The Garmin GTU 10 is Garmin’s first significant entry into the live GPS tracking market. The small device pictured above can send its location to your computer or phone on demand. The possibilities are nearly endless. Got a wayward pet that likes to run off? Nervous about taking your young child to a big festival? How about that teenager just learning to drive? Or perhaps you’re a builder leaving expensive equipment on a construction site. I think you get the idea. If it can be moved, you can pretty much track it anywhere.
Garmin GTU 10 tracking plans
One of the nice things about the GTU 10 is that the first year’s service is included in the plan. All GPS trackers that allow you to ascertain the device’s location remotely rely on cellular service; hence the continuing service plan. With many devices the cost can be downright usurious.
The GTU 10’s included standard tracking plan allows you to view the the last ten points of daily tracking history. After a year, the plan costs $49.99 annually to renew. A deluxe tracking plan allows you to see seven days of full tracking history, and will run you an additional $4.99 per month.
Once you add up the hardware and tracking plan, the total cost of the device is pretty reasonable compared to other solutions on the market.
Garmin GTU 10 hardware
As you can see from the image above, the device is very small, measuring only 1.34″ wide, 3.07″ long and 0.79″ deep. And at 3 ounces (including case and car abiner), it’s as light as it is small. Hardware wise, it’s quite simple. There’s a power button, an LED, and a flap that hides a mini-USB receptacle (shown below).
Setup was very easy. You just connect it to your computer, go to my.garmin.com to register the device, and on screen instructions will guide you through it. The device is charged via USB, as shown below. The LED is red while the device is charging; it turns green when fully charged.
One thing that might throw people is setting up geofences (though this can always be done later). Geofences are zones you set up, allowing you to be notified when the tracker enters or exits a geofence. Notifications can be delivered via email or text message. Simply click on the geofence icon, click Create New Geofence and then start clicking to put points on the map, as shown below. The line in the lower left of the image shows where I had moved the mouse/cursor to, but had not yet clicked. As soon as you click, it connects to the first point to fill in the polygon. You can use up to ten points to create a geofence.
So let’s look at an example use case — a contractor leaving a generator on site would want to create a geofence letting them know if the device left the site. You can set up geofences to be notified when the device enters the area, leaves it, or both.
Finally, you’ll need to carefully review the settings that govern battery usage and reporting; the various options are shown in the screenshot below:
Garmin GTU 10 in action
To power the device on, hold the power button down for three seconds. It will flash green while connecting to the network; the LED will turn off once connected. When you power the device off, the LED turns red.
The my.garmin.com tracking page takes a little getting used to. In the screenshot below, the three icons on the left underneath “GPS Tracklog GTU 10″ do the following (left to right):
- Keep map centered on GTU 10
- GTU 10 settings
- Get the most recent location of the GTU 10
If you click anywhere in the rectangle surrounding these icons, you’ll see three more icons slide out to the side (as shown above). These show location, history and geofences.
Garmin GTU 10 performance
The Garmin GTU 10 relies on AT&T for transmitting location; here is a coverage map. I had no trouble getting location information, even in areas limited to 2G EDGE coverage. Again, you need to pay close attention to the battery and usage settings to get the desired results.
One complaint I have about the GTU 10 is the fact that it usually takes a minute or so to get results, whether online or using the Android app (I did not test the iPhone app). And the Android app actually failed to deliver location results a few times. Usually I just had to refresh it to get it to show. I imagine that the slowness of reporting (and occasional failure to do so using the mobile Tracker app) could be maddening if you were tracking a lost child or pet though.
Battery life left a lot to be desired. Using the Balanced plan (checking location every 5 minutes), I expected “recharge needed frequently” as Garmin says. But they forecast 3 days of battery life outside of a geofence and 10 days inside. I was mostly outside of the two geofences I had setup, but got a low battery warning after 27 hours. There is a car charger available, but this may not be a useful or practical solution for many users.
The GTU 10 successfully transmitted my location when placed under the seat of a vehicle. It even did so in the trunk of my car! In the latter case, the reported location was off by about 120’, probably due to the fact that it had to rely upon cell tower triangulation for location, since the metallic enclosure would have blocked GPS reception. Otherwise, location reporting was very accurate.
Garmin GTU 10 pros
- First year of monitoring service is included
- Very small and lightweight
- Reasonable total cost
- Well designed Web interface for setup and tracking
- Accurate location reporting
Garmin GTU 10 cons
- Standard tracking plan limits you to viewing only the last ten points of daily tracking history
- Website and mobile app are slow to display results (takes a minute or two)
- Android app occasionally failed to retrieve location
- Short battery life
Garmin GTU 10 conclusion
Garmin has done a good job with this, their first mainstream GPS tracking product. Battery life is a concern though, especially if you need the location ascertained frequently (e.g., every five minutes). Otherwise, my biggest gripes are about speed of reporting and app failures, both of which seem like they could be addressed and improved on Garmin’s end (i.e., these don’t seem to be hardware issues associated with the GTU 10). The most important use tip I can give is to pay close attention to the battery/usage settings. You may need to experiment some with the various options to ensure that you are getting the desired results in terms of being able to receive tracking history and how long you can go between recharges.
More Garmin GTU 10 reviews
- Consumer-authored Garmin GTU 10 reviews have been posted at Amazon
- CNET gives a 3 out of 5 star rating in their Garmin GTU 10 tracker review
- PC Mag gives the same 3 out of 5 star rating in their Garmin GPS tracker review
- About.com gives a 4 star rating in their Garmin GTU 10 Locator review
- A user-authored Garmin GPS locator review on the m4carbine.net forums
- The GTU 10 Tracker gets reviewed by the Miami Herald
- Pocket GPS World gives a 9 out of 10 rating in their GTU 10 tracker review
- BikeRadar reviews the GTU 10 from a biker’s perspective
- The Mac Observer gives a 4 out of 5 star rating in their Garmin GTU 10 GPS tracker review
- The Chicago Tribune reviews the Garmin GTU 10
I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…
Other Garmin GTU 10 resources
- The Garmin GTU 10 owners manual
- Tracking a runner at the Boston Marathon with the GTU 10
- Experimenting with the GTU 10 at a triathlon
- Garmin GTU 10 FAQs
- Coverage map for the Garmin GTU 10
- The official Garmin GTU 10 web page
- A video showing how to use the Web interface to locate your GTU-10
- A video demo of the geofences feature
Compare prices on the Garmin GTU 10 at these merchants:
- Check the current Garmin GTU 10 price at Amazon
- Get the Garmin GTU 10 at GPS City
- Check out the deal on the Garmin GTU 10 Tracking Unit at REI.com, where satisfaction is guaranteed and members get 10% back on eligible purchases
- Get the GTU™ 10 direct from Garmin