June 3, 2005

GPS Review: Garmin eTrex Legend by GPS Lodge

The Garmin eTrex Legend makes the first real, solid step up from the base offerings in the eTrex line. It adds base maps, and the ability to download maps from the computer, as well as expanded routing and waypoint capabilities. It also adds more accurate navigations with WAAS capability. It also adds the Thumb Stick to the front side of the GPS, allowing for easy movement around the maps. The eTrex Legend is a bit old in its design features, but still a solid performer for basic map based navigation. Whether you're navigating across town, or across a mountain range trail system, the Legend adds a lot of punch and allows for more sophisticated management of multiple routes, numerous waypoints and answers higher level navigation needs.

Key Features eTrex Legend
The big feature that the Garmin eTrex Legendadds is the mapping screen and map capabilities. It's just better navigating on a map instead of a blank space. If you are trying to get anywhere that requires roads, trails or landmarks, knowing where those things are in relation to where you are just makes sense. The main screen is a map that shows where you are, with configurable fields at the bottom of the screen that has numerous options from velocity, to average speed, and time to destination. The map page can be easily zoomed to get the right amount of information. With a few clicks of a button, you can pan the map which allows you to determine distance to other objects or locations from your current location.

The Main Menu screen is helpful to set up the GPS functions and perform most maintenance on your records. In this screen you can manage routes that you may have created on a computer and downloaded onto the GPS, or you can construct one from waypoints that you have already set up on the GPS. This is also where you manage Tracks. Tracks are like little electronic breadcrumb trails that are dropped as you travel. This is useful if you want to preserve your travel route, or if you want to navigate back along the same route that you just traveled. The Legend can also be configured here with adjustments to the backlight, and loads of other features that allow you to micro-adjust how the information is displayed or how the GPS functions.

There are a couple of "accessories" that are worth noting that may or may not be useful to you. "Sun and Moon" let's you know when the sun and moon rise and set for your location or any other map location or waypoint you have in the Legend. The "Hunt and Fish" screen predicts the best times and good times to go hunting and fishing. Really though, can a little handheld GPS tell me this? I wouldn't bet my entire hunting trip on this thing. You can configure it to look at dates other than today and locations other than your current one; might be useful for that trip next October to the hunting cabin. The Area Calculation function lets you calculate an area that you may pace out or travel across. Jumpmaster is a small program to help parachutists calculate their jump parameters. Seems like a useful little program, but since I don't parachute, I can't tell you too much about this.

Maps and more on the eTrex Legend
The eTrex Legend comes with a set of base maps that cover most main roads and terrain attributes across the US. I find though that unless you are interested in navigating across blank terrain, or traveling only on major roads, it's not enough information. I recommend one of the more detailed map packages like MapSource Topo US, or MapSource MetroGuide series. You may not need it though if you are just using the GPS to track your way to a particular location (a hunting stand or a scenic stopover), and need a reliable way back to where you came from. I tend to use it to navigate roads, trails and terrain, so I like the added detail. Downloading maps can be slow, and this is one of the HUGE downfalls of the monochrome eTrex line. The serial connection is horribly slow, and it can take up to an hour to download the entire set of maps and routes that you just set up on your computer. I was able to use the MetroGuide product and put a fair chunk of Eastern Massachusetts on the Legend for my 8MB.

Summary eTrex Legend a good solid entry level unit
Overall, here at the Lodge we like the Legend for its basic feature set, but its design features are mature in this GPS market. The pocketable size is key, and it's got a good number of features for the price point. Some of us need more memory to add more maps (or because we are lazy and want to leave a bunch on the GPS receiver), so the 8MB might be limiting on this device after a while. The lack of a USB cable and audible alarms in the Legend make me think that the Legend C or Vista C are worth upgrading to, although the roughly 2X price tag is a big jump. Still the eTrex Legend is a good GPS that can provide lots of fun and is a nice entry with some of the features that make using a GPS a pleasure.

Want to move up? Try the Garmin eTrex Vista (monochrome), the Garmin eTrex Legend Cor the big jump to the Garmin eTrex Vista C.

Key Garmin eTrex Legend Pros
Uses Maps to navigate (includes basic road and point of interest maps).

Addition of internal memory.

Can accept downloaded maps

Very portable for the trail.

Lots of accessories.

Key Garmin eTrex Legend Cons
Memory can limit the amount of maps you carry - 8MB.


Serial computer connection is slow.

No expandable memory.

No audible alarms.

Smaller screen not easy to use while driving.

Read More in: Garmin GPS Reviews | Handheld GPS Reviews

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Posted by Scott Martin at June 3, 2005 7:46 PM

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