Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin BirdsEye Topo US and Canada

Garmin BirdsEye Topo

UPDATE: It’s now live and available, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it!

UPDATE 2How to transfer Garmin map downloads after your subscription expires.

Yesterday morning, I noticed there was a new product, Garmin BirdsEye Topo US and Canada, on the Garmin website. Pretty sweet – for thirty bucks, you can load USGS and NRC topos to newer Garmin handhelds for a year. I’ve been expecting and wanting this for awhile, so I subscribed right away, thinking I’d put it on my 62s and grab a few screenshots for this post. It didn’t quite work out that way, but let’s go over the product details before I get into my experience with it…

Most topos for handheld GPS units are vector maps; they are made up of lines and points, and look nothing like the USGS topos we know and love. BirdsEye maps are different. These are raster imagery, actual image files, that put USGS topo map images right on your Garmin. Up till now, you’ve had to use Garmin’s custom map process to do this, which can be a hassle, and then there’s that limit of 100 tiles (images) too.

For some people this won’t be a big deal; others will buy the product right away. The best reason I can give for wanting it is this — there is nothing quite like having the exact same map in your hand as on your GPS. You can pretty much determine your position instantly.

Coverage is 1:24,000 scale for the US, with the exception of backcountry Alaska, where it’s 1:63,000 coverage. Canadian maps are 1:50,000 scale NRC maps. For $29.99 per year you get unlimited downloads for one device. A few more caveats:

  • BirdsEye™ Satellite Imagery coverage requires a separate $29.99 subscription
  • BirdsEye products are locked to one device
  • The 62/78, Dakota, Montana and Oregon series, and the Edge 800, are compatible

Now, back to my own experience, then a coverage map and more stock screenshots from the Garmin site.

I was able to make the purchase with no problem, but the site said the order was awaiting processing and at the next step I was greeted with a screen that said “Sorry, our site is temporarily down for maintenance. Please check back soon.” After a couple of hours I called Garmin support. They passed me off to their Mac team (even though I got the same result in multiple browsers), who said they were having problems with their Web sales on Thursday and that they’d try to get it fixed. Hours passed. I was impatient because I wanted to post and get this out to folks for the Memorial Day weekend. After a second call, in which they took my contact info and said someone would get back to me by the end of the day, my order finally got processed, but when I tried to activate the subscription, I still got the same message. So I had paid, but was not able to tie the subscription to a particular device. A third call confirmed that no one would be back staffing Garmin support till after the weekend, and made it sound like they have no customer service folks associated with the Web sales side of their operation; they certainly never let me talk to them directly if they do. The staff I was able to speak with made it sound like this was something unique to my purchase, though I haven’t been able to verify that.

So it’s probably going to be at least four days before this gets resolved. Definitely one of my worst customer service experiences with Garmin, who are usually pretty good at resolving things. I’ll update this post next week, but I imagine it would tick off most consumers – the web site functions well enough to take your money, but doesn’t deliver the product. I’m sure they’ll make good on it eventually, and if one of you brave readers wants to take the plunge, please drop a comment below and let us know how it goes.

Garmin BirdsEye Topo coverage

Garmin BirdsEye Topo example

Garmin BirdsEye Topo example 2

About Rich Owings

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

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