Friday, November 02, 2007

Garmin Etrex H GPS Geocaching Review

I finally found some time to write a review about my new Etrex H.
When searching for a new unit, reviews are always fun to read, but I couldn't find to many reviews when I was searching. This is probably due to the fact that the Etrex H is a quite recent model. However I promised myself to write a review when I've had the chance to test it fully. So here it is (finally).

The test is fully focused on Geocaching, since that is what I'm using the GPS unit for :)

In the box

The yellow Etrex H
A wristwrap
Manuals and a quickstart guide

There are no batteries included, but I was aware of that, so I bought a set of four AA NiMh2500 batteries, which were charged in advance :)

Let's Go!

As told in the manual, I went outside after inserting the batteries and firing the device up. It took about 2 minutes to calibrate and search for sattelites. It was however a very rainy day, which could cause some difficulties to find signals.

The real test began when we had the chance to do some geocaching.

The usability of the device for entering waypoints is one of the biggest disadvantages. I have used the Etrex Legend C which was much easier to use, but I guess this is probably one of the points Garmin saved money on, to make the Etrex H as cheap as it is... To overcome this problem, I ordered a serial cable on ebay, which arrived pretty quick, although it had to travel from Hongkong to Belgium :) Although it only solves part of the problem (when doing multicaches, you still have to enter coordinates manually), it is certainly a recommended attribute.

Out in the woods, the Etrex H never let me down. I have changed batteries before they ran out, but 10 hours without recharging is easily achievable. The Etrex H has indeed good reception, even in difficult areas with lot of trees or in the city.

The trip computer seems not as accurate as it should be. When putting the GPS in your jacket, it's not registering the complete distance. I haven't had the time to install the firmware upgrade from the end of october. Maybe this is solved. Measuring the distance we walked is however not one of the features I bought this device for.


If you are new to geocaching, and want to spend as less money as possible, the Etrex H is a good choice. For fanatics however, the burden of inserting waypoints will quickly become to big, and the device will end up in the bin (or on ebay).
For us, this is however completely what we expected from it. It's cheap, and so far we have a 100% success rate on finding the caches. (15 out of 15 I guess:) )


Anonymous said...

Hi Oscar. Is easy to enter coordinates and get to the goal? I mean, is easy for a newbie to follow the "instructions" on the screen to get to the point without being an engineer or something? :)

Anonymous said...

A big disadvantage I discovered is that waypoints have names of only 6 characters. Geocaches have names of up to 7 characters. I already found another cache than I was looking for, because when two caches are uploaded with names that differ only in the 7th character, the second one replaces the first one and the first one is lost.

Anonymous said...

i am a bit thick when it comes to gps devices never had one before
i have an etrex h gps
can any one please tell me how to enter coordinates into it
not to clear in the manual

Mehalia said...

You write very well.

Anonymous said...

Warning Do not buy this product. I didn't have this GPS for more than one month. The second day of use while up moose hunting I left the unit on the counter over nite.
It was about 20 degrees F. I went to use the unit and noticed that the plastic faceplate had cracked. Not abused as accused by Raytech and Garmin.
They both voided the warranty and to find this out I had to call them 1 1/2 months later to find out the status of my claim.
They would not even contact me as to the status of the GPS. I will not purchase anything from a company which in my opinion does not stand behind their product.
Warning Do not buy this product.

The Camera Fanatic said...

Great blog.

I own both the Nuvi 660 and the 760, I'm writing this review for people having trouble deciding between the two as the price difference between the two products at the time of this review is about 100 dollars. I'm not going to focus on the feature differences, as that information can be easily obtained from specifications and online reviews. The 660 was a fine product back in 2005-2006, but the new 760 outdoes the 660 in practically everything, but there are some key usability fixes that make the 760 a better buy for the frequent user.

1. 760 has much better fonts for street names than the 660. This may seem like a trivial update to some, but the 760's fonts greatly improve visibility. The 660 uses all capitalized text for street names on the map, and the font is incredibly cartoonish and unaligned, something like the scribbling Comic Sans font on the PC. The 760 uses your standard Verdana-like font with street names in capitalized and lowercase letters. The fonts on the 760 are smaller, cleaner and surprisingly much easier to read while driving. The maps end up looking professional, and not some cartoony children's video game.

2. 760 has better rendering in 3D map mode than the 660. In the 660 when you are zoomed in under 3D map mode, the roads close to your car are displayed incredibly large, so large that they run into other roads, making the zoom function essentially kind of useless for dense roads. The 760 does not oversize your roads just because you zoomed in to view smaller roads in detail. This fix is very nice for those who drive in places with dense roadways, like New York City.

3. No antenna on the 760 makes hooking up your Nuvi to the cradle one step easier. On the 660 you need to flip up the antenna before attaching the cradle. For people who park their cars on the street overnight, removing the GPS from the cradle for storage in the console or glove compartment is a must, and it's a lot easier hooking up the 760 to the cradle than the 660. It's hard to aim the 660 to its cradle in the dark as you have to align both the bottom edge and the charge port under the antenna. In the 760, the charge port is directly on the bottom of the unit; you can attach it to the cradle with one hand in the dark easily on the 760.

4. It takes the 660 a good 45 seconds on average (sometimes longer than 2 minutes) after boot up to locate the satellite on a cold start. If you have firmware 2.6 installed on the 760, the satellite acquisition time after boot up is between 10-20 seconds. After the firmware update, my 760 also holds a stronger lock to the satellites than my 660, I can get satellite lock inside my house with the 760, whereas I can't get a lock with my 660 (adjusting the antenna does very little).

5. The ability to set multiple ad hoc viapoints on the 760 means it's a lot easier creating alternate routes (very handy to avoid a specific interstate or a high traffic road). Whereas the 660 gives you just one viapoint.

UPDATE: This GPS is currently on sale at Amazon… now is your chance to buy one, if you haven’t already. You can find the product page here:

Linda said...

I am also a newbie. How do we enter the coordinates without buying a cable to connect to the computer. Someone please answer soon. it's driving me nuts!

Hugo said...

I need a GPS for a simple purpose: tell me exactly where I am standing (geo-referenced coordinate). Can this product do this for me?


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Abbe said...

To enter coordinates by hand:

Turn your device on. It does not have to have satellite signal in order to enter waypoints.

Press "PAGE" button until you see a screen that says Menu. (5 times I think?)

Press "ENTER" when the word Mark is highlighted.

Use the up arrow to name your waypoint, and the down arrow to get to the actual coordinates. Press "ENTER" when the coords are highlighted.

Use the down arrow to go over each number, and to change it hit "ENTER" and scroll through the numbers using the arrows. When your coords are correct, hit the down arrow until the OK button is highlighted.

Voila! Now all you have to do is go the waypoints menu and click on the one you just entered.

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