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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Bushnell ONIX 200 CR GPS > Test Report by Rebecca Stacy



May 24, 2007

August 7, 2007

October 9, 2007

Tester Information
Name: Becki Stacy
Age: 34
Gender: Female
Height: 5' 3" (1.6 m)
Weight: 155 lb (70.3 kg)
Email address: becki_s19 at yahoo dot com
Location: Metro Detroit, Michigan, USA

I got bitten by the backpacking bug in 1994 when I was a volunteer at the Grand Canyon. My first backpacking trip was the same week I arrived, with gear borrowed from trail crew supplies. My husband and I enjoy car camping and backpacking (we use a double-wall tent), mostly in Michigan. We've pared down our pack weight a little, and we are continually re-working our gear list to cut weight without giving up the luxury items we enjoy (such as food that involves more than boiling water).

GPS Useage:

I have been using a GPS since 2002 for geocaching, navigation in the car and as an aid to navigation for my backpacking trips. While backpacking, I will typically turn on my GPS for about 10 minutes on my hourly rest breaks (my unit is over 5 years old, and does not have a `sleep' or `battery save' type function). I use my GPS to find my position and elevation, and cross-reference the information with a topographic map of the area. Although there are some trails where I can determine approximately where I am from landmarks, the GPS was very helpful on my trip to Isle Royale. Much of the Greenstone Ridge trail was difficult to determine my location by a quick look at the map alone, since there are few streams, ponds, or other features aside from slope and elevation for me to figure out precisely where I was.

I use the information provided by the GPS to determine where might be a good place to take my next break or to break for lunch (preferably high point, away from ponds or marshy areas where mosquitoes are present), approximately how far I am from the campsite, and how far I am from trailside or off-trail points of interest (such as a waterfall).

Initial Report

May 24, 2007

Product Information

Manufacturer: Bushnell
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: n/a
Listed Weight: n/a
Measured Weight: 6.6 oz (187 g) with lithium batteries (2), 5.5 oz (157 g) without batteries
Listed Dimensions: 108 mm (h) x 44 mm (w) x 18 mm (d) (4.25" x 1.7" x .7")
Measured Dimensions: 5" tall x 2.5" wide x 1.25" thick (12.7 cm x 6.4 cm x 3.2 cm)
Screen Dimensions: 320 x 240 pixels ( 2.1" x 1.6" , 4.1 cm x 5.4 cm)
Software included is compatible with computers running Windows ME, 2000, or XP.

Other Features (from Manufacturer's website:

32MB of memory
128MB of SDRAM
Downloads, displays and georeferences satellite photography
Screen layering
SafeTrackô battery-conservation mode
Night Mode
HOT button operation
Basemap of the United States and Canada
20 channel SiRF GPS receiver
WAAS enabled
Stores up to 500 Waypoints, 20 Trails and 20 Routes
Audible alarms
Waterproof (IPX7 rated) and rugged construction
Customizable user profiles
Runs on two AA batteries (not included)
USB port (cable included)

Also provided by Bushnell was the ONIX200 Series Attachment Pack. This accessory pack does not come with the GPS. This includes a belt clip and a lanyard, with a MSRP of US $9.99. the lanyard weighs .25 oz (7 g), and the belt clip weighs .4 oz ( 11 g). The lanyard is 20" (50 cm) long from the point it attaches to the screw, and a 18" (46 cm) long loop that I can fit over my head.

Initial Impressions

I received the Bushnell Onix200CR in good condition, packaged inside its display box. Included in the box are the GPS, a USB A/A cable, a CD with an interactive owners manual and the Bushnell GPS PC Companion program, a quick start guide in English and French, a product registration card (English only) and a postcard-sized sheet of paper stating that the GPS contains materials that can be recycled. Everything that was listed on the box was included. The Onix had a plastic sheet over the screen, showing an example of how the unit looks on the MAP screen.

After briefly flipping through the quick start guide, I decided to try the unit out. The battery compartment is secured using a threaded pin with a notch for a regular screwdriver that also has a small ring that I can pick up to hand screw it. The back opened fairly easily, and I put in two AA Lithium disposable batteries and secured the cover.

Night Mode

I turned the unit on, and found that it takes 15 seconds to cycle through the welcome screens before the unit starts to look for a signal. The quick start guide mentioned that it can take 3-4 minutes for the Onix to get the satellite lock when I start the unit up for the first time, and I was surprised when it had locked onto enough satellites to get my location in about 1 minute 15 seconds. I cycled through the screens and played with some of the functions, and found out that while some features were intuitive, I needed to refer to the manual to figure out others. Overall, the unit fits nicely on my hand, and is comfortable to hold. The screen is easy to read and the colors in both regular and Night Mode are distinct. The photos to the right show the unit in Night Mode. The Onix comes loaded with one aerial photo of the Washington Monument.

The cursor that shows my current location is centered in the bottom third of the screen (unless I move the selection cursor around to view other areas of the map). The GPS models that I'm familiar with have always had it in the exact center, so having something off-center will take a little getting used to. If I have my location, altitude, and time (or other features) shown on the bottom of the MAP page, there is little room between my location cursor and the effective bottom of the map. While this may maximize the area in front of me on the map if I turn the "north up" function off, I am used to (and prefer) reading maps with north upwards. So if I'm heading south, I have to turn off my location and altitude if I want to see where I'm going. With all the other customizable options available, it would be nice if I could select where the cursor was. The scale of the map is shown on the botton left corner. The scale reading is typed on the vertical plane, and represents the total distance from the top of the screen to the bottom. Even if I use the top left and right corners for information (cutting down the useable map size), the scale still includes that space in the measurement.

The basemap consists of roadways, major lakes and rivers (as well as the oceanic coasts), and various points of interest (airports, hospitals, etc). The roadways included on the basemap consist of highways and state routes, along with a few really major roads. This was somewhat of a dissappointment, since as of the writing of this report there is no way to download detailed road information aside from downloading topographic maps. In the past I have relied on my GPS to help us navigate to our destination (my hubby usually drives, and I'm the navigator), since I was able to download detailed vector-based street and topographic information onto my previous unit. Bushnell's website says that I can't load detailed maps from anywhere except Bushnell's online shop. I'm hoping they'll develop proprietary software that will allow me to install more street information than is currently possible with the limited internal memory. With the current memory installed on the unit I can only install 12 arial pictures at a time."

Unfortunately, it appears that Bushnell might have limited the benefits of topographic images and aerial photos by not allowing for SD chips or other removable memory devices on the units. According the Bushnell website, only 10-12 maps can be downloaded onto the ONIX at any given time. I have visited Bushnell's website to determine the size and types of maps available and have found that they have enhanced USGS topographic maps (the maps have 'shadows' added to give them a 3D appearance) and aerial/satellite photos (most areas are in color, but some areas such as Isle Royale appear in black and white). The largest scale available for download (the most 'zoomed out') covers an area about 3.2 miles (5.2 km) north-south and 3 miles (4.8 km) east-west. At this level I could probably fit both aerial photos and topographic maps for a North Kaibab-Bright Angel rim-to-rim hike of the Grand Canyon (next year's big trip, I can't start planning soon enough!), but if I took the North Kaibab-Tonto-Hermit Trail route, I would probably have to go with a full set of one or the other. Either way it could still prove to be a very useful feature on a several day trip, though the upper limit of imagery that can be stored is about 36 miles (58 km) worth of linear trail.

Once I sat down and looked through the quick-start guide and the interactive owner's manual I was able to figure out how to access the different functions. The printed Quick Start Guide was more helpful to me than the interactive manual, though the interactive was nice to have to take me through some of the basic concepts on operating the unit.

Some things aren't fully explained in either manual, such as how I would get to the second, third, etc location if I were hunting a multi-cache geocache. Through a bit of fiddling around, I found that I can do it two different ways. The first would be to set a waypoint. On the Onix, I can set up a waypoint on the GPS PC Companion by typing in the coordinates and downloading it to the unit. In the field I would set a waypoint by moving the cursor until I see the exact coordinates displayed in the "Loc"(ation) box at the bottom of the map page and then hitting "ok" on the 5-way button to set the waypoint. This is somewhat of the long way of doing it, since I have to zoom out to move to the general area, then zoom in until I was at a level where I could get the exact coordinates. The other way I could navigate to a new set of coordinates in the field is to hit the Hot button, select Find/Go To on the submenu, and select "Location" from the resulting sub-submenu. From here I can enter in the waypoint manually, typing in the numbers. The method used to enter in numbers (and text in other functions) took a little getting used to, since I have to hold the "up" or "down" portion of the 5-way button for a couple of seconds to move out of the number/text box to tell it I want to go back, add a space, or am done entering the info. Once I enter in the location, the Onix will create a straight-line path to the location (although the location is temporary and not stored as a waypoint) and give me direction, bearing, and distance if I choose to have it display those options on the map page. If I want to keep the location as a waypoint, I have to move the cursor over to the location and create a waypoint on top of it.

One thing that impresses me with the Onix is the strength of satellite locks I've been getting. Although I couldn't get any satellites the first time I took it inside my house (a few minutes after my initial turn-on), I am currently getting a strong lock on 6 and reading 10 satellites overall on the 2nd floor of my house. I am hoping the strong fix holds in areas of heavy tree cover (which it should, if it can lock through my roof!) and river valleys.

The back portion of the Onix is covered in a protective rubber layer, but the front and a small portion (0.8 cm/0.3") of the sides are left unprotected. Being the klutz that I am, I have already dropped the unit onto concrete and have scuffed the upper left corner and there is a tiny chunk out of the bottom right corner. The screen is fairly flush with the face of the unit, and the plastic from the screen extends below and above in an odd shape. I normally put screen protectors (the type I can get for a PDA) on my GPS, and I will be applying one to the Onix. Since the screen is not recessed, I will be watching closely to see if the screen protector starts to peel off. The screen itself is not very resistant to scratching, as I have a few small scratches already (before I dropped it) from storing it in my purse for brief periods of time.

So far, I have noted a few things about the functionality of the unit that are of concern. The bottom left corner of the screen has a bright spot. I don't know if this is typical of backlit screens or if it is a defect in my unit. It does not affect the operation of the unit, but just looks a little odd. Also, though I had the altitude set to feet (it reads "feets" in the unit setup screen), the altitude shown was 1/3 of what it should be. On this item, BackpackGearTest has found out from Bushnell that it is a software glitch that developed recently, and I was e-mailed an update to install on my Onix, which fixed the problem. When I select "Display" on the SET page and go into the option to select the Night Mode it works like it should, but when I want to turn the screen back to the regular display mode I have to select "Night Mode" again, instead of selecting "Display Mode" as logic would suggest. On the quick start guide it shows that the satellite page should have an accuracy reading, but that is not present on the satellite screen on my Onix. I think that this might be another software issue that can probably be fixed once they address it on a download.

The box that the Onix came in says that I can get 4 free downloads when I register the unit online. It took me about two weeks and three phone calls to customer services to receive my credits. When I originally contacted Customer Service regarding this, I was told that it takes 24-48 business hours to get the credits, and that they should show up within days of registering. I'm not certain exactly what the person meant by this, since 24-48 business hours is 3-6 days. When I called the second time, it did sound like I should have had the credits by that time, but the GPS expert was out and my phone number was taken to be contacted when the person was back. The person handling GPS must have the same lunch as I do, since they were out all three times I called. My calls have not been returned yet, though after my third call my credits appeared and I was e-mailed that they were available.

The Buttons

The GPS is at least somewhat protected from accidental turn-on due to its small size (about .5 cm, or under 1/4" in diameter) and from being encased in the rubber shell. I have to purposefully push it with a fair amount of force to turn the unit on. If I hit the power button briefly when the unit is on, the backlight turns off. I have to hold the power button down for 2 seconds to turn the unit off, and it takes about 18 seconds from when I first push the button until the unit is completely powered down. If I do not press any buttons for 2 minutes 40 seconds, the backlight automatically turns off. When the backlight turns off by itself, I can turn it back on by pressing any button.

Aside from the power button, the Onix has 4 function buttons. The 5-way button on the face of the unit moves the cursor up, down, left and right, and has "ok" inside a small circle in the center. I can only move the cursor horizontally or vertically, pushing halfway between the 4 points will not move the cursor on the diagonal. The "ok" is used to set a waypoint if I'm on the Map page, or to select an option if I'm navigating one of the menus. Setting a waypoint is wasy, all I have to do is press "ok" when I arrive at a point I want to mark (or use the cursor to pan to the point I want to mark), and hit "ok" again to set the waypoint. I can also edit the name of the waypoint, choose from 36 icons for the waypoint, and select if I want the Onix to beep when I reach the waypoint. The Zoom button is on the upper left of the unit, and is used to zoom in and out on the Map page. This is a rocker button, and to zoom in on the Map page, I press the side that is closest to me. The p age view button is on the upper right, and is used to cycle through the 4 main pages (see image below). The unit starts on the "SAT" or satellite page, then cycles through MAP, NAV (navigation), and SET (settings).

The "Hot" button is at the top of the GPS, and is used to access my location, trails, routes, photos, and the Safe Track feature. The Hot button will send the unit into Safe Track mode (keeping in contact with the satellites while conserving batteries) by holding it down for 2 seconds from any screen. A brief click on the Hot button from the MAP or NAV screens brings up a menu with the options:

hotbutton actions

Where am I?: This automatically re-centers the map to my location, despite where I've moved the cursor.

Find/Go To: This has a sub-menu where I can choose the nearest waypoint, all waypoints (where I can choose from a list of waypoints), POI (points of interest) such as commuter rail stations, rest areas, park and ride lots, bus stations, airports, train stations, ferry terminals, city halls, and hospitals; Places (an alphabetical list of major urban areas in the US and Canada), my trails, my routes, my photos (where I can select either topo or aerial images), or location (the screen below shows the "location" option, where I can enter in Latitude and Longitude).

My Trails: This brings up a sub-menu, where I can start a new trail, navigate an existing trail, or manage my trails. I played around with the trail feature during lunchbreak to see how far I need to go off trail before the Onix warned me I was heading the wrong direction. I created a trail, then took off at a 90 degree angle to see when it would beep. It warned me that I was off track when I was about 0.22 miles (0.35 km) away from the trail.

My Routes: A sub-menu with the same options as My Trails.

My Photos: Under this I can select either Aerial Photos or Topo Maps, and I can select to navigate to a photo (the GPS will create a line between my position and the photo, and give me bearing and distance if I have those options selected), or I can choose to view the photo.

Safe Track: This is the same feature as entering Safe Track by holding the Hot button for 2 seconds.

The Page View button will bring up settings menus for the MAP and NAV pages if I hold it for 2 seconds.

The Screens

4 screens
On several pictures that I took of the Onix200CR's screens, I have colored over the last digits of the latitude and longitude reading since the photos were taken close to my home. The Onix gives readings to the tenths of seconds when set to Degrees/Minutes/Seconds, and to the thousandths of minutes when set to Degrees/Minutes, and to the 5th place after the decimal when set to Degrees. Other position formats available are US National Grid, UTM UPS and MGRS.

SAT (satellite): This is the first screen to display after the unit cycles through the welcome page. The strength of the satellites is color-coded, with green as the strongest, yellow as intermediate, and red as weak. There are also grey satellites, and I'm unsure what that color coding means since they are generally about the same strength as the yellow ones. In Night Mode, strong signals are in magenta, moderate is dark blue, and light blue is weak. Grey satellites are on this page as well, and appear to be the same as the grey on the normal display mode. My current position and elevation are shown on the bottom of this screen.

MAP: This page displays the basemap and any aerial or topographic downloads that I have. If I hold the Page View button for 2 seconds while on this screen, I can adjust my settings. I can select to turn on the compass overlay, whether I want North up or my current direction as "up" on the map page, display a "Range Ring" (an arc on the map page that shows a given distance from my location), photos (topo and aerial), My Map Data (the basemap itself), BreadCrumbs (the automatically logged track of where I have been), and Points of Interest. If I hit the "down" button from the last item (Points of Interest) I can edit what information is displayed in the 3 fields on the bottom of the Map screen. Altitude and Location are the defaults, but I can also show average speed, bearing, accuracy, heading, date, distance, estimated time of arrival, hours used, location time, maximum speed, odometer, off course, speed, distance to end, total travel, total time, trip distance, trip time, and UTC time. If I move the cursor up past compass (the top of the list) I can enter the squares to the left and right of "MAP" on the top of the screen. At these locations I can display bearing degrees, bearing cardinal, heading degrees, heading cardinal, (distance) to destination, and ETA destination.

NAV (Navigation): This screen shows a compass, along with the same fields that I can select to personalize the MAP page. By pressing the Page View button for 2 seconds on this screen, I can set the GPS to display a heading arrow, north arrow, and whether the compass is set to true north or magnetic north. I can also personalize the bottom and top fields from this page, and any changes I make are reflected on the MAP page also.

SET (Settings): This page is primarily a menu where I can change general settings for the Onix. I can choose from user profiles, GPS on/off, WAAS on/off, display, sound, compass, time, units, reset date, language, owner info, battery selection, and unit info. Details on the submenus are below.

User Profiles: I can select my custom profile, or profiles developed for hiking/camping, hunting, inland boating, ocean boating, or geocaching.

GPS on/off: I can turn the GPS function off to save batteries when I hook the unit up to the computer to download photos or other information. Selecting GPS off will automatically turn WAAS off, but I need to manually turn WAAS on after I turn GPS on.

WAAS on/off: This allows me to turn WAAS off if I don't need the higher accuracy it offers, to help conserve batteries.

Display: This allows me to change the brightness of the backlight (options are 0, 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100; 0 is the lowest but does not turn the backlight off) and to switch between normal and night modes.

Sound: I can choose to mute the unit (although when on mute it will give an 'acknowledge' type click the first time I push a button if I haven't used any buttons for a period of time), set the volume, select tones for the keybeep, distance/speed, and warning.

Compass: I can set the display to be in cardinal letters, degrees, or mills. I can set the north reference to true north, magnetic north, grid, or user.

Time: I can set the time format to be am/pm or 24 hour, my time zone, and if I am on daylight savings (it has an on/off and auto option). When I selected my time zone and "auto" for daylight savings, the unit displayed the correct time.

Units: I can set distance/speed: statute (miles), metric and Imperial nautical, and yards. There is a non-selectable field "na'mm.mmm" that I think is another glitch with the current software version. I can also set the elevation to "feets" or meters, my position format to hours/degrees, hours/degrees/minutes, hours/degrees/minutes/seconds, US National Grid, UTM UPS, or MGRS. I can select from different datum, the default is WGS 84, but several others in the North Americas (including Bahamas, Alaska, Greenland and others).

Reset Data: I can choose to give the unit a cold start (if I haven't turned it on I a while or have traveled long distances from the last place I turned it on), reset average speed, max speed, hours used, odometer, total distance, and my breadcrumbs.

Language: I can select from English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

Owner Info: I can choose to have this info shown at the startup of the unit, and the fields I can enter info in are: name, company, city, state, and phone #.

Battery selection: I can choose alkaline, NiMH, or Lithium.

Unit info: This displays the model of my unit, the serial number (the serial number is also on a sticker inside the battery case), the hardware version, UI (unit software version), bootcode, map software version, and GPS.

The PC Software

The accompanying software consists of an interactive tutorial and the PC Companion. When I put the CD into my computer, it brings up a welcome page that takes a minute or two to run through the different options (it shows me that I can use it to go the Bushnell's online site to buy maps, take the tutorial or download the PC Companion). The interactive tutorial is helpful to get an idea of how the Onix works in general, though I found the printed manual much more helpful.

When I hook up my Onix to the computer using the provided USB cable (which is about 20"/51 cm long and coiled), the GPS shows a screen with pictures of an Onix, the globe, and a computer, with a little stream of 'data' frowing back and forth. The provided cord is too short to do much besides allow the Onix to sit in my lap when connected to a USB port in the front of the computer (my tower is on the floor). Although I was not able to unearth a regular A/A USB cord, it looks like I should be able to use one of those instead of the one provided by Bushnell.

Pc Companion screenshot

The PC Companion appears to be a fairly basic piece of software. It allows me to upload and download images, trails, routes, and waypoints. I can create waypoints and routes on the PC companion. There is not much info provided about the software, and at first I thought it would be a tedious task entering in a new route because it appeared like I had to type in all the waypoints by hand. I finally thought to try right-clicking, and found that I could enter in routes by moving the cursor around the map to select my points. I found out that I can also add an existing trail generated on the Onix to my route on the computer by right-clicking on the start of the trail. This feature can come in handy because I can "trace over" topo maps that have trails on them, for easier visibility on screen and so I can navigate the route. While some trails, such as the North Country Trail through Allegheny national Forest in Pennsylvania are not shown on the topos that I can download, I have verified that the major trails in the Grand Canyon, Isle Royale, and North Manitou Island (in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park) are shown on downloadable topos.

Zooming in and out is performed by clicking on magnifying-glass icons, and I am not able to select an area to specifically zoom to. To move around the map, I simply hold the left mouse button down and drag the map around. I can save waypoints, trails, etc in specific project folders, to help with organization of my trips. Although the PC Companion does not have many bells and whistles, it has enough features for me to accomplish what I would like it to do. The picture in theis section shows a route I created along the sidewalks by the Washington Monument.

Testing Strategy

Throughout the period of this test, I will use the Onix200CR as a navigation aid (I ALWAYS bring a map, and usually a topo map and a compass along on our trips) when backpacking, using downloaded aerial photos and topo maps to help determine where we are, in navigating highways to our destinations, and for a little geocaching on the side. The Onix will be given the same treatment as my previous GPS, from being tossed and taken from the top compartment of my backpack every rest break, to being clipped to my hipbelt or worn around my neck via the lanyard so I can see my progress as I hike. Although I try to exercise care when handling any electronic device, I am prone to be a klutz sometimes, and it will doubtlessly suffer a fall or two and possibly exposure to rain if we get any on our hikes. I will report how well the Onix holds up under these conditions, and how helpful I found it to be in assisting my navigation of the trails.

This concludes my Initial Report.

Field Report

August 7, 2007

So far, I have used the Onix on several dayhikes, to find a couple of geocaches, and on a 3-night trip to North Manitou Island, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The reception of the Onix continues to impress me, since I can get a fair satellite lock from the 2nd floor of my house (away from any windows) and when I took a dayhike at Watkins Glen State Park (a fairly deep, narrow river gorge with walls up to about 100'/30.5 m high) in New York I had good to fair reception for the majority of the hike. The accuracy appears to be good as well, since I have been able to locate several geocaches, it's readings generally agree with my 5-year old plus gps.

The durability of the unit is somewhat lacking. I have already dropped it on asphalt once, and on a dayhike I wore the gps around my neck with the provided lanyard when I tripped and did a nose-dive onto a small patch of rocks. From the first fall, the unit has a small chunk of plastic missing on the lower right front. The later incident left a few other scrapes on the front of the unit, including one on the screen. When I later applied a cut-to-size screen protector (which I bought *after* I did the nose-dive) the mark was not visible. The rubber on the back of the unit seems to have weathered my abuse just fine. I think that the lack of full rubber armor and a recessed screen can be the downfall of this unit in the hands of a klutz like me. Another interesting thing I noticed was that the plug on the bottom of the unit that protects the USB port has gotten very loose, and on my 3-night trip on North Manitou Island I had to put it back in every hour or so, sometimes more if I had been climbing over or under fallen trees.

Downloading the topo maps and aerial photos from the Bushnell website took quite a bit of trial and error, since the site is not very intuitive and not very well explained. I've figured out how to download the photos to my computer and the Onix directly, and how to upload and download between the PC Companion and the Onix. I have encountered some problems with the website itself, including error messages when I try to zoom into an area. The problems seemed to be temporary, since a half hour later I was able to view the area I was interested in again. I've noticed that the topo maps and aerial photos are slightly offset from each other (at least in some areas). On North Manitou Island, the aerial agrees with the topo, but when I checked out Niagara Falls and Hermit's Rest at the Grand Canyon, the two maps don't quite agree, at least online.

Apparently Bushnell does not know the capacity of the Onix to store image files, since they claim it will store 10-12 topo maps and/or aerial photos, and I've downloaded 16 different files (most are the farthest zoomed-out I could download, the 3 mile x 3 mile/4.8 km x 4.8 km in area maps). I've played around with the PC Companion and found that I can load an aerial image to the topo file, and vice versa. At one point I loaded 26 files onto the Onix, putting each file in the proper folder, and adding a copy to the opposite folder. I'm not 100% certain this means the unit could store 26 individual files, but I know I've already topped out their estimates with the 16 unique files.

A major problem that I've encountered with the various scales of files is that the most detailed maps/photos are layered beneath the less detailed files. I downloaded aerial images of North Manitou Island at the less detailed scale, and then downloaded a detailed photo of the Village area. I purposefully overlapped the detailed photo half on one of the larger scale photos and half off the larger image to see which scale took precedence on the display. The less detailed image overlapped the more detailed image, and when I downloaded the middle-detailed scale, I found that it was layered between the two. This layering goes completely opposite of common sense, since other than deleting the larger image from the Onix I can not view the more detailed photo beneath.

When on the trail I have used the topo maps only, since the areas I usually hike are heavily forested and the topographic maps provide more information relevant to my location. Then dayhiking the Minister Creek Trail in Pennsylvania I used the Onix in combination with a non-topographic map (since the online topos did not show the trail), and when I was at North Manitou Island I used the gps in conjunction with a topographic map. Using the Onix in combination with a non-topo map was somewhat confusing, since at one point the trail wasn't marked very well and we ended up going in circles trying to descend a hill. The map I had was over-simplified, as I later found a more detailed trail map with better indication of the topography. The Onix did help me determine where I was, and for a while we were technically off-trail though we were descending on an old two-track.

It was handy to have topo on my gps that matched my paper map, though because of the area I had to cover on the island I had downloaded the least detailed images and had problems with some detailed areas. One of these areas was a cemetery where two unmaintained trails crossed, I could tell something was there but if I didn't have my paper map I wouldn't know what it was supposed to be. Though it was a little hard to read, the topo did show the unmaintained trails, and was helpful to ensure that I was still on track when the only trace of a trail was that the plants were not growing quite as high in a particular direction.

All in all, I still prefer the vector-based topography I can download to my older gps, since I have no problems with image quality and I can fit detailed topos and streets of all of Michigan on my SD card. Because I am limited to photographic images with the Onix, I can't really use it for navigating when we're on the road (My husband usually drives, and I'm the navigator). There has been several times where having access to detailed streets have come in handy for us, so when weighing the 'cool' factor of USGS-based topo map images and aerial photography versus vector-based topo with streets, I would choose my old gps (or any gps with a similar system) hands-down over the Onix if I had to take only one gps with us from the moment we left the door.

The battery indicator has also been a problem. Whenever I put in a new type I checked to make sure I selected the corresponding type on the Onix menu. With the Energizer Lithium batteries Bushnell provided, they seemed to stay at "full" for quite a long time before reading 3/4 full, and then they drained relatively quickly.

My Energizer NiMH rechargeables drained fairly evenly from "full" to "empty", though I found that if I turned the unit off when the battery read "empty" and then turned it back on a little while later, it would read half full for over 15 minutes. After a couple of times reaching "empty", the batteries were empty to the point the unit would turn off immediately after I tried to turn it on. When I removed the batteries and placed them in a charge tester, I found that one battery had been drained more than the other. I was on North Manitou Island when I found out about this problem, since I had the unit on safetrack and turned it off to save power when it got to a quarter full. On the first day of our hike, the rechargeables lasted about 5 or 6 hours on safetrack mode, and carried me another 8 hours or so of hiking (both that day and the next) with intermittent use (turning on the unit every half hour to hour, just long enough to check position).

I have only used alkaline batteries for a little bit, and had not paid much attention to their performance. I will give alkaline batteries more of a work-out for my Long Term Report.

Entering waypoints directly into the Onix is more tedious than some other gps units I have tried, and is still a little confusing. One thing that I really find annoying (especially when geocaching) is that when I get about 50 feet (15 meters) away from the waypoint, navigation will automatically turn off. Given that the accuracy is usually about 20-30 feet (6-9 m) under tree canopy, and the possibility of the 'slingshot' effect of moving quickly then stopping suddenly, having navigation cut off in the middle of a search is not fun. I was able to `eyeball' my location on the map to about 15 feet (4.6 m) away from the geocaches I found (none were overly difficult searches). This effect would be a serious pain if I tried to use the unit to play one of the types of games used for geocaching get- togethers, a sort of "closest-to-the-mark" game where a professional grade gps is used to determine a waypoint, and everyone uses their handheld units to put a popsicle stick in the ground where their unit says the point is, with the closest to the actual point wins a small prize. For this set-up I normally just move around until my gps reads `0' feet/meters to destination, but with the Onix I would have to display the coordinates on the map screen and match my position that way.

I have also had some problems with Bushnell's customer service. When I initially received the unit, I noted that there was a problem with the elevation (it showed meters but read in "feets"), I had a bright spot on the screen when the backlight was on, and I did not have the 4 free credits (that the general public is entitled to) several days after I registered. The person I did reach on the phone several times (I think I reached the same guy at least twice) was helpful in nature, and informed me that it takes 24-48 business hours for the credits to process. He also took my phone number since I had questions about the "feets" problem and my backlight, since the GPS expert was not in at the time. I called twice more regarding credits, "feets" and backlight, having to leave my e-mail and phone number all 3 times since it appears the GPS expert had the same lunch hour I did (I can't really make personal calls at work). I did receive an e-mail from customer service informing me I now had credits, but I never received an e-mail regarding my other problems with the unit. I ended up deciding to give them a week or so, that maybe they were working on it or the GPS person was on vacation.

After a while I completely forgot about contacting customer service, except for when I was using the gps, and when I was using it I didn't have the phone number to customer service, so I ended up going nearly two months without following up on the issue. The "feets" issue was resolved with a download provided through Backpackgeartest's Bushnell contact (apparently a code glitch had occurred in a specific batch of units). I recently contacted customer service again about the bright spot with the backlight, and was informed that this wasn't regular, and usually caused by leaving the unit out in the sun (*this* information makes me hesitant to take it with me next year on my trip to the Grand Canyon!). According to the information on their website, I would need to pay for shipping to Bushnell, write them a check for return shipping, and expect to be without a GPS for at least 4 weeks. There is no guarantee that the issue would be covered under warranty, and I might be charged extra for repairs. Since the unit has obviously weathered a few falls, I'm afraid they would label the problem as improper use and ask me to pay for the repairs. Though the bright spot is annoying, it appears mainly cosmetic and does not appear to affect the operation of the unit. Personally, if I had bought this unit and found saw the problem with the backlight I would have immediately returned it to the store I bought it.


Overall, I am disappointed with the Onix200CR. The reception and accuracy are really the only things going for this unit. Though the topo maps and aerial images are cool bells and whistles, the area I can use with them is limited to shorter trips. The battery indicator isn't particularly reliable, and overall navigation through the unit's features can sometimes be confusing. Right now I think it is safe for me to say that after the test series, the Onix will probably only see limited use.

This concludes my Field Report.

Long Term Report

October 9, 2007

Since the Field Report, I have used the Onix on 2 overnighters (at Pinckey Recreation area), 3 long dayhikes, and to find about 8 more geocaches. Overall, the unit performed well acquiring satellite lock and displaying my present location. The accuracy is pretty good, as I measured about 9 foot (2.7 m) difference in location and 11 foot (3.4 m) elevation when compared to the listed location of a benchmark. At the time, I was picking up 5 satellites strongly, and 8 total. As of this writing, I have downloaded all the current software for the Onix (07.07.05 2.73) and the PC Companion (1.5)

When hunting geocaches, the fact that the navigation turns off 50 feet (15 m) from the location I'm navigating to is still very annoying. Out of preference, most of the caches I seek are not microcaches, so the lack of an exact location isn't quite as bothersome as it could be if I were trying to eyeball my location (or constantly compare my current coordinates to that of the cache) on the map hunting a microcache in the middle of a forest. I sincerely hope that Bushnell revises it's software to allow navigation to continue until turned off. Other than the navigation turning off, it works ok for me for geocaching, and although I have experienced a little of the 'slingshot effect' (the GPS unit overprojecting my location when I suddenly slow or stop after moving at a consistent speed), it has been minimal compared to my older unit.

As of the writing of this report, Bushnell has updated the estimated photo capacity so that it now "Stores up to 20 satellite/aerial photos and 20 topographic maps." When I crunched the numbers and compared the size of an image file to the storage capacity of the Onix, I found that if no space were wasted and if user memory was dedicated solely to images, that in theory I should be able to stuff upwards of 90 images. I do not know how the Onix is partitioned to allow for aerial images, topo maps, waypoints and routes, but I do have 28 images currently stored on my Onix, of which 23 are topo images. It looks like there are more than 20 'slots' for each image category, since I can access all 23 topos. I don't know if Bushnell is trying to say I can only store only so many topos and so many aerials or if they are saying the unit will carry 40 images total and just assume I would use both equally. It looks like my initial concern about a small capacity for maps has been solved, since with up to 40 images I could load up just about any hike I would like, given I'm out for less than 2 weeks (I typically hike up to 8-10 miles/13-16 km a day).

The downside of the images for me is the cost. Since the areas I hike in are primarily forested, aerial photos are not much use to me, and I get more use out of topo maps. I would prefer to be able to buy vector-based software with topo information for the entire United States that I can segment and download to my GPS at any time, and that doesn't pixelate when I zoom in on something. The images I can download from the Bushnell website are at a set contour interval, so I can't change the level of detail (like I can with my other GPS that uses vector-based contours) for easier navigation where there's a lot of elevation change, like at the Grand Canyon. As of the time of this report, the more detailed (that cover a smaller area) images still display underneath the less detailed (but larger area) images. This seems like another thing that could be addressed with revised software, but has not as of yet.

I have found out that the Onix is a little more consistent when displaying the power left in alkaline batteries than the rechargeables. I have purchased an MP3 player and discovered a similar issue with rechargeables reading as full or nearly full for a long period of time and then relatively suddenly going down in strength. I think the problem may at least partially lie in the rechargeable battery technology in general, rather than it being purely a problem with the programming of the Onix. The Onix can still be turned back on and be usable after reading 'empty' while my MP3 player will turn back off if I try to power it up under an empty battery, so I think there may still be something that can be improved on Bushnell's end to help increase accuracy.

So far, the unit has never turned on accidentally, the pressure required to turn the unit on is greater than the jostling my GPS unit typically receives. Still, the button is hard for me to press and I sometimes end up with an imprint of the button on my thumb from trying to turn the unit on or off. The other buttons, while still a little stiff, are usable easily enough. The rubber plug that protects the USB port still pops open quite frequently, and has become quite an annoyance for me when I'm on a long hike.

Although I've gotten used the screen and feature setup, I still find entering in coordinates by hand on the unit to be tedious.


Overall, the Onix200CR works well as a GPS unit, but many features could stand improvement. While the Onix might be nice for me to bring on trips that I can't buy pre-printed topos for, or might be cool to bring to the Grand Canyon loaded with aerial photos, the lack of detailed street navigation would still prohibit me from bringing along this GPS to most of my trips if I only brought one from the moment I left the door.

What's good: reception, accuracy, and the topo images and aerial photos are a neat feature.

What could be improved: being able to navigate to a certain point without the navigation turning off until I tell it to, proper layering of differently detailed photographs, an easier method of typing in remote waypoints in the field, a more user-friendly setup on the GPS, PC companion and online image store, and either an in-house detailed vector-based (the same format as the existing base map that contains mainly highways) street map and topo map or the capability to support third-party vector-based software.

I would like to thank Bushnell and for the opportunity to test the Onix200CR.

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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Bushnell ONIX 200 CR GPS > Test Report by Rebecca Stacy

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