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Sunday, March 18, 2012

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Garmin GTU 10 GPS tracker review

Garmin GTU 10 GPS tracker reviewThe 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).

Garmin GTU 10 GPS tracker flap

Setup

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.

Garmin GTU 10 GPS tracker charging

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.GTU 10 GPS tracker geofences

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:

GTU 10 GPS tracker usage types

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

GTU 10 GPS tracker menus

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.

Mobile apps

Garmin has a free Tracker app available for Android and iPhone, allowing you to check in on the device’s location on the go. Here are a few screenshots:

GPS tracker app maps

GPS tracker app 2

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

I’ll be posting more hands on GPS reviews as they appear, but in the meantime, here are some…

Other Garmin GTU 10 resources

Compare prices on the Garmin GTU 10 at these merchants:

 

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.

Comments

  1. I had talked to Garmin several months ago, about the capability of the GTU position being viewed on the connected 1695, they said it was their full intention for these two to be compatible, the 1695 would need a firware update when Garmin developed one. Do you have any additional information on this?

    • I don’t know about the 1695 being updated for this, but the nuLink 2390 (coming to Europe and expected to be announced in the US) has a tracker function that refers to the Tracker mobile app. You can access the owners manual for the 2390 here to read about it yourself (go to page 51). It doesn’t explicitly say it does it, but it sure looks like it might.

    • If the GTU 10 remains on and the battery dies, and remains dead for weeks, once power is restored does it behave as expected with no reconfiguration required? In other words, is there something lost if power is off for a long time.? For example when power is restored does the device require a manual power off to on button push.

      Background: There are power connections available for car installations. If the power source is connected to an Aux source then it goes on and off with the auto ignition switch. It could be handy because with each transition the device posts an update (power on… location; power off… location etc.). The alternative it to connect to constant power and receive regular data updates vs end point updates.

      • Ok I just talked with Garmin Support. They confirmed that if the device is on and the battery drains due to no power… When power is restored it will resume operation. In my view this is a benefit of connecting the device in a car to aux power (like the radio). At each power on or off it sends a message. This way I can tell if the car has been started and when it stops. (keywords: GTU 10 Restart after battery drained)

  2. How does this stack up against the personal live GPS tracking device competition? What other specific personal trackers (for kids/pets/valuables) are out there that we can compare this to?

  3. linda gearheart says:

    we have an outside dog on 120 acres. i was hoping the garmin gtu would be a solution to track our dog; however, there seems to be limited battery life.

    • Lucky dog!

      Garmin estimates 4 weeks of battery life inside geofences with the moderate plan. I doubt that you’d get that, but surely you would get a week.

      • I inquired about the GTU 10′s battery life a while ago and here is the response from Garmin:

        In regards to the question about the battery, it depends on what you are using the device for. Battery life will range anywhere from 4 weeks with 15 minute updates while inside of the Geofence to 1 day with 30 second updates. Using just the locate function, it will last approximately 1 week. This information can be found on page 8 of the owners manual: http://static.garmincdn.com/pumac/GTU10_OM_EN.pdf

  4. Peter Boyce says:

    It depends what you are trying to do. The position location is shown as an icon on a Bing map. Almost worthless if you are in the boonies or out on the water. I pay for the advanced tracking service and simply want a list of lat-long positions which I can not get – just a series of icons on the Bing map. This could be a wonderful device if the software was better and allowed a bit more flexibility in the output of this datalogger.

    Also the Garmin website is awful to navigate. Their software is user unfriendly, and the tracking service has not had a good record of uptime since I got my GTU-10 in March. To get help you have to know which category your device falls into. You can’t simply enter the model number. Typical Honey Badger attitude toward the user.

  5. Does it have a Panic Button???

  6. Sorry looking for a little clarification in regards to installation with an ignition sourced power supply. If I install this unit in my car and connect it to the AUX power supply connected to the ignition will it automatically switch off with Ignition or will it continue operating on battery, then notify when power is supplied back through AUX when igniton is in the on position?

  7. How much after first year of free service

  8. How much after first year

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