick, I should have a "78s" to throw into the mix in the next day or two.
    Good grief! REI needs to get a faster mule. It shipped 6/4 from Pennsylvania distribution center, not due in Grand Junction REI store until 6/15 !!! Plane must have flown East from Pennsylvania....
  • Boyd 1725 Points
    Good stuff guys!

    Unfortunately, my "real" job is going to keep me inside a dark theatre in downtown Philadelphia for the next two weeks with no chance to frolic in the woods, so any further testing on my part will have to wait... :(
  • Hitthespot 86 Points
    Boyd,

    Thank You for the posting. It is refreshing to see the Oregon is capable of beating the 60 series in a head to head test. I was very outspoken about my dislikes of the Oregon (especially accuracy) after I purchased and tested one of the first models. It would appear that the updated software releases are continuing to make the Oregon series more and more accurate. Now if we can make the screen as bright as the 60 series we're there. Again, refreshing head to head test.

    Thanks,

    Bill
  • Marc 201 Points
    Boyd,
    Thank you for this. I too wonder with faster processors and chips, how much is receiver sensitivity and how much is smart processing in the firmware. So I have a request, in your spare time go out and buy one of the new Garmin 62 series GPS and repeat the test with this instead of the 60 :wink: . It would be interesting to see if the addition of a quad antenna ( and who knows what other differences) makes any significant difference, given that the technology inside the oregon and the 62 would be more comparable.
  • Boyd 1725 Points
    Haha - yeah, I'll get right on that! :D

    The 62 series just started shipping, so I think we'll start seeing some comparisons at the "usual places".
  • GenLee 0 Points
    Boyd

    In that earlier post, you mentioned the existence of a freeware to convert NT maps into non-NT format. You hadn't tried it yourself. I attempted to post a reply there but it would not allow me to do that. If you know the name of that freeware, please enlighten me.
    I am furious with Garmin for canceling their support for non-NT maps. The older GPS units seem to work much better that these NuVi units IMHO.

    Anyway, thanks in advance if you can provide the above requested info.

    GenLee
  • Boyd 1725 Points
    After I looked a bit deeper into the issue, turns out I was wrong. You cannot convert an NT map to a non-NT map. Aside from the issue of NT compatibility, Garmin changed the way the maps are stored on your computer (for use in Mapsource) with more recent versions.

    The program I mentioned before (Garmin map reverse convertor) just changes the format of new maps to match the scheme previously used. This, unfortunately, won't make an NT map work on an older GPS. Sorry, I think you are out of luck.

    But aside from that, please don't post completely off-topic things such as this in and existing thread. It would have been better to start your own new thread on the proper topic.

    I'm not sure what the old thread is that you mentioned, but if you couldn't post to it then it was probably locked due to discussion of something that would violate a Garmin copyright.
  • GeoTarget 0 Points
    Sorry for posting such a late reply to this thread; but I'm new to the world of trail GPS systems and wanted to comment on how helpful this whole conversation was! I'm not really familiar with the different types of GPS systems and how they work, so really, I found this quite informative. In fact, after viewing this thread, I took the names of each device and searched for it on Youtube. I think the general consensus is that the Oregon really is tops. ;)

    I'll definitely be looking into more reviews, but I think, for the most part, I have my mind pretty well made up. Where would you guys suggest I actually pick one up? Where can I get the best deal? Is hhgregg any good? How about Dick's Sporting Goods seeing as its for hiking? Thanks, folks! Can't wait to dive into the conversation! :D!
  • Boyd 1725 Points
    Glad you found it helpful. If you're interested in the Oregon, I think the 450 is the best bang for the buck. It normally goes for a bit over $300, but we've seen a number of sales for $250 and even less. Unfortunately, you never know when another sale will come along, so you have to either be patient or pay the regular cost.

    When we see a good deal, it will be posted here, but you have to be prepared to purchase right away, because they don't last long usually: http://forums.gpsreview.net/discussion/9258/x/p1/;start=150
  • GeoTarget 0 Points
    Glad you found it helpful. If you're interested in the Oregon, I think the 450 is the best bang for the buck. It normally goes for a bit over $300, but we've seen a number of sales for $250 and even less. Unfortunately, you never know when another sale will come along, so you have to either be patient or pay the regular cost.

    When we see a good deal, it will be posted here, but you have to be prepared to purchase right away, because they don't last long usually: http://forums.gpsreview.net/discussion/9258/x/p1/;start=150
    Sorry for posting such a late reply to this thread; but I'm new to the world of trail GPS systems and wanted to comment on how helpful this whole conversation was! I'm not really familiar with the different types of GPS systems and how they work, so really, I found this quite informative. In fact, after viewing this thread, I took the names of each device and searched for it on Youtube. I think the general consensus is that the Oregon really is tops. ;)

    I'll definitely be looking into more reviews, but I think, for the most part, I have my mind pretty well made up. Where would you guys suggest I actually pick one up? Where can I get the best deal? Is hhgregg any good? How about Dick's Sporting Goods seeing as its for hiking? Thanks, folks! Can't wait to dive into the conversation! :D!
    Thanks for the swift reply, Boyd! Yeah. . I completely agree with you! If I'm going to be spending a hefty amount of money on any electronic appliance, it aught to be worth it! Although most stores will allow you to return something if you're not satisfied, I think it's utterly annoying. Alright. I think I'll definitely stick with the Oregon. Once I've fiddled around with it a little, I'll be sure to come back and post my own review.

    Thanks again, everyone! Especially you Boyd! =D
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