Lowrance Endura Sierra

The Sierra is the award-winning, top-of-the-range member of the Endura family and as such is an all-singing, all-dancing GPS device which not only offers optional Ordnance Survey mapping (UK 1:50000 in three regions at £100 per section) but also an MP3 player, video player and microphone. Whether the latter features add anything to a walking GPS is another matter. In use it’s much like the less expensive Out & Back, with an excellent Direction of Travel arrow to guide the user between waypoints; but the screen resolution here is far better, so following the map is much easier on the eyes. Data transfer is equally as clunky as its stablemate but in its favour, it boasts an electronic compass and a barometric altimeter. It also features the same excellent touch-screen and button operations.

VITAL STATS
Size
: 13x6x3.1cm
Weight: 230g
Routes/waypoints: 500 routes; 4,000 waypoints
WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes
PC/Mac-compatible: PC only
Works with: Most software including Memory-Map
Features: Electronic compass; barometric altimeter
Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/10-15hrs
Contact: www.lowrance.co.uk


Lowrance Endura Out and Back

The Out & Back is a huge unit and it’s also quite heavy. It operates on both buttons and touch-screen, so no trouble in gloves or even mitts, and it boasts an excellent Direction of Travel arrow as well as a small arrow on the mapping screen, making it easy to follow a route or move between waypoints. Data transfer is quite clunky as you need to remove the mapping card to get the PC to recognise the unit before downloading a GPX file into the right directory, but the biggest weakness is the screen resolution, which makes it debatable whether it’s worth investing in the optional OS mapping (UK 1:50000 in three regions at £100 per section).

VITAL STATS

Size: 13x6x3.1cm

Weight: 230g

Routes/waypoints: 500 routes; 4,000 waypoints

WAAS/EGNOS-enabled: Yes

PC/Mac-compatible: PC only

Works with: Most software including Memory-Map

Features: Optional OS mapping; touch-screen

Battery type/claimed life: 2xAA/10-15hrs

Contact: www.lowrance.co.uk

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Lowrance Endura Sierra 2010

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.

Design
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
Size 6x13x3cm
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

Verdict
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





Lowrance Endura Sierra 2009

There was a time, not that long ago, when I felt that the map and compass would be the primary navigational tools for hill-walkers for many years to come. But the latest GPS receivers are beginning to make me think I could be wrong.

Lowrance is the latest brand of GPS (global positioning system) receivers to release a range featuring Ordnance Survey (OS) mapping. The top-of-the-range unit is the £500 Sierra , with the Safari (£350) and Out&Back (£250) providing lower-priced options with stripped-down features.

Most interestingly of all, these GPS receivers feature both touch-screen and conventional button operation. Alongside the usual features of an outdoor GPS, the Sierra can also provide turn-by-turn road directions with voice prompts, a video player, MP3 player, picture viewer and a microphone so that you can record notes en route. Most importantly for hill-goers, it also has a barometric altimeter and a compass. You could say the Sierra has more than enough features to get you from home to summit without the need for a map and compass (or your MP3 player).

I first used the Lowrance Endura Sierra on a press trip, where its functionality was put to the test canoeing, walking and cycling around an orienteering course in the Lake District. Its waterproof housing was an obvious bonus while paddling across Windermere, but I was more impressed with how easy it was to find my way around the operating system while paddling. The mix of touch-screen and push-button controls made operation easy and intuitive. For example, scrolling the map with the thumb is wonderfully natural, but being able to move the cursor with a joystick is more accurate than touch-screen option.

Leaving the canoe behind, I proceeded through the Grizedale Forest on foot. Forest canopy has always been a good testing ground for GPS receivers, as many struggle to track satellites when the leaves and branches of trees obscure a direct view of the sky. But the Lowrance performed well, tracking my position accurately along the footpaths of the on-screen OS map.

Most importantly, I could zoom in with either on-screen or press buttons and obtain an incredibly clear level of detail from the OS mapping. Clearly this is a top-quality screen.

Like the Satmap Active 10 and the Garmin Oregon, the Lowrance Endura Sierra has taken me one step closer to thinking that the paper map and compass may not remain the primary navigational tools for hill-walkers for much longer. However, I still like the advantages of being able to scour a large area on a paper map, and a compass does not need batteries. So perhaps there is still life in the traditional kit for some time to come… but for how long?

 

Price £500 for GPS unit: three UK OS regions at 1:50,000 @ £100 each; OS National Parks at 1:50,000 all on one SD card @ £100; OS National Parks at 1:25,000 on separate cards (later 2009/early 2010) @ £100 each
Size 6x13x3cm
Display 4.2x5.5cm colour screen
Power 2xAA batteries
Computer interface USB port
Stored map routes 60
Stored waypoints 2,000
Weight 242g (including batteries)
Made in China
Stockist details tel. (01794) 510010; www.navico.co.uk

Verdict: The Lowrance Endura Sierra boasts touch-screen and push-button operation; extremely clear mapping detail on screen; very easy to use; OS mapping; electronic magnetic compass; extremely sensitive GPS reception; turn-by-turn road directions.
But it’s a very high price; a large paper map is easier to read; a larger screen would make it even better. In summary, the Lowrance Endura Sierra raises the bar for GPS receivers, and is a well-thought-through unit, packed with features and intuitive to use.

 

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2009

 



Lowrance Ifinder GO2

Has limited PC compatibility via a serial port cable (not supplied). Routes can be planned on Memory-Map, but only the waypoints can be downloaded, which means the route has to be constructed manually on the GPS before it can be followed – quicker than doing the whole job by hand, but very clunky compared to some units. Outdoors, it’s nice to use with a good-sized joystick control that works well, even with gloves on. Despite its rather ‘plasticky’ appearance, the Go2 is a rugged unit that was a pleasure to use once the route was ready to follow. The black and white screen is quite small, but clear. I like the fact that, in navigation mode, it depicts the walker and the next waypoint, as well as the necessary direction of travel, which gives you confidence everything is working properly. It is quick to pick up a fix and didn’t lose the signal easily either.

VITAL STATS

Size: 13.1 x 5.4 x 3.1cm

Weight: 152g (including batteries)

Screen: 5cm 16-level grey scale monochrome Film SuperTwist

Battery life: Up to 50 hours on two AAs

Routes/waypoints: 100 routes/1,000 waypoints

Works with: Memory-Map; WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Contact: 01794 510010, www.lowrance.com

Verdict: This is the unit to buy if all you want is a ‘get out of jail free’ card to play when the clag comes down. An invaluable safety aid at a great price.

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Lowrance iFinder Go

The low price tag of this GPS receiver makes it very appealing to the walker who just needs to find a location. You get a 16 channel receiver which should in theory get you a fix and hold the fix better than a 12 or 14 channel receiver used in some other units. The 48 hour battery life makes it ideal for long trips too without the need to carry a stack of batteries. Uploading of waypoints is made easy as the unit is compatible with Memory-Map software that is run on a PC. The unit can take the knocks as it is made with a waterproof casing and has rubberised buttons that are easy to use. World travellers will appreciate the 191 map datums that mean this unit should be useful just about anywhere. This is a very capable basic unit that is suitable for most walkers.

But it does what it says on the box and little else, so you do not get a colour screen or the ability to view detailed maps of the mountains. You don’t get a barometer, so the altitude information is not the best. Most annoyingly, you don’t get a digital compass, so you don’t know where west is for example until you start moving and the unit figures out which way you are walking.

Verdict Buy it if you want a basic GPS receiver for giving you a position fix and directing you to another one, but little else.

Receiver 16 channel

Size 52x13x30mm

Weight with batteries 168g

Display 33x43mm; 200x140 pixels, 16 level greyscale

Power 2xAA; 48 hours

Memory 32MB

Computer interface yes

No of map datums 191

No of waypoints 1,000

No of routes 100

Stores in UK England 100+; Wales 10; Scotland 25; Ireland 1 6

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Lowrance iFinder Go 2

This GPS unit from Lowrance has limited PC compatibility compared to Garmin models. It is possible to download routes from Memory-Map, but it’s awkward and only the individual waypoints are recognized, so you then need to reconstruct the route by hand. Alternatively, you can simply navigate between the waypoints while you’re walking. Otherwise it’s fairly simple to use – even with gloved hands – courtesy of a joystick-style navigation button. Similar to the Etrex but with a slightly smaller screen, it’s fairly easy to follow, showing both the position of the walker, the next waypoint and the direction arrow. The simple “Mark” and “Find” functions are good, but it lacks a barometric altimeter and electronic compass.

Verdict: A simple, low-priced GPS receiver that’s light and small enough to carry anywhere. It’s easy enough to input data manually, but limited PC compatibility lets it down.

Size: 13.1x5.4x3.2cm

Weight: 170g

Screen: 2in black and white, 200x140 pixels

Battery life: 48 hours+ on two AAs

Works with: Memory-Map. WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Routes/waypoints: 100 routes/1,000 waypoints

Contact: 01506 406277; www.silva.ltd.uk

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Lowrance iFinder Expedition C

This GPS unit from Lowrance requires that you first load routes on to a memory card on your PC, then transfer this data into the memory of the GPS unit – far too fussy. Other than that, it’s an easy unit to use, comfortable in the hand with simple menus, well laid-out function buttons and a huge and wonderfully clear colour screen. A superb navigation tool, but it loses marks as it’s so big and heavy compared to most. However, the screen is big and clear and following the direction arrow is simple and effortless. You can’t see your route in 3D, but this unit does have an electronic compass and barometric altimeter, plus a few other features including a voice recorder and MP3 player that some may find useful.

Verdict: A high performance unit that’s let down by its huge bulk and clunky data connections. Perhaps best for general leisure use than hillwalking and expensive when compared to other models in this price bracket.

Size: 14.2x6.5x2.4cm

Weight: 247g

Screen: 2.83-inch colour, 320x240 pixels

Battery life: 14 hours+ on two AAs

Works with: Memory-Map. WAAS/EGNOS-enabled

Routes/waypoints: 100 routes/1,000 waypoints

Contact: 01506 406277; www.silva.ltd.uk

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