Newest Review: ... than dedicated in car systems). I would certainly advise use of an in car charger (from the cigarette socket) to save your batteries. Wh... more
Garmin E-Trex Vista
Garmin eTrex GPS
Member Name: jonotinx
Garmin eTrex GPS
Date: 01/07/04, updated on 01/07/04 (1606 review reads)
Advantages: Small size / robust built, Packed with features, Street level mapping with Software
Disadvantages: Short battery life, Small screen if using in car, poor signal under tree cover
With the e-trek vista I found my requirements.
Another plus is that it is possible to use it in the car quite well. The dedicated car units are too big and not practical for hand held use, but the vista covers both hand held and in car use pretty well.
It's a little small on the display side for true car navigation, but if you have a passenger, then it's not a problem as they can read the screen leaving your eyes to concentrate on the road. I found that using it in conjunction with a map is the best way to navigate. Because of the small screen, it can get overloaded with detail (you need to find a compromise between two much, and not enough detail), and if you zoom in too much, you've travelled off the screen by the time it updates. However, I found that using the GPS to give you your position, and a map to know where you want to be works fine.
Let's face it, it was never designed for in car use really so with this in mind, it does a good job (at a lot less pound notes than dedicated in car systems). I would certainly advise use of an in car charger (from the cigarette socket) to save your batteries.
When walking / biking, it is very handy - you can just set off, and let the unit lay a track down to chart your progress so you know exactly where you've been. To get back to the same point you set off from, simply turn and trace your route back - the unit will plot your current position, and if you match that up to the route you've laid down then you're following your exact steps back home.
You can navigate by the on screen map, or by using the in built electronic compass bearings.
When used with the mapsource software and a
PC, you can download selected areas to give you street level mapping - right down to individual house numbers. The accuracy is very good. However, as the software is CD based, and there is no update facility, it's a picture of a moment in time, so you might find some of the businesses (shops / restraints etc) are no longer there.
Mapsource CD's retail for approx. £100 - I have western Europe & the States. I've used both on recent holidays and found them very useful (Although check e-bay - you can pick up for much less than retail)
The garmin unit provides accuracy down to a few feet in ideal conditions. It's waterproof (and can survive immersion in up to 1 metre of water for 30 minutes). - I've used mine for skiing and even with gloves on, operation is easy. There's only a total of 6 large buttons to press, and all functions are controlled with these buttons.
It does struggle to get a signal sometimes where there is dense tree cover, so if walking thru the forest, you can't rely only on the vista and you'll need another form of navigation. (Obviously it doesn't work indoors or under buildings - tunnels, underground car parks etc - as it needs a clear view of the sky to get a signal)
Battery life is from 2 x AA batteries, but it can go thru batteries at a fair rate so it's handy to always carry at least 1 spare set (maybe more if you are on a long trail) - using the electronic compass eats up batteries.
There are lots of very advanced features available - I only use a small part of what is available. But the unit is capable of giving you a bewildering choice of options. The instruction manual covers all functions in an easy format, supported by screen shots - although it does assume you have knowledge of the advanced functions, and doesn't go into too much detail to explain these. - Although I guess if you need to use these sort of functions, you'll already know what they ar
e / how they operate.
Connection to the PC is via 9 pin serial cable, so data transfer is not the quickest. Although memory space in the unit seems pretty good and is able to accept large areas that you choose to select from the maps on your PC.
Remember that the unit relies on GPS - these satellites are actually U.S military hardware made available to the general public free of charge. I've heard reports that in times of heavy military operations (e.g recent Gulf / Iraq conflicts) the satellites go off line for public use as they become just for military use. So, as with any electronic device, it's always best to have a backup (Map / compass) in case of malfunction / loss of power etc
All in all though, it's a very capable unit and meets (indeed exceeds) most of my demands. It's loaded with features, so your needs should never outgrow it. And it's got a nice robust case so can take a bit of rough handling - all this from something the size of a mobile phone that sits in your hand. Pretty impressive stuff really.
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