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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Bushnell ONIX 200 CR GPS > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

Onix200CR GPS
Initial Report: May 31, 2007
Field Report: August 9, 2007
Long Term Report: October 9, 2007
Where to now?


Name: Chuck Carnes

Age: 37
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft. 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight: 175 lb (79 kg)
E-mail address: ctcarnes1(at)yahoo(dot)com
City, State, Country: Greenville, South Carolina USA

I love the outdoors – I’ve spent time camping in the outdoors since I was born, and have been actively hiking and backpacking since then. I consider myself a lightweight hiker, usually carrying 20 – 30 pounds (11-13 kg) for hikes up to a week in length. I hike at an easy pace, averaging 2 mph (3 kph). I am a one-man tent camper for now. I like to carry a single trekking pole when I hike to help relieve stress to my legs and knees. I like to get out on the trail as often as I can.


Model: Onix200CR
Year of manufacture: 2007
Listed Weight:  Not Listed
Listed Dimensions:  108 mm (h) x 44 mm (w) x 18 mm (d) (4.2 in x 1.7 in x 0.7 in)
Actual Weight:  7.0 oz. (198 g) (with (2) 'AA' Lithium Batteries)
Actual Length:  127 mm (h) x 61 mm (w) x 35 mm (d) (5.0 in x 2.4 in x 1.4 in)
MSRP: Not listed on web site


The Bushnell Onix200CR is a hand held GPS that supports satellite and aerial photography. The Onix200CR has a colored screen and has the capability of layering a satellite image, aerial photo or topographic map all on the same screen along with navigational aids. Some of the other features of the Onix 200CR are 32 MB of memory, 128 MB of SDRAM, 20 Channel Receiver, WAAS Enabled, Built-in Base Maps, Waterproof, Stores up to 20 Routes and 500 Waypoints, Built-in SiRF Technology, Heads-up Compass, Durable Rubber Armoring, 320 x 240 Pixel Full Color Screen.

I N I T I A L    R E P O R T
May 25, 2007

The Bushnell Onix200CR (from here on worded as 'unit' or 'Onix') arrived in a paper filled cardboard box with a pack of 4 Lithium batteries (sold separately) and a belt clip/lanyard attachment pack (sold separately). All showed up in great shape with no damage. After weighing the Onix and taking a few pictures I removed the Onix from the cardboard display package to install the batteries. The unit is very ergonomically shaped and fits in my hand nicely. The buttons are easy to reach with my fingers while the unit is resting in my hand. I thought that the body of the unit would have been made or covered with some sort of rubbery material to protect it if it was dropped but it is not. The 'Durable Rubber Armoring' that is mentioned in the description is the back portion material and not the face of the unit. The back of the unit is a rubbery, hard plastic type material and seems to be very durable if it was dropped. The screen is almost flush with the face of the unit and this concerns me that it will be easily scratched. The buttons are made of a rubbery type material that I expected; this would be for better gripping of the fingers on the buttons.

On the back of the unit is a thumb screw to remove the battery cover. I installed the batteries and started pressing buttons to turn the power on. After a couple of tries of pressing random buttons, I decided to refer to the owners manual. The power button ended up being a small rubber button on the right hand side that never got pressed when I was doing my random button pressing routine. A simple press of the power button and unit turned on. While I waited on the unit to power up I retrieved the rest of the contents in the display package. Along with the unit, a USB cable is provided, a disk with an Interactive Owners Manual, an actual Owners Manual booklet and a registration card. I also received an accessory pack that I mentioned earlier that is sold separately. It has a belt clip that swivels and an 18 in (45 cm) long looped lanyard with a thumb screw attached to the end that screws into the back of the unit.

The first screen was obviously the Satellite screen and the unit was in the process of getting a lock on the satellites. After what seemed like a couple of minutes the screen appeared with several numbers inside a bulls-eye pattern in the middle of the screen and bar graphs at the bottom of the screen with numbers corresponding to the circles in the bulls-eye. This screen is identifying the quality or strengths of the satellites. Also at the bottom of this screen is a box that shows the current position of the unit in latitude and longitude readings and also the elevation of the unit above sea level.

Once the satellites established a fix on the unit, a simple press of the Page View button toggles through screens that include a Map screen, a Navigational screen, a Set up screen and back to the Satellite screen. Below I will describe some of the separate screen features and abilities but first refer to the pictures below for the identification of operational buttons on the Onix that will be needed for the explanation of the screens. 

Picture courtesy of Bushnell

The Satellite Screen
 As I mentioned before, this is the screen that shows the quality and strengths of the satellites along with position and elevation readings. At this screen, none of the displayed information can be edited.

The Map Screen

With a press of the 'Page Button', the Map Screen appears that displays a map of the current location and at the bottom is a box that displays distance in units that the user sets and location in latitude and longitude. This is probably the screen that I'll use most on this unit. This screen is where all waypoints are made, routes are made, all of the imagery, topo and aerial photos are brought in and layered. In this screen there are a few setup screens that can be displayed to help the user customize the unit to his or her own liking.

I personally like being able to make a waypoint at anytime while I'm hiking and the Onix makes it so simple to do that; it's only two clicks of one button. While in the Map Screen, simply press the center button on the '5-way button' once to call up the Waypoint Edit Options screen and the 'Set Waypoint' option is already highlighted. Press the center button a second time and the waypoint is created at the current location; it's that easy. The name of the waypoint, icon and alarm can also be edited at this point.

With a single press of the 'Hot Button' a screen is displayed that has the following options: Where am I?, Find/Go To, My Trails, My Routes, My Photos and Safe Track. Now I'm not going to go through each option to explain each of them individually because these can be found on the web site, but I will explain a couple of key featured ones. The 'Where Am I?' option, when selected, immediately shows the user on the map, where that person is with an icon and cross-hairs. In the box at the bottom it also displays the distance and location. By pressing the 5 way toggle button, the cross hair moves to the desired location. The distance and location is relative to the icon and the position of the cross hair. This would be useful for quick reference of a general location that the user is wanting to go to. In this screen the user can also easily zoom in and out with the press of the zoom button. 

Another feature that I like is the 'Safe Track' feature. This feature allows the unit to be on but saves on battery life. When the SafeTrack mode is on the screen is off and a green light blinks at the top of the unit to let the user know that the unit is still functioning and that the satellites are still established. The nice part about this feature is that the user can set up an existing route or trail, turn on Safe Track which will go into a sleep mode but is still functioning using very little battery life, put the Onix in a pocket or in the pack and proceed with their hiking. If the user gets off the trail or track, the Onix will sound an audible alarm and the blinking green light will turn red. This lets the user know visually and audibly he or she is off of the intended route or trail and can adjust their bearing. 

The Map Screen is also where the Topo, Satellite and Aerial imagery are loaded. The Onix is unique in the fact that these images are able to be layered so that the user does not have to switch back and forth between screens to view these images. They can be layered on one screen. Along with the images, the compass function can also be turned on and layered. This gives a wide range of functionality and information all on one screen. At this time I have not downloaded any of the images to try this feature. This will be done before my field report.

The Nav Screen
From the Map Screen, one press of the Page View button and the Nav Screen appears. This screen is where a standard compass is displayed and arrows indicating current bearing, magnetic and true north. The user can also set up other navigational related data on this screen. This information can also be layered along with other images on the Map Screen as previously mentioned. At the top of this screen, the bearing and heading are shown numercialy. At the bottom of the screen, Altitude and Latitude and Longitude are also displayed.

The Set Screen
One more press of the Page View button brings up the Set Screen (or setup screen). This screen is where the user personalizes the Onix to display information the user wants to see. The categories are User Profiles, GPS On, WAAS Off, Display, Sound, Compass, Time, Units, Reset Data, Language, Owner Info, Battery Selection and Unit Info. As you can see, this screen is where the user will set up all of the personalized information that is displayed on the screens. From this screen, a press of the Page View button takes the user back to the Sat Screen and continues to toggle through the four screens with every press.

A CD comes with the Onix and on that CD is an interactive owners manual and PC software. The interactive owners manual takes the user on a virtual tour of the Onix and allows the user to click on parts of an image of the Onix and explains many of the features of the unit. It takes the user through an example of creating a route and shows different scenarios of what can be done at different levels. I felt this was very informative because I did not have to have the Onix in front of me to see and use most of it's features.

The PC software that comes with it is a great tool to be able to organize and create routes and trails from the computer and then upload it to the Onix. It also works the other way so that a trail or route and waypoints that were taken in the field can be uploaded from the Onix to the computer. I find this very nice because it is easier to rename points or trails from the PC then out in the field. There is a text entry tool on the Onix but I found it to be a little time consuming but it can be done if time permits. It's a matter of scrolling through letters and entering them one by one.

F I E L D    R E P O R T
August 9, 2007

The Onix 200CR has worked pretty well for me over the last couple of outings that I have had with it. One was to Paris Mountain State Park in South Carolina which was a 3.8 mile (6.1 km) loop at elevations ranging from 1,200 ft (366 m) to 1,500 ft (457 m). I took a day pack on this trip and I carried the Onix in one of the side mesh pockets. At the trail head, as I was getting ready, I turned on the Onix so that it could start locating the satellites. Prior to this trip I had downloaded some aerial and topo maps of this area that I was going to hike. I toggled to the map screen and retrieved the maps of the area that I downloaded from Bushnell (see "The Map Screen" above for additional info) and then used the "Where am I" function for the Onix to locate where I was and to set a waypoint. Before my trip, I had not decided on which trails I was going to do so I decided to just start walking and let the Onix route my trail as I walked. Bushnell refers to this as "breadcrumb". It was really neat to see the dashed line form as I walked and was pretty precise to the topo map that I was viewing on the Onix as I walked. For this trip I wanted to do a loop and let the Onix capture my walking. I made waypoints and the beginning, a couple in the middle and another one again at the trail head. My next trip here during the Long Term phase will be to use the 'track back' function and take the same loop backwards and see how accurate the Onix is with this function and to see if I wind up back at the trail head by just using the bearings and route info and not by just the actual trail.

The second trip was a four night trip to Old Mkushi Village in Zambia, Africa. Bushnell does not provide aerial or topo maps outside of North America but I knew I could use the basic functions anywhere that I could pick up satellite signals. The set up for this trip as a base camp type situation and then we would go to outer villages from the base camp. Being in such a remote area I did not want to use the Onix too much to where someone in the village might think it was a very nice item and to borrow it for themselves. We would basically just start walking on one of the spur trails from our base camp and follow it and other spur trails until we came upon another village.The Onix was very useful in this situation because I set a waypoint at our base camp and it was assuring to know that I could get back to the base camp if I was unsure of where I was headed or went down the wrong spur trail. In this area there were spur trails everywhere because of the open land and many of the villagers would just make their own trail whenever they felt like it. We did many, many loops and out-and-backs. The Onix worked great at keeping me oriented to my base camp. Several times I was sure that the trail I was on did not lead to anything but I was able to refer to the 'breadcrumb' trail on the Onix and see that a spur trail that I had recently been on would just be up ahead.

Comments on features, buttons and programs:

I am very impressed with how quickly the Onix locates the satellites when the unit is turned on. While I was in Africa, the first time I turned on the Onix there, it only took about 5 minutes for the Onix to locate the satellites. The reason for this was because I was in a different country. Some of the other features such as the lighted screen and the 'Durable Rubber Armoring' on the unit was very useful as the Onix took some hard drops and bumps but still seemed to work great. The screen face has gotten fairly scratched up from these accidents. The info is still viewable when the Onix is on, the scratches do not hinder the viewing of the maps, aerial or topo imagery. Only when the Onix is off is when the scratches are visible.

The rubberized buttons are nice to the touch. The fingers grip the unit and the buttons very well. My only problem with the buttons is the difficulty in pressing them. I understand that this is probably designed to keep from them being accidentally pressed while in a pack and so forth but I find them almost too difficult to depress. Several times as I was naming the waypoints that I had entered, my fingers became tired from having to press and toggle through the individual letters to enter for the name. The location of the buttons are fine, I am getting use to where certain functions are and I'm doing them fairly quickly; it's just having to press them pretty hard is my complaint.

The different screens on the Onix are fairly easy to navigate through. There are times where I have to stop and think "Now which screen was the User Profiles under?". A few clicks of the buttons and and some toggling and I can find it. The aerial photos that I have uploaded to the Onix are not seen as clearly as I expected. The photo of the area that I uploaded for my Paris Mountain hike was heavily wooded and the trails were not seen. I was however, able to see the 'breadcrumb' trail over the photo as I walked the trail.  The topo map portion was fairly clear. I think it depends on how well it was originally scanned as to how clear it will show up on the Onix. The topo that I uploaded to the Onix was very precise as to what I hiked.

The Bushnell GPS PC Companion program, on the other hand, was not as easy or helpful. Running the program on the computer was easy and downloading the maps and aerial was easy also. The problem that I am having is uploading the data that I took from the field back to the PC and into the Companion program. After I connect the Onix to the PC by way of USB cable, and I run the Companion program, I should be able to upload my info. When I chose this option, a screen appears on the Onix and the PC that looks as if the two are reading each other and info is being uploaded. After about 5 minutes of this the Companion program closes and no info is uploaded. I have been in contact with customer service and it was suggested that I make sure I have the latest version of PC Companion. I checked that and I do have the latest. I am still in the process of getting this figured out but unfortunately not before this report was due. Pictures from the program showing my routes and info will hopefully be shown in the LTR if this is sorted out.

For the next couple of months I will continue to take the Onix on my outdoor adventures and hopefully be able to share these experiences not only in words but in pictures and data info from PC Companion.

L O N G   T E R M    R E P O R T
October 9, 2007
Reading the Onix

Before this trip I took the time again to go to the Bushnell web site and download the topo images that they provide for this area. The area that I went to was the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Before downloading them from the web site I took this opportunity to place some waypoints on the maps before I downloaded them to the Onix to see how accurate they would be in the field. I placed several points at trailhead, shelters and intersections of the trail.

The elevation ranged from 5,000 ft (1,524 m) to 6,600 ft (2,012 m). The weather was absolutely wonderful. Clear and warm during the days, temperatures were around 75 - 80 F (24 - 27 C). The nights were a chilly 38 -45 F (3 - 7 C). After getting to the trailhead I turned on the Onix to let the satellites connect to the Onix. As I got ready to start up the trail I noticed that the waypoint I had already put in for the trailhead was pretty accurate. The map on the web site will only zoom so close and I approximated where the trailhead would be. As I walked I continually checked my position and from what I could tell from the topo on the screen and where I actually was, it was very accurate. The screen would refresh itself every 10 seconds and the icon would move as I did. As I got to the shelter and the intersections of trails I would check again and they were all fairly accurate. When I zoomed in on the topo map, the image would get too pixelated to where I could not tell exactly where I was; that was very annoying. As I was walking, if I wanted to know how much further we had to the shelter, I would simply use the 5 way navigation bottons and place the cursor over the shelter waypoint and it would read at the bottom how many miles were left; this was very handy. This first trail to the shelter was 2.9 m (4.6 km) and it took us about two and a half hours to do it. So the unit was on maybe a total of about three hours and then I turned it off.

The next day before we set out for the next shelter I turned on the Onix to get a location of where I was. I noticed the elevation reading on the Onix was a bit different than the reading on my altimeter watch (see picture below). My watch was reading 6,347 ft (1,935 m) and the Onix was reading 5,934 ft (1,809 m). Quite a bit of difference but it turned out that the altimeter watch was wrong after confirming it with a bench mark and the Onix was reading correctly. After we got moving again I followed the icon as it made its way along the topo map. After about a half mile (half kilometer) up the trail I went to check it again and the unit was off. I had just put new batteries in it before the trip so I powered it back on and after about 20 seconds after it was on I was able to see the battery life indicator and it showed the batteries half charged and then it went off again. I did this several times and it never stayed on over 20 - 30 seconds. My only thought was that the batteries got to cold the night before and depleated the power in them. Unfortunately I did not have any more batteries with me since this was the second set and they were brand new and I didn't expect the unit to need that many. After returning home, I placed another new set of the same kind of batteries in and it worked fine.

Onix Compare
Comparison of elevation

The Onix has come to be a little bit more easier for me to navigate through while in the field. I am still very unhappy with the excessive pressure that has to be put on the buttons to change from screen to screen. Again, I understand the design but it is a little bit too much. Trying to re-name a waypoint in the field is not easy with all of the toggling that has to be done in the name edit menu. I found it to be easier to give a one letter significant name and then do the re-naming at camp. I do like the ease of making a waypoint with one push of the 'OK' button but if this is accidentally pressed and you do not want to make a waypoint, it has to be deleted by telling it to do so, and backing out of that menu without doing this is not an option. I was very displeased with the clarity of the topo when zooming in and the clarity of the ariel images. The aeriel images did not do me any good where I went because of the tree coverage when the photo was taken. I can see how this option would be great for someone that has a lake, or some other well seen point from an aeriel view, for their destination and needed to see it on the unit. For tree covered areas, to me, is useless. I would liked to have tried other features of the Onix but trying to get used to the normal features, I never got a chance. I never would have thought it would have been so difficult.

The PC Companion software has really never worked correctly when I try and upload my data from the GPS to the software program. I have tried numerous reloads, made sure I have the latest version, and even on a different computer. It always appears as if the computer and the unit is connecting to each other and then the program on the computer just shuts down. I had no problem downloading the images and waypoints from the Bushnell web site but I have always had problems with the PC Companion.

Overall, I like the unit. I like what the unit can and potentially can do. I don't know that I would tell someone else to go and buy it for the price. I do not feel that this much hassle should cost this much time and money when there are others on the market that are cheaper and have the same features. If the PC Companion has a glitch, then I hope it is fixed in the near future so that I can upload all of my data to my computer.

Onix on pack
Onix hanging out on the shoulder strap by the provided belt clip

This concludes my Test Report Series. Thank you Bushnell and for this opportunity.

Read more reviews of Bushnell gear
Read more gear reviews by Chuck Carnes

Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Bushnell ONIX 200 CR GPS > Test Report by Chuck Carnes

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