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Customer Review

117 of 122 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A major disappointment after the original Vista, 3 May 2009
This review is from: Garmin eTrex Vista HCx Handheld GPS (Sports)
I got my original Garmin eTrex Vista in 1999 complete with UK Metropolitan map. It served me well, it functioned flawlessly from the day I got it to the day I replaced it. There were however good reasons for replacing it in late 2007:
1 - Geocaching had been invented! The new Garmin GPS receivers all support geocaching game functions.
2 - Cold Start time. When out with geocaching friends, their newer units would have acquired the satellites, given directions to the cache and they would often have found it before my unit had even got a fix!
3 - Battery life. The old Vista devoured batteries - a new set of alkaline batteries would last about 4 hours.

I got the eTrex Vista HCx as my replacement. I overlooked the
Garmin GPSMap 60CSx which is hugely popular with geocachers and has very similar functionality. So, why was I so eager to get the upgraded Vista and why have I been sorely disappointed?

The positive points:
+ The hot start time of ~3 seconds is brilliant
+ The much improved cold start time of ~30 to 90 seconds is much better than the old one
+ The battery life on a single set of NiMH 2500 mAH rechargeable batteries is about 20 hours, compared to about 2 hours for NiCD batteries in the old one
+ The colour screen is much nicer to use than the old monochrome one
+ The geocaching and other new features do exactly what's required of them
+ The accuracy of the unit is much greater than the old one
+ It works reasonably well under trees, the old one was hopeless in woods.

The negative points:
- The unit freezes time and time again. When it's in a 'bad mood' it can ruin your day, if caching.
- The rubber gasket that fits around the side of the unit slides around as the glue that holds it is inadequate. The gasket on the old Vista is fine after 10 years. Everyone I know who has the newer eTrex units has the same problem.
- The old Metro maps load, but the new turn-by-turn navigation does not work with them. Time to fork out extra £££ for maps you already have.
- The limit of 1000 waypoints remains, even if you have a huge capacity memory card installed.
- Waypoint names are restricted to 16 characters and comments to 32 characters. This is inadequate for recording observations.
- The maps sometimes "disappear" during use, or are not there from start-up. Restarting the unit sometimes cures it. Other times it is necessary to restart the unit without the memory card, then restart it again with the memory card.

So my verdict: don't buy the Vista HCx, spend the extra on the GPSMap 60CSx instead and you won't suffer from the worst of these deficiencies, but get all of the same advantages. The menus and functions of the Vista HCx are quite different from the old Vista, so there's a familiarisation process anyway. The greater number of buttons on the 60CSx make many frequently used functions more accessible.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Jul 2010 09:38:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jul 2010 09:43:23 BDT
CPE says:
Thanks for your advice, I have been using car based sat nav for geocaching, so don't know anything about walkers gps to make my own informed choice. So a good, fair but critical comment like yours is so useful

Posted on 12 Aug 2010 10:48:04 BDT
Very comprehensive review. Having used this model for several years, I agree with all of the positive points listed.

However, I've _never_ had the unit freeze, and _never_ had the maps disappear during use. The rubber around the outside, on which the glue was totally inadequate on my previous Garmin, has been absolutely fine on this one. Perhaps you had a dud.

Posted on 30 Dec 2011 15:15:35 GMT
Agree with all the positives. There is a good cover available that prevents wear on the band that goes around the Vista- it also protects the screen from scratches. Freezing has only happened a couple of times but when it does (especially if you are creating a track) it is quite annoying

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2012 08:18:12 BDT
Sleepy says:
I agree, I have a Vista Hcx used for off-the-beaten-track Pennine walking, and so far, it has never frozen, nor have the maps disappeared. It's used for what might be called 'serious walking.'

The recording of comments is limited, not just by the amount of memory, but by the need to select letters one at a time with the joystick.

The Rubber on the side of the case is fine on my unit.

The base mapping is er, basic. For the UK walking and Geocaching there is no need to buy the Garmin mapping, instead the free Talktoaster build of OpenStreetMap (OSM) contour mapping for all of the UK works well, and the footpaths and cycle tracks are routable - the unit will guide you when off-road hiking. I'm an OSM surveying volunteer and constantly check and add cartography to OSM when I'm out using the Vista Hcx.

The Vista Hcx is a favourite of amatuer cartographers who contribute to OSM because of its small size and very fast track-logging options. If it's good enough for mapping, it's more than good enough for geocaching.

A 2 Gb card holds more than a week of tracks of hiking and driving around the Peak District, for instance, and the maps contain some detail which is not on the OS maps. Extra cards are not bulky.

The waypoint limit of 1000 is not an issue, as waypoint sets can be downloaded from a PC, or kept on a spare Micro SD card. Keeping 1000 on the unit is going to take ages to find the one you want, halfway up a mountian in the fog.

I have a UK waypoint set on a card, and a second card with France, Belgium and the Nederlands on it, along with the OpenStreetMap imnage for those three countries.

The barometer function is highly accurate and can be referenced to the NPL online Barograph for calibration.

The only function which is slightly too slow for outdoor use is the magnetic compass. It works, but a £5 plastic one is faster.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Mar 2012 11:46:24 BDT
I think from memory that you can set waypoints to appear in order of closeness to current location so having 1000 on it should not be a problem up the mountain in fog
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