View Full Version : Advice on purchasing a first GPS

11th November 2005, 03:25 PM
Thanks to mitchofsutho for this info

What GPSr to choosing as your first can be somewhat confusing.

Basically you need to decide the following:

What you want to use the GPSr for, i.e 4x4 touring, bushwalking, navigating around a city, etc. as available software differs.
Do you want a mapping GPSr or non mapping GPSr, i.e. maps displayed on the GPSr screen.
Are you going to use it for mainly metropolitian areas or country trips and 4x4 touring, (You have aready answered that question).
Do you need PC connectability, i.e. to use it with software such as OziExplorer or in the case of some Magellan GPSr's DiscoverAus Streets & Tracks (DAST) or Great Desert Tracks (GDT) maping software, of which the data can be downloaded to the GPSr.
If you want to store maps, tracks, waypoints, points of interest, etc on the GPSr, what size memory do you need. Garmen GPSrs are limited to the on-board memory (up to about 30mg), but many of the Magellan GPS'rs take an SD card so memory is basically memory is only limited to the size of the SD card, up to 2Gig at the moment!
Lastly $$$. You pay for what you get. Once you know what you want to use the GPSr for, it is often cheaper in the long run to spend a bit more and get what you want, rather than purchasing a less featured GPSr, only to find out it really was not what you wanted and you loose money when you try to upgrade you recent purchase.

Regarding which brand to purchase, both Garmen and Magellan make excellent products. Both have very good support. Both have good metropolitan based maps. Magellan have the better proprietary mapping software for regional travel, general 4x4 & desert touring. The DAST and GDT maps, Points of Interest, etc for all of Australia can be directly loaded onto a 512Mb SD card. Garmen's proprietary mapping is mainly restricted to the metro areas, but there is a link, above in the previous post, to a site called Tracks4Australia, which are starting to provided maps to use with a Garmen GPSr, but unfortunately Garmen GPSr are limited by the on-board memory to the amount of data that can be loaded onto the GPSr.

Check out these threads, which refer to certain software available and new purchases.

DAST & OziExplorer 1 (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=723)
Entry Level GPS (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=624&page=1)
Magellan Mapping Software - DAST & Great Desert Tracks (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?p=3582#post3582)
DAST (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=658)
DAST -v- OziExplorer 2 (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=637)

There are many more threads than just the few I have listed above, so have a good look around this site before you make a decision and spend your hard earned cash.

Happy reading. :)

11th November 2005, 03:26 PM
And arthurking83 for this

If you have a dedicated laptop for the purposes of navigation (and your music, etc) then another cheaper option would be a 'mouse' type GPS (~$100).

You would then rely on the laptop software for all your GPS data.
Therefore it would be limited to vehicle navigation only (ie. not for hiking, bushwalking, geocaching etc) and for these reasons I would not contemplate the idea, except if I wanted a dedicated vehicle(or boat??) navigation system!!
(that is if you can afford to have 2 GPSr.... ;) )

I have 2 GPSr's and I could dedicate the old one to a fixed location.

There's nothing like a handheld mapping GPSr though!

13th January 2009, 10:16 PM
I think the crucial criterion for choosing the best GPS is ensuring you're happy with the user interface.

Wahroonga Farm
14th January 2009, 03:20 PM
I picked up an interesting little publication in the Good Guys the other day.

It's a 'non GPS brand aligned buyers guide' with some quite useful tips and information regarding 'Turn by Voice GPS car navigation'.

Seems it's written by 'the Gadgetguy' http://www.lakopacific.com/content/Image/MR%20SITE/Gadget_Guy.jpg and other unnamed contributors, however it is in fact published by none other than Sensis Pty Ltd.

So I guess some unmitigated mapping bias, however the Whereis map creation and maintenance article (http://www.gadgetguy.com.au/whereis-shows-the-way-in-mapping-article-4296-51.html) does make interesting reading. :)

There is an online ''virtual magazine' (http://www.gadgetguy.com.au/Whereis-Going-places/landing_page.asp?id=19) ', with the same information.

The 'Where to next' (http://www.gadgetguy.com.au/Whereis-Going-places/landing_page.asp?id=19) is quite interesting.

15th January 2009, 08:38 AM
The question is why did the Good Guys accept it? Also, how can a booklet be published by Sensis be legitimately unbiased? The Gadget Guy is just a TV advertisement for various manufacturers just like the Buying Power or what ever they are called. That's what happens when you have the dollars, you can convince people your product is the one to buy.

Interestingly the Gadget guy is owned by VideoCamera Publications PTY LTD, a company that seems to know more about video cameras than anything else. Amazing the luck you get when you are thrown in front of a Channel 7 TV camera to get to the status of an advertisement for the manufacturers. Clearly the bias in this company is real.

Every single GPS they show have Sensis, the recommendations specify it should be Sensis because of being a "local company". The same "local company" that allowed a non-local company to make a deal with Hema Maps, a local company, and doing so force Garmin to buy Navteq Maps.

The only reason why Sensis mention having peopl eon the ground to do the thousands of kilometers is because that's exactly what Navteq did and that is why Navteq have better data outside of the 'burbs. Interestingly no data is supplied to compel me to say that Sensis has put more effort into producing the best maps possible for the Australia market. In terms of features Sensis is on the backfoot as they haven't got Lane assist, something that they are scrambling to get done.

Sensis reminds me of it's parent company, Telstra, no competition no motivation. Telstra hasn't even approached Hema and even if Hema said no, Sensis still has alternatives such as Westprint (Hema's competitor) but they haven't heard anything from them.

15th January 2009, 09:33 PM
It;s just a line on a screen. I just love people that rely on a level of information with regards to technology even worse an intellect.

Wahroonga Farm
16th January 2009, 06:30 AM
Didn't mean to start a fight here. Any information is useful, you just need to filter it.

I posted the SuperCheap's GPS brochure earlier in another thread. I'll include it here for completeness. It references both Sensis and Navteq (http://navigation.supercheapauto.com.au/mapsoftware.aspx) :)

I picked up a 'GPS Summer 08 GPS guide' from none other than Supercheap auto's today. Not complete but not bad. At least it's a sound, fact based and logical approach with some appreciation of the fundamental features; which is exactly what I've been banging on about.

Check it u on the web (http://navigation.supercheapauto.com.au/default.aspx) . Check out 'What does it mean'.

PLEASE NOTE: The GPS brochure is no longer available on line from Supercheap. Please ignore this now redundant post. :)

16th January 2009, 08:04 AM
The reference is purely a link to Navteq and Sensis site, not really a review that gives advise.

Who ever you quoted, Wahroonga, needs to understand the difference between a guide and a list of terminology. Personally I would prefer a site that gave comparisons based on actual usage.

I am being sent some Garmin products to review by Garmin and have had positive feedback from both Magellan and Mio in regards to receiving units to do a review. I am hoping to get all the other brands as well but I will need to contact them and let them know they will need to supply units if they want to be seen.

16th April 2009, 04:07 PM
Thanks for the info guys but I think the netbook whth the GPS mouse would be the best way to go

16th April 2009, 04:38 PM
Thanks for the info guys but I think the netbook whth the GPS mouse would be the best way to go

I'm not convinced that it's the best way to go. I have two USB mouses and one Bluetooth one. One is a smart GPS receiver (GM-48) and the other is a BC-307 (CF GPS) with AT-65 (mouse GPS). They don't work with anything that I have, as there's no driver support for these anymore. The Bluetooth one (Nokia LD-3W) works with some of the software.

You need to stick with a known brand so that you have some chance of continued support. That's why I ended up getting the Garmin GPS, as I have some hope that it will keep working with Garmin maps. And it is recognised by other mapping software that I have.



16th April 2009, 08:06 PM
The AT-65 is not a GPS it is just an external antenna Depending on what connector it has it may connect to your BC-307. The AT-65 and BC-307 are Globalsat products and will be around for many years to come. I am a disto for Globalsat and do sell and support (excluding auction purchased items or none of my dealers) that brand. But really 99% of problems are the user and not the product.

The BC-307 has been replaced by the BC-337

Wahroonga Farm
13th July 2009, 08:59 PM
More up to date info here


There are two fundamental forms of GPS mapping systems.

Vector maps
All street navigators use vector mapping. The streets, roads and landforms etc are encoded in software as points, lines, and polygons stored and displayed using their mathematical constructs. The advantage is that the map data (stored in memory or on SD card) is relatively small and the resulting image is crystal clear at any zoom level. As the zoom level is increased or decreased, map features are 'added or removed' automatically, so that screen clutter is managed. Map pre and post planning may be supported (depending on the product) via PC software. Vector maps are routable ie they provide directions with turn by voice.

City street navigation vector maps are generally useless in the bush. TomTom, Garmin, Mio, Navman etc, it makes no difference, they're all as good and bad as each other. If you're up the Strzelecki .... you need an 'off road map'.

Purpose made Australian off road topographical vector maps are currently available for Garmin and Magellan GPS's. Oztopo also provides commercial maps for Garmin GPS.

As Garmin's mapping format is open source, anyone can build a Garmin map. Now that's good news. A number of countries, with enthusiast support, have developed sophisticated free auto-routing Garmin maps. Singapore and New Zealand have developed leading edge free Garmin turn by voice vector maps.

However for most soft roaders, a standard issue street vector map will do the job just fine.

Raster maps
Many off road navigators deploy raster maps. The main raster mapping software used in Aussie are Oziexplorer (PC and car mount variants) as used by the Hema Navigator and MemoryMap. The VMS tourer uses a variant of MemoryMap call iTopo. iTopo (MemoryMap) uses proprietary map encoding. A one off license of around $100 is required to convert maps to MemoryMap format.

Raster maps are simply an image of a paper map. They are viewed on screen as a moving map image. They are best viewed at only one zoom level for the sharpest image. Raster maps are not routable. You can create routable tracks of your own.

However anyone can make a raster map, so the mapping database is huge. 1:25k mapping (or better) where available, will give the very best track information and details. The full Hema paper mapping series is available in digital form.

There are many free and commercial sources of quality raster mapping.

Many consider Des Newman's OziExplorer (http://www.oziexplorer.com/) (PC version) and OziCe (PNA/PND version) to be the king of commercial raster GPS software. There are competitors (CompeGPS, Memorymap, Fugawi etc), however IMO Ozi is consistently the most featured and versatile of all.


As mentioned above, the beauty of Garmin over other GPS street navigators is that the map software is open source. That means that 3rd parties can produce Garmin compatible maps. Australian purchased, street navigation Garmins, come standard with Garmins City Navigator 2009 (new maps have just been released). City Navigator is a Sensis mapping product, which is excellent for towns and cities. No good in the bush though as noted above.

Oztopo and Garmin Topo are the two commercial mapsets that will take you off-road with a Garmin. OzTopo's (http://www.oztopo.com/) 10m contours, (with the ability to turn contours on and off to make maps easier to read ... not available on Garmin's product), small map size without loss of detail, similar information to that found on 1:25,000 topo maps and supported on all Garmin mapping units makes OzTopo my current vector off road favourite.

Shonky Maps is a wonderful free mapset for all of Australia based on Natmap 250k data. Dooghan's Contours v2.0 is a free transparent overlay giving 10m contours for all of Aussie. You can meet them on this forum from time to time. :)

The Open Street Map (OSM (http://www.openstreetmap.org/) ) project (enthusiasts like you and me) is slowly but surely mapping Australia and this is providing free routable mapping (http://garmin.na1400.info/routable.php). More here (http://www.osmaustralia.org/garmin.php) .

Hint: You'll need Mapsource so read a bit further on. :)

Garmin screens are nice and bright!

So there are a few good reasons to buy Garmin.

Marine, Handheld, Bush walking and Geocaching GPS

This surprisingly, is a quite a spec_ialist area. Best to bone up and ask questions of the many expert enthusiasts here.

Cross-over GPS's

These units run both vector and raster mapping software and maps. Brief information on a short selection of these units follows.

Chinese imported PNA's/ PND's will generally perform a cross-over function, as access to the WinCe operating system is straightforward; enabling access to the operation of raster GPS software.

Hema Navigator

Not in your life. The street mapping software is Route 66. It uses (cheap) Navteq mapping and the GPS engine is simply horrible.

The off-road mapping uses a version of OziexplorerCE. It is excellent.

VMS Touring

Well worth a look. It uses the excellent iGO8 street mapping software and Sensis mapping.

The off-road (raster map based) navigator, iTopo is considered a more intuitive system than OziExplorer for a beginner.

The VMS product can be purchased with an AV input for a rear view camera. Sweet!

Magellan Crossover

I'm no expert on Magellan GPS. You can purchase off-road Magellan topo mapping (vector format) so that's a big plus, but like Garmin Topo it's Navteq based. I'm not enamoured with Navteq. 8 hour hand held, 'out of the car' battery life is a bonus.

CompeGPS TwoNav

Long awaited but it's on it's way and Nicko's promising big things for this little bundle. :)

Garmins Mapsource

IF you have a Garmin ... almost any Garmin street or handheld navigator .... or even if you don't; here's how to get hold of some nice free topographical maps for outback trip planning.

1. Download and install Garmin's Mapsource. Here's (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=2800&highlight=free+mapsource) how. It's free and legal. You can now view Garmin maps on your PC. Download and install Garmin's nRoute (http://www8.garmin.com/software/nRoute_276.exe) if you want moving Garmin maps on your laptop in conjunction with your GPS or GPS mouse.

2. Download Shonkylogics (http://shonkylogic.net/shonkymaps/) free Garmin topographical maps of Australia. Here's (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=2525) some more info. It's a big download so best to use a download manager to ensure a corruption free download.

You can plan and develop your own routes, tracks and waypoints in Mapsource for upload to your GPS.

And there's a higher resolution 'contour only' map available here (http://www.lizarddrinking.net/) and here (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=6258&highlight=contours+v2.0).

Shonky is great in the Aussie bush, but there is little detail in towns and cities. The OSM project is slowly mapping Australia and is very very good for many city and town areas; not so good in the bush. Routable Garmin maps (http://garmin.na1400.info/routable.php ) are now available. Have a look (http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.openstreetmap.org%2F&ei=zMaFSp2TLc6JkQXI4cGfBw&rct=j&q=osm&usg=AFQjCNE391PIxJggzIKZvinNWNpOh7nqqw) and see if your area is mapped. If not why not do some mapping. :)

To load these great maps and contours to your GPS via Mapsource have a look at this thread (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=3868) .

Note: If you only need Shonky maps, a quick and dirty solution is to download the ready made version (there's no need to fiddle with Mapsource). Get hold of an SD card, create a folder in the root of the SD card called Garmin and place this file (http://www.gpstechnologies.com.au/gpsaustralia/garmin/gmapsupp.img) (gmapsupp.img) in there. Shonky 'gmapsupp.img' is a 413.95 Mb download (434,061,312 bytes).

Other Free Stuff

Here's (http://www.maps-gps-info.com/fgpfw.html) a fulsome list of the many free GPS applications available

- - - -

These downloads are quite large, so the use of a download manager (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_download_managers) to ensure complete, error free downloads is highly recommended; 'Down Them All (Firefox)', Download Express, Free Download manager etc.

Now that lot'll keep you quite busy till tea time.

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Note: This is a quick off the top of my head primer.

If I have missed key info, data or products it was unintentional.

Please feel free to correct or add to this basic information.

13th July 2009, 09:28 PM
The issue I am finding nowadays with raster maps is that with the proliferation of excellent Vector maps especially free ones it seems to me that before long raster maps will be obsolete. Raster Maps are terrible to view when you zoom in with pixelated images whilst the Vector will be clean and smooth no matter what scale or zoom level you choose. The proliferation of programs that can produce vector maps is improving the ease of use to produce your own maps in vector

Wahroonga Farm
16th July 2009, 07:09 PM
How are maps sourced and made?

Almost all maps are initially sourced from calibrated paper or digital images.

A vector map maker starts with a paper or digital map in a particular scale. Roads, features pois etc are then converted to vector format. Digital maps are made up of many layers, each adding a particular layer of map features. These layers provide a convenient method for the map maker to utilise technology to do the conversion. However, any imperfections in the map will be transferred to the vector copy. Obviously the higher the resolution/ accuracy of the source map, then the higher the quality and accuracy of the vector map.

The OSM project is a significant exception. It is mostly sourced from actual GPS data captured by GPS enthusiasts.

Google maps is another which has undertaken large scale survey work. Although largely based on source map data, given the enormous effort that Google maps has expended in 'on the ground' mapping and street level photography, one could suspect that Google map quality and accuracy increasingly benefits from this 'on the ground' survey work.

Sensis and Navteq, the two major Australian street navigation vector map makers, both claim on the ground survey teams which work to improve accuracy, however in my opinion, they're efforts are not on the scale of OSM and Google.

A Vector Map Example

Shonky Logics' maps are generated from an earlier GeoScience Natmap 250k map. It is licensed for non-commercial use. All of the features of the 250k map were faithfully converted to vector format. Additional information improves the map detail particularly for 'water related' features.

You can view the Natmap 250k in OziExplorer (raster) or Shonky in Mapsource (vector) and yes ... they are identical.

However as you zoom in the raster map, the images blur, whilst zooming in the vector map, maintains sharp images. Since the source data is 250k, zooming greater than that best viewed in Ozi will simply increase the error margin when in Mapsource.

Perhaps a few pictures can help illustrate this effect. These series of pictures compare Shonkys' Garmin vector maps against their GeoScience raster map source. The two map views displayed below are PC images taken from Mapsource -Vector and OziExplorer - Raster.

The area chosen is the tip of Cape York, Queensland

Mapsource at 15 Km zoom


Ozi at an equivalent zoom Compare the detail. Raster maps win out here.


MapSource at 3Km zoom


Ozi at an equivalant zoom Compare the detail. It's pretty much the same. In my opinion 'raster' gives the clearest view of the map and features at this zoom level.


Mapsource at 700m zoom. Vector maps come into there own now, however beware mapping errors which become magnified.


Ozi at an equivalent zoom. Notice the fuzz has set in. Not too good and you would probably not operate for long at this zoom level.


Wahroonga Farm
16th July 2009, 07:10 PM
City and town map details are derived from high resolution 'up to date' maps. Many other sources are employed to ensure relevant map data. As you move into the country areas the resolution of the map source generally decreases.

So perhaps a few more images comparing 25k 'raster data' to Garmin City Navigator 2008 'vector data'.

The two maps show images of Gloucester, NSW

Mapsource view 500m zoom


Ozi view at an equivalent zoom. It's a pretty handy map. Notice additional tracks and information showing on the raster map.


It is my understanding (could well be wrong) that Garmin and Oztopo are derived from 100k map day in country areas.

Anyhow, that's my rough take on GPS maps. I hope it's helpful. :)

16th July 2009, 07:26 PM
Thanks very much WF Good demo!
For now it looks like both should have a place in my electronic map kit.


16th July 2009, 09:36 PM
Can someone post a cape york map from garmin topo and oztopo if possible.

16th July 2009, 09:49 PM
The Garmin Topo as found here (http://www.gpsaustralia.net/forums/showthread.php?t=8064&page=4&pp=40) is vector based and clearly an advance on the maps you have shown. In time vector maps with have quality shading and accuracy and are already shown great signs in doing so. With the advent of google maps and the continuous improvement of satellite imagery and lowered cost it is going to be a challenge for vector if the high detail becomes considerably cheaper; as cheap as current 250k maps but with 10k or better detail.

with the two largest map makers in the world pushing vector it may be a sea-saw ride over the next decade; but I'm hedging my bets on vector, cleaner, crisper and more accurate.

Wahroonga Farm
17th July 2009, 08:43 AM
There appears to be some misunderstanding of the message I was attempting to communicate in the 'zoom comparison' post.

The maps I have are the best at my disposal; however the map currency is not relevant to the issue.

I was demonstrating the relationship between zoom levels using Garmins Mapsource (vector) and OziExplorer (raster), using known map scales.

The question is .... what do the two different map formats look like when viewed at approximately the same scale or zoom?

Maybe this little table, may better show the practical relationship between a paper map scale and Mapsource scale (zoom). A quality 1:10,000 map provides superb mapping detail displayed as a raster image.


Maybe that helps, or maybe it's esoteric nonsense. :)

Note: The table is not scientifically accurate (I made it with simple practical measurement), but it is enough to get you in the ball park.

17th July 2009, 09:13 AM

Your Cape York comparison between Garmin & OziExplorer is interesting BUT have you noticed that if you are actually there? :hysterica - then the difference may in fact be insignificant?
A little like my contour maps.
Some people want 5m. Believe me - again - when you are ACTUALLY there even the 50m contours are VERY obvious! i.e.
"Geez this country is f** steep!!!"

Wahroonga Farm
17th July 2009, 09:16 AM
Hi Nev,

Now I'm confused? :)

17th July 2009, 09:22 AM

17th July 2009, 10:54 AM
You also have to take into consideration that the Shonkymaps and Tracks4Australia are both based on an original raster map. Thus, what GPS should I buy? One that can handle both... oh and that's a TwoNav Aventura !!!!


17th July 2009, 12:10 PM
A 2 navel what? :laughing

1st August 2009, 02:20 PM
g'day all,

just got this little gps unit from the states which runs topo's and roads for 103 american. just have to see how long its lkast lol.

21st October 2009, 03:44 PM
Thanks to all who have contributed to this thread. As a potential GPS user it was a great primer on what may or may not work. Some of it was over my head but i'll re-read it and pick up the finer details.

15th December 2009, 05:54 PM
i am looking at buying a navman My55t, new to gps, but three year maps etc seems like a good deal

7th January 2010, 06:26 PM
Janet Michie (02) 8312 2169.