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DeLorme PN-60W Review

   

Handheld GPS

  • Currently 3.2/5
Overall avg rating 3.2 of 5 based on 2 reviews. Most recent review: March 31, 2013
Street Price:   $600 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros:  Pairs with inReach for two-way text messaging, includes powerful Topo North America software, comfortable neck strap.
Cons:  Small screen, exposed proprietary data port, hang loop is on top, not Mac compatible, thumb screw on battery compartment are slow, bad for highway navigation, no wireless data transfer.
Best Uses:  Pairing with inReach satellite communicator
User Rating:     
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 (4.0 of 5) based on 1 reviews
Manufacturer:   DeLorme
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ December 9, 2011  
Overview
The DeLorme PN-60W is mid-level GPS unit capable of pairing with inReach, a two-way pole-to-pole satellite text messaging device (which costs an extra $249 plus $10+/month subscription). The PN-60W has several drawbacks that reduce its performance: the small screen is hard to see, the battery compartment closes with two slow screws (not a quick release like all other devices tested), and its hang loop lies on the top of the unit and obstructs the screen when held upright (all other devices have the hang loop on the bottom). The PN-60W, does, however, come with DeLormeís Topo North America, an impressive, though unintuitive, trip planning and mapping software with detailed topos. We recommend the PN-60W if you need both a GPS and satellite communicator, and believe inReach is the best communicator for your needs.

The highest performance GPS we tested was the Garmin GPSMAP 62sc, which is powerful, accurate, provides excellent reception in adverse conditions, and has a display thatís easy to see in direct sun (best for hiking, mountain biking and boating). The Garmin Oregon 550 is smaller, lighter, and has a larger touchscreen display with higher resolution (best for entering lots of waypoints and car navigation). The best bang for your buck is the Garmin eTrex 20, which provides an easy to use device with good navigation capabilities and costs less than $200.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
The DeLorme PN-60W is a medium sized, fully featured handheld hiking GPS that pairs with an inReach satellite communicator for two way text messaging anywhere on the planet. Except for the additional wireless card, the PN-60W is identical to the PN-60. These two units make up the entire DeLorme GPS line.

The PN-60W features reliable buttons and a small screen thatís visible in a wide range of light conditions. Two AA batteries power the unit and its 3.5 GB internal storage can be supplemented with a SD card that inserts under the battery pack.

DeLorme ships the PN-60W with its Topo North America mapping software, a comprehensive suite of detailed topo maps. Topo North America is more powerful than Magellanís VantagePoint and Garminís Basecamp software. For example, a plotted track can show your elevation and speed over time (see photo), where other software will only show your elevation or speed. Unfortunately, Topo North Americaís interface is less intuitive, less pretty, and therefore not as beginner friendly as others. Itís also only compatible with Windows (Mac users will want to use Garminís Basecamp or run Topo North America with a Windows emulator). If you want to analyze the data you collect we suggest a free, open source GIS.

The PN-60Wís main selling point is its ability to pair with inReach, a satellite communicator that allows you to send and receive text messages through the PN-60W. The PN-60Wís keyboard, however, is very slow at entering text: one has to navigate with the toggle from one letter to another, pressing Enter to select each letter. The system is good for sending an occasion message, like ďWeíre having a great time. Be back on Tuesday, not Monday.Ē InReach costs $249 plus a subscription that starts at $9.99 per month (for 10 messages).

Comparing inReach to other satellite communicators is also important. One alternative to inReach is a SPOT device, which broadcasts your position to others or can send a SOS signal to search and rescue. Though the PN-60W used to be sold with SPOT, theyíve ďupgradedĒ to inReach because it has pole-to-pole coverage and is capable of two-way messaging. This author believes a SPOT is the lightest and cheapest way to have the peace of mind that youíll be found if injured or lost. A satellite phone, however, might be better if you need to send or receive lots of information. Satellite phones are required on most hardcore adventure races and are often the choice of ultralight solo hikers (such as Andrew Skurka) who navigate with map and compass. If you do risky things alone and carry a GPS and also want the security of a satellite messenger the PN-60W might be right for you.

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We tested seven GPS units. Our Editor's Choice, the Garmin GPSMAP 62sc is on the far right.
Credit: Max Neale
Dislikes
Weíre impressed with the PN-60W's ability to pair with inReach, but the GPS itself performs poorly compared to the other six models we tested. The most striking drawback is the unitís small screen, which is mounted on a much larger glossy surface that gives the illusion that the screen is larger than it is. The PN-60W weighs 6.9 oz., which makes it the third heaviest unit we tested. The battery compartment locks on tightly with two small screws that take a long time to twist. (All Magellan and DeLorme units have quick release back panels that are equally waterproof, but faster.) Faster is better because you can change batteries or swap out the SD card quicker.

Similarly, the PN-60Wís data port, which is archaic looking and proprietary, is exposed on the back of the unit. This port avoids waterproofing issues found with mini-USB ports (USB ports donít like water), but itís proprietary (a bad thing). Though we didnít have any problems with the portís performance during our testing period we are concerned that dirt and grime might accumulate in the small slot over the long-term. The PN-60Wís proprietary port is bad because you can only use the included cable to pull data off the device. The mini-USB ports found on all other devices tested here are also, conveniently, used in many types of electronic gadgets, and can be acquired cheaply from a variety of sources (you probably already some one or more).

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The DeLorme PN-60W's data port is proprietary (bad), waterproof (good), buy may collect dirt and grime. Also note the hang loop is on top, which can position the lanyard in front of the screen (bad). The thumb screws are also a pain to undo.
Credit: Max Neale
Beyond the physical drawbacks, the PN-60W lacks useful software functions that other units have. For example, Garmin units are able to calculate area, have more advanced navigation tools (they can display the distance to the next waypoint and to the final destination) and send data wirelessly from one unit to another. We found the latter to be surprisingly useful when planning trips with friends or sharing a favorite location or geocache. We also noticed infrequent delays of up to a second when pressing a button. These werenít frequent enough to warrant too much concern, but itís worth noting.

Finally, the PN-60Wís hang loop (that attaches to a lanyard and hangs around your neck) lies at the top of the unit. This is an unfortunate design error: all other units we tested have their loops on the bottom of the unit. Why? Answer: itís easier to flip up the GPS when itís hanging from the bottom of the unit. By locating the loop on top DeLorme puts the lanyard in front of the display, which makes it harder to see. This drawback is especially apparent when youíre using a GPS constantly for eight hours a day, seven days a week. Our testers much preferred other units for high use activities.

On the whole, we recommend the PN-60W if you satisfy three conditions: 1) you need a handheld hiking GPS, 2) you need a satellite communicator, and 3) you have determined that inReach is the satellite communicator that best suits your needs.

Other resources
DeLorme Earthmate PN-60W Owners Manual


Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 31, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (4.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 50%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Mar 31, 2013 - 03:08pm
Head · Backpacker · Joliet, IL
In all the reviews I have read on gear lab on the products I own, have I been totally disappointed with their review.
I have had the Delorme for two years now and it has stood the test of time. In the video review they talk about the back cover and how hard it is to get it open. It is a water tight seal with mechanical fasteners. Which is what is found on all marine grade GPS units, and is better in my opinion. No need to worry about some plastic tab breaking or accidentally popping open. Then we have the hook up for the computer which is just fine I have no problems with dirt or corrosion. All dirt and debrie wash right off under the sink. And the it also serves as a charger if you put in rechargeable batteries in it, which makes opening the battery door a mute point. (Cabot makes a long last battery that will last days). Yes the screen is small but is very nice and is high resolution, easily readable in bright light. The menus is easy to navigate and and the buttons are clearly marked with ease of use. It has expandable sd card up to 32 gig.
I have dropped kicked and dunked this unit and never had a problem. It has taken a beating and I would not hesitat to buy it again.

Now things that I agree with their review.

Yes the mapping software dose take a learning curve, it is far superior to all others, and it is included. With updates. I have had Garmin, Lowrance, Megellan. And not one of them has even came close to the mapping software Delorme gives you with the PN-60. lets face it Delorme is a mapping company, that is what they do and they do it best of all! Dose any of the other GPS's make their own maps? Don't think so. Also the small fee for the added ability to download satellite imagery and quad maps is just way over the top. And Delorme's makes all there maps compatible with a direct sync to the other GPS manufactures. Can't say that about the others. I really like the ability to do a 3D mapping and 3D aerial fly over of your tracks you have saved and one you have mapped out on the computer.

Now I have the Spot Comunicator with it as Delorme was partnered with them before they came out with there own. Yes it dose take some time to type out a message, but you can have preloaded messages, that take all of about 3 buttons to send. I alway have the standard messages loaded and very rarely send a custom message. I am unable to receive which is fine for me. If your in the middle of nowhere and can't put down twitter or Facebook then stay home! Just my opinion.

Delorme now has topo 10 out and I will upgrade to it the next time it comes up for sale and it was $70 for the new version way cheaper that any other software for the other manufactures

Hope this helps and GearLab re visits the Delorme and spends some quality time instead of a rushed review.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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DeLorme PN-60W
Credit: DeLorme
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