Garmin G-12 vs. Magellan 4000XL and 1998 version of 2000XL

By: Dale DePriest                               Revision: 6/12/98

The article will attempt to compare Garmin 12 and the Magellan 4000XL.
The should apply also to a comparison with the 1998 version of the
Magellan 2000XL except where mentioned.

I am writing this to help folks in the user community understand the
differences between Magellan and Garmin products and in response to
requests for Garmin/Magellan comparisons at this price point.  I don't own
a Magellan but I do have a friend with one.  He loaned me his manual and
this comparison is primarily based on my Garmin experience vs. a Magellan
manual.  I need help here, If I get something wrong in the 4000XL or 1998
2000XL area please post a correction (no flames please).  I will try to be
as impartial as I can with the obvious bias.  I am planning to get with my
friend and compare units in a live setting but this will have to do for

The G12 is representative of the new 12 channel parallel receivers
available from Garmin.  The 4000XL and 2000XL can be found in two
configurations.  One is a 2 channel unit while the second is a 12 channel
parallel unit.  There is no obvious difference on the outside to identify
the difference but the performance difference is considerable.  The 4000XL
has sister products called 3000XL (a marine centric version) and the 2000XL
with a few less features. Only the 2000XL survives in this years line up of
units from Magellan.  It seems to have all of the features of the older
4000XL except for the availability of an external antenna plus the TD
Loran grid from the older 3000XL.  For this article I will refer to the
4000XL as XL.

Both units have a similar outside appearance with a patch antenna, a 64x100
graphics screen, and a keyboard.  The G12 has the keyboard in the middle
of the unit while the XL places it at the bottom.  The two keyboards look
like:       Garmin               Magellan

        GO    ^    PG         PWR     LGT
        PWR <   >  MK         NAV  ^  GO
        CLR   v    EN          <   EN  >
                              CLR  v  MNU

Key Legend: GO=Goto, ^=Up Arrow, PG=Page, PWR=Power on/off, LGT=Light
            <=Left Arrow, >=Right Arrow, MK=Mark, NAV=Navigation
            CLR=Clear, v=Down Arror, EN=Enter, MNU=Menu

As can be seen the Garmin has one less key, sharing the light switch with
the power on/off switch.  The 4 arrow keys have the same meaning, the
Goto keys, CLear keys, and Enter keys have similar meanings.  The NAV key
on the XL performs similar to the Page key on the G12.  The G12 has a
dedicated Mark key to Save a waypoint while the XL has a dedicated Menu
key.  (Some Garmins have replaced the Mark key with a Menu key while the
newest Magellans have added a Mark key.)

Both machines offer a set of screens that the user can move between by
hitting a key.  The XL uses the NAV key for this purpose with an alternate
method using the up and down arrow keys to permit moving either way.  The
G12 using the Clear and Page keys to move either way with the page key
doubling as the key to retrieve messages.  The XL just presents the message
but does not tend to have alert messages.  Instead there are small icons
at the bottom of the screen to indicate alerts such as alarms and low
battery warnings.  These icons appear on all screens but only as needed.
There are also icons for 2D, poor coverage, DGPS, Lock or NoLock, and Light
on. For the G12 some of these items are on message alerts while the others
are only available on the Status screen.

The G12 screens are, in order of presentation: Status, Position, Map,
Navigation, Active Route, Menu.  Active Route is only present in the order
when a route is active.  The Navigation screen is user selectable between a
Compass display and a Road display.

The XL screens are, in order of presentation: Position1, Position2,
Navigation1, Navigation2, Pointer, Plotter, and Road.  Position2 is optional
and may be turned on or off from the setup menu. An additional
screen appears when needed that shows a map of the world and permits you
to select your starting lat/lon graphically.  In addition this screen has
a menu of starting locations similar to the Initialization menu available on
the G12.  Satellite Status is not available in the rotation but is on
a menu selection option.  In general the XL screens are more single purpose
screens which may require screen switching a little more often than the

Both machines use the ENTER key in two ways.  When something is selected
then the ENTER keys confirms the selection (CLR cancels it).  When nothing
is selected then the ENTER key brings up a local menu.  The global menu in
the G12 is in the rotation while the global menu on the XL is on a
dedicated key.  However the XL is much more menu oriented than the G12 which
also supports an object oriented paradigm.  On G12 screens pushing the
arrow keys will often select an object which may then be operated on using
the ENTER key.  For this reason many commands on the G12 are implied while
on the XL they are explicitly on the local menu.

The status screen on the G12 performs the functions on the Satellite status
screen on the XL and some of the icons on the bottom of the XL screen.  In
addition the G12 screen includes the satellite number and a battery gauge.
Both machines track up to 12 SV's. The XL status screen shows signal
strength only as a number while the G12 shows it as a bar graph.  The new
2000XL can display bar charts by hitting the Enter key and switching modes.

The position screen on the G12 has a graphic edge view of a compass, the
track, speed, odometer, elevation, position and time.  The two entries
odometer and elevation are actually programmable and can be changed to show
other entries, max speed, trip time, elapsed time, or average speed.  On
the XL the position screen shows the position, elevation, date, time, and
datum.  A second position screen can be used to show the position in a
different grid system.  Both units support a similar list of grids with the
XL also supporting a user definable grid similar in function to the user
defined grid on the G12 only defined much differently.  The XL has two
odometers which can be seen using the main menu.

The NAV1 screen on the XL shows a graphic CDI (course deviation indicator).
The CDI indicator on the XL may be scaled with the left/right arrow keys.
The CDI values can be shown as text on the G12 and is indicated graphically
at the bottom of the road screen by have the road shift positions.  In
addition the NAV1 screen supports 4 programmable data fields while the NAV2
screen supports 4 more with no graphics.  The fields are selected from a
menu list that includes BRG, HDG (TRK on the G12), DIST, Speed, VMG, CTS,
XTE, TTG (time to go)= ETE on the G12 and ETA.  The G12 has two navigation
screens.  One with a large compass rose in the center and a second with a
road shown in the center. Each show 4 critical pieces of navigation
information, TRK, BRG, DIST, and Speed.  There is one independently
programmable field on each screen that can show any of cross track error,
CTS (course to steer), VMG, TRN, ETE, or ETA.  Of course most of these
entries are only valid when a goto or route is in effect.  The graphics on
these screens are the equivalent of the pointer and road screens on the XL.
The XL pointer screen shows the top half of a compass and is otherwise
similar to the G12 compass screen.  The road screens on the two units are
very similar in purpose and appearance. In keeping with the single
screen/purpose idea on the XL there is less data on the XL, only bearing
and distance while the G12 contains data like the XL NAV screens.  The
headings are configurable to be magnetic north or True North on the XL.
The G12 has both of these plus grid north and a user defined north.  In
addition the heading can be in degrees or mils on the G12.

The plotter screen on the XL matches the map screen on the G12.  While
the plot on the G12 is a display of a 1024 entry customizable
track log the track log on the XL is only 48 points and is only
customizable by specifying .1, .5, 1, or 5 distance units (or off).
Distance units depends on the current distance setting in KM, Miles, or NM.
Both use a wrap mode once the track log is full but the G12 can be
to stop recording if desired.  Both units display waypoints
(called landmarks on the XL) and can display a route or goto vector.
The left/right arrow keys on the XL are used to zoom the display.  On the
G12 the zoom is done by selecting the zoom function at the top of the
display and the arrow keys are used to highlight waypoints on the screen.
Information on a highlighted waypoint is available by hitting the enter key
which brings up the view/edit waypoint screen. Both units have a pan mode
that can be used to pan the screen to view areas not available on the
current screen.  The G12 can zoom while panning while the XL cannot.  Both
units can enter a waypoint (landmark) graphically in this mode.  The XL
can view landmark messages by panning over the top of a landmark and
a menu item.  Both units can initiate a goto single leg route to selected
waypoints or to map coordinates. (The G12 creates a waypoint on the fly with
the name "MAP" to accomplish this while the XL can keep a set of temporary
coordinates for this purpose.)  The display on both units is configurable
to north up or track up.  The G12 also has DTK, desired track up which
can be used when a route or goto is present.  The XL icon for current position is an arrow
that permits seeing direction as well a position.  The G12 has user
customizable icons for waypoints (landmarks) while the XL has a different
icon for the destination than it uses for other landmarks.

Once you start using a GPS for anything beyond finding your current
location on a paper map you will quickly find the need for landmarks,
called waypoints on the G12.  The XL provides storage for 200 while the G12
can save 500.  You can easily save your present location on the G12 using
the dedicated mark key and on the XL from the local menu (accessed with the
ENTER key) by selecting SAVE POS.  Both save the LAT/LON and the time of
the save.  In addition the XL saves the Altitude of the fix. As part of the
SAVE POS command on the XL you will be prompted to add a message to the
landmark.  Only 25 of the landmarks can have a message attached so use
these carefully.  The message can be up to 20 characters long.  The G12
doesn't have a separate message facility but the date field can be
overwritten with a 16 character message for any of the 500 waypoints.
The name or the message can be chosen to be displayed on the map screen.
The landmarks (waypoints) can be viewed on the XL by selecting LMK MENU
from the main menu (use the MNU key).  The LMK MENU is a complete list
of all the landmarks in the system and may be maintained as an
alphabetical sort or as a nearest to the current location sort.  Once
viewed the up and down arrow keys can be used to display an alternate
coordinate view of the data (if POS2 is defined in setup) and to view
the message, if present. The view includes the bearing and distance
data from the current position. The left/right arrow keys can be used to
move to the previous/next landmark in the list.

The G12 provides many ways to view the Waypoints.  You can select one from
the map page, from a route page, from the waypoint list or nearest waypoint
list on the menu page, or from the waypoint menu item on the main menu page.
Once a waypoint is viewed you can view any other waypoint by toggling its
name into the waypoint name field. Automatic name completion aids the
toggling effort.  The waypoint name, 2D location and date (or message) is
displayed and can be edited directly by selecting it.  In addition a
bearing distance field is displayed from a named waypoint.  The name
can be edited and will be remembered.  If the name is all underscores then
the location referred to is the current location.  Editing this data
can redefine the waypoint location in terms of the bearing and distance
for another location.  New waypoints can be defined by using a new
name from the waypoint display.  There is no explicit new waypoint command.

The XL can create a new landmark in a number of ways that are selectable
from a menu.  You can enter explicit coordinates, you can project from
an existing landmark using bearing and distance similar to the way a G12
can and you can use two ways not present on the G12.  You can triangulate
a new landmark by using bearings from two existing landmarks and you can
project a new landmark by using a ruler on a grided paper map.  A scale
setup item permits translating ruler distances to X, Y coordinates for
the new landmark.  In all cases you will need to enter the altitude

Both units lets you assemble waypoints into routes which can be used to
define a journey with multiple legs.  The G12 permits 19 routes of
up to 30 legs while the XL support 5 routes with up to 20 legs.  Technically
the G12 actually has 20 routes but the active route must always be route
0 so you activate a route by copying it into route 0.  In addition both
units will automatically generate a trackback route to retrace your steps.
In the XL this is accomplished by saving fixes in a last fix  buffer every
minutes as you use the unit.  The log is 21 entries long and the last 20
will be saved as landmarks if you invoke the trackback command.  Note
that the tracklog is not used in the XL.  The G12 uses the same tracklog
as the one displayed on the map screen to produce the trackback.  It
goes through the log and saves the most significant entries up to a maximum
of 30 entries as waypoints and then build a route in route 0.  Both
systems provide the ability to save the trackback route into a more
permanent route.

The G12 trackback log can be seen to be a significant difference between
the two units.  Not only is it much longer than the 48 entries in the XL or
the 21 entries in the last fix buffer but it is also much more flexible.
It can be used in automatic mode to collect only significant changes in
direction which makes it quite usable for hours of data or it can be set to
collect data at fixed time intervals making it a superior tool to the XL
last fix buffer which is fixed at 10 minute intervals.  It can be
downloaded via the interface and contains time data as well so speed and
other history data can be reconstructed.  The only advantage of the last
fix buffer is that it can be edited directly from inside the unit.

The G12 can accept computer connections or DGPS connection via an accessory
cable.  It supports both input and output of NMEA data as well as uploading
and downloading of tracks, waypoints, routes, and other data.  It does not
support an external antenna but other Garmin units do.  The XL does not use
a cable but instead it has a special "docking station" to have computer
connections or an external antenna. This adapter requires removal of the
batteries and plugs into the slot vacated by the batteries.  This means you
must supply external power to use any of these features.  Once installed
the XL supports NMEA output, and input and can upload and download
landmarks and routes using a special program.  The protocol is simply using
the proprietary sentence facility that is part of NMEA.  There are three
different docking stations available at extra cost with differing
capabilities.  DGPS input can be used with the latest models I am told.

Both units support a wide variety of Grids and Datums.  Both support
UTM and MGRS.  The new 1998 2000XL also supports the TD Loran format.
The G12 route screen has customizable data and can be scrolled to view
the entire route and distance.  The G12 also has 9 proximity alarms.
Both units support the notion of arrival alarms.

Both units can calculate and display sunrise and sunset but the XL also can
display the phases of the moon.  Performancewise both units are 12 channel
parallel receivers with good sensitivity and neither has any artifical
speed limit limitation.

There are many other differences but I hope I have highlighted the
significant ones.  Perhaps people can now decide which one is best for
them.  I may update this when I get some hands on time on my
friends unit if I find out anything interesting.  So what did I leave out?

Questions?  Comments?
Email to
Dale DePriest