GPS Review - Garmin GPSMAP76S
by: J. Chartwell
For the devoted mariner or serious outdoor enthusiast, the GPSMAP 76S is one to consider. The "S" in the product name stands for "sensors", because the GPSMAP 76S incorporates a GPS receiver, barometric altimeter, and an electronic compass that deliver precise location, elevation, and bearing information. The unit also contains a basemap of North and South America, including major highways, thoroughfares, rivers, lakes, and borders, with plenty of memory (24 MB) for downloading MapSource data.
What You Get:
- The Garmin GPSMAP76S GPS receiver
- owner’s manual
- quick-start guide
- PC data cable
- Carrying case
- Belt Clip
- Auto Power Adapter
- Data Cable (bare wires)
- Bicycle Mounting Kit
- PC Cable/Auto Power Adapter
- MapSource Map Data CD-ROMs
What It Does:
All information needed to operate the GPSMAP76S is found on six main display screens called 'pages.'
The GPS Information Page displays your speed, GPS elevation, the estimated accuracy, receiver status, satellite location, satellite signal strength, the date, time and the GPS receiver's current location. If you have a location format other than the default selected, pressing the rocker key in any direction will toggle the current location at the bottom of the page between the two location formats.
The GPSMAP 76S comes with a built-in basemap of North America that includes a database of cities, interstate, state and county highways, exit information, lake and river outlines and railway lines. The standard basemap can be enhanced using Garmin's MapSource CDs. You can change the zoom scale on the Map Page. The scale can be adjusted anywhere from 20 feet to 800 miles. The Map Page has many options that allow you to show or hide data fields, measure distance, customize data fields, and do much more than can be described here.
The Compass Page is best used for navigation when a straight line course cannot be followed. The Compass Page has user selectable data fields along the top, a status bar, compass ring, and a pointer. The Compass Page can navigate using the electronic compass or the GPS receiver. From the factory the unit will navigate below 10 mph using the electronic compass. If the unit's speed exceeds 10 mph, the unit will automatically switch to the GPS receiver for navigation. When the unit's speed drops below 10 mpg for more than 90 seconds, the unit will revert to using the electronic compass for navigation. These settings can be changed on the main menu 'compass' tab.
The Highway Page is best used for navigation when a straight line course can be followed. The Highway Page has user selectable data fields along the top, a status bar, and the highway display. The Highway Page shares many features with the Map Page. Any tracks, saved tracks or waypoints that are within the display area will be shown, the zoom level can be changed using the 'in' and 'out' keys, and the triangle represents your current location. To navigate using the highway, follow the road. When you are approaching a turn, a message "approaching turn" will be displayed.
The Active Route/GoTo Page will show the waypoint(s) that are currently being used for navigation, If you are navigating using a 'Go To,' then the active waypoint will be displayed with the distance remaining displayed on the right side of the display. If you are navigating a route, the list of route waypoints is displayed with the distance of each leg displayed on the right side of the display. Pressing the rocker to the right or left will cycle the data field on the right side of the display through a variety of data. Pressing 'menu' will display the options that are available for current navigation.
The Plot Page is used to view data provided by the altimeter. The unit can be set to plot pressure of elevation chages. Either barometic pressure or ambient pressure can be plotted over time. Elevation changes can be plotted over time or distance. The elevation plot data is contained in the track log. If you clear the track log the current elevation plot will also be cleared. The Plot Page has customizable data fields at the top. A data field at the bottom of the page will show current information that relates to the type of data shown on the plot.
Case:Fully-gasketed, high-impact plastic alloy, waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes
Size: 6.2”H x 2.7”W x 1.2”D (15.7 x 6.9 x 3.0 cm)
Weight:Appr. 7.9 ounces (227 g) with batteries; 6.3 ounces (182 g) without batteries
Display:2.2"H x 1.6"W (5.6 x 4.1 cm), backlit LCD greyscale
Antenna:Built-in quadrifilar, with external antenna connection (MCX)
Receiver: Differential-ready, 12 parallel channel
Acquisition time: Cold – appr. 45 seconds
Warm - appr. 15 seconds
First time - appr. 5 minutes
Update Rate: 1 second continuous
Position Accuracy: less than 15 meters (49 ft)
less than 3 meters with WAAS
Waypoints: 500 with name and graphic symbol
Routes: 50 reversible with up to 125 points each plus MOB and TracBack modes
Map datums: over 100
Tracks: 10; automatic track log
Input: Two 1.5 volt AA batteries
Battery Life: Up to 16 hours
Suggested Retail: $249.99
Mean Price Available on Internet: $241.50 USD
The GPSMAP76S is a little on the large side and consequently somewhat weighty. It has a band of rubber around the sides, top, and bottom, giving a good grip and feel. The rubber pads on the back help to resist sliding around on the dashboard or console when used in a vehicle. A bayonet-type latch makes access to the batteries easy. The specs say it floats - I'll take their word for it.
The manual says it will take up to five minutes to find the satellites when you use it for the first time. My test unit took 75 seconds out of the box. During a 1.5 mile “neighborhood test walk,” the GPSMAP76S had an estimated location accuracy of as little as 22 feet. Marking waypoints is done with the press of one button and you have the option to assign each point a name and icon.
The "TracBack" feature is handy if you want to return on the same route you just took to get to your destination. Through the Track Information Page choose "TracBack" and either the Compass Page or the Highway Page will guide you back along your original path.
The “Goto” is an important feature on a GPS receiver. After reaching the most distant point of my walk, I chose my starting point from the menu and enabled “Goto.” The screen displayed the direction I needed to go to reach my starting point. As I followed the indicated direction, the time to arrival and distance is also displayed. The distance is shown in miles down to one-tenth of a mile, then switches to feet. Nearing my starting point, the screen displyed the message "Arriving at Destination." When I reached the actual starting point, the distance remaining was within 16 feet of being accurate – a figure anyone would be happy with.
Testing the GPSMAP76S under moderate foliage cover and next to 60-foot sheer cliffs showed that it was noticeably affected by these conditions, but it still held on to enough satellites for proper navigation.
Cons and Pros:
- Slightly large
- A little on the heavy side
- Electronic Compass
- External antenna capability
- Highly customizable pages
- Good TTFF
With its large display, the GPSMAP76S supports maps quite well. As mentioned above, the pages are very flexible in their customization. To some this may be a drawback because it does make the use a little more complicated. But overall, I think the addtional options are worth the trouble to take the time to learn - it's really not that hard. It's one of the more expensive handheld units but if you can justify making use of all it does, you get what you pay for.