M Garmin Colorado 400t Handheld Color Mapping GPS - REVIEW
by Alan Dixon and Steve Nelson
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The Colorado series is a new line of high-resolution-display GPS units from Garmin. Backpacking Light tested the Colorado 400t model, which includes built-in topographic, recreational POI, and elevation data for the entire United States at 100K scale.
One of the Colorado's most prominent features is its new color TFT display which, at 240x400 pixels, provides higher resolution than any other GPS in this class. The display is particularly well-suited to the topographic and marine data. In addition, the Colorado includes a beautiful shaded color basemap and does 3-D terrain rendering, both of which are enhanced by the display. However, we found that the display and color choices are dark and difficult to read, even in moderate light, requiring frequent use of the backlight.
The other obvious stand-out feature is the new Rock 'n Roller input wheel. This innovative input wheel has the simplicity and power of a Blackberry wheel with an additional inner rocker ring that allows for cursor slewing, map panning, and movement in text fields. The scroll wheel allows for a new interface design that makes many basic functions like jumping to a different display page or navigating to a single waypoint easy and intuitive.
The revised screens and menus on the Colorado are generally simple to understand and navigate, though some intermediate and advanced tasks are now actually more cumbersome to access than on previous models. While our experienced GPS users liked the Rock 'n Roller input wheel, they found that some important tasks, such as route building, took additional steps or were deeper in menus than on previous Garmin GPS units.
This may in part be due to the fact that the Colorado appears focused primarily on features and automation for Geocaching and Whereigo enthusiasts. While it does display detailed topographic maps (and high-quality nautical charting GPS with additional map data such as those included on the 400c and 400i versions), trekking and route navigation seem to us to be a secondary focus.
The Colorado comes pre-loaded with topographic maps for the entire US, as well as recreational points of interest data. One serious caveat to note is that this mapping data is only accessible on the Colorado, not on your computer. Data usable on your PC is an additional purchase (more on that in a bit). However, for map viewing (on the Colorado) across the full United States, there's no need to connect the Colorado to a PC to load and manage maps; it's ready to go right out of the box. The Colorado does come with Mapsource software (minus maps) for transferring routes, tracks, geocaches, and additional mapping data acquired separately; however, without the additional PC readable maps, route planning on the PC is limited and frustrating.
The Colorado also features a built-in electronic compass, altimeter, and barometer, as well as ANT wireless compatibility for connecting to other devices and accessories. The Colorado can serve an automotive/pedestrian GPS like a Nuvi (with additionally purchased mapping data), a training device like a Forerunner (with optional heart rate monitor or other hardware), and a picture viewer (of any supported file stored on the internal or SD memory).
Finally, the Colorado can wirelessly transfer tracks, waypoints, routes, and geocaches with other Colorado units and also mounts on a computer desktop as a storage device - just like a USB drive, making file transfers blissfully simple. It runs on two AA batteries and includes an SD card slot for storing not only additional maps, but also photographs, Geocaching data, and other files.
- What's Good
- What's Not So Good
- Feature Details
- Field Testing
- Suggestions for Improvement
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