Friday, 19 June 2009

New Garmin Foretrex 301/401

Garmin® Announces Rugged, Waterproof Foretrex® 401 and 301, Wearable Navigation that’s Easy to Use in Tough Conditions

Garmin has announced this week a new model for its Foretrex family. It has been a really long time since the Foretrex 101 and 201 where first introduced. They where really good devices and probably some o the first handheld GPS that where actually useable. And they still are.
The Foretrex is the GPS device I am using so far in the UrbanDiary project and the set of them is still performing quite well. Although I have recently compared it to the new Forerunner 405 that I have two test devices for, is a lot better in terms of GPS signal reception the 201’s still work well.
So there are high expectations for the new models and whether the big step forward that the first Foretrex did can be repeated will reminds to be seen. But lets have a look at what Garmin writes about these models.

Image by Garmin

Finally Garmin builds in a USB connection, so far the 201 still works with a serial connection. It seems to spot all the features that the previous model had, including sunset and sunrise, fishing and hunting times. There are some new features though. These are an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter and of course a new high sensitive GPS receiver. Also the 401 model will allow transferring data wirelessly to other devices. It will hopefully be based on the ant technology so that the device can also communicate with a computer.
In terms of storage and capacity the device surprisingly has not improved. It is still the 10’000 points per track and 10 tracks, plus 500 waypoints. It is a lot but since every little gadget is increasing its storage capacity it seems odd that this one doesn’t. This is of course not an argument, but a hint. Telling from the images, the screen will be still black and white without the function of adding a contextual map. Which is all right, as the screen quality is good and if you want a coloured feature map you probably buy another device.
Also telling form the description there will be no longer a model with an internal battery. Both models 301 and 401 will work on two AA batteries, with is a shame. I know there are issues with charging an internal battery whilst you are out and about but having only AA option really has the danger to it to produce a lot of battery waste. There are solutions to the charging problem out there ranging from solar chargers to tiny wind turbines and pull strings that work for a series of other devices with internal batteries and since this new model now has an USB connection his will make things in this respect much more simple.
In term of size and weight the new ones are around 20% smaller while still fitted with the same screen size. This is an improvement, as many of my participants using the 201 have mentioned in the feedback, that the device was “a bit chunky”. In terms of weight the new 401 is slightly heavier with 87.3g compared to 78g of the old 201. This is surprising, as the overall size has been reduced.
The direct comparison on the Garmin website between the 201 and the 401 can be found here.
So all in all exciting news but it is a little bit disappointing to see how little the device has improved over at least six years. But as said earlier it remains to be seen how the device actually performs. Prices are on the Garmin page at $200.00 for the 301 and $260.00 for the 401. There are not yet any prices for the UK.
It is advertised on the Garmin blog as “Versatile new Foretrex units perfect for military use or some family fun”. This is a big leap between the two and although we know this is where the technology is coming from the two don’t go well together.

Image by Garmin