By Dale DePriest
This is an ongoing saga that covers the main competition in the non-mapping units from these two manufacturers of gps receivers. There are so many mapping units and mapping products that it is much more difficult to compare mapping products.
A few years back the 12 channel parallel units made their debut and the Magellan units were the 2000XL/3000XL/4000XL while Garmin introduced the G-12XL, a 12 channel version of the very successful G-45XL. The G-45XL was actually the top member of a family of products that included the G-40 and the G-38. Therefore it wasn't long before a G-12 filled the bottom of the family and later the G-48 for the top. These units seemed to take the gps community by storm. Magellan responded by making their models into 12 channel units but didn't change the model numbers which led to confusion in the marketplace. Further the 000XL was inferior to the newly released G-12 family. Please see my article comparing the 2000/4000XL to the G-12 family.
To combat the lagging sales Magellan introduced the tracker family which consists of two members. The Tracker was a copy of the G-12 in a lot of respects while the ColorTrak unit had an innovative pressure sensor and a color display, but the color was not bright and both were a bit bulky for handheld use. Both are still available in the Magellan stable and have avid followers. They are nice units but not the Garmin breakers they were meant to be. To combat the G-12 Magellan introduced an inexpensive model called the pioneer (later renamed to GPS-300). This was not a 12 channel parallel unit and clearly came in at the bottom of any comparison. Magellan then released a 12 channel version with similar features call the blazer 12. Please see my article on Blazer 12 vs. the G-12 for a table comparing these units.
Subsequently Magellan released a family of units consisting of the GPS-315 and the GPS-320. The major differences in these units is the addition of a case for the 320 and it comes pre-loaded with a navaid database. Both have city databases and a cdrom is available to upload city data points and "Points Of Interest" and/or more navaids. Is this family finally going to break the back of the now aging G-12 family? The rest of this article consists of a table comparing the M-315 family with the G-12 family. (Note that the G-12 family shares many features with the G-II+ and so the Magellan onslaught could topple it as well.) More details are available at the Magellan web site. In particular, look over the FAQ section.
01/3/19 Update - Garmin has countered with a new product, the etrex venture, and Magellan has countered with a more aggressive update schedule of firmware for the 315/320. I have updated the table below to match the Magellan release 3.12 and to add the new Garmin etrex product.
02/8/25 Update the competition has heated up with Magellan releasing a new SporTrak model and Garmin releasing the Model 72 (a stripped down version of their Model 76. I have updated the table to reflect these newer models. Note the 72 is really the lowest price member of the 76 family. It differs from a 76 in that it does not support an external antenna and it has a lower resolution screen.
03/3/13 now finds that Garmin has release two new non-mapping receivers in a new line called Geko. The 101 does not have any serial port and is pretty simplistic but the 201 looks like a formidable new offering. These are similar in principle to the earlier basic etrex (not shown in table, see Blazer 12 vs. Garmin).
|Feature||Magellan 315||Magellan SporTrak||Garmin
|Etrex Venture||Garmin GPS72||Geko
|Altitude in waypoints||Y||Y||N||Y||Y||Y||Y||.|
|Waypoint comments||20||20||16||N||N||N||N||On Magellan, only 100 waypoints can have comments|
|Nearest Waypoint||20 achieved by sorting the main waypoint list||20 achieved by sorting the main waypoint list||9 in a separate list from main waypoints||15 in a separate list||10 in a separate list||9 in a separate list||9 in a separate list||.|
|Route names||12 (two waypoint names)||12 (two waypoint names)||16||13||21||NA||13||Both names can be automatically generated. Garmin can also be manually named.|
|Datums||72 + 2 user defined||76 + 1 user defined||107 + 1 user defined||> 100||> 100||18 + 1 user defined||100 + 1 user defined||The datum list is different so one could be better in one part of the world than the other. Magellan can define a datum separately for primary and secondary displays|
|2D mode||Anytime you wish.||Anytime you wish.||Only if 3D is unavailable||Only if 3D is unavailable||Only if 3D is unavailable||Only if 3D is unavailable||Only if 3D is unavailable||.|
|Over- determined Solution||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Note 2|
|Warm Start||15 sec||15 sec||15 sec||15 sec||15 sec||15 sec||15 sec||.|
|Cold Start||60 sec||60 sec||45 sec||45 sec||45 sec||45 sec||45 sec||.|
|Waterproof||Weatherproof (floats)||Waterproof (floats)||Y (one meter for 30 minutes) battery compartment not waterproof||Y (same as G-12)||Y (same as G-12)||Y (same as G-12)||Y (same as G-12)||Watertight battery compartment on Magellan helps it float|
|City Database||Y||Y||G-12XL||Y||Y||N||N||Magellan and Venture, 72 are updateable|
|Navaid Database||M-320||Y updateable||G-48 updateable||Y updateable||Y updateable||N||N||Magellan 320 is updateable and can be loaded into a 315|
|Database memory||part of firmware memory||1 Meg||Fixed||1 Meg||1 Meg||N||N||Note 4|
|Weight (includes batteries)||7.0 oz||6.0 oz||9.5 oz||5.3 oz||8.0 oz||3.1 oz||3.1 oz||G-12 weighs 8.7|
|Temp||14F to 140F||14F to 140F||5F to 158F||5F to 158F||5F to 158F||5F to 158F||5F to 158F||Operating range|
|Screens||2 to 9 customizable||2 to 9 customizable||5 or 6 from 7 choices||5 from 6 - customizable||customizable||4||5||Garmin screens tend to have more data on them. Magellan has more screens.|
|DDD MM.mmm||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Magellan also has DDD/MM.mm|
|DDD MM SS||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Garmin is actually SS.s|
|UTM||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Garmin has UPS also|
|Indo So LCO||N||N||Y||N||N||N||N||.|
|India||N||N||Y||N||N||N||N||O, IA, IB, IIA, IIB, IIIA, IIIB, IVA, IVB|
|W. Malayan RSO||N||N||Y||Y||Y||N||N||.|
|User Defined Grid||2||0||1||1||1||1||1||Magellan 315 has a separate user defined grid for primary and secondary displays.|
|Battery Life||15||14||24||20||16||12||12||Up to|
|Batteries||2 AA||2 AA||4 AA||2 AA||2 AA||2 AAA||2 AAA||.|
|Backup battery||> 12 hours - Magellan states it is a ten year battery||Not needed||3 months - rechargable lithium with a ten year life.||Not needed||Not needed||Not needed||Not needed||.|
|External power option||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||Y||12XL and 48 can work directly from 10V-32V without an external regulator|
|Dimensions||15.75 x 5.0 x 3.3||14.2 x 5.6 x 3.1||14.6 x 5.1 x 3.4||11.2 x 5.1 x 3.0||15.7 x 6.9 x 3.4||9.9 x 4.8 x 2.4||9.9 x 4.8 x 2.4||cm|
|Tracklog||1200||2000||1024||2048||2048||3000||10000||All tracklog has time stamps|
|Dis- continuous Tracklogs||N||N||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||.|
|Tracklog collection||Automatic or adjustable based on distance||Automatic or adjustable based on distance||Automatic or adjustable based on time||Automatic or adjustable based on time or distance||Automatic or adjustable based on time or distance||Automatic||Automatic||.|
|Tracklog modes||Wrap||Wrap||Off, Wrap, Fill (with alarm)||Wrap, Fill, off||Off, Wrap, Fill (with alarm)||Wrap||Wrap||.|
|Saved tracklogs||N||N||N||10||10||N||10||Venture and 72 logs are 250 pts each|
|Back track routes||Y||Y||Y||N (backtrack saved track logs)||N (backtrack saved track logs)||N (backtrack track log)||N (backtrack saved track logs)||Magellan can also backtrack the tracklog directly|
|Dead Reckoning||Unknown||No||30 secs.||30 secs.||30 secs.||30 secs.||30 secs.||.|
|Pan & Zoom Map screen||Both w/V3.05 and above||Both||Both||Both - dedicated zoom keys||Both - dedicated zoom keys||Zoom - pan log only||Zoom - pan log only||(i.e. you can zoom while panned)|
|Fish calculator||Y||Y||N||Y||Y||N||Y||When to fish/hunt|
|Sunrise / sunset||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||Y||Magellan attempts to change time zones for remote sunrise/sunset but gets in wrong often, according to their FAQ|
|Position averaging||automatic||automatic||Y||N||Y||N||N||Note 3|
|Time zones||Manually||Manually||Manually||Daylight Savings, Manually||Daylight Savings, Manually||Daylight savings and world time zones||Daylight savings and world time zones||.|
|Antenna||quadrifilar||quadrifilar||Patch||Patch||quadrifilar||G-48 has removable quadrifilar||Patch||Patch|
|Backlit lamp levels||2||2||3||1||1||1||1||.|
|Average Speed||Y (graphic display only)||Y (graphic display only)||Y||Y 2 kinds||Y 2 kinds||Y||Y||Magellan can customize averaging|
|Compass Settings||Magnetic, True|
|Magnetic, True, Grid North, User defined
|Magnetic, True, Grid North
|Magnetic, True, Grid North
|Magnetic, True, Grid North, User
|Magnetic, True, Grid North, User
|Remote Control of dgps beacon receiver||N||N||Y||Y||Y||N||Y|
|download routes||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||Y||Note 1|
|download Waypoints||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||Y||Note 1|
|download tracklog||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||Y||Note 1|
|Area of tracklog||N||N||G-12||Y||Y||N||N|
|Audible Alarms||Y||Y||G-12XL||N||Y||N||N||G-12 has visual alarms|
|Proximity Alarms||>11||11||9||N||10||N||N||All Magellan proximity waypoints must have the same alarm distance|
|Arrival Alarms||based on distance||based on distance||Automatic 1 minute warning or based on distance||Automatic||Automatic||Only on track||Automatic||Automatic rollover to next route leg even if alarm criteria isn't met.|
|Simulation Mode||Mainly useful for training. creates a route and runs it. You can create the route.||Yes||Every function can be done as if satellites were present||Yes||Yes||Demo||Demo||Garmin saves battery power in this mode|
|Cost (US Dollars)|
|M320 / G12XL||200||.||190||.||.||.||.||.|
Other specifications are similar between the two brands.
Note 1: Both units have 3rd party support for upload and download. Garmin also has a product but the 3rd party tools are better. Magellan has a version of Chicago Maps software that will work with the 315.
Note 2: Overdetermined Solutions - Magellan does not advertise that they use an overdetermined solution but in the manual they state that they use all of the satellites mentioned in the GSA NMEA sentence. In checking the GSA sentence there are more than 4 satellites listed so some have assumed that they compute an overdetermined solution. I checked with Magellan technical support and they indicated that Magellan does use all of the satellites in a solution.
Note 3: Automatic Averaging. Automatic averaging is a nice feature to ensure that the position data you are observing is as good as it can be at that point in time.
Note 4: Magellan database capacity drops when firmware is updated and is currently about 18,000 points. There are third party tools that can edit DataSend data and update these poi's.
Navigation Data in both units is the same - They compute BRG, DST, SPD, TRK, XTE, CTS, VMG, TRN, ETE, ETA, Trip distance, Time, Altitude and Position. However, the display of this information is different between the units. This is one of the major differences in using the units. Garmin tends to emphasize the big 4 data items, BRG, DST, SPD, TRK while de-emphasizing ALT and Current time. Magellan emphasizes BRG, DST, Time, and Altitude. Magellan has two position screen so two grids can be displayed and they have a large text screen for distant viewing. Magellan restricts route information to the next waypoint while Garmin provides some data about future waypoints in the current route.
I own a G-12 and have never used a Magellan 315 family unit. The above comparison was made from web page data and news group information. Corrections and clarifications solicited. This is preliminary data. I intend to add a lot more stuff as I collect the information. I intend to compare navigation and other screens directly. In general Magellan has the ability to customize their screens more but Garmin has more data on a screen with some customization possible.
First published: 99/6/14
filled in gaps from user input 99/6/21
Added more stuff 99/6/23
Correct a few items based on user feedback. Added some links. 99/6/30
Added grid data and some navigation data 99/7/1
Corrected elapsed time, added external power option 99/8/18
fixed error in waterproof comparison 99/9/6
Added discussion on overdetermined for Magellan 99/11/17
Updated discussion for overdetermined solution and averaging 99/11/22
Added information on user defined grids and datums. 99/12/22
added 100 limit comment on Magellan 00/2/2
Added changes for Garmin 12 software revision 00/3/7
Added changes for Magellan 3.05 software revision 00/4/20
Added Garmin venture and updated for Magellan 3.12 01/3/19
Corrected Venture tracklog errors 02/8/23
Added SporTrak, Garmin 72.
Corrected some M315 things.
Added Geko 03/3/18.