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Garmin Colorado 400t GPS Promises Hi-Res Mapping in a Compact Package (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)

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by Alan Dixon and Steve Nelson | 2008-01-26 00:00:00-07

Garmin Colorado 400t GPS Promises Hi-Res Mapping in a Compact Package  (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)


Backpacking Light has not field tested the Colorado 400t. This brief show release is based on Backpacking Light’s initial impression with the Colorado 400t on the floor of the Outdoor Retailer show and discussions with the manufacturer. The features and performance are as reported by the manufacturer and have not been verified. The initial releases of complex electronics equipment from many manufactures can be prone to early bugs and glitches. Many problems with these rather complex devices don't appear until you have had the device in the field for a number of days. Backpacking Light will obtain a Colorado 400t for review in the near future and begin formal lab and field-testing to verify the performance of the GPS.

At summer Outdoor Retailer 2007 we reported in Electronic Mapping Comes of Age for Handheld GPS on a new breed of GPS units that included downloadable 1:24k topographic map coverage of the whole US and satellite imagery overlays.

These new GPS units by Magellan and Delorme signaled a strong challenge to Garmin, the current leader in mapping handheld GPS. Since the Winter OR the Earthmate has been available for a few months and BPL is currently reviewing it. The Magellan Triton units are still a month or two away from market and the availability of test units.

Now it’s Garmin’s turn. They debuted the new Colorado 400t at the Consumer Electronics Show a few weeks ago. We had a chance to play with a Colorado 400t on the floor of Outdoor Retailer. On the show floor one of the Colorado’s best features is a new high resolution TFT display: at 400 x 180 pixels it is larger than quarter VGA. The Colorado’s display is the largest, and highest resolution display we’ve seen so far on a handheld GPS. And the Colorado doesn’t just display topographic lines: it also does shaded topographic maps and even 3D terrain rendering. The Colorado also features a built-in electronic compass, altimeter and barometer, and ANT wireless.

With a display the size of the Colorado 400t, navigating with GPS internal topographic maps starts to make sense. And the Colorado has a higher resolution and larger display (almost twice the area) than the Delorme Earthmate and Magellan 400/500 handheld units, as shown in the table below. You get over twice the display resolution of older Garmin units like the GPS Map and eTrex series. Even with the larger display, the Colorado series is slightly smaller and lighter than the previous Garmin GPS Map units.

Comparison of Selected GPS Features
GPS UnitOzDisplayPixelsDimensions
Garmin Colorado 400t7.32.6 x 1.5400 x 2405.7 x 2.4 x 1.4
Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx GPS       7.6   2.2 x 1.5240 x 1806.2 x 2.7 x 1.4
Garmin eTrex Vista HCx5.61.7 x 1.3240 x 1804.2 x 2.2 x 1.2
Magellan Triton 4006.x1.7 x 1.3320x 240n/a
Delorme Earthmate PN-207.01.7 x 1.3220 x 1765.3 x 2.4 x 1.5



The Colorado 400t comes pre-loaded with full set of US topographic maps, the same maps as the Garmin “MapSource Topo U.S. 2008” product. So for the computer challenged, or those of you who don’t want to spend the time screwing around with your GPS, you can walk out the door and navigate anywhere in the US without ever downloading a map. It is not clear if the actual MapSource Topo U.S. 2008 computer based software is also included.

The pre-loaded maps on the Colorado 400t are “Digital topographic maps, comparable to 1:100K scale USGS maps” and not 1:24K resolution. Notch one up for Magellean and Delorme and their full 1:24K coverage of the US (but not free or pre-loaded). Still, you can load MapSource US TOPO 24K, National Parks, East and West topographic maps into the Colorado for most of the national parks and surrounding areas. And after a couple of years navigating with 1:100K internal GPS maps I find they work well for most navigation (provided you also have a 1:24K paper map set, which you should have with you anyway).

To aid navigation the Colorado projects 3D, shaded renditions of topography (but with low resolution contours). This is a welcome addition for understanding your route, especially if you are not adept at conceptualizing 3D terrain from topographic lines. Hopefully the 3D rendering doesn’t crash the GPS. Every 3D rendering I’ve tried on my home computers has ended in the Blue Screen of Death. It would be nice if it worked somewhere, especially the field where it’s most useful.


Garmin Colorado 400t GPS (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 2
“Colorado’s 3-D map view helps you visualize your surroundings - giving you a better perspective of the elevation”

Garmin Colorado 400t GPS (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 3
The Colorado also does a shaded relief version of topographic maps, albeit with low-resolution contour intervals.

The Colorado 400t uses a high-sensitivity GPS receiver. Wile we have not tested the Colorado 400’s receiver, previous high sensitivity Garmin receivers have performed quite well. For more on this see our review of the Garmin eTrex Vist HCx Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS Review.

The Colorado uses a new input device, the “Rock ‘n Roller” input wheel, shown below. Similar to the ease of the input of the Ipod click wheel, the Rock ‘n Roller wheel zooms in and out on maps by rotating right or left. Press a button and the Rock ‘n Roller wheel also scrolls rapidly between screens and applications. We found the Rock ‘n Roller to be fast, easy and effective. Our only question is how well Rock ‘n Roller would work with a protective plastic cover over the GPS (for salt water, wet and muddy environments, or other high abuse areas).

Garmin Colorado 400t GPS (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) - 4
The new Colorado “Rock ‘n Roller” input wheel at the top of the unit.

Unlike the Garmin marine units (e.g. the GPS Map 76), the Colorado does not float. Even so, the Colorado 400c (when loaded with coastal nautical charts) and 400i (when loaded with inland waters nautical charts) will likely replace many Garmin marine units. Note: the GPS Map 76 button inputs work exceptionally well inside a waterproof protective case. I will be very interested to see how well the Colorado 400c works un-protected in the harsh environments (assuming the Rock ‘n Roller wheel prevents the use of a protective case).

Other Features

The Colorado 400t is optimized to do both geocaching and a newer version, WherigoTM. “Whereigo is the newest GPS-based activity from Groundspeak, the people who made geocaching a worldwide phenomenon.” With Colorado 400t you can wirelessly share your waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches with other Colorado users. The ANT wireless in the Colorado could also be used to connect to a variety of peripheral units like foot pods, bike sensors, etc.

Finally, the Colorado now uses the ubiquitous full-sized SD card. (The eTrex and GPS Map series used the much less popular micro-SD cards).

About GPS Weight

GPS manufacturers continue to focus their innovation and marketing in two areas:

  1. Large-screened mapping units with full navigational functions [eg. the Garmin GPSMAP 60, 76, and Colorado series] around 7 to 8 oz, and
  2. Small “performance measurement GPS”, usually wearable, but with small screens, no mapping capabilities and minimal navigational functions [Suunto X9i, Garmin Fore Runner 205, 305; 405 and Edge 205 and 305] around 3 oz

As long as this trend continues, the most sophisticated navigationally capable GPS units with large useful screens are gong to weigh 7 oz or more. I don’t see this changing any time soon. Your options for a lighter navigationally capable GPS are something like a mapping eTrex unit with a much smaller screen and only 1.3 ounces lighter, a basic 3-ounce navigational unit like the Gekko 301 (as long as they remain on the market) or the new Garmin eTrex-H unit (which may replace the Gekko).

We see no reason GPS manufactures can't put a 2.2 inch diagonal (or larger) one-quarter VGA screen on compact 3-4 ounce GPS, but at this point they choose not to.

Garmin Colorado 400t GPS
Position accuracyWAAS-enabled 3 meters
Waypoints (total)1000
MemoryExpandable SD card
PC CompatibleYes
Color screenYes
Quad helix antennaYes
Display size2.6 x 1.5 inches
Screen Pixels400 x 240 inches
Battery type2 AA
Battery life at 70 degrees16 hours
Dimensions5.7 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches
Weight7.3 ounces
Physical & Performance
Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 2.4" x 5.5" x 1.4" (6.0 x 13.9 x 3.5 cm)
Display size, WxH: 1.53" W x 2.55" H (3.8 x 6.3 cm); 3" diag (7.6 cm)
Display resolution, WxH: 240 x 400 pixels
Display type: Transflective color TFT
Weight: 7.3 oz (206.9 g) with batteries
Battery: 2 AA or 2 NiMH batteries (not included)
Battery life: 15 hours
Waterproof: yes (IPX7)
Floats: no
High-sensitivity receiver: yes
PC interface: USB
RoHS version available: yes
Maps & Memory
Basemap: yes
Preloaded maps: yes (topographic)
Ability to add maps: yes
Built-in memory: yes
Accepts data cards: SD card (not included)
Waypoints/favorites/locations: 1000
Routes: 50
Track log: 10,000 points, 20 saved tracks
Automatic routing (turn by turn routing on roads): yes
Electronic compass: yes
Barometric altimeter: yes
Geocaching mode: yes (paperless)
Outdoor GPS games: yes
Hunt/fish calendar: yes
Sun and moon information: yes
Tide tables: yes
Area calculation: yes
Custom POIs (ability to add additional points of interest): yes
Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units): yes
Picture viewer: yes


  • Colorado 400t
  • Preloaded topographic maps
  • Worldwide basemap with shaded relief
  • Carabiner clip
  • USB cable
  • MapSource Trip & Waypoint Manager
  • Owner's manual
  • Quick start guide


"Garmin Colorado 400t GPS Promises Hi-Res Mapping in a Compact Package (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)," by Alan Dixon and Steve Nelson. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2008-01-26 00:00:00-07.


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Garmin Colorado 400t GPS Promises Hi-Res Mapping in a Compact Package (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)
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Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Garmin Colorado 400t GPS Promises Hi-Res Mapping in a Compact Package (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) on 01/27/2008 18:38:48 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Garmin Colorado 400t GPS Promises Hi-Res Mapping in a Compact Package (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008)

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Re: Garmin Colorado 400t GPS Promises Hi-Res Mapping in a Compact Package (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2008) on 01/27/2008 19:02:38 MST Print View

$599 Sticker Shock!

Randy Brissey
(rbrissey) - M

Locale: Redondo Beach, CA
Lithium Batteries? on 01/27/2008 21:09:12 MST Print View

My big question........

Will it take lithium AA batteries? To me this would be a perfect application. About double the use time per set and lighter weight.


Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Lithium Batteries? on 01/27/2008 21:45:15 MST Print View

On the REI website they show Lithium's as a suggested option..... My 76CSx recently upgraded the SW to provide a more accurate battery guage when using Lithiums.
I'd bet it does...

Brian Brown

Locale: Willamette Valley
400t Batteries on 02/06/2008 18:19:05 MST Print View

In the operator manual it states:

"The Colorado operates on two AA batteries (not
included). You can use alkaline, NiMH, or lithium

In the setup menu you can (should) tell the unit which type you are using.