gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Garmin Oregon 300

Following my initial coverage of the device I held onto the Garmin Oregon 300 for several months, one of which was spent in Mauritius, an absolutely perfect opportunity for putting it through its paces.

It’s fair to say that, lack of official maps of Mauritius aside, the Orgeon 300 passed with flying colours and proved to be fast, reliable, accurate, absurdly rugged and wonderfully amusing to go swimming in the ocean with. It was also quite entertaining to my partners Mauritian cousins, who don’t often get their hands upon such interesting toys (despite the amazing prevalence of mobile phones).

However, I’ll save my adventures abroad until later on in this review. First I’ve got to get through the nitty-gritty, the maintenance and the wanton abuse.

For starters, software that comes with devices like these has often, in my experience, proven to harbor many lemon-like qualities including, but not limited to, a sour taste in the mouth following any attemp to use it. The Oregon 300 Web Updater, however, was a pleasure to use, sucking down it’s 8mb 2.30 software update and blatting it onto the device exceptionally quickly. The change-log for the new software was (aside from the shock of it actually existing) surprisingly comprehensive and the install process started with a quick copy over and a prompt to disconnect and power on.

The Oregon 300 unit then installs the software itself in less than a minute and boots back to a usable state in seconds. Not bad!

In order to get co-ordinates right from your browser into the Oregon you can grab the Garmin Communicator plugin. This was extremely handy for me as it integrates almost seamlessly with and allowed direct downloads of Geocache details to the GPS. The dedicated Geocaching feature of the Orgeon 300 then made these a breeze to browse through, locate on the map and navigate to, however I’ve always found the satellite photography available on the iPhone (with google maps) to be invaluable in pinpointing cache locations.

The Orgeon is rated as IPX7 Waterproof which means it can survive being immersed in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes, but is not rated for continuous submersion or underwater use. This didn’t stop me testing it extensively, however, using the device underwater and undergoing a variety of tests.

At home I employed a good, hot shower to perform humidity, splash, rain and submersion testing for a good 20 minutes, by which point I was reasonably satisfied that the Oregon 300 was unlikely to give up the ghost unless I somehow managed to spend more than 30 minutes under water… a prospect I’m not entirely comfortable with, even without any gadgets clipped to my belt.

After drying the Oregon 300 off it was left unscathed.. even the smudges from earlier use remained on the screen. There is, however, little more than a rubber seal covering the USB port and keeping the device away from certain death when submersed. This rubber seal is fairly substantial, but a definite weak point considering it only has to be carelessly left open.

Submersion field testing involved prolonged exposure to and submersion in salt water and a good amount of sand. If you can’t guess, I was on a beach at the time. The Garmin, again, survived unscathed. A small amount of moisture and silt did manage to get into the back cover but NOT the water sealed battery compartment.

The whole Oregon 300 unit is built around a solid, cast metal body so it’s exceptionally durable and, I believe, could probably survive far more abuse than I would ever be comfortable throwing at it.

Now, back to Mauritius. The custom map which I found and downloaded from the wonderous internet was miss-aligned when I finally got into the country and was able to check it. Unfortunately I was unable to accurately pin-point my position and, thus, never did manage to locate any Mauritian geocaches despite having downloaded them into the Oregon 300.

I could, however, easily tell from the road-layout where I was when on the move, and it helped me get a much better feel for the scope and layout of the island when traveling.

The iPhone-esque UI is decidedly usable, and the touch-screen interface unlocks a wealth of feature possibilities.

The features in the Oregon 300 are plentiful, and the touch-screen interface is extremely user-friendly. I really couldn’t recommend it more both as an essential hiking and holiday companion (when properly endowed with maps) and as an excellent geek and Geocaching accessory. It’s not, however, a very good -in-car GPS and is best interpreted by a passenger if you intend to use it as such.

Monday, April 27th, 2009, Gadgets.