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The Garmin mantra: "Give `em rubbish maps and they'll pay more to get good un's!"
on 30 March 2012
I have given Garmin a quite a bit of money over the years, therefore I am entitled to lead my review with something negative. Yes, the build and the reliability of their handheld models (of all colours) keeps me coming back (this is my third different model), but why, why, why do they decide that the unit basemaps should always be so rubbish?
Turn on the machine and not only do you get a crude drawing of the major routes around about (in other words, NOT what is on the box cover!) but it can't even get the name of the nearby river right (The Ouse not The Swale)! No matter indicating where I might cross without getting wet! Like buying a new luxury car with a warped steering wheel and a sticky gearbox and being told items which works properly are extra!
(So Garmin do the right thing - give us a free decent map for the price (or ten quid more) and stop being so penny pinching. Also put the first set of batteries in the box too. I've bought a five pound clock that bundled them!)
Negatives (which I knew in advance) out of the way you have a good piece of kit in the eTrex 20. Good hard-knock protected case and a healthy signal that hasn't failed me in any outdoor location. Locks on satellites before you even leave the house (well for me anyway). Will work even deep in a bag and new batteries last all day. Indeed, if you search out the free maps on the internet and download them - a very improved piece of kit over previous models.
(I personally employ some second-hand card Garmin maps which I got on the cheap. I'd buy new card maps if I went on holiday somewhere. Note the mini-SD goes under the batteries which needs to be slide locked.)
Not new to Garmin sat navs so I can't describe them for a total novice - but the basics are pretty easy to use out of the box. How to delete waypoints threw me a bit (edit waypoints - select waypoint - left button click for extra menu) - but I worked it out in the end. Printed manual is only a skimpy starters guide. The full one is on the device proper and can be read attached to a computer via the included (for a change) mini USB.
(Where all the files are available to tamper with and/or backed up. Due care and attention taken as read, although you cannot overwrite the unit basemap - although maybe you should be able to!)
What is not in any manual is that you can use it with Google maps and go freely back and forth between the two. You need a Google account and a free file transfer site. I use [...]. This means that I can create a route on my computer - transfer from extension KML to GPX and zoom it across. Or go the other way to see where you have been. Google will keep a copy for you on your account. Also lets you zoom through where you have been (or going) on Google Earth. Impressive stuff. Actually easier to route plan here than do it on the device proper - although it can be done.
There are various tools which only half work. One of these is the on-the-fly distance measuring tool. Only as-the-crow-flies and while handy for open moorland is very misleading for city life. The journey (even at its shortest) could be twice the distance given and let us not forget the rivers (or other) which you might not be able to cross anywhere near where you would like. Big problem around here. Which makes Google prep (with satellite views) extra useful on virgin soil.
Breadcrumb tracking (even on a more basic model) is a real boon. Always find the car or the railway station even if it is now dark and mist has fallen. No harm in adding the odd Waypoint either. This (and the speed - miles/Km's covered data) is the real meat and potatoes of the unit. The compass is bang-on - even when not holding it straight.
There is lots more to this unit (there doesn't seem a stat you can't have), but I have covered the major facilities. There may well be times when mountain biking or hiking/walking where you are going to have to/want to ad-lib and home-in rather than taking a more strict route. Without the extra detail of the optional extra maps this become a bit more of a risk.
Indeed, if the maps were as good as shown on the box cover I would be happy to give five stars.