Homer's Travels: My First Look At The Garmin Oregon 400t

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My First Look At The Garmin Oregon 400t

I went out for a long walk today to play with my new toy - the Garmin Oregon 400t. I chose a walk instead of snowshoeing because the higher temperatures we're having is melting the snow surprisingly fast.

I started my walk on the Nebraska side of the pedestrian bridge. I crossed the bridge and headed south on the Iowa Riverfront Trail. My primary walking goal was the
Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, IA. Along the three to four miles I took pictures so that I could play around with geotagging. I also searched for geocaches that I had loaded into the GPS.

The 400t worked pretty good. It locks on to satellites very quickly - much faster than my old Magellan. I had to calibrate the internal electronic compass but it was easy to do and took less than a minute.

Those who know me know I have a data fetish and this bad boy overflows with data. The trip computer display includes such data as time moving, time standing still, average speed while moving, total ascent, and many other data sets that were not available on my old GPS.

Loading geocaches into the unit was simple. Plug it in with the provided USB cable and it acts just like an attached drive. Copy the GPX file containing the geocache information into the GPX folder and your done. Not only are the geocache coordinates are loaded but the complete geocache description, hint, and five logs are included as well. I used to print out descriptions when I went geocaching. Not any more. Paperless caching here I come. Unfortunately geocaching and snow don't work well together - no finds.

After I got home I easily copied the track GPX file and, using a program called
GeoSetter, geotagged my pictures. Looking at the map generated the track was right on. There were a few glitches in the track but I think they occurred when I accidentally turned of the GPS (See below). If you geotag pictures to upload to Flickr, don't forget to authorize Flickr to import the EXIF Location Data (My Account - Privacy & Permissions) before you upload. (I could have been doing this with my old GPS but I was too lazy - the 400t is much easier to get data off of.)

That is the good. Now for the not so good. The display is hard to see in bright sunlight. I knew about this when I bought it. There are a few things you can to to improve the visibility. The main thing is to turn off the topological shading. The shading is cool but it makes things less clear at times. I found if I dipped the display just right so that the sun reflected off it, you could read the display better.

The touch screen is pretty sensitive. A couple of times, when I pulled it out of my carrying case (actually it's my Magellan case but it's fine for the Garmin) the screen had switched. After this happened a few times I used the screen lock function to stop it from happening. I could use the screen even with my glove on but the pointing accuracy was hurt. Even without my gloves, pointing on the screen can take a little trial and error. A stylus might help but that's something else to carry.

The 400t has one last annoyance. It only has one button. It's the power button ... and the brightness/screen lock button ... and the screen capture button. That one button gets overworked and using it can be confusing. I turned the unit off accidentally a couple times. This is probably less a design problem and more a "user has to get used to it" issue. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it - this was my first real outing with the 400t.

Overall I'm happy with my purchase. Once I get the interface idiosyncrasies figured out, it will be awesome.


  1. Nice review! You should buy new gizmos more often so we can read about them. How about a webcam?

  2. MH: Yeah, and where will I get the money to buy these gadgets?

  3. Did you find the screen protector dulled the sensitivity a bit, or made no difference?

    Sounds like an awesome little device!

  4. GH: They made no noticeable difference. My gloves, on the other hand, make it more difficult in map mode.

    Jonathan: Thanks for visiting Homer's Travels. I will check out your links. I have already discovered GPS visualizer and find it interesting and useful.