The Garmin line of handheld GPS units, particularly the AA-battery powered eTrex Vista HCx, have been a favorite of mine and our friends for the last few years. Combined with good mapping software — we’re partial to Garmin’s City Navigator programs — and a sturdy handlebar mount, the Vista HCx has been a stellar performer. I highlighted it during the 2008 12 Days of Randonneurmas.
On Tuesday Garmin announced a refresh to the eTrex line, unveiling a simplified threesome called the eTrex 10, 20 and 30. The $300 eTrex 30 appears to be the unit closest to the HCx, with a slightly bigger 2.2-inch 65K color display, tilt-compensated compass, altimeter, something called “wireless unit-to-unit data transfer,” and the glove-friendly joystick we’ve come to love with the older units. As with the HCx, other options are accessed through side buttons.
The major upgrade appears to be the screen, compared to the 1.7-inch, 256 color HCx.
Garmin claims up to 25 hours of use with the eTrex 30, the same rating as the Vista HCx, though I get somewhere around 15 hours with high-capacity rechargeable Ni-MH batteries using turn-by-turn prompting and automatic backlighting. I suspect their estimate is with all power-saving options enabled.
If you have considered getting an HCx, this might be a good time. REI put it on sale for $149 during their just-ended Memorial Day sale, which could signal the end of life for the venerable little guy.