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January 4, 2008

Garmin Colorado 400t Review

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Verdict: Indiana Jones Meets MacGyver

Garmin Colorado 400t

Garmin's Colorado is a rugged, waterproof outdoor handheld GPS that can be used for hiking, boating, camping, in the car, or Geocaching.

Available in 4 different versions, the Colorado 400-series sports an innovative scroll wheel joystick controller, is the first GPS to support Whereigo ("Where I Go"), Groundspeak's newest twist on Geocaching (think virtual scavenger-hunt meets Geocaching), ships preloaded with World Base Maps in shaded relief, has a digital compass and altimeter, and can be paired with a heart rate monitor and/or speed and cadence sensor for fitness use.

GPSmagazine puts the Colorado 400t through its paces, and finds out if Garmin's newest handheld is worth the $599 sticker price.

  1. Colorado: One GPS, Many Maps
  2. Specifications
  3. Colorado Overview
  4. Getting to Know Colorado
  5. Navigating to a Destination
  6. Map Page
  7. Geocaching
  8. Whereigo ("Where I go")
  9. Tracks
  10. Others
  11. Pros
  12. Cons
  13. Conclusion

1. Colorado: One GPS, Many Maps

Garmin offers four Colorado models to choose from:

Features 300 400i 400c 400t
World Base Map Yes (DEM*) Yes (Satellite) Yes (Satellite) Yes (DEM*)
U.S. Inland Lakes Mapping Optional Yes Optional Optional
U.S. Bluechart Mapping Optional Optional Yes Optional
U.S. TOPO Mapping Optional Optional Optional Yes
Price $499 $599 $599 $599

* Digital Elevation Model

All 4 Colorado models are identical in terms of hardware, and all three 400-series models have the same retail price of $599, while the 300 model retails for $499.

The 300 and 400t include the "Digital Elevation Model" (shaded relief) World Base Map. Garmin believes the Colorado is the first outdoor handheld GPS to use this level of resolution. The 400t version comes with built-in TOPO maps for the U.S., and includes a detailed 3D elevation perspective (looks almost like a photograph).

The 400c version is geared towards boating, and ships with coastal waters maps for the coastal U.S. and Bahamas. The 400i comes with maps of inland, lakes, and navigable rivers.

All four Colorado models can be upgraded to use additional maps. The Colorado has 3GB of internal memory, but there's only about 120MB of unused space, so you'll need to buy an SD memory card if you plan to use additional maps.

Garmin's additional maps are available on DVD and can be transferred to the Colorado via a PC, and Garmin also sells maps on SD cards ready for use in their GPS units. Additional maps range in price from $29 to $299, depending on the map and coverage area, and are available via Garmin's website and other online retailers.

2. Specifications

  • Size: 5.5" H x 2.4" W x 1.4" D (14 x 6.1 x 3.6 centimeters)
  • Weight: 5.9 ounces (167.26 grams) without batteries installed
  • Display: 1.53" x 2.55" backlit color TFT display (240 x 400 pixels)
  • Case: Rugged, metal-plated, waterproof to IPX7 (submersible)
  • Temperature Range: From -4 to 158 Fahrenheit (-20 to 70 Celsius)
  • Receiver: 12 channel WAAS enabled/High Sensitivity
  • Acquisition Time: <1 second (warm), <33 seconds (cold), <36 seconds (autolocate)
  • Antenna: Built-in Quad Helix
  • Compass: Accuracy: +/- 2 degrees, resolution: 1 degree
  • Altimeter: Accuracy: +/- 10 feet, resolution: 1 foot, Range: -2,000 to 30,000 feet
  • Power: Two AA batteries (alkaline, NiMH, or lithium)
  • Battery Life: Up to 16 hours
  • Map Storage: Internal or SD Card

3. Colorado Overview

Garmin Colorado, Front
Figure 1: Garmin Colorado, Front

The Colorado feels extremely well built and sits nicely in the palm of your hand. The unit is constructed of matt finished metal and is framed by a thick rubber material that protects the unit from getting scuffed during outdoor use, and also helps keep water/dust/etc. out of the sensitive areas. Note that the Colorado is waterproof rated to IPX7 (can be submerged in water).

The large, 1.53" x 2.55" (3-inches diagonally measured) backlit color TFT display occupies almost all available surface area. Compared with other Garmin handhelds, the Colorado has a larger display.

An innovative scroll wheel / joystick (Garmin calls this the Rock 'n Roller) sits at the top of the unit, and is flanked by left and right soft keys.

The antenna is quite short, making it easy to cary the Colorado in your pocket.

Garmin Colorado, Rear
Figure 2: Garmin Colorado, Rear

An included carabiner clip slides onto the mounting spine on the back of the Colorado, making it easy to clip the GPS onto your clothing or a backpack.

Garmin Colorado, Top
Figure 3: Garmin Colorado, Top

To turn the Colorado on or off, press and hold the Power key. Press and quickly release the Power key to turn on the backlighting.

Garmin Colorado, Top
Figure 4: Garmin Colorado, Top

A protective rubber "weather flap" keeps the USB and external GPS antenna connector safe from the elements. The rubber flap is attached to the Colorado, so you won't need to worry about losing it.

Garmin Colorado, Left Side
Figure 5: Garmin Colorado, Left Side

The Colorado measure 1.4" thick. The back of the case has a slight curve to it, making the unit sit comfortably in the palm of your hand.

Garmin Colorado, Right Side
Figure 6: Garmin Colorado, Right Side

Removing the battery cover
Figure 7: Removing the Battery Cover

To remove the battery cover, lift the latch and slide the cover off the back of the Colorado

It takes a fair amount of force to get the cover off the back of the Colorado, but it's easy once you get the hang of it.

Installing Batteries
Figure 8: Installing the Batteries

The Colorado takes two AA batteries. Battery life on the Colorado is excellent - up to 16 hours if you're using lithium batteries.

SD Memory Card Slot
Figure 9: Colorado's SD Card Slot

The SD data card slot is located on the bottom of the unit, as shown above. Note that the SD slot is only accessible when the protective battery cover is removed; during normal use the SD slot is protected from water, dust, etc.

Garmin sells additional maps on SD data cards, or you can use your own data card and purchase Garmin's maps on DVD and transfer the maps via a PC.

SD cards can also be used to store images, which can be then be viewed using Colorado's included Image Viewer.

Rock 'N Roller
Figure 10: Using the Rock 'N Roller

Garmin calls Colorado's scroll-wheel/joystick combo controller the Rock 'n Roller. Designed for easy one-handed use, the Rock 'n Roller rotates clockwise and counter-clockwise, and can be used to navigate menus and lists on the Colorado and zoom in or out on the map. The button in the center of the thumb wheel is the enter key. Pan the map or highlight a menu item by pressing up, down, left, or right.

This new controller is a major improvement over previous Garmin handhelds and a welcome enhancement.