The Garmin Oregon 400T is Garmin's first foray into touch-screen handhelds for backcountry use. Before we get into the interface though, let's look at the basics. The Oregon 400t comes with pre-loaded topo maps of the United States and a built-in worldwide basemap with shaded relief. Here's how this model compares to other units in the Oregon series:
- Oregon 200 (Garmin) - Simple basemap, no pre-loaded detailed maps; unlike other Oregon models the 200 has no barometric altimeter or electronic compass
- Oregon 300 (GPS Tracklog) - Worldwide basemap with shaded relief, no pre-loaded detailed maps
- Oregon 400c (Garmin) - Built-in BlueChart® g2 coastal charts and a worldwide basemap with imagery
- Oregon 400i (Garmin) - Built-in U.S. Inland Lakes and a worldwide basemap with imagery
Garmin Oregon touch screen
I really like the touch screen interface. There's room for improvements but generally speaking, you can navigate menus faster than on other Garmin handhelds. The place where this really shines is when it comes to naming waypoints or entering other text; it is SO much easier.
One of the concerns people have about the touch screen interface is how well it will work with gloves on or when wet, especially when doing detailed work like picking a point on the map. For those of you who missed my first impressions post, let me go over how easy it is to select a point, then we'll talk about gloves and conditions.
You can select a location by tapping the map. My first attempt at tapping a nearby mountain peak got me close. Once I zoomed in I could see that I was about 200 feet off.
Now you can drag the map underneath the pushpin -- the pushpin doesn't move, but the map does, allowing you to fine tune the location of the selected point, as shown at left below. Now tap the information box at the top of the screen to display options to navigate to the location or save it as a waypoint.
I've tried using the touch screen with (very) sweaty fingers, fleece gloves and ski gloves. I had no problem with the first two, and only minimal problems with bulky ski gloves on. Keep reading for more information on using the touch screen interface.
Garmin Oregon display
Unfortunately, the touch screen comes with a significant drawback -- visibility. I written about visibility problems on high resolution handhelds before, and it's all true for the Oregon too. The Oregon may actually be a little worse than the Garmin Colorado.
You can turn off shaded relief (shown below on and off) to help, but the map loses a lot of visual appeal by doing this.
How problematic this is depends upon your use. If you use the Oregon as a handheld, for hiking for example, you can readily adjust the viewing angle for maximum visibility.
It's more of a problem for cyclists though, where the unit is at a fixed angle on your handlebars. Still, with shaded relief disabled, it is usable on a bike. You won't have the bright screen of a 60CSx, but the touch screen may make it a worthwhile trade off.
Garmin Oregon interface
The touch screen interface is a joy to use. One handed operation is very easy; the buttons are large and I usually press them with my thumb.
The main menu is spread across four screens, pictured below. The button order can be customized within different profiles. The creator of the Garmin Oregon Wiki has posted the bright idea (pardon the pun) of having a bright sun profile with shaded relief turned off.
Garmin Oregon 400t track management
Track management tools allow you to load tracks, view them, show or hide them on the map, and display them using one of 16 colors. This is very helpful for those of us who like to load tracks showing trails onto our units to aid in navigation. Some track options are shown below, along with a sample yellow track loaded to the unit.
Geocaching with the Oregon 400t
The Oregon series allows for paperless geocaching, displaying the full description, cache size, difficulty and terrain ratings, and recent logs. It does not however, have all the specialized geocaching screens of the Colorado. The images below show the Oregon's geocaching mode.
There is an excellent and detailed geocaching tutorial on the Garmin Oregon Wiki.
Garmin Oregon 400t accuracy
It has been reported that the Oregon 400t may not be as accurate as the 60CSx, but that it doesn't suffer as much from the wild swings of the Colorado series. Yet the Oregon is new, and it sometimes takes a while to figure out the accuracy of these new units, so I would take the initial reports with a grain of salt. Here's what I've found in my own use...
In one test of the Oregon, I saw it deviate from previous tracks of the same trail by up to 100'. You can see details at the end of this post. Other times, it's been spot on with my 60CSx. My initial take is that the unit's accuracy is not quite as good as some units with a quad helix antenna, but that it's probably fine for most people. If you're mapping trails professionally however, stick with the 60CSx.
You can read someone else's take on Oregon accuracy here.
Differences between the Oregon and Colorado series
- The big difference is the Oregon's touch screen interface, whereas the Colorado relies on the "Rock N Roller"
- The battery cover is much easier to remove on the Oregon than it is on the Colorado
- The Oregon has a better waterproof seal and an improved location for the data storage card
- The Oregon uses a micro-SD card, while the Colorado uses a full size SD card
- The Oregon powers on faster than the Colorado
- The Oregon automatically sets your time zone; the Colorado does not
- It is easier to mark a waypoint on the Colorado, but the ability to custom name it much faster on the Oregon helps make up for this
- The Colorado has some geocaching mode screens not found on the Oregon
Garmin Oregon 400t tips
- Customize your profiles, and place the main menu items in the order most likely to be used
- Consider disabling shaded relief
- Consider setting the map screen to show data fields only when navigating
- Hold down scroll buttons to continue advancing through multi-page menus
- After selecting a point on the map, zoom and drag the map to increase the accuracy of the selected location
- You can search from a waypoint or a recent find by going to Where To? and tapping the "target" icon at the bottom of the screen (shown below at left).
- The touch screen rocks and performs well under a wide range of conditions; the interface is very easy to navigate
- Text entry is easier than on any handheld GPS to date
- Strong track management tools
- Option to show data fields only when navigating
- Paperless geocaching
- Screen visibility is poor in direct sunlight, unless you adjust the viewing angle
- There is no direct access to settings from key pages
; for example, you can't calibrate the compass from the compass screen; you must go to Setup > Heading > Prepare to Begin Compass CalibrationUPDATE: You can do this, by pressing and holding on the compass screen for a few seconds (thanks Miraslav!)
- You cannot mark a waypoint from any screen; going to the main menu to do this slows entry (but giving it a custom name is much faster than on other GPS devices)
- The current tracklog is difficult to see; it is a thin black line and you cannot change its width or color
- There is no waypoint averaging function
- Waypoint projection is difficult, as you have to manually enter a bearing (to project a waypoint, go to Mark Waypoint > Save and Edit > Project Waypoint > Enter Bearing); there is no sight n' go function
Garmin nailed the touch screen interface on the Oregon. It is so nice to use that it offsets the drawback of the dim display and the occasional small tracking errors.
For bikers and others using it on the move, a lot depends on how you use it. If you like to do things with a GPS while you bike, or if you need to view the screen for navigation while on the move, you will likely be frustrated by the display. If, on the other hand, you only tend to use the GPS when stopped, it might work out fine for you.
The accuracy seems good enough for most people, geocachers included. As I said earlier, if you're mapping trails professionally though, stick to a 60CSx, at least until further testing determines if the Oregon is as accurate as this time-tested model.
One other point -- if you are wondering whether to get the Colorado or the Oregon, get the Oregon. It has almost all of the Colorado's advantages, with a superior interface to boot.
The Oregon is so good that I hate to send the review unit back. I *try* to limit myself to one new handheld and one new auto GPS a year, but I'm pretty sure that I'll break down and buy an Oregon.
More Garmin Oregon 400t reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin Oregon 400t reviews have been posted at GPS Now
- More owner-written Garmin Oregon 400T reviews are being posted at Amazon
- GPS Review has also posted an Oregon 400t review
- GPS Lodge has posted a Garmin Oregon 400t review
- GPS Information has also posted a review of the Oregon 400t
- PC Magazine gives an Editors' Choice award in their Garmin Oregon 400t review
- Run Oregon reviews the 400t
- Here's a brief owner review of the Oregon 400t
- Geekanoids gives a UK perspective in their Oregon 400t review
- About.com reviews the Oregon 400t
- National Geographic Adventure counts the 400t as must have gear
- Even Forbes likes the Garmin Oregon 400t
I'll be posting more reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some...
Other Garmin Oregon 400t resources
- A PDF version of the Garmin Oregon 400t owners manual
- GPS Fix is a blog that focuses on the Garmin Oregon and Colorado series
- A Garmin Oregon message forum
- This tool will show you how the Oregon 400t compares to other mapping units
- The Garmin Oregon wiki has an Oregon FAQ
- A comparison of the Garmin Oregon and Colorado series
- A video demo of the Oregon 400T:
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From the official Garmin Oregon 400t web page:
Get in touch with your wild side with Oregon 400t. This next-generation handheld features a rugged, touchscreen along with preloaded topographic maps, 3-D map view, a high-sensitivity receiver, barometric altimeter, electronic compass, microSD™ card slot, picture viewer and more. Even exchange tracks, waypoints, routes and geocaches wirelessly between similar units.