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Garmin Rino Disappointment
I've just got back from five days up in Colorado, skiing and meeting with partners and potential partners. My GPS tracks are uploaded as part of my for the trip. You'll be seeing a lot of new features added to the website over the next few weeks to display and analyze these tracks uploaded by the site's members.

This trip also gave three friends and I a chance to do an in-depth comparison of a couple of Garmin GPS units--the 60C and the Rino 520 (of which we had a pair).

The 60C, which has been my "every day" unit for the past year or so, continued to impress. The screen is large and bright and the unit is easy to handle with gloves on. I used it with rechargeable NiMh AA batteries which I found to work well down to around the mid-20s degrees F but which lost a lot of output when it was down in the mid-teens F (as it was at Arapahoe Basin yesterday). Lithiums would have been better on colder days like that, or the GPS could be kept closer to body temperature in an inside pocket. Of particular note was how easy the buttons on the 60C work with gloves on. They are small, but have enough spacing and have a positive tactile feel. The joystick works well because it is only "4-way", moving up/down/left/right but not having a push action. In this case "less is more" because you can press as hard as you want on the joystick while operating it.

The Rino 520s on the other hand were a disappointment. Since they combine a GPS unit with an FRS/GMRS walkie talkie radio that can send its position to other units in a group I was hoping for it to be the perfect ski GPS/radio.

Firstly, with their rechargeable Lithium ion battery packs attached they are quite large. Secondly, the "5-way" joystick, which crucially controls much of the user interface, was hard to use wearing gloves. Pressing this joystick is the "select" action, and you have to be careful not press too hard when you want to use its up/down/left/right movements. Thirdly, the buttons on the side have a soft rubbery movement with little tactile response. It's very hard to tell whether you've pushed the radio "talk" button when wearing gloves, and the smaller "next page" button is hard to push period. Fourthly, the audio quality was poor, worse than the $20 Motorola radios that we were also using. Finally we had trouble on both units with the screen shutting off periodically. It seemed to happen when it was cold and the "talk" button was pushed, and I'll be raising it as a possible defective hardware issue. The unit would continue to function, but the screen was blank. A power cycle restored the screen.

On the plus side, the jumbo battery pack has a convenient charging hookup, and performed well in low temps. Also the GPS position transmission feature worked very well, allowing one user to easily keep track of other users on the mountain. This last feature causes me a lot of frustration--itís a VERY cool and useful feature, but unfortunately it's embedded in an otherwise hard to use (and overly bulky) package. Considering Garmin's track record of producing excellent hardware, and that it is a second generation Rino product I am puzzled.

Next trip, I'll be taking my trusty 60C and the $20 Motorola radio, although I would also like to put the 60C head-to-head with a Legend C. The Legend C may have the same 5-way joystick "problem" with gloves, but based on an older monochrome Legend that I used to have, I think it may be designed better than the Rino's.

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