Lowrance released three new GPS receivers in 2009 and they tackled the interface question by offering touch-screen and conventional button access. The top-of-the-range unit is the Sierra at £500, with the Safari at £350 and the Out&Back at £250 offering stripped-down features.
The boxy design of the Lowrance device sits comfortably in the hand. It is waterproof, and the rubber housing feels ready to take the knocks of a day in the hills. The batteries go in a compartment in the back and the OS mapping is loaded via an SD card that fits into a slot in the housing. The Sierra has the addition of electronic compass, speaker, headphone socket and the capacity to be loaded with turn-by-turn road travel mapping. The interface is reasonably intuitive thanks to some clear icons and drop-down menus. The screen can be operated with a touch of the thumb, or the buttons can be used to navigate or select functions. In many ways this is the complete package as it provides something for everyone.
On the hill
I found it rather frustrating to use as the software was slightly less impressive than initially expected. Scrolling around the on-screen map is not very smooth and there is a time lag between pressing the button and seeing the map move. Zooming in and out is an equally hit-and-miss affair. The result is that finding an area of map at the magnification you want can involve a frustrating search. I also found that the device does not always zoom through the base maps to the OS maps. These may be software glitches that are being ironed out, but this experience means I cannot currently recommend this product. The good points include the fact that the device follows satellites well even under the canopy of a forest as well as when walking across more open terrain, making it easy to follow a preplanned route on screen. The screen is very clear and is able to show excellent detail of the OS mapping, while the choice of touch-screen or button operation is a real bonus. The ability to load a huge range of maps including street-level mapping with turn-by-turn directions should make the Sierra ideal for a wide range of users. No doubt some people will find the video player and MP3 voice note features useful too. But for me, until that software is running smoother, these extras are of little use on the hill as being able to easily navigate is what walkers really need.
Price £500 for GPS receiver: UK split into three OS regions at 1:50k £100 each; OS National Parks at 1:50k all on one SD card £100; OS National Parks at 1:25k on separate cards £100 each
Display 4.2x5.5cm colour touch-screen
Power 2xAA batteries
Memory MicroSD cards
Computer interface USB port
Weight 242g (including batteries)
Made in China
Stockist details – tel. (01794) 510010; www.navico.co.uk
The Lowrance Endura Sierra benefits from touch-screen and push-button operation; extremely clear mapping detail on screen; turn-by-turn road directions. But it is a very high price; software does not operate as smoothly as others. Overall, the button and touch-screen is ideal combination, but operation was not as smooth as others.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine January 2010