The Legend is a small stylish pocket GPS from Garmin. Performance-wise, you won't find much of a difference between current brands / models of GPS receiver. They all have similar levels of accuracy and will tell you where you are to within a few metres (especially now that the US have removed selective availability). What the Legend *does* have over other models, however, is WAAS - a new system for improving accuracy of GPS receivers down to just a few feet. It's not operational in Europe yet (where it's known as EGNOS), but it's nice to know that this model will use it when it becomes available in 2004. The Legend has some built-in mapping, showing most major roads and motorways throughout Western Europe - a very useful feature as we found when driving around France last Summer. You can buy extra software for it, which gives a very detailed level of mapping, but we found we didn't need it. Battery life is quite good at around 12 hours on a couple of AA size batteries. I have a few sets of NiMH batteries (giving around 8 hours usage) which saves money on a long trip. Build quality is not as good as older Garmin models. I wouldn't like to drop this model on concrete - a soft case might be a very good idea for this reason. The buttons can be a little awkward to operate - my model is currently away for repair since the joystick control went faulty and wouldn't respond to a click-in - don't know if this is common or not, however. The Legend looks so much like a small mobile phone that you won't get strange looks as you pore at its screen in the middle of a strange City. It's comfortable to hold as you walk around. Overall very nice.
If you like gadgets then the Garmin Etrex Legend is a must. Straight out of a James Bond movie this small device is the size, shape and weight of a mobile phone, its purpose is to work out exactly where you are on the face of the planet by picking up signals transmitted from GPS satellites. On firing up the device it starts looking for satellites. You are shown a display representing the sky and position of the satellites. Beneath this is a graph showing you how strong the reading is from each satellite. After about 45 seconds the beasty will have a fix. One thing to mention at this point is that these satellites are owned by the US military who allow as civies to use them. However, Uncle Sam doesn't want us to know exactly where we are so they add in an error factor. The Legend therefore tells you how accurate your reading is and to be honest is normally accurate to within 30 feet which isn’t too bad. Apparently the military are going to switch off this error factor in the next year or so and therefore accuracy should be increased. Now, one really neat feature is that the legend has a roadmap of Europe which contains all A-roads and motorways. A small triangle indicates your position and direction and the map scrolls as you move. You can also zoom the scale in and out. However, the quality is not too good. Whilst testing it by driving up the A1 it reported that I was in one of the adjacent fields ! Don’t fret however, as Garmin also sell a street level map of the entire UK (for about £70). The quality of this is superb. It has all streets, house numbers and points of interest. The bad news is that the memory of the Legend is not sufficient to load in the whole lot. Instead you can only load an 8Mb chunk (the next model up in the range allows you to load three 8mb chunks which is the main difference between the two). So how much is 8Mb? Quite a lot actually! The whole of Greater London is 8 Mb as is half of Scotland !! Also note t
hat by loading a map section it doesn’t erase the ‘base map’ of Europe so you still have all A-class and motorways available to you but the section you loaded will just be far more accurate and detailed. The Legend also has a sophisticated search facility allowing you to search for a particular address (only in the ‘loaded’ map section), points of interest or a waypoint (user defined point of interest). You can then navigate to these points. Note that 'navigate' means it will show you the direction in which your chosen point lies – not the route to get there !!! Infact, this is one of the big downfalls of the unit, there is no automatic route generation. Sure you can create your own route on your PC by joining up waypoints then downloading into the unit but it’s a bit of a hassle. The Legend will keep track of the course you have taken since it was switched on. These ‘tracks’ can be saved to your PC or you can use the unit’s ‘backtrack’ function to direct you back to where you started. So, who is this unit aimed at ? Well, I would say outdoor sports people i.e. walkers, cyclists, skiers, sailing enthusiasts and pilots. The unit is waterproof (up to 1 meter underwater) and feels well built and solid so it’s ideal for all these uses. Is it suitable for driving ? Well, it does work perfectly well in the car and I do use it when driving but to be honest the Legend’s screen is a bit small. A number of times I have nearly ended up in the fields adjecent to the A1 from peering at the little screen rather than the road ! Also, there is no auto-routing software on board and no ‘speech synthesizer’ – proper in-car units excel in all these areas but then again they are four times the price !! What else can it do ? It gives you your current speed, alititude, distance traveled, maximum speed, compass direction, ETA at your
destination and a few other useful facts and figures. In summary, for the price the unit is very well made and packed with features. If I were asked to improve upon it I would say that auto-routing software would be good, as would a colour screen, if the screen was larger (like that of a palm pilot say) then that would be good too. But, I’m very pleased with the Legend, it works well and for the money I would say buy one !!
A handheld GPS system from Garmin