Walking Equipment and Accessories

Satmap Active 12 GPS | First Look

New, seriously upgraded Satmap GPS unit arrives for review - first impressions.

Familiar looks, like the Active 10 but with orange buttons no less.

Just In – Satmap Active 12 GPS

Just arrived for review is the new Satmap Active 12 GPS unit, the brand’s new upgraded outdoors-specific navigation unit which we first saw in the flesh late last year and is arriving in shops right about now.

The original Satmap Active 10 was the first GPS unit designed from the ground up to use Ordnance Survey mapping on an outdoors electronic navigation tool. We love it for the easy-to-use, hassle-free, button operated menu, general knock-about reliability and decent mapping reproduction.

Orange Buttons

At first glance, the Active 12 is more or less identical save for the bright orange buttons instead of the original’s dowdy grey ones with the same replaceable polycarbonate screen protector, rechargeable lithium ion battery out back and rubber-flap protected USB charging and communication inlet and SD Card memory slot.

It’s under the bonnet that things have changed. The most obvious difference strikes you as soon as you power up and start to use the mapping. The screen is simply clearer and brighter with significantly cleaner reproduction of the mapping. Side by side with the older unit, it simply looks nicer.

There’s a big difference in clarity of map reproduction thanks to n HVGA 320×488 pixels as opposed to the 10’s QVGA 240×320 pixel unit – twice the resolution and a much cleaner look.

Harder And Faster

You can zoom harder and faster without pixellation and the overall effect is much closer to the sort of clear rendering you get with a smartphone screen – something that was making the old Active 10 and indeed Garmin’s GPS units, look a bit crude.

In fact the screen has approximately twice the resolution of the original version and has also been optimised to run the newly available high resolution version of the Ordnance Survey maps – note you can use the new maps on the old unit, but at lower res and if you already own Satmap mapping from the Active 10, that will work fine with the Active 12 as well, which is good to know.

Under The Bonnet

So it looks better and seems to pan and zoom more smoothly and slightly faster –  there’s twice as much RAM as before – which is a nice touch, but there’s lots more going on under the bonnet too. There’s now a built-in barometric altimeter, which, when calibrated should be able to calculate elevation to one metre accuracy, a big improvement on notoriously random measures based on GPS signals alone.

The other major addition is a bluetooth module which opens up all sorts of possibilities. You can use it with a bluetooth heart rate monitor to measure your heart rate on the move, cyclists can hook up to speed and cadence sensors and a shared data facility allows you to share GPX files wirelessly with other Satmap users. It’s compatible with both classic and LE Bluetooth peripherals it says here.

Rechargeable lithium ion cell with USB input plus the option of a 3xAA back-up caddy.

The Same But Better

What we like about the Active 12 so far is that the stuff that makes the Active 10 a brilliant hands-on outdoors navigation device like the big screen and easy to use menu system plus, of course, the Ordnance Survey mapping, is still present and correct, but the new clearer, sharper screen is a massive improvement on the old one.

No, it’s not an essential per se, but in world of sharp-screened smartphones, it brings the Satmap bang up to date. The other changes are more subtle: the altimeter should mean more accurate elevation data for those who log their runs and rides and simply want more accuracy, it also puts the Satmap on an instrumental par with the latest Garmin unit – you can choose from between map elevation, GPS elevation and barometer readings…

Map reproduction is up there with modern smartphone screens, cleaner than anything we’ve seen on a stand-alone GPS unit before.

Added Versatility

And the Bluetooth means that for runners and cyclists who want to use their GPS as a training aid as well as a navigational tool, the Satmap suddenly just got a whole lot more versatile. You can choose to display HR or cadence on the move – we have a Wahoo bluetooth HRM to play with and our own Cardiosport belt paired seamlessly with the unit and seems to work just fine, at least sat at a desk it does.

If that seems like a cursory run through, it’s because it is. We’re off to Scotland next week and the Active 12 is coming too with a view to a full review in the next couple of weeks.

How Much?

Price for the full-on Active 12 bundle complete with full GB OS 1:50,000 mapping and rechargeable battery and charger  is £450 – not cheap, but then you’re getting what should be an even better unit than the excellent Active 10. Watch this space for a full review coming soon.

Note that if you don’t want all this, the Active 10 is still available as a base model, same as it ever was with subtle great keys and all.

More information at




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