Sunday, March 18, 2012

Garmin eTrex 10 review

Garmin eTrex 10 review

Hands on review of the Garmin eTrex 10

The Garmin eTrex 10 is Garmin’s new entry-level unit in the recently updated eTrex series. It offers paperless geocaching, GPS+GLONASS and advanced track navigation, but has a monochrome screen, limited memory and cannot accept detailed maps (although you can see your track and waypoints, as pictured above).

Related units

  • Step up to the eTrex 20 to get a color screen, expandable memory, mapping and BirdsEye topo/aerial image capability
  • Going the other direction, the older eTrex H uses a serial interface instead of the eTrex 10′s USB port, and drops paperless geocaching and advanced track navigation
  • To see how the eTrex 10 stacks up against other models, check out my Garmin handheld GPS comparison chart

A big improvement

As noted above, the eTrex 10 represents a huge improvement over the older eTrex H. One of the biggest changes is the USB connection instead of the old serial port, which caused a lot of people a great deal of pain. The eTrex 10 also adds paperless geocaching capabilities, so you can have cache descriptions, logs, hints, etc., in the field as you cache. I was also happy to see advanced track navigation on the new model. I’ll go into details on all of those features shortly.

Garmin eTrex 10 hardware

Buttons

There are six buttons on the eTrex, three on the left, two on the right and one on the front (see image at top of page):

  • Zoom in and zoom out buttons – These are on the left and can also be used to navigate menu lists a page at a time
  • Menu button – (Also on the left side) Brings up a context sensitive menu; double-tap to access the main menu
  • Back – On the right side; moves you back a step in the menu structure
  • Power/Light – (Also on the right side) A short tap brings brings up a screen with date/time, battery and GPS status; additional short taps toggle between 0, 50 and 100% backlight; press and hold to power down
  • Thumb stick – Located on the front of the device, you can toggle it side to side or up and down to navigate menus and pan the map; press down to enter a menu command or select a map point; press and hold to mark a waypoint

Display

The eTrex 10 has a monochrome and lower resolution display than its color cousins. Generally speaking, I find monochrome displays harder to read in certain conditions, although it definitely isn’t a deal breaker. The device is still quite usable in a wide range of situations and I never really struggled with making out anything on  the screen. Here it is compared to the eTrex 20.

The image below of the rear of the unit shows the mounting spine for a bike mount or carabiner clip (not included with the purchase of the eTrex 10, sad to say). Unlike the Oregon and 62 series, the spine is plastic, which could lead to some wear, and definitely makes it harder to slide in and out of those accessories.

Garmin-eTrex-10-rear

And here it is with the carabiner clip attached…

Here’s the battery compartment showing the mini-USB connector under the top rear flap…

Inside-Garmin-eTrex-10

Memory

There is no memory expansion slot in the eTrex 10 and Garmin doesn’t publicize the amount of internal memory available for geocaches, etc. My test unit, stripped of any .gpx files, had 2.3 MB available. I can tell you that even a single pocket query of 500 caches can generate a low memory warning.

Garmin eTrex 10 interface

The eTrex 10 utilizes the same interface as the other models in this series. The main menu items are pictured below.

Garmin eTrex 10 features

Even though the eTrex 10 is an entry level device, it offers several nice features:

GPS+GLONASS

Theoretically, this will give you better reception, especially in northerly latitudes and (natural and urban) canyons.

Advanced track navigation

On the eTrex 10, you can select a track to navigate and a route will be created. Waypoints are automatically generated for major high and low elevation points, and start and finish; these and any user waypoints along the track are added to the route. I’m a heavy user of track navigation. If I head out for a trail I’ve never traveled before, I do an online search for tracks to load to the device. One advantage of this new track navigation feature is that, unlike typical backcountry route navigation, you’ll get an estimate of actual trail distance rather than “as the crow flies” mileage.

Paperless geocaching

The eTrex 10 is set up for full paperless geocaching support, including cache filtering (shown at right), so you can see the description, logs, and hint, and you can log your attempt (find, DNF, etc.) for later transfer back to geocaching.com. Speaking of which, full access to these features requires a premium membership at geocaching.com. Garmin has an opencaching.com site that is free, but the number of caches is far less than what is found on geocaching.com. Shown below: closest geocaches, geocache description, individual geocache menu, recent logs.

 

Customizing the Garmin eTrex 10

Main menu item order – You can customize the main menu item order by pressing the Menu button while viewing the Main Menu.

Accessing pages via the back button – Use Setup > Page Sequence for this, but be aware that these pages will disappear from the main menu.


Data fields – You can change data fields on just about any screen that has these; usually you just press Menu > Change Data Fields.

Profiles – The eTrex 10 comes with recreational, geocaching, marine and fitness profiles. You can switch profiles by selecting Profile Change from the Main Menu. Or create a new one by going to Main Menu > Setup > Profiles > Create Profile. Select the new profile to edit the name. Any changes you make in menus or other settings will be retained in that profile. So start changing things! Want track up when geocaching and north up when biking? No problem.

Dashboards – Instead of data fields (and in some cases in addition to), you can select a dashboard for the map, compass and trip computer screens. Choices (depending upon page) may include automotive, stopwatch, small or large data field, recreational, compass, and geocaching. I’ve included screenshots showing a couple below. For the trip computer and compass pages, you access this via Menu > Change Dashboard. For the map screen, choose Menu > Setup Map > Data Fields > Dashboard. The one downside here is the small screen on the eTrex series; using a dashboard can significantly reduce screen real estate.

Garmin eTrex 10 performance

Tracking

The eTrex 10 performed very well in terms of tracking accuracy. For example, in one test I placed the eTrex 10 and Garmin 62s on my pack shoulder straps for an out and back hike. The 62s had tracklog separation errors of up to 28′ when comparing the out and back tracks, whereas the eTrex had errors of up to 45′.  This isn’t bad and I wouldn’t expect it to be quite as good as the 62s yet, which has more mature firmware. In my experience, such tests generally improve over time with subsequent updates.

Geocaching

Caveat: I’ve yet to come up with a good way to test geocaching accuracy. There are just too many variables – accuracy of the cache coordinates, satellite constellation variability, terrain, multipath effects, etc.

So having said that, here’s a very unscientific test. After becoming familiar with the unit, towards the end of my testing, I made some cache runs. I set the units down on top of the cache one at a time and recorded the reported distance to cache in feet. The results are shown below.

 eTrex 10  eTrex 20  GPSMAP 62s  Oregon 450
 Cache 1  10′  11′  13′  15′
 Cache 2  15′  10′  24′  27′
 Cache 3  10′  10′  14′  15′
 Average  11.67′  10.33′  17′  19′

Battery life

I tested battery life using freshly charged 2000 mAh Eneloop NiMH batteries. The unit was left stationary, under light canopy, with the tracklog interval set to record once every 5 seconds. Testing was done with the backlight off. The rated battery life is 25 hours but in my tests the unit ran for 30 hours and 36 minutes!

Garmin eTrex 10 pros

  • Full paperless geocaching support
  • GPS + GLONASS support
  • Excellent battery life
  • Uses mini-USB cable (included) rather than eTrex H’s serial connection
  • Advanced track navigation

Garmin eTrex 10 cons

  • Monochrome screen
  • Cannot display maps
  • Limited memory

Conclusion and recommendation

Highly recommended. The eTrex 10 is the best starter GPS for geocachers on the market. You can find this model for just over $110 and that gets you the full set of paperless geocaching features. This combined with the fact that it offers GPS + GLONASS support makes it an incredible deal. The eTrex 10 is a huge improvement over Garmin’s previous entry-level handheld unit, the eTrex H. Backcountry users on a tight budget might want to stick with the older Venture HC, which allows you to load topo maps, but you won’t get paperless geocaching, advanced track navigation or the newer, easier to navigate interface.

More Garmin eTrex 10 reviews

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

Other Garmin eTrex 10 resources


Compare prices on the Garmin eTrex 10 at these merchants:

 

StoreRatingBest PricesShopzilla Tracking
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In stock at HomeDepot.com
$119.99
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In stock at Bass Pro Shops
$109.99
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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 need you use a gps to track/tag my photos with the highest possible accuracy – e.g. every 10 seconds. This means that it will save 360 track points every hour. In case if i want to operate for 10 hours non stop it will have to save 3600 track points. given that it has no memory would it be able to provide the data needed? or should i choose eTrex 20 in order to save all my tag points ? especially that i may need them every 5 seconds?

  2. thanks. would probably need to buy and try… no point in paying the extra for color display if both can do the same… according to this part of the article it can only hold 500 points?

    “Memory
    There is no memory expansion slot in the eTrex 10 and Garmin doesn’t publicize the amount of internal memory available for geocaches, etc. My test unit, stripped of any .gpx files, had 2.3 MB available. I can tell you that even a single pocket query of 500 caches can generate a low memory warning.”

  3. Couldn’t you use Waypoint Averaging to give yourself a more accurate coordinate for your geocaching test?

    • I don’t think it would help when compared to the listed cache coordinates, which were created using a different device on a different day. Or maybe you have something else in mind. If so, please let me know. I definitely would like to come up with a good test for it.

  4. Can I upload routes from mapsource on eTrex 10

  5. Extremely displeased with the operators manual. For example it says to edit but not how to actually change the data. I just bought this GPS and tried to put in some waypoints and am at the high end of frustration. Am seriously thinking about taking it back and exchanging for a Magellan.

  6. I do mountaineering but recently I’ve been trekking in the jungle. Was wondering, will this still work even though I’m surrounded by dense canopies?

  7. I am still trying to figure out how to create a track out to a point and follow it back. Frustrated with the lack of an understandable manual. I have spent hours trying to use this effectively. I have been able to create a waypoint or use the MOB feature and find it, but not follow the exact route back.

  8. Do you have any idea what the refresh rate is. Is it the standard 1hz? I can’t find any documentation. My indirect question, do you find it responsive at slow speeds?

    I have an Excel file that generates coordinates for setting up buoys for a high school rowing regatta. I set them up with a Garmin 76 last time. The 76 has WAAS, but there was just a bit of a lag. It actually worked out pretty well. However, I’m thinking that for $100 the much newer eTrex 10 might do a better job. Any thoughts?

    Thanks.

    • I do not know what the refresh rate is. I personally haven’t noticed problems at slow speeds, but I haven’t checked for it either. The new eTrex series can be a little sluggish when panning the map though. Hope this helps.

  9. Very very disappointed with this. Bought this to go geocashing. To basic, graphic are awful. I will be returning it ASAP. Do yourself a favor and buy a different one.

  10. Though I have been an avid hiker for over 30 years, I just purchased my first GPS device, an etrex 10. The directions function descriptions that came with it are so limited as to be virtually useless, thus rendering the device essentially useless. Any advice on how I can obtain a detailed and thus useful description of the device’s functions and how to use them?

  11. Pat Blakely says:

    The Etrex 10 is an excellent starter unit as long as you know the limitations. It has only about 8MB total memory max available. It can hold 10,000 trackpoints or up to 2,000 geocaches according to Garmin. However, the lack of memory on the unit means you won’t get both, either you’ll have to reduce trackpoints or reduce the number of geocaches. There is no street mapping, just state boundaries and some city POI. Also another unwritten limitation is the Etrex 10 can only hold 500 separate geocaching gpx files so if you’re downloading geocaches one by one, you’ll run out of space after 500. The battery life is incredible on the Etrex 10, best I’ve ever seen. However, for most people, getting an Etrex 20 is a worthwhile upgrade. The Etrex 10 also tends to show the “low on memory” error at lot, even after loading just 500 geocaches.

  12. Paul Dunstan says:

    Hi just bought a etrex10 for sailing, looking to enter the way points, have entered about 45 so far but only 19 are shown on my etrex, which seems as though I have wasted my time and money if that’s all that can be entered. Any help to find out why I have so few listed would be appreciated. The manual says that you should be able to list a lot more than that.

  13. Thanks for a great review. I have been really on the fence trying to decide between an Etrex 10 and Etrex 20 and the side by side comparisons/photos here have been very helpful!

  14. Garmin User says:

    About drove myself nuts trying to decide which GPS to purchase. Purchased the Garmin E-Trex 10 a week ago. So very, very happy I did.
    I use this GPS for walking in the woods and for Geocaching. No roads in the woods so I quit looking at map applications and focused on what I wanted it for. The ability to back track so I don’t get lost and the ability to find a location.
    What this unit will do: Set a way point at the start of your walk and when you’re done you can do a GO TO route for a straight line back or you can use the back track and follow the path you just took.
    The compass is active when walking. Screen points to North and the compass points the direction you are going. So you have to take a step for it to show a reading. I don’t have a problem with this, I’m going to be moving anyway and if I’m not then I don’t need a compass.
    You can choose which screens you want displayed, and the information that’s on them. Choose the text size. Name your routes, your tracks, your waypoints and save them. I drove to work and created a route from the track that was made as I drove. When I back tracked the route going home, the GPS kept showing me being off the trail. I could see it on the screen but was not following the exact route. Thought the GPS was off until I found that driving on the other side of the road put me right on the route. The side of the road that had been used to make the track. That’s how accurate it is, if you’re off your track by the width of a road, it will show you!
    I’ve been playing with this for 5 days and the batteries are still going strong. I know it didn’t come with a manual but I knew that before I got it. Saved one on the home computer and read it plus a couple of other points of information regarding the E-Trex 10. It’s a learning curve to use it but not over my head. After using it and getting to understand it, I now find it very easy to use. For 99$ at Walmart this GPS does what I want it to do and then some.

  15. Justin Walker says:

    Hi I have a garmin etex10 and we are trying to save the hectares on the area calculation. But it will not let me save the hectares on the map. Will tell me how many Kms it is around the paddock. I can save the paddock size but not into the hectares.
    Please can you tell me how to save the hectares on to the map?

  16. Hi there i have the same problem with only 19 waypoints showing i did what u said but when i go to waypoint maneger and press menu i dont get any alpabeticl i get 3 things search near spelling and delete all. How can i access more than 19 waypoints? And if i put in a new waypoint it deletes one of the 19 and puts it there surely you can put more than 19 waypoints…..help pls am gunna drown it

    • Try Spelling and see if a missing waypoint shows up. I’m betting they are there unless you are out of memory. Do you have many routes and tracks loaded, or is your tracklog full?

  17. How can I just see a screen that shows me my current position in O/S grid Ref format

  18. Gosh I can’t believe how in depth users want their GPS to be and how many different uses. I bought my first Garmin ETrex (base level) in 2001. Garmin replaced it free of charge in 2005 as it had gone a bit wonky. It went again in 2012 but this time they wouldn’t replace it and no wonder, 11 and a bit years use isn’t bad. I am about to buy another and having read all the posts on here will still buy the entry level Garmin. I wouldn’t change to another make as I researched in depth prior to buying first time round and it absolutely suits my purpose. I have been a keen mountain walker and scrambler for over 25 years and used to go out alone. A GPS was bought as a safety net to be used in conjunction with map and compass. I wouldn’t ever want to lose my map reading skills so only use the GPS to confirm my location in inclement weather or on trackless ground. There is no substitute for a map and compass and the ability to navigate acurately using them.

  19. I need to know how to switch to 5 decimals readings for my work ; example N 37 93.34566
    W 97 61.23456

    its set on 3 now example N 37 93.345
    W 97 61.234

    WISH i HAD MY OLD MANUAL IT TOLD HOW ; PLEASE HELP ME THANKS CRAIG

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