Sunday, March 18, 2012

MediaTek vs SiRFstar III chipset – Smackdown in the redwoods

Last month we learned that Garmin was using a MediaTek (MTK) chipset in its new eTrex H-series. I’m currently testing an eTrex Legend HCx and decided to put it up against the SiRFstar III chip in my trusty 60CSx.

With a new baby in the house, I couldn’t get away for a long trek, nor could I record tracks over multiple days, so this isn’t the most scientific test possible. Fortunately, I live near redwoods, which are dense enough that stray track points occur frequently and lesser receivers will often lose their satellite lock. This made for an ideal testing ground.


The tracks below were collected on mountain bike. The two GPS receivers were placed in the backside mesh pocket of a CamelBak hydration pack. The trip was an out and back (except for one loop near the middle of the ride) and the units were placed on opposite sides of the mesh pocket. This way, one unit got more of a southern and western exposure on the trip out and a northern and eastern exposure on the return trip. And vice versa for the other unit.

The trail

This trail zigs and zags a lot, especially at first, as you can see below. With rare exceptions, the entire trip is under moderate to dense canopy. There are no published trail maps of the area so, even if such maps were accurate (and trail maps often are not), there is nothing to compare the tracks to except each other.

The tracks

The portion of the ride nearest the trail head is shown below. Click the map  for a larger scale image. Interpretation follows below the thumbnail.


The Garmin 60CSx’s SiRFstar III chipset is shown in blue, while the Legend HCx / MediaTek chipset is shown in red. The yellow arrows above show a stray track point collected by the 60CSx, followed by a couple collected by the Legend HCx.

The pink arrows, above and below, indicate where both receivers seemed to be a little wide of the mark. The map below shows the second half of the ride.



This is just one sample, and the only thing to compare are the tracks of these two units recorded in two different directions. Still, there seems to be little difference between them, at least in this test. I remember my old pre-SiRFstar III receivers and the problems I had getting and maintaining a fix in the redwoods. I think that either of these units will serve you well and, in my opinion, any purchasing decision should be made on the basis of features, not the brand of chipset.

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. Interesting test even if you have to take care that the 60Csx has a most powerful (at least very different) antenna comparing to the Etrex series…

  2. Good point. I’m not sure either antenna would have been favored at the angle they were in my pack.

  3. Powered Hydration System

    Camelbak did a complete overall on their top-selling hydration system, optin

  4. Would it be possible to put a scale bar in the images? It’s hard to tell whether the tracks diverge by 2m or 20m/

  5. JW,
    Do you have MapSource? If so, I can send you the file. Otherwise, I can send a .jpg.

  6. Cheryl Carroll says:

    I have Garmin Pre-High Sensitivity receivers and 2 new Rino HCx transceivers. The GPS reception on the RINO’s is incredible, I get sat lock in my house. I couldn’t believe when I booted up the units to upgrade the firmware, that they locked on almost every visible satellite with a 3 meter error cone.
    I don’t know which chipset is in the RINO HCx units, but I’m more than happy with their performance in both dense cover and urban environments.
    These are awesome GPS radios and worth checking out for anybody that goes into the field with other people. The ability to send a position to another member of your party is incredibly useful. The melding of an FRS/GMRS radio with a high performance GPS is long overdue.
    The only complaint I have with the RINO’s is that there is no way to automatically send a position from a unit, the polling feature somewhat compensates for this as does a VOX mic, however if auto update were available the radios could be used hands free.

  7. Ive bouth Mediatek GPS and EVERY TIME I press the Navi command it says “Please Set the GPS Path”???
    PLEASE help anyone/what should I do??


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