Garmin GPSmap 62s(t)/78s(c)
GPSmap 62s Review July 2010 by  Sam Penrod

Sept. 1, 2010 -Add GPSmap 78sc  by Jack Yeazel
Sept. 3, 2010 -Add Compass Accuracy
Dec. 1, 2010 -Add NMEA Sentences
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GPSmap 60s (showing the 3-axis compass) and GPSmap 78sc (with a custom 24K map)

 
Overview:
The Garmin GPSmap 62 and 78 series, are the newest handhelds in Garmin's outdoor GPS line.  The 62 lists for $349, the 62s for $449 and the 62st for $549..  Check discount prices (HERE).  The 62 and 78 units include all of the recent features added to the Oregon line, including Garmin Custom Maps and the ability to add aerial imagery, marketed by Garmin as BirdsEye imagery.  One can create sample BirdsEye images on BaseCamp and upload them to the unit as a DEMO map.

These units show shaded relief with compatible Garmin maps, such as the Garmin 24K series and U.S. Topo 2008, the 100K map product.  Also the units come with the Worlwide DEM Basemap which provides terrain shading (not available in the Dakota).
 
The 62s(t) and 78s(c) allow for wireless data transfer of waypoints, routes, tracks and geocaches, between the Garmin Colorado, Oregon, Dakota (and themselves).  The 62 and 78 are not supported . The wireless data can be transmitted about 10 to 20 feet, depending on the orientation of the unit.  The greatest range was obtained with the units held horizontally.  

Screen Shots:
The screen grabs shown below, don't look as good as they do on the unit itself.  
                              
 BirdsEye & 24K map           Waypoint, BirdsEye, 24K map       BirdsEye DEMO             Google Earth Screen    


                          
   24K Map with terrain shading    Map with ribbon menu options   Trip Odometer    Compass with Cross-track Error

Waypoints, tracks, routes and geocaches are all handled as .gpx files similar to the Oregon 550 and 450 series.  You can manage them with the free BaseCamp program by Garmin, which will actually make changes to the file in the unit, as you make them in BaseCamp.  The waypoint and POI icons are actually the old style version, as seen in the 60CSx.  

BirdsEye images do not appear to have the quality of Google Earth, Microsoft MSR Maps, or the TerraServer.  See a discussion of image quality avaiable from other programs (HERE).


Physical:
They are similar is size and shape to the popular GPSmap 60CSx and 76Cx, We expected the 62 would be more like the Oregon series in a 60 style case.  However, we were pleasantly surprised to see the two units have the latest and greatest features of the Oregon & Dakota and also the keys of the longtime 60 and 76 favorites, not present in the other units.  The 62 has a helix antenna (best reception held vertically), and the 78 (apparently) has a patch antenna, because the best reception is with it held horizontally.


The 62 and 78 units appear to be more rugged and durable than the recent outdoor touch screens, with better back light visibility, and
operate with the same software.   All but the 62 and 78 support high speed USB data transfer.  There are USB, Serial, and an external GPS antenna jack (under protective cover, above mounting spine)  The 62 has the same mounting spine as Oregon/Colorado and is compatible with the caribiner, bike mount, auto mount, etc. used in the Oregons.

The units have no built in camera, but  do support geotagged photos you load in the memory and gives you the ability to navigate to them.  There isn't a dedicated picture viewer, although you can see the photos on the screen to navigate to, but can't  zoom in or pan the photos.  The 62s weighs 9.2 ounces (the 78sc slightly less at 8.2oz), and claim up to 20 hours of battery life, using NiMh or Lithiums.  Alkalines lasted about 17 hours, before the low battery message.   We estimate 30 hours plus for NiMH rechargeables.  Regardless, battery life is obviously much better than in the Oregon 550.

Nomenclature:
"s" = Sensors (compass and electronic barometer). "t" = Terrain (1:100,00 topo maps), and "c" = Coastal (marine) charts.

DEM = Digital Elevation Model, a digital representation of ground surface elevation.  A DEM can be represented as a grid of squares or as a triangular irregular network. DEMs are commonly built using remote sensing techniques, but they may also be built from land surveying. DEMs are used often in geographic information systems, and are the most common basis for digitally-produced relief maps.  GPS maps interpolate the DEM elevation grid data to display elevation contour lines.

Summary:
We like what we see in the two units, no crashes or bugs with the software and for a new Garmin unit, it appears as if it is fully functional, with no serious software fixes needed.  We will still keep the Oregon 550 and Dakota, for trip planning and automotive use, but I expect the 62s(t) will be going with us  on any outdoor adventure and the 78sc on marine trips.  You can see more information on the GPSmap 62 and 78  from Garmin's official product pages (HERE). and (HERE).  There are also some short video clips/infomercials produced by Garmin, you can find on this link from YouTube. The manuals for the 62s and 78sc can be found  (HERE) and (HERE).

The 62s package includes the unit, a quick start guide, a caribiner clip and USB cable.
The actual user manual is found in the memory of the units themselves as a .pdf file, in a folder labeled "Documents"

GPSmap 78sc Specifics:
The 76 and 78 series units are classified as "Marine" units.  They all have Tide Tables.  And now with the 78 series, one can select the Sensors "s" and built-in BlueChart g2 Coastal Charts "c".  These units (like the Dakota and Oregon) when connected to a computer become mass storage units and not a GPS.  Therefore position data can't be outputted through the USB port.  

Only the 78 series have a serial output for NMEA.  There are two modes for the NMEA output,  Autopilot Mode ON and Autopilot Mode OFF.  With the Autopilot mode ON the sentences are:
$GPRMC, $GPRMB, $GPBWC, $GPXTE, $GPAPB, $GPRMC, $GPRMB, $GPBWC, $GPXTE, and $GPAPB.
With the Autopilot mode OFF the sentences are:
$GPGGA, $GPGLL, $GPBOD, $GPBWC, $GPVTG, $GPXTE, $PGRME, $PGRMZ, $PGRMM, $HCHDG, $GPRMC, $GPRMB,
 


 
(The 62s is NMEA compatible with. Garmin's Spanner program.)  The 78's serial connection allows one to access nRoute, see sample screen capture with a short calculated route in green HERE.  

WAAS Accuracy:  After averaging a waypoint over a 1st-order survey marker. the error was 2 meters.

Compass Accuracy:  After a 3-axis calibration and heading set to True, the unit was taken to a parking lot with stripes laid out very close to true north (Google Earth, below indicating a rotation of 1 west).  Using this as a correction and a 45 protractor, the unit indicated: 000 for N, 045 for NE.  089 E, 132 SE, 178 S, 222 SW,  269 W., and 314 for NW.  Average error =  1.
   
Here we have taken the Google Earth coordinates of a west-pointing Arrow in the parking lot and uploaded them to the 78sc unit.  
The right-hand screen shot was taken while standing over the Arrow -indicating the combined GE and 78sc error at that point.  

   
GPSmap 87sc                         Vista C
 Barometer Plot: Unlike the Vista C which records barometric pressure continusously even though the unit is off, the 78sc only records the pressure when turned on, thus giving a less valuable plot.

Unit and MapSource Screen Captures of Coastal  (Suwanee and Savannah) Areas
GPSmap 78sc (top)    Garmin BlueChart 4.00 (bottom)
                           
Note that in the first track, the GPS unit indicates the expected water depths.

                           
The first track shows the boat navigating to avoid the very shallow waters on the west coast of Florida.

To Display the Tide Tables, start with the Find button.
                                  

                       
The procedure requires you to go through seven screens after pressing the Find button.

Screens under various lighting conditions:
   
Daylight                 Comparison in size and screen visibility                 Backlight
Dakota 20, Oregon 550, GPSmap 60CSx, and 62s                                    GPSmap 76Cx, 78sc, and Dakota 20.

The units do not have a touchscreen, but the backlight visibility is obviously better than the Oregon and Dakota screens, with somewhat lower resolution than the Oregons.  While the screen size is smaller, the data presented is actually a little big bigger than on the Oregon, but less of the map is shown because of the smaller screen.  If there is one negative with the screen, it is the terrain shading.  It appears very dark in steep terrain, especially in a forest type area.  This can be easily fixed, but switching off the terrain shading feature, when it appears too dark.

Model Selections:

The 62 series has three models, the 62 with a color screen, the 62s which adds a barometric altimeter and electronic tri-axial compass, microSD card slot, wireless transfer of data, and the 62st which adds on preloaded 100K maps of the United States.

The 78 series also has three models, the 78 with a color screen, the 78s which adds a barometric altimeter and electronic tri-axial compass, microSD card slot, wireless transfer of data, and the 78sc comes with built-in BlueChart g2 Coastal charts.

Displays:
The units below have 2.6 inch diagonally measured screens and 160X240 resolutions.  
All have TFT Transflective screens, but the 62 and 78 have a Transflective 65-K color TFT screens.
    
Photos of units in sunlight, with no backlight on.
GPSmap 62s                                                           Dakota, 78sc, and 76cx
Apparently the Transflective 65-K color TFT screens are not quite as bright in sunlight.

Connections:
    
GPSmap 62s                                                                                                   GPSmap 78sc

The 62s and 62st both support a microSD slot.  An 8GB card for maps and BirdsEye imagery is useful.  Both the 62 and 78 have 1.7GB of built in memory for maps and imagery files.  Under the rubber protector above the battery case, is where the USB port is along with the MCX external antenna connector.   The 78 also includes a serial connector for NEMA and Garmin Serial output.

Software:
 As of this writing, the units are running 2.44 beta, with just a few minor fixes.  The beta version claims to improve the odometer issue, which in the Oregons and Dakotas (and 62s) does not measure distance as well, while walking under 3.0 mph.  The beta also adds support for multi caches for geocaching and corrects a loss of tracks when panning the map to the west.  Here is a link to the beta page  The beta updates have to be done manually; you cannot use Garmin's WebUpdater.

The units don't list a GPS chipset version, so it's unclear which chipset is being used, but it is a high sensitive receiver.  The reception has been good and the units quickly re-acquire a satellite fix. The units also feature paperless geocaching and support field notes for geocaching. 

Case views:
     
Front and back view of the 62s alongside the Oregon 550
The 62 series has a similar user interface as the 60 CSx, but the buttons have been updated and seem to be improved.  It is easy to move with the ribbon style menu and the rocker seems to work better to me, than the 60 CSx version. 

Interface:
                    
Screens:
                

Wireless Data Transfer:
Garmin's wireless transfer is the new
 ANT+ technology which operates in the 2.4 GHz Industrial band.    ANT defines ultra low power as an average current of micro amps, as low as 5 uA for ANT devices, and peak current within the specification of a coin cell. 

ANT devices can support multiple (up to 8) independent ANT channels. Any channel on a given node can operate as a slave or master. Relaying a message from one node to another becomes a breeze. No coordinator or network level master is required to accomplish complex topologies.  There is no requirement for precise timing synchronization to establish an ANT network, therefore a moderate crystal will suffice.
 

From The Main Menu
       
In the 62s/78sc one must select Send. and then in the Dakota (below right) select Receive.

                          
One Waypoint, Route, Track, or Geocache can be sent at a time.  The range is about 20 feet.

INTERFACE WITH A COMPUTER:
The new Garmin series of Oregon, Dakota, GPSmap 62, and GPSmap 78 require you to obtain a copy of BaseCamp to be able to completely manage your waypoints and tracks.

Working with Waypoints:
1. Waypoints can be uploaded to the unit directly from MapSource, however, they can not be downloaded from the unit to MS.
2. Waypoints can be imported from .gdb or .gpx files into BaseCamp (Recently Imported) and then "copied" to the unit's List.
3. In Base Camp, when waypoints are deleted from the unit's List, they are also deleted from the unit.
4. Waypoints and tracks in the unit can be edited in the bottom panel.

Working with Tracks:
1. The current tracks inside the unit are displayed by BaseCamp when plugged in.
2. Any selected track can be edited in the bottom panel, Properties.
3. Highlighting track segments in the bottom panel changes their color to orange in the Properties and can be deleted.
4. Also available in the bottom panel is the profile of the track.

In the unit:
To delete all waypoints, go to: Main Menu,Waypoint Manager, Enter, Menu, Delete All.  (Apparently individual waypoints can't be deleted in the unit; one must use Base Camp).  Individual tracks can be deleted from the Main Menu, Track Manager.

BaseCamp 3-D Panel

BaseCamp downloads all Custom Maps from a unit.  Here a Current Track is displayed on a 24K DRG Custom Map.  
The map has no DEM data, but the scene is rendered in 3-D, because TOPO U.S. 2008 was selected. The Arrow indicates North.

What's in the 60CSx and 62s, but not in the Oregon:

Measure Distance-- the ability to measure distance to a location on the map.
The Clear list on Recent Finds-- does not require a master reset on the 62 as it does in the Oregon.
Proximity alarms-- to set an alarm when you approach or depart a specific waypoint.  Distance is set by the user
Night View-- This allows for the dark background, which is not so bright for night use.  This can be manually switched on or automatically at sunrise and sunset. (When in the night mode, there is no terrain shading however.)
Auto Locate-- On the satellite page, allows you to reset the GPS almanac data and get a fresh start.  Helpful when you haven't had it on for a long time or traveled a long distance.
Calendar-- The calendar will log geocache finds, waypoints marked, tracks save.  A nice feature not in the Oregon.
A lot of the sub menu options look the same as they do in the 60CSx.  A profile called "Classic" looks very similar to the 60Csx.

Comment:
Garmin seems to have made almost ALL their features available in these two series of classic units without having to buy more than one..  

Now don't get lost out there you-all!
-Sam and Jack