Customer Review

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great GPS. Appalling map., 11 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Garmin eTrex 30 Outdoor Handheld GPS Unit (Electronics)
I bought an eTrex 30 after my venerable Garmin GPS 12XL was stolen and I needed a replacement. The eTrex 30 is a good, well designed machine and is pretty much ideal for its intended purpose which is mainly for walking and outdoor pursuits. I would also say that it is suitable for normal military use. It is a handy size, tough, waterproof, and has a great display which is readable in all pretty much all lighting conditions, even in bright sunlight. It is very accurate being able to use both GPS and GLONASS satellite systems. It finds satellites quickly and is ready to navigate within 30 seconds to a minute of being switched on. Battery life is good and the built-in software fit for purpose, although it takes a few hours of playing with it to become familiar. Regular Garmin software updates are easily installed using a PC with USB connection and the Garmin software obtainable from their web site.

There is a built-in compass although a lot of users seem to have had problems with it. As supplied, my unit did not calibrate properly and my attempts to recalibrate were met with a "fail" message. Even so, the compass still worked and was reasonably accurate when checked against my Francis Barker M73 prismatic compass (which does not lie). Recent software updates have eradicated the calibration failure although I have yet to test the durability of the compass over an extended period. In fact, I may never do so. Whilst it is nice to have a compass available on the GPS, the compass is not its main function and with a Francis Barker compass available (or any other decent compass) , why would I rely upon a battery-driven electronic device which may or may not be accurate? Any serious military user, walker or out-door type will always have a good compass with them.

The eTrex 30 can be used for car navigation, although this not its main purpose and anybody looking for a car navigation system should really look at dedicated car units or smart-phone software with touch-screen entry. The eTrex 30 cannot compete with the ease of use of dedicated car navigation systems, any more than they can compete with the eTrex for serious outdoor use.

So, given that it is such a good piece of equipment, why just three stars? Well, the built-in map is poor and arguably worse than useless. I have not checked them all, but I believe that the towns and cities shown on the map may be in the right places. However, the roads that join them together are not. According to the map, my house has a main road passing very close to it. In fact, there is no main road anywhere near and looking further afield the road network elsewhere fares little better. Garmin should be ashamed to have put this map on a machine of this quality. It is not up to their normal standards and this is the only reason I have not given the eTrex 30 five stars.

Happily, it is possible to put things right by downloading the free open-source maps available on-line from the likes of Talkie Toaster. With these maps loaded the eTrex 30 provides a superbly accurate and usable mapping system.

I have not used the Garmin mapping from the Ordnance Survey. It looks good but is far too expensive and, according to reviews, may not be up to the standard of the open-source maps freely available from the web.

If you are a walker, soldier or dedicated out-door activities type, the eTrex 30 is definitely worth a look.
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