June 23, 2005

GPS Review: Garmin eTrex Legend C and Vista C by GPS Lodge

The newest updates to the eTrex line make some much needed advances in the features available to the Garmin consumer in a small form factor. The Garmin eTrex Vista C and Garmin eTrex Legend C models are good solid performers and are feature packed. Here at the Lodge, we have taken a look on the Vista C, and we like it. The color screens are good quality - not exactly a plasma screen in your hand, but still good. Both the Vista C and the Legend C models now hold 24MB of data, useful for bringing along lots of map information. This generation adds USB connectivity to your computer, which makes those large map downloads bearable. As in the monochrome line, moving from the Legend to the Vista adds an electronic compass as well as an altimeter. Both have extended battery lives over their monochrome brethren. Both have auto-routing capability - which is a big plus if you are navigating along roadways. Traveling with the Vista C or Legend C is a lot easier vs. their monochrome twins, as Garmin has added more features to allow for easier over the road navigation.

Garmin has also been paying attention to how the GPS is used, and has added some Geocaching specific features to these models to appeal to the many consumers who participate in this growing sport (for more information on Geocaching - see www.geocaching.com ). The Geocaching page allows for the management of geocaches waypoints, and navigation to them, flipping them from unfound to found at the flip of a button. A nice add.

Traveling routes on the road just got easier; much easier. When traveling a route along a road, the new models now give a turn by turn display, as well as a turn details page. When traveling this turn details page highlights the distance to the turn, and the expected turn with a big arrow on the map. There are also two audible alarms that sound when approaching a turn, an early and a final that can help identify when to turn if you are not always watching the screen. There is also a Highway view that shows the travel route in a quasi-three dimension view along with turns and key info fields.

Garmin added some nice tweaks to the system that include more customizable aspects, including the ability to cut the base number of main screens to a minimum or expand the number of screens you see when you normally toggle through the main screen set. This can be a nice feature if you only want to see the Map and Travel Computer screen when traveling or if you want a more detailed set of information at your fingertips without burrowing through layers of menus to get at it. They also added the ability to change how the unit moves form one waypoint to another during a route navigation. Previously, if you missed a waypoint by enough distance, and then started moving towards the next waypoint, the GPS would be confused for a while directing you to turn around and clear the previous waypoint. Frustrating when you are trying to navigate to the next waypoint with a friend asking where to go! In the new models, you can select how rigorous the GPS needs to be when hitting those waypoints, which will help it realize sooner that it needs to navigate to the next waypoint.

Visa C Only -The altimeter in the Vista C operates and looks a lot like the altimeter in the monochrome Vista. One nice upgrade is that Garmin added slider bars to the side and bottom of the page to change the scale on the pressure/altitude plot. Intuitive and easy to use. The altimeter also has a cool little feature that allows you to lock the elevation of the GPS, essentially telling it that you are staying at a single elevation, and letting it record barometric pressure changes over time - even every 15 minutes while the unit is off.


Summary
Overall, the Garmin eTrex Legend C and the Vista C are big upgrades to the eTrex line that were a long time coming. The new features are strong and Garmin learned about the consumer in the design of the new generation by adding some nice features and customizations that make sense. The lack of removable memory seems like a terrible miss to me, and one that they seem strategically opposed to. With both the Legend C and the Vista C at 24MB, it seems that they are moving away from internal storage as a way to differentiate their line, so why not make the jump to removable storage? Please? Anyway, you’ll need to decide if the steep prices are worth it, and within your budget. The units sure do look nice.

Key Legend C and Vista C Pros
Color screens
Longer battery life
Audible alarms
Altimeter and Compass (Vista C only)
24MB of internal memory for downloadable maps.
Expanded features - Geocaching & Highway views.
Fast boot times - comes on and ready to navigate quickly.

Key Legend C and Vista C Cons
No Removable memory cards.
Pricey

An UPDATE to this GPS Review is available here.

Read More in: Garmin GPS News | Garmin GPS Reviews | Handheld GPS Reviews

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Posted by Scott Martin at June 23, 2005 9:11 PM

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