I spent a long time looking at GPS units. Here's what was important to me:
- Cycling-compatible, so it needs to be reasonably compact and rugged
- Portable, because I wanted to take it hiking as well
- Routing directions are important when cycling and also allow me to take it in the car
- Easy to use interface
- I needed broad software support and compatibility
Narrowing the field. When I started looking at GPS units, the first thing I did was find those I didn't like. That was easy. Imagine a meeting of design engineers. One of them perks up with an idea, "hey, lets make a giant round directional button and then wrap other buttons around it with text on them. That way people will have to turn the unit on it's side to read them". The crowd cheered and the Magellan user interface was born. Not content with this ground breaking innovation, at another design meeting someone says "lets totally ignore convention and make the "+" button zoom out and the "-" button zoom in". Again, the crowd cheers... Yeah, right. I don't like the user interface on Magellan GPS units.
I considered some of the cycling-specific offerings from Garmin, but found them to be lacking key features such as maps. I can't imagine a GPS for cycling that doesn't support mapping. I chose a Garmin eTrex Legend C. If I were to buy one today, I'd pick the Garmin eTrex Vista Cx. Here are what I believe to be the advantages of the Vista Cx over my Legend C:
- Barometric altimeter - the nature of a GPS allows it to determine elevation, however because the satellites are mostly overhead, the angle between them is minimized and thus the elevation calculation has a large margin of error. I find that elevation data is really nice to have in post-ride analysis. An integrated barometric altimeter provides this data.
- MicroSD card support for expandable memory. This allows for later memory expansion for maps as storage prices fall - which is inevitable.
- Faster route calculation and screen redraws due to its updated microprocessor
- Improved battery life due to its updated microprocessor
- Updated GPS receiver