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Garmin’s GPS 12 VS. Magellan’s GPS 2000 XL

Garmin VS. Magellan Okay, I have to admit, the first time I saw a guy with a GPS unit on the trail, two thoughts came to mind. 1) This guy has waaaay too much money and 2) What the heck would you really need a GPS for, he must be showing off number 1. After seeing a few more the last year or so and actually getting to play with a few, my curiosity started to get the best of me. The last time I saw one, a guy had some really cool maps with him that had all of these trails, waypoints, markers and so forth laid out. Again, strange thoughts came to be, like, 1) Wow, this guys must be a professional explorer or 2) This guy has way too much money. Well, it turns out he saves all of his trips on his GPS unit and then uploads them to his laptop. He then saves them to his electronic topo maps and prints them out. What a concept?! Making your own maps, your own custom maps! So the quest for coolness began… Unfortunately at the time I couldn’t afford one because they were 400 smackers or better even for the low end units. Now that the prices have come down so that more people could afford them, we thought we’d see if we couldn’t get our hands on two similar units for under $200. We put a call into Garmin and Magellan and they were willing to donate 2 GPS units to us… so begins the adventures.

Our tests were conducted in a variety of locations to include houses, garages, the city, country, back country, mountains, and even in a Boeing 737 aircraft (The pilots got a kick out of that one).


Garmin GPS 12 Overview & Review

Garmin GPS 12 About 2 months ago, the Garmin GPS 12 came in the mail. Immediately I pulled it out of the box, and like every other “guy” in the world I just started pushing buttons trying to figure it out. Completely disregarding the instructions of course. After about 2 hours or so and being completely frustrated, I finally broke down and started reading the instructions… shhhh, don’t tell anyone.

For the neophyte, these things are more complicated than one possibly imagine. These things do everything but wash the dishes. The manual for the Garmin is 62 pages long, front and back. There are a lot of things one must learn before using a GPS receiver effectively (see GPS 101 below). After several hours of reading and some serious note taking I finally dove back in. This time I used the practice mode, which is inherent to most GPS units for good reason. Within this mode you can set waypoints, assign icons and names to them and much, much more without actually having to have satellite acquisition. This is pretty useful when you are indoors and can’t get lock-on.



Now that GPS receiver prices are dropping, they in turn, are becoming more mainstream in the four-wheeling world. If you are one of the many types of ‘wheelers that likes to get in touch with good old mother nature and travel to places that few have been, then a GPS is for you. Many a times have I been on a familiar trail when I’ve run into a fork in the road and thought out loud, “was it a left, or a right?” Well, GPS is to the rescue as the ultimate in human reminders. Packed with more features than we can list in our reviews, these contraptions can do more than just give you a map. Now we will forever be able to remember whether it was a left or a right in Albuquerque.


The Garmin GPS 12 is the smallest, yet most powerful GPS receiver in it’s class. With literally hundreds of functions this unit will serve both the novice and the advanced user well for many years. Fast satellite acquisitions (3 seconds or more than it’s competitor), easy screen navigation and it’s super compact size all adds up to a great product that I am happy to use. Throughout testing, we found 3 small problems with the GPS 12. The biggest hang-up is that the buttons are located above the screen. This was originally done for easy one-handed use but a person with small hands will find that their palm covers up part of the screen. The second problem I ran into is the compass. If you are not moving, the compass does not tell you what direction your are facing, although this is inherent to most GPS receivers, I’ve found that you have to be moving at a pretty decent rate before it starts working. The third and last, although quicker to capture satellite lock-on, it’s slightly faster to lose it’s acquisition than it’s competitor. Aside from that, the Garmin GPS 12, even after 2 months of using it, still has features that I have not fully captured yet. There is definitely room for growth with this unit.


During the testing phases, especially during the flight on a commercial aircraft, I noted that the GPS 12 was far faster and more accurate in it’s measurements. It was nearly dead even with speed, altitude, longitude and latitude of the cockpits instruments at all times. The competitor, although almost equally a accurate, was slower to match the reading on the Garmin GPS 12.


Overall, the Garmin GPS 12 is a very versatile unit that will serve and outdoorsman very well. From the novice to the advanced user, I doubt you will run out of features with this unit.

Function list
The Garmin GPS 12 satellite receiver offers the offers the amateur operator a great deal. It is the ideal GPS unit for the weekend backpacker, navigator, boater or fourwheeler. The Garmin GPS 12 is made of durable plastic, has a scratch resistant display and is waterproof (we didn’t have the guts to try that part of the test). Some of the key features include:


  • Acquisition Times:
    • Warm: approx. 15 seconds (Ours tested faster averaging 10 to 12 seconds)
    • Cold: approx. 45 seconds
    • AutolocateTM: approx. 5 minutes
    • EZinit: easy initialization, 45 seconds
    • Autolocate ™ allows the GPS 12 to initialize itself and calculate a position fix without knowing your present position. (takes approx. 3 to 5 minutes, but only needs to be done once unless you completely lose your batteries)
  • Ability to take up to 6 g-forces (we couldn’t test that one either)
  • Position Accuracy 49 feet (Subject to accuracy degradation to 100m 2DRMS under the United States Department of Defense-imposed Selective Availability Program. )
    • 1 – 5 meters (3-15 feet) RMS with GARMIN GBR 21 DGPS receiver (optional)
  • Velocity accuracy – 0.1 knot RMS steady rate. (really accurate)
  • 12 parallel channel receiver for fast accurate readings.
  • 22 hours continuous battery life with four AA alkaline batteries.
  • 500 user-entered waypoints.
    • 9 proximity waypoints (used to mark and steer clear of dangerous areas)
    • Nearest: 9 (automatic)
  • 20 reversible routes with up to 30 waypoints each, plus MOB and TracBackTM modes
  • 1024 track log points
  • TracBackTM function — a feature that turns your track log into an instant breadcrumb trail and allows you to reverse your route in order to quickly navigate back home
  • Computer upload/ download using Garmin’s PC communications software.
    • Can transfer the following: almanac, waypoints, routes, tracklog and waypoint symbols.
  • Advanced plotter features such as Message View, Location Projection, Go To, Pan and Scan.
  • Messaging and icon identification features that can be used to describe each waypoint.
  • Sunrise and Sunset.
  • Shows position in latitude/ longitude, UTM, OSGB, and Finnish/ Irish/ Swedish/ Swiss grid coordinates.
  • Dedicated Go To key and Quit key for easy forward and backward screen navigation.
  • 6 graphic navigation screens including a graphic plotter with adjustable scale.
    • 3D traveling view used for back tracking
    • Topographical traveling view (overhead automapping with distance views from .2 miles to 320 miles above the earth)
    • Compass traveling view
    • Goto “X” waypoint
    • TracBack ™
    • Route tracking
  • Simple single page to display the following information:
    • Elapsed time, time, max speed, average speed, speed, trip odometer, altitude, track (heading (with graphical flat compass display), and longitude and latitude display.
  • Resettable trip odometer.
  • Location projection.
  • Differential GPS capable with RTCM-104, NMEA 0180, NMEA 0182, and NMEA 0183 input.
  • 3 Backlit display modes for low light or night use. (auto-off settings: 15, 30, 60, 120, 240 (seconds) and stay on)
  • NMEA data output.
  • Shipped with four alkaline batteries, users manual, Quick reference guide and lanyard strap.
  • The smallest GPS unit in it’s class:
    • Measuring at: 2.1 W x 5.8 H x 1.2 D inches
    • Weighs 9.5 ounces.


Magellan GPS 2000 XL Overview and Review

Garmin GPS 12 Many years ago, when I first began my fourwheeling adventures, GPS did not exist. Exploring the back country, discovering new places, finding a secret campsite or that perfect secluded fishing stream, was exciting, but almost always by accident. Trying to return to those places was usually very depressing, as Mother Nature changed my landmarks or my memory lacked the clarity to return me to those perfect spots. GPS navigation has made all of that a thing of the past. Though I will never find the places of my younger years, GPS navigation has guaranteed I will always find my new ones.


For the last two months I have had the pleasure to review the new Magellan GPS 2000 XL. This small rugged unit has provided me more useful information than I could ever need. I have used it to locate places others have already found, mark the position of newly discovered spots, and find my way home using the back track feature. For all of the incredible functions GPS units provide, you still have to have a general knowledge of how coordinates are presented and what the information correlates to on a flat map. Once you have a general knowledge of its function, the GPS 2000 XL can help you learn how to use it with its EZ-start initialization feature. An easy-to-learn menu interface and on-screen instructions make it as simple to operate as a cellular phone. The unit can store up to 200 user-entered locations and five reversible routes with up to 20 legs each. The GPS 2000 XL can calculate sunrise/ sunset times and moon phase for any place in the world.


The Magellan GPS 2000 XL has many of the same features as its similarly priced competitors, but the keyboard layout is much simpler. The only drawback I have found with the GPS 2000 XL is it is slightly slower in satellite acquisition than its competitors, but once locked on it holds the satellites though any terrain or foliage. During testing on a commercial flight, I found that the unit performed up par with its competition, but was slightly slower in making adjustments in altitude and speed. I really like the layout of the navigation screens, button positions, and easy to use features, but with any handheld device it depends greatly on which brand you learned first. Many of the other testers also commented on the comfort of the screen and keyboard layout for easy one hand operation. The Magellan GPS 2000 XL is a very versatile unit, with many of the functions being useful to the hiker and fisherman, as well as the fourwheeler. If you are looking for a simple to use, durable, and affordable GPS unit for all of your outdoor travels, the Magellan GPS 2000 XL is for you.


Function list
The new GPS 2000 XL satellite navigator offers the ultimate in simplicity and durability. It’s ideal for the weekend fourwheeler or first time GPS buyer. The GPS 2000 XL is made for tough use with its rubber armoring, wraparound grips, waterproof construction, and scratchproof display. Key features include:


  • 12 parallel channel receiver for fast accurate readings.
  • 24 hours continuous battery life with four AA alkaline batteries.
  • Ez-start initialization.
  • Computer upload/ download using Magellan PC communications software.
  • Advanced plotter features such as Message View, Location Projection, Go To, Pan and Scan.
  • Messaging features that can be used to describe locations.
  • 200 user-entered waypoints.
  • 5 reversible routes with up to 20 legs.
  • Six graphic navigation screens including a graphic plotter with adjustable scale.
  • Sunrise/ Sunset/ Lunar calculations.
  • Shows position in latitude/ longitude, UTM, OSGB, and Finnish/ Irish/ Swedish/ Swiss grid coordinates.
  • Dedicated Go To key.
  • Resettable trip odometer.
  • Location projection.
  • Differential GPS capable with RTCM-104 input.
  • Backlit display for night use.
  • NMEA data output.
  • Navigation displays include:
    • Distance To Go
    • Bearing
    • Course over Ground
    • Time To Go
    • Speed over Ground
    • X-track error
    • Velocity Made Good.
  • Shipped with carrying case, four alkaline batteries, users manual, and lanyard strap.
  • Pocket-sized and lightweight. Measures 6.6 x 2.3 x 1.3 inches. Weighs 10 ounces.


The Verdict

Determining the best of these two, great units was very tough. Both offer a big bang for your buck. Further, each unit has it’s good points and it’s down sides. The Magellan holds satellites better and longer once locked-on but the Garmin has 40% more memory for storing waypoints which is equally as important. The Garmin acquires satellites faster but the Magellan has a better placement of screen vs. buttons. The Garmin is slightly quicker to accrue speed and altitude but the Magellan’s compass works better at low speeds. The Garmin has more features but makes it harder to learn. The list like this goes on and on. Overall though, we would have to say that the Garmin GPS 12 is a better unit for the four wheeler, but only slightly better. Both units could definitely use a better “User Interface” and an instructional video would be good too. Additionally, both units were difficult to learn and use in the beginning but were great fun and used quite frequently once we got the hang of it.


NOTE: All ratings on a scale of 1 to 4 with flat tires equal to a half.
Description Notes Rating
User Interface The Garmin was difficult to learn and the pages and menus were not user friendly. Additionally, because the buttons are located on top of the unit, your hand tends to cover part of the screen.
Ease of Use Once we figured out how to use the GPS effectively, the unit is easy to use.
Performance The Garmin is a great unit for any outdoorsman but loses satellites just a bit more often than it’s competitor.
Durability The Garmin is built from tough polymers and offers a waterproof construction and scratch resistant face
Appearance The Garmin is smaller than it’s competitor (you can really stick it in your pocket) and has a great, sleek look to it.
Functionality Wow! Tons of functions on this little guy. Even for the experienced GPS’er, this will server you well.
Comfort As mentioned earlier, this GPS unit will easily fit into your pocket. Once you get used to the size, it is very comfortable to handle.
Editors Notes I would highly recommend this GPS to anyone. It’s jam-packed with features and will serve all types of outdoorsmen…RW



Magellan GPS 2000 XL

NOTE: All ratings on a scale of 1 to 4 with flat tires equal to a half.
Description Notes Rating
User Interface The Magellan was no easier to learn than it’s competitor and the pages and menus were not user friendly in the begining.
Ease of Use Once we figured out how to use the GPS effectively, the unit is easy to use.
Performance The Magellan is a great unit for any outdoorsman but take a long time to acquire satellites.
Durability The Magellan offers a combination of durable polymers and rubber grips to make it a very durable unit. Additionally, it’s waterproof and has a scratch resistant face
Appearance The Magellan unit is larger and slightly bulkier than it’s competition. Although it’s claimed to be a pocket sized GPS, I wouldn’t try it.
Functionality Lots of functions, even for the experienced user.
Comfort The shear size of the unit itself adds some comfort to it. It’s easy to hold and the buttons are well within reach of any sized hand.
Editors Notes The Magellan GPS 2000 XL is a great starter GPS unit, but lacks slightly in features as compared to the Garmin. All in all though, this GPS packs one heck of a punch and is very comfortable and fun to use…JC



There are a few things you must know about GPS’s before you dig in and set your heels. Things like how GPS units make acquisition, how many satellites are needed, MOB, Track, Heading, Latitude, Longitude, and much more. We’ll do our best to teach you the basics in the next few paragraphs.

Satellite Acquisition:
One must acquire at least 3 satellites to determine a 2-dimensional reading. 4 satellites is needed for a 3D reading and the more the merrier. If you aren’t under heavy foliage or dense cover, then you should have no problem getting at least 5.
Here’s how it works. To be able to determine a single point in 3 dimensional space you need at least 4 measurement points (See picture). What happens, is the GPS unit measures the speed of each satellite and compares it in a relative manner against your location. (Satellites travel in different directions and at different speeds in relation to the direction and speed of the earth, and so do you.) Satellite Pic It then knows that satellite “X” is moving in a set direction and at a set speed. It does this for all of the satellites it acquires. Once this happens, all in a matter of nanoseconds I’m sure, it can then determine a fixed location in space. e.g. altitude, longitude and latitude, or height and locations east-west and north-south. As time passes, the GPS unit constantly takes these measurements and keeps averaging them. This is called EPE or Estimated Position Error. What this means is that over time, minutes or hours, it can determine a better and more accurate position within reason. Here’s a ringer though, the U.S. government has set some standards that the makers of GPS units for the civilian population can only be so accurate. Also known as Selective Availability (SA). I guess this is so I can’t call in a pizza strike at a hyper-accurate location. At this time, while I’m writing this, I have 5 (make that 6 now) full satellites acquired and have an EPE of 54 feet. Which means that I’m accurate within a 54 foot sphere of my position if I were to leave and come back. Make sense?

Basic Terms
Here are some basic terms that you will need to know and understand to help you in your GPS endeavors.

Man Over Board (MOB) – Both GPS units that we tested have a component called MOB or Man Over Board. Essentially, when you and your unit (GPS) are in motion, the GPS marks it’s location every so often. That way, if your buddy falls over board and you don’t notice for a few seconds, you can turn around and go back to where you were. This part of the GPS has been around since they were originally used in boats and have inherently stayed. Good thing too huh?

Bearing – The compass direction from your position to a destination. This is usually called your heading or track, depending upon the manufacturer.

Course Made Good (CMG) – The bearing from the “active from” position (your starting point) to your present location.

Crosstrack Error (XTK) – This is the distance you are off a desired course in either direction. Usually compensated by the GPS telling you to turn to bearing “X”.

Desired Track (DTK) – The compass course between the “from” and “to” waypoints.

Differential GPS (DGPS) – An extension of the GPS unit that uses land-based radio beacons to transmit position corrections to GPS receivers.

Latitude – the north-south measurement of position perpendicular to the earth’s polar axis.

Longitude – An east-west measurement of position in relation to the Prime Meridian, an imaginary circle that passes through the north and south poles.

Track – The direction of movement relative to a ground position.

Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) – A grid coordinate system that projects global sections onto a flat surface to measure position in specific areas taking into account the altitude changes.

Waypoint – A specific location saved in the receiver’s memory.


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