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60csx, vista HCX, or Oregon 300?

Started by moresnowdays, November 28, 2009, 07:11:31 AM

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I'm new to the forum here, but been reading alot as I try to decide on my first GPS unit.  I think I've narrowed my choices to the Garmin 60csx, Vista HCX or the Oregon 300.  I'm aware of the basic difference such as ergonomics, lighting and such.  With any selection, from the way I understand it from reading different threads, it will be best to add different maps later.  Some free, and some for extra $$.

I intend to use it for hiking in the Adirondacks, and the high peaks.  It will be used throughout the year, so working in the cold is also an issue for any electronics.  Primarily I want it for several things, not getting lost, making efficient use of time on the trail for longer hikes, keeping track of hike stats like distance and elevation.  I would also like it to try out geocaching with my family, sounds like it would be fun for everyone.

So the questions.  First I've read some reviews were people felt the Vista HCX was actually superior, or at least equal to, the 60csx.  So, can I rule out the 60csx for the cheaper Vista HCX, or what would I be giving up if I did (other than serial port and the option of external antena)?  I know there alot of features that the Garmin site doesn't show, are some missing on the Vista HCX?

Also, I have considered the Oregon 300.  Not the 400t, because from what I read it has potential to be more powerful unit with maps loaded on the micro SD card, rather than internal memory.  Question is partly the accuracy.  Seems like there are many reviews and posts that contradict the accuracy as compared to the above mentioned units.  Also ofcourse the readability of the display, which I'm less concerned about.  One thing I've noticed is that almost every review I find is rather old, so they couldn't have the latest firmware fixes.  So with a fully updated unit, are there still any real drawbacks to the Oregon 300 compared to the others, besides the display visibility (which I think a firmware change also helped this slightly)?  Any other 60csx or Vista HCX features missing?

Thanks for the insight!


I have an Oregon 400t and a 60csx. The Oregon display should be better, but it is still quite usable. Firmware can't fix the problems, it has to do with the extra layers of touch sensitive material on the screen. The newest model (550) has a different surface (which is evidently reflective instead of matte) and is said to be slightly better. Same for the new Dakota series.

But personally I have never found it unreadable. The biggest problem is bright diffused light. In direct sun, you just need to tip the unit to properly reflect the sun and it's very readable. Also, probably the biggest thing you can do to help is to turn of shaded relief (DEM shading) which kills the contrast between map features and the background. You can also turn of landcover shading, which may help (but you will lose things like state parks which may be shaded green).

I like the Oregon much more than the 60csx, but I am not obsessed with accuracy and don't do geocaching. If I did, I might very well find that the paperless features of the Oregon outweighed any problems - which is what many people say over at Groundspeak.

But the high resolution screen on the Oregon makes it far more attractive to me. We are talking about a BIG difference here-  about 38,000 pixels on the vista or 60csx vs 96,000 on the Oregon. And add to that the ability of the Oregon to use the new "custom maps" format... to me it's a no-brainer (see some custom map examples here: But we all have different needs and priorities.

Also, FWIW, I don't think the 300 has "potential to be more powerful" than the 400t. It's just a question of whether you want pre-loaded 100k topos for the whole US. The only hardware difference is 4GB internal memory on the 400t and 1GB on the 300. Because of the way that Garmin has structured the DVD version of US Topo 100k, you cannot load the entire US into your GPS at the same time. The pre-loaded version on the 400t has been tweaked to allow that.

However, the black friday sale on the 300 at REI is tough to beat (although it is evidently on 3 week backorder).


I agree with Boyd.  Nice comparison.
I bought an Oregon 300 from REI a week ago.  Still learning; there are a few difference, with a few things not as easy to do on the 300 as on my 76Csx.
With 2.5 times more pixels on a slightly large display, things just appear to be so much sharper and more detailed. 
Some of the symbols (line style and color) used for some items are also different.  Roads will become wider as you zoom in.  The contour lines are more visible than on the 76.
The mapset I am currently uploading was 'optimized' for the 76, etc.  In the future I will be 'optimizing' for the CO/OR/DK series. 
I am just starting to experiment with the 'custom image' map ability.  See Boyd's work on this; and we are just beginning to learn what is possible.
The Vista and 60/76 series are fine units, however the future will be with the newer units with more capable processors.


Thanks for the reply!   I just looked at one of those custom maps you posted a link to, and wow!  That looks great.  This is the kind of info I was looking for.  If the reception, lock and accuracy are at least reasonably close to the 60, then the Oregon series does seem the way to go.  

I'm not sure there is enough benefit of the 550 to justify the extra cost.  Yes the 300 and 400t are speced the same, except for internal memory and the maps of the 400t.  The only reason I say I think I will like the 300 with maps on a card better is to be able to use them for route planning on the PC.  From what I read you can't see the topo of the 400t on the PC, only on the unit itself.


Correct; built-in maps can not be used on a PC.  Also data on a Garmin pre-recorded card can not be used on a PC; however the card can be used in different GPSr units.
Below is a 'test' walk I did on the first day with the unit.  'Custom image' is USGS 1ft city hires.  Walkway is about 8' wide.  GPSr was set to record a point every 5 seconds and carried near the edge of the path.  Might be a fluke, but impressive.
I better test would be to do the walk carring both units and compare the tracks.


Quote from: maps4gps on November 28, 2009, 08:05:22 AMThe mapset I am currently uploading was 'optimized' for the 76, etc.  In the future I will be 'optimizing' for the CO/OR/DK series.

Aside from tweaking items on the map, IMO one huge improvement would be giving it a white background instead of the tan which the Oregon defaults to. More contrast = better readability in bright conditions. For that matter, I think this looks better on the 60csx as well. I never really understood that whole "Garmin Yellow" thing.  ;)


I've been taking my OR300 and 60CSX out for walks together.  Comparing tracklogs, my 60CSX (vintage Sirf III) needs to have an antenna attached (in my hat) to match the repeatability of the OR 300 when walking back over the same trail.


QuoteAlso, probably the biggest thing you can do to help is to turn off shaded relief (DEM shading) which kills the contrast between map features and the background.
That makes it a very pale yellow; not white, but a huge improvement.  Downside is that it is the same color used for 'reservation' and man made/building polygons.

Boyd, have you tried using a white .kmz image as a background?  Polygons would have to go in an overlay mapset to display after the .kmz.


Have not tried a white kmz, but it seems like you would be needlessly slowing things down to have to render a big jpeg. I just make a big white polygon as large as my whole map which is drawn first with a custom type set to white.


I should have thought of that.  Been playing with the new Oregon so much, I keep thinking .kmz.
Have you noticed any decrease in battery life lighting a white background?


I don't think that could affect battery life. I assume the backlight always stays at a constant level regardless of what is happening on the LCD panel.


Thanks for the replies.  Sounds like the Oregon 300 is holding it's own as far as accuracy.  In tough situations like tree cover to, compared to the 60cscx?

Before I commit to the 300, just to throw in a wild card, How does the Delorme PN-40 stack up to the 300?  I've seen it mentioned in reviews of the Oregon series, but haven't really looked at it.  From what little I've found the pros for it are faster processing, not sure but guessing from the dual processor it advertises.  Some have also said that it works with maps, or maybe they're propriatary maps, that look really good.  I hadn't paid much attention because in my knoob view point they aren't a mainstream brand, so there will be more support, maps and flexibility with Garmin.  Is my logic sound, or should I really look at the PN-40?


Look at as many different models as you can, that way you won't end up with buyer's remorse. Do you have an REI store nearby? They should have all of these in stock and you can play with them.

The PN-40 screen resolution is about the same as the Vista and 60csx, so the Oregon has a lot more pixels. The big attraction for the PN-40 is the map subscription which I think costs $30/year and lets you download unlimited aerial imagery and USGS maps. I have never used one, but there are many happy owners. Evidently it goes through batteries quickly. I think the idea of "faster processing" come from a comparison with the previous model, the PN-20, which was evidently really slow. I don't know that the PN-40 is any "faster" than the Garmin Oregon or 60csx.

When it comes to reception, IMO that is very subjective. I am very happy with my Oregon but you will find others who bash it. Unfortunately, I think you will need to be the judge as to whether it meets you expectations in this area.

You should also be aware that the PN-40 won't be compatible with any maps on this site. If you are interested in this model you should visit DeLorme's own forums since you won't find many (if any) users here.


Boyd, I've been reading some negatives about the OR's total ascent calculations over at Groundspeak, but I haven't been able to substantiate the complaints.   Findings below are from a 5 mile hike with one hill about 200' high, and a few other ups and downs.

I used Global Mapper to calculate  an elevation gain, by outputting a path profile to an Excel file as a .csv.

In the csv I used the formula "=if(d3>d2,d3-d2,0)", and sum the results.

The OR 300 reported 709' on the trip computer, and the Excel sum was 710'. That track had 1608 points.

The 60CSX reported 650' on the trip computer, and the Excel sum was 691'. That track had 1270 points, and the 60CSX was set to record by distance (distance being 15').

Maybe the OR was having a good day, but I don't have a side by side comparison yet where it does worse than the 60CSX.


Have never really played with the elevation functions... most of the time I'm here in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, where Forked River "Mountain" is one of the higher points at about 180'.  :)