Just Like Star Trek!
Small & light, good reception (especially in car) & accuracy, nice backlight
Power-hungry, no compass, no base map
The Bottom Line:
Built to last! Get this unit if you are a gadget aficionado, do any sort of outdoor activities, or drive a car, boat, or aircraft. Very cool!
The title quotes the first words I uttered as I took this gadget out of the box and into the yard. I felt just like Spock with his tricorder, being able to know where I was going and where I've been. The eTrex is well worth its $100 for the functionality it provides. For those of you who don't know, this unit uses GPS satellites to triangulate is position on the earth, usually with amazing accuracy. This allows you to find places, mark down waypoints, view them on the eTrex's map, and perform numerous other cool tricks with ease. A very neat gadget and tool for the adventurous sort.
The eTrex is very sturdy unit, a little shorter (but fatter) than a cell phone, about the size of a small computer mouse. It is thick yellow plastic with rubber on the sides, a plast-ubber (rubber that's hard, like plastic) battery cover, and an acrylic screen cover on the front. The eTrex features only 5 buttons: power/light, page, up/down arrows, and enter. The buttons are situated about finger-width apart on the sides, which allows for easy one-handed operation (the instructions recommend your left). The casing is thick and built to last, and my eTrex has been through a lot. The unit is waterproof, and I would expect that it floats. On the bottom there's a hole for a lanyard (you'll get one with the unit). the battery cover isn't the run-of-the-mill plastic tab opened, but a metal ring attached to a locking bar, which one would twist to open. The end result is a far more durable design, which looks sharper too. The antenna is inside the unit, beseemedly under the globe icon above the screen. On the back side above the battery cover, there's a rubber flap covering the interface port, useful for connecting your Garmin to mapping software. On a side note, don't get the cable made by Garmin. Get a $5 generic brand instead.
Your eTrex will ship with no map, no waypoints, just a blank electronic slate for you to fill with tracks, waypoints (it holds 500 of them), and routes. A waypoint, for those of you who aren't cartographically inclined, is simply a point that you mark down on your GPS (by holding down "enter"), shown on the menu and map screen, that is used for navigation. The first waypoint I marked down was a house icon labeled "home". When at anytime I wish to find my way back home, I simply select it, and hit "go to". It then brings me to the directional screen where I am presented with an arrow pointing in the direction of home, and various other information such as the distance to home, the estimated time to home (based on your speed), my bearing to home, and other waypoint-nonspecific information such as my speed, average speed, maximum speed, odometer, heading, Lat/lon coordinates, the sunrise/set time in my current area (very cool), and elevation (also very cool). The eTrex OS layout is divided into 4 screens: the directional screen (which I just explained), the menu screen (used for various tasks), the signal screen (displays signal info), and the map screen (self explanatory). The map screen shows your location as a little person, showing nearby waypoints, listed as labeled icons (for example, a tent icon labeled "campsite"). A bearing line shows where you're headed (if you're in "go to" mode). The up/down arrow keys serve as a zoom feature, allowing you to view more or less of your surroundings, useful for closeup navigation. Your on-screen counterpart leaves behind a breadcrumb trail (track), useful for seeing where you've been. Note, though, that once the track memory is full (after a few hours of walking/driving), it will begin to erase the beginning to add on to the end, unless you save the track to the track log. For nightly ventures, there's a handy screen back light, activated by clicking the power button (holding the power button shuts down the unit). The menu screen is essential for selecting and browsing waypoints: whether it's to pick one for going to, or simply viewing those to your liking. Information recorded with a waypoint includes the latitude/longitude and elevation. The menu is also used for reviewing and manipulating tracks, creatin multiple-waypoint routes, and selecting various settings such as units, PC interface, and the map datum (useful for working with paper maps). The eTrex does not feature a compass, but will work as one while you're moving (assuming you hold the unit in a forward-facing position). The signal page is for viewing satellite reception information. You can view each satellite's position in the sky, and it's signal strength. Usually, your eTrex will be presented with 8 or more satellites, some of which will be used for positional purposes (the unit selects the strongest ones first). The eTrex requires 3 satellites to get your coordinates and start navigating, and 4 to determine your elevation. Although the eTrex can use up to a dozen at a time, that is rarely the case. The included antenna does a bona fide job of recieving the satellites, even in unfavorable weather conditions or in a car. Battery life, while not stellar, is adequate for any use, getting about 20-25 hours of use from a fresh pair of alkaline AA's (included with the unit). Battery life will decrease, however, with extensive backlight use.
Relatively easy, as a matter of fact. Simply plug it in, and turn it on. Very cool for use with mapping software such as expertGPS or Garmin's own Mapsource.
I recieved this reciever for christmas 2 years ago, and it has been on numerous endeavors since. I have used it hiking, in the car, on bike, and with computer software. It's just like having a personal cartographer at your side! I have been very happy with my eTrex, and hope you are too.