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Old 05-09-2008, 00:26   #1
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Garmin 276c and BlueChart Americas

This is not a positive review. Last time I got busted for ranting so I am going to try to focus on what the experience was not... whatever else.

I did a lot of research a few weeks ago and decided that the Garmin 276 was the GPS for me. It had all the cool stuff I wanted and was just out of production so I could get it "cheap". I was briefly tempted by the 376c because of its XM receiver. For 50 bucks a month you get XM weather and XM radio. Currently I get a lot of joy out of Sirius radio so it sounded pretty good. Turns out the XM weather is only really good for the US so not really valuable cruising- 276 it is.

I shopped eBay and CL and elsewhere on the Internet and it seemed that I could get a questionable unit from a pawn shop for 200-275, a refurb unit at 350, or, a clerk at West Marine told me that the chain had a handful units left and that she could get it for 219 or something insane. She was going to have to order it from another store, I filled out forms, I waited, I didn't hear back, I called her and was told "oh yeah, I was wrong sorry" no GPS. Meanwhile the eBay prices had moved up to 370. Not sure why.

I stalled a couple more weeks and then ordered one for 369.90 with free shipping but paid 16 more for 2 day service. I did this so I could have it for my first blue water sea trial. Then I went into West Marine to buy the chart pack.

I was pretty confused about the exact mechanics involved with the CD purchase vs. the preloaded data-card and so I spoke with the manager of that store. He "thought" that the GPS would use some kind of standard memory like an SD card. Explained the unlocking from the CD. Fine. I paid 139 for the Americas CD.

I wouldn't get the GPS until the next day but was very excited and decided to install the software on my laptop. I thought it would be fun to plot my route and so forth. I go through the entire install, including creating an account with Garmin, and then am asked to input the serial number of my device. I don't have the device- the install is cancelled. 20 minutes lost.

I bumped into a guy from my dock who uses the same GPS and he raved about how great it was and took me to his boat to show his off. It seemed very nice and through the conversation it came out that it does not use a standard memory type but a Garmin proprietary chip. So today I go to West Marine to give them more money but they do not carry the chip.

I called around and eventually found a store that sells car GPS systems that had ONE card in stock. 512mb for TWO HUNDRED AND FIVE DOLLARS. My 370 dollar GPS was now a 575 dollar GPS without the charts. Fine.

Sidebar, FEDEX didn't deliver the package and I had to go to the distribution center to collect the GPS. All told I spent 4 hours in the car doing GPS related ****. At one point the temp inside the car was 112 but it was mostly 105.

I get home, unpack the box, and try to get it all working. The install on the laptop crashes out the first time so I run it again. The power cord for the GPS pops out if you even look at it wrong. I eventually get to the screen that wants the serial number. I am given the choice of typing it in or getting it automatically. To do this you connect the USB cable. So I connect it. The GPS says "USB CONNECTED" the laptop says "NEW USB DEVICE FOUND" the Garmin installer says "cannot locate a device". Fine, I enter it by hand.

Now it wants me to unlock my region. I select one of the 12 regions shown (US021 I think- the SF to Cabo one) and it then shows me that region broken into 3 parts and wants me to pick one. What the? I review the package and there is NO REASON to believe I was getting anything smaller than SF to Cabo. Actually, it is a bit bigger than that. I select a sub region anyway and it proceeds to ask me to select another region SIX TIMES before giving me the choice to choose US021 again. It appeared to install the right thing- I have no idea what that step accomplished.

It then says there are updates- do I want to get them- I select yes. It opens a browser to a page to select an auto map product to update and it informs me I don't have any products that require updating. Later, from within the software itself I chose to update and it downloaded and installed something. The install process was so bad I cannot believe it.

Finally, I am looking at the charts on my laptop. I browse around for a minute and then- crash.

Dude. I start it again.

Five minutes- crash.

This happened three more times and then it stopped- I am not sure if it got itself in order or if it is because I started looking at a different part of the chart.

Then I noticed the depth information from the chart had disappeared. I could still hover the mouse and get pixel specific info- but the soundings you would see on a chart had disappeared. I spent about 30 minutes trying to find an option to return them- no good. Oh! And the chart shows the old data for my marina. The guy from my dock showed me his and it had the right data. So even though I "updated" and it said there was nothing left to download- I have old information.

During this time the GPS itself told me it lost its satalite connection several times. I am hoping that is an "in a house" problem.

Now, after I bought the unit but before I recieved it, I got a very salesy email from the selling store trying to upsell a warranty to me. In the ad was a link to Garmin's site- the page that tells how they do the refurbishing process. That page indicates the refurbished units come with a 1 year warranty. There was no information in the box about a warranty and the box was not sealed. I think the selling store removes it and tries to sell thier own.

Anyway, the highlights are:

I paid about 50% more than I thought I had to to get the unit to actually do what I wanted it to.

The software crashes.

The chart is outdated.

The power cord won't stay in the unit.

The unit may have trouble tracking satalites (jury still out).

The eBay store may be trying to trick me into buying thier warranty.

Tomorrow morning I will call Garmin and see if I can straighten some of this out.

I will let you know how it goes.

"It is never too late to be who you might have been." -George Eliot
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Old 05-09-2008, 11:54   #2
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I realized as I was getting ready to dial Garmin that my cell phone battery was close to dead and I did not have access to my charger. A couple issues could not be addressed in the time I had.

Garmin says all the warranty stuff is online and they do not include a warranty card.

He knew right away what I meant with the power cord and gave me some marketing speech about it being a special marine seal. I think this is the company line for "we designed it sort of sucky and can't fix it for you". He suggested I just make sure to push it in real hard.

He said the latest map reader update broke the depth soundings. So they disappeared when I installed the patch. I would imagine a new one is forthcoming. Otherwise I will roll back to the older one but did not have time for that.

He said there is a chart update too- is mailing me a CD. I do not think the guy on my dock has a newer chart though so I will need to ask him.

We did not discuss the crashing or the satellite finding.

"It is never too late to be who you might have been." -George Eliot
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Old 07-09-2008, 22:59   #3
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Sorry about your experience Jack. I have bought 3 Garmin units over the years with nothing but good luck and good support from Garmin. When my kid was 4 he rolled an office chair over the map CD. At the time you had to have the map CD to load different sections as memory was small. I called Garmin expecting to have to buy a CD. They said - No, Problem and mailed me a completely new set of CDs. The bitchin' part was they were 2 years newer.

My buddy just bought the 376C with an Asia chip. He loaned it to me and it's awesome.

My only concern is about it's water surviveability. I don't need it but I am definitely after the new Colorado(?) for Christmas. I got my hands on it at West Marine in July and it's very cool.

Garmins biggest problem is they don't sell the GPS by mail order only accessories and maps and stuff. You gotta go to a distributor for the GPS unit. There are some dodgy ones out there, IMO and Garmin doesn't have a great handle on these folks.
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Old 08-09-2008, 04:32   #4
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I've had great service from Garmin, too. The internal battery in my little GPS 48 died. I sent the unit back, and they sent me a newly refurbished unit, with updated software and dataset. The GPS was maybe 5-6 years old at that point.

Great company!
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