The Garmin Oregon handheld brings the intuitive touch-screen interface to the world of rugged handheld GPS devices, and without sacrificing high-end features for even the most rigorous of backcountry expeditions. As About.com states in its editorial review, “Garmin takes another giant step toward taking the “geek factor” out of handheld GPS navigators and making them easy-to-use and consumer friendly.”
Note: The Garmin Oregon 550 and 450 series models are differentiated by the presence of a built-in camera, found only in the 550 series. The 550t and 450t are differentiated from the 550 and 450 respectively by the presence of pre-loaded topographic maps. See the comparison matrix below for full details.
The Oregon owes its heritage to the pioneering (now-discontinued) Garmin Colorado, a Rated4Stars “Top Pick”, which brought handheld GPS units forward in user-friendliness with “the same sort of game-changing advances as their vehicle-based cousins” as it “[ushered] in the next generation of handheld GPS units, offering a rich feature set while incorporating the ease of use you’ve grown accustomed to in the car, within a rugged, waterproof shell.” The Garmin Oregon represents the next stage of evolution by retaining the Colorado’s robust GPS capabilities but replacing its wheel interface with a welcome, easy-to-use touch screen in a slimmer overall package.
Like the top-rated (albeit somewhat dated) Garmin 60csx, the Oregon is versatile, serving the mariner, inland fisherman, or mountaineer, and even providing turn-by-turn directions on the way home in the car. All models of the Oregon include a worldwide basemap. Detailed, preloaded U.S. topographic maps are included in the 550t and 450t. Additional maps (including marine and road maps) are sold separately. The Oregon also allows you to customize up to five profiles — automotive, marine, recreation, fitness or “paperless” geocaching — making the most beneficial features for each activity the easiest to access through quick shortcuts. In addition, you can further customize your unit with the purchase of additional maps on SD card, including topo, marine and road maps.
Thanks to the touch screen and intiutive menu system, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find it easy to navigate, simple and intuitive, a welcome change to the oft-dense, confusing and tedious menus of most handheld GPS devices.
You can easily zoom in or out using the plus and minus symbols at the top right of the screen.Simply touch and drag the map in any direction to pan the map. See a point of interest (POI) you’d like more information about? Just touch it. Up pops an info box with its precise location and its distance. If you decide to head to the POI, just press “Go” and the Oregon will guide you there. It’s equally simple to save and edit waypoints using the touch screen.
Other next-generation features include its 3D view on a large and very readable color screen. Enter 3D mode to go beyond the standard map view from above. Use the pan and zoom features to change your perspective and see the terrain you’re navigating from different angles. This can be very helpful to navigation, assisting one in better visualizing the terrain.
The Garmin Oregon takes the popular sport of geocaching seriously and sets a new standard in providing integrated geocaching features. Like the Garmin Colorado before it, many favorable owner reviews of the Garmin Oregon come from geocache who are delighting in the advance of geocaching features this unit offers. In addition to a geocaching mode that customizes the unit’s operation toward finding that hidden cache, the Oregon offers so-called “paperless” geocaching. No need to scribble latitude/longitude coordinates of caches on scraps of paper. With the Colorado, you can simply download them from geocaching.com or any other source using the GPX standard. The unit’s built-in barometric altimeter provides you with altitude information while the built-in electronic compass is essential for guiding you when you’re moving very slowly or standing still. Garmin succeeds in providing a geocaching powertool that does it all.
The Oregon is also equipped with features for playing the Wherigo location based-adventures and games. Whatever your sport, if more than one of you are carrying a compatible Garmin GPS, you can share information wirelessly, including waypoints, routes, tracks, and geocache information. The Oregon is compatible with Garmin Connect, the online service that allows you to upload and store information from your GPS, visualize it on detailed maps, monitor fitness goals, run reports and calculations, and share your information with other Garmin Connect users or on social networks, including Facebook.
Besides its touchscreen interface, two other notable additions to the Oregon include a 3.2-megapixel camera (550 and 550t only) and a triple-axis digital compass. Any photo you take is automatically geotagged, allowing you to create a visual record along your way and providing the ability to navigate by simply calling up one of your saved photos and selecting “Go.” This can be an especially useful feature since it can often be difficult to remember locations by name, especially if they are named in haste in the field with less than descriptive names. It can also be very useful when sharing information to help guide others visually to a destination.
The Oregon looks and feels rugged.The unit has a tough, rubberized and metal exterior, is waterproof (IPX7) though it does not float. Garmin has rounded out the Oregon with the latest-generation of sensitive GPS chips and long battery life. You can preload waypoints using the included software or download your trackpoints after the fact.
The principal drawback of the Garmin Oregon is its price. Fortunately, since its debut the price of the Oregon has dropped to more competitive levels. We agree with PC Magazine (which awarded the Garmin Oregon its “Editor’s Choice” award): “Despite its high price, the Garmin Oregon…is an ideal companion for an active outdoor lifestyle.”
|Pre-Loaded/ Included Maps|
|Next-Generation GPS Chip Set?|
|microSD Card Slot?|
|# Waypoints/ Favorites:||2000||2000||2000||2000|
|Track Log Capacity:||10,000 points, 200 saved tracks||10,000 points, 200 saved tracks||10,000 points, 200 saved tracks||10,000 points, 200 saved tracks|
|Automatic routing (turn-by-turn)?|
|Weight:||6.8 oz (192.7 g) with batteries||6.8 oz (192.7 g) with batteries||6.8 oz (192.7 g) with batteries||6.8 oz (192.7 g) with batteries|
|Battery life:||16 hours||16 hours||16 hours||16 hours|
|Other Features:||Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units); Garmin Connect-compatible||Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units); Garmin Connect-compatible||Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units); Garmin Connect-compatible||Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units); Garmin Connect-compatible|