Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Garmin Oregon 300
Handheld GPS with a touch screen
- Full touch screen, attractive and minimal design, user-friendly interface, expandable memory, preloaded base map
- Provided maps aren’t detailed enough, display isn’t readable in direct sunlight, slow acquisition times, 3-D view isn’t available with preloaded maps
Garmin has provided a competitive handheld GPS device with the Oregon 300. It provides a full touch-screen experience in combination with a rugged casing and vital navigation tools. We would have preferred more detailed maps, but Garmin has provided room for expandability — making this an excellent choice.
Price$ 649.00 (AUD)
Garmin’s Oregon 300 is a handheld GPS unit with a touch screen that manages to retain the ruggedness of its button-endowed brethren. With expandable memory, turn-by-turn navigation and 3-D view added to the mix, the Oregon 300 may sound like an automotive GPS device. However, a bare base map prevents this device from providing the best of both worlds. But although there are definite improvements that could be made the Oregon 300 should still prove useful to hikers.
Distinguishing the Oregon 300 from the rest of the handheld GPS market is its physical design. Forgoing the multitude of buttons that often adorn such devices, the Oregon 300 relies solely on a 3in touch screen for control. Garmin has been able to create a minimal yet attractive look that still provides the necessary IPX-7 rubber casing to withstand the rigours of outdoor activity.
Perhaps the best part of the design is the battery cover — the fiddly threaded battery lids of lower-end models are gone, replaced by the same simple metal clasp featured on Garmin’s Colorado 300. This design allows users to easily secure a carabiner to the clasp. The only qualm we have with the Oregon 300’s design is the microSD card slot, which Garmin has placed underneath the batteries. This means users must first remove the batteries before they can swap memory cards.
As usual, Garmin hasn't specified the Oregon 300’s GPS receiver, instead simply boasting that the device’s receiver is highly sensitive and allows for quick signal acquisition. Unfortunately, this didn’t prove to be true: the Oregon took 3min 15sec from a cold start-up to full signal acquisition, making it much slower than Garmin’s own eTrex H. Thankfully, the device’s HotFix satellite position memory cache means that warm start-ups take under 20sec.
The Oregon 300’s user interface closely resembles that of an automotive GPS device. It’s much easier to use than competing handheld devices. The screen is slightly more resistive than we would have liked, forcing us to press quite hard in order to get a reaction from the device, but this is probably a side effect of its protective layer.
Although Garmin says that the Oregon 300’s display is easily readable in direct sunlight, we were dissatisfied with the display’s performance. Under direct sunlight the display’s colours are washed out, making it hard to view. The problem makes the Oregon 300 less than ideal for sunny days.
The navigation problems we faced on Garmin’s lower-end models are remedied somewhat on the Oregon 300 thanks to the inclusion of a base map. The preloaded map is fairly basic, displaying major arterial roads and significant locations for each country. The Oregon 300 also boasts a Digital Elevation Model layer that displays topographical information in the form of shaded relief. This preloaded information remains basic — it won’t recognise an elevation difference of a few metres — but it will still aid navigation close to hills or mountains.
A 3-D view mode is available on the Oregon 300, providing a display similar to the standard automotive GPS navigation view. However, this doesn’t work with the preloaded maps; it's intended for use with Garmin’s aftermarket maps, including the country-specific City Navigator maps and TOPO topographical maps. However, these maps can sometimes cost hundreds of dollars.
Community-minded trekkers are in for a treat, as the Oregon 300 can wirelessly exchange waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches with nearby Oregon 300 and 400 models. We weren't able to test this as we didn't have a second unit, but the feature is definitely intriguing.
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