By Tony Bessinger
Endura, a New Handheld GPS Series by Lowrance
The Sierra, Safari, and Outback units each offer dual menu navigation, using buttons and touch screens.
On a recent beautiful, sunny, late-spring day I sat down with Jochen Reiter, the General Manager of Navico’s Business Unit, Outdoor at Newport Shipyard to look at some neat, new electronics. Part of Reiter’s job is managing the development of Lowrance’s new line of handheld GPS units, the Endura series.
There are plenty of handheld GPS units on the market today, and they all have their good points. Bright color screens, high-quality charts, road and terrain maps, are all part of the equation, and they all have wickedly accurate GPS receivers. So it’s the little touches I’ve taken to looking for, an indication that the designers have taken that extra step to really make a product stand out. I found a plethora of these in the Endura line that will make even the pickiest GPS user take a closer look at Lowrance’s offerings.
The first thing I look at with any GPS is its ease, or difficulty, of use. By including two user interfaces, keypad and touch-screen, the Endura makes navigation remarkably smooth. Touch-screen navigation can be tough, especially when you’re trying to delve into a menu or lay down a precise waypoint, so that’s when you’ll use the arrow keys. The touch screen is great for quickly accessing whatever menu or service you need. Speaking of menus, there’s no need to drill down through pages of drop-down menus to get what you need, as with some other units I’ve used, there are none. The interface is clean, uncluttered, and passes the “I don’t read manuals” test with flying colors.
The top-of-the-line Endura is the Sierra, which retails for $550 (although you’ll no doubt find lower prices with a little on-line sleuthing) includes a barometric altimeter, a three-axis compass (a really nice feature which means you don’t have to hold the GPS receiver flat to use it), an accelerometer, and is capable of giving you verbal turn-by-turn directions. The $385 Safari also has these features, with fewer pre-loaded maps, while the $230 Outback is more basic and, like the Safari, comes with fewer pre-loaded maps.
All three of the handhelds are IPX-7 (waterproof to one meter) rated, have 32 GB of memory, accept Micro SD cards, include a video and MP3 player, have voice notes (ideal for identifying waypoints), a built-in speaker, headset jack, and are PC and Mac compatible. You can up- and download GPX files, which are freely available online as public domain files, by simply dragging them from your desktop to the icon for the Endura, which will show up on your desktop as a mass storage device. This means you can share your tracks online, or send planned trips to friends to upload to their GPS units, or even do some Geocaching.
All three units come preloaded with varying levels of terrain maps, and all three accept Navionics Gold and Silver marine charts. The 2.7” screen I saw was easy to read in broad daylight, even without backlighting (which is not always the case with touch screens), and the Lithium-Ion batteries have, according to Reiter, lasted 17 hours with 5% backlighting on.
Other touches I like on the Endura were the rubberized grip on the sides and back, the look and feel of the plastic case, which is acid and sunscreen-resistant, and the optional mini-USB-NMEA 0183 cable, which means you can use the Endura as a backup to the hard-wired GPS receiver on your boat. Even with the Mini-USB port open and in use, the Endura has an IPX-4 rating, which is good enough for any chart table. The Enduras come standard with a Mini-USB cable, which is a very nice feature, because it’s the same cable you use for digital cameras and the like, which means you already have spares laying around. The case, too is well thought out, and includes a small pocket for Mini SD cards and (praise the designers for this one) enough room to easily carry the cable.
The Enduras are covered by an industry standard one-year warranty. The pre-production unit that I tested was very quick to boot up, and quickly acquired satellites even though it had last been turned on a hundred miles away. After I’ve used a production model during the summer, I’ll report back with any additional discoveries.
- Tony Bessinger is a USCG-licensed Master, an instructor at Confident Captain/Ocean Pro in Newport, RI., and a professional delivery captain.