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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! on: January 30, 2012, 04:10:37 AM
dgjessee


Location: Atlanta
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« on: January 30, 2012, 04:10:37 AM »

I work at [insert giant outdoor retailer with awesome satisfaction guarantee] and teach GPS classes, among other courses. It took me a long time to really decipher the differences between the venerable Vista HCx and the new eTrex series. Since Garmin is probably phasing out the older models, it's probably not that important but just so you know what I found:

Overall, they are almost identical in features. the 30 and Vista both have the altimeter, electronic compass, LONG battery life and even weigh about the same. The 30 is a tad more compact and has a new operating system, which some people love and others hate. A lot of my students say the new one is not as intuitive, but oh well. The 30 has wireless transfer (for sharing data with other ANT devices) and can also use wireless components like HR belts, cadence, and speed/distance pods, so that's a nice feature if you want or need some more input than you'd get with a traditional GPS. So far, nothing that would make me give up my personal Vista HCx - but here's the REAL improvement: OFFICIAL USGS QUADS!

As a salesperson, the biggest knock on Garmin GPSs has always been their proprietary maps. The new Garmin 24K topo maps are pretty awesome and they are the only mapping software that will auto-route you on trails (i.e., you pick the start and end and it finds the quickest trail route between the two; it doesn't only route on roads). The reason you could always only use Garmin's software is because the units could only handle vector images. But the new eTrex (as well as Oregon, Dakota, Montana, and 62 series) models are built to handle both vector (Garmin mapping) AND raster images (USGS quads). So now, if you have a new eTrex, you can purchase the "so-worth-it" $30 Bird's Eye Topo subscription from Garmin.com and then overlay traditional USGS quads on your GPS screen.

So as far as I can tell, Garmin has finally addressed the biggest shortcoming of its devices. It's important to note that your device will not navigate using the Bird's Eye Topo map images - it will simply display your position/pre-downloaded route on top of the image in the correct location. If you have Garmin's Topo software, you can layer that underneath and then you get the ability to navigate AND see what you're doing on USGS quads. For me, the best bargain would be to buy an eTrex 30 and the Bird's Eye Topo, upload routes and waypoints (just like I would do without any mapping) and utilize the on-screen topo as my quick/easy reference guide to avoid pulling out the paper map too much. It would be so helpful when following routes where a turn is a little ambiguous because there are two options going one direction and only the cue sheet or a map would tell you more accurately which way to go.

Hope this is helpful to someone! Post any other questions you have and I'll try to answer.
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 10:33:14 AM
sub-xero


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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 10:33:14 AM »

As a salesperson, the biggest knock on Garmin GPSs has always been their proprietary maps. The new Garmin 24K topo maps are pretty awesome and they are the only mapping software that will auto-route you on trails (i.e., you pick the start and end and it finds the quickest trail route between the two; it doesn't only route on roads). The reason you could always only use Garmin's software is because the units could only handle vector images. But the new eTrex (as well as Oregon, Dakota, Montana, and 62 series) models are built to handle both vector (Garmin mapping) AND raster images (USGS quads). So now, if you have a new eTrex, you can purchase the "so-worth-it" $30 Bird's Eye Topo subscription from Garmin.com and then overlay traditional USGS quads on your GPS screen.


I've been using free OpenStreetMap based vector maps on my Garmin eTrex Legend for several years now. Thus I have to disagree with the original poster, there has been an alternative to the original Garmin maps for a long time. The OpenStreetMap maps today even are more detailed than the original Garmin maps in many regions, since they are enhanced by the community constantly. And I actually don't consider using raster images an advantage, so there's no need to use those unless you travel through areas where raster maps are the only detailed maps you can get. They just look a little nicer but this is not at all relevant. OpenStreetMap vector maps even support routing, which I tried once and it worked quite well.

P.S.: The only noteworthy difference between the new and the old version of the eTrex is (afaik) that the new eTrex supports tracks with more than 500 waypoints, which also isn't really necessary because you can split longer tracks into multiple single tracks. And 500 waypoints are more than enough for a whole day, if the track has good quality.


« Last Edit: January 30, 2012, 10:37:41 AM by sub-xero » Logged


  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 02:20:19 PM
dgjessee


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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2012, 02:20:19 PM »

As far as I can tell in order to make an older Garmin use raster images you have to be a bit more technologically adept than the common folk. I might be wrong but I think there is still some conversion and other open source map software necessary. If that's the case then maybe the new ones provide a slightly more seamless integration of vector Garmin maps and raster USGS images.
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #3 on: January 31, 2012, 01:21:50 AM
sub-xero


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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2012, 01:21:50 AM »

Well, in order to install the OpenStreetMaps, you just have to run a setup which installs the maps onto your computer and integrates them into Garmin BaseCamp or MapSource. Then you can use those Garmin Standard Programs to upload the maps to your GPS. Very easy.
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #4 on: January 31, 2012, 07:51:14 AM
bmike-vt


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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2012, 07:51:14 AM »

i don't know about the open street maps stuff. i loaded up one of those and wasn't impressed. didn't seem like there was much change from my way old mapsource stuff, from about 8 years ago. and, the openmtb map link you gave above has a request to join the website prior to downloading the maps. all good, but i'm not sure what the benefit would be...

i also used some stuff from gpsfiledepot and was similarily unimpressed. there were 2 counties in my state with the roads dropped out completely. i contacted the site owner and tried to contact the mapmaker. site owner should put up a note on those particular maps that they are missing data. likewise the topo overlays were ok, but a bit laggy. (vector, not raster)

i'm likely to sign up for the garmin subscription when spring nears, download the northeast, and then cancel at the end of the year to test it out. for $30 i think it is a pretty good deal. i don't think i'd need the birdseye images.


can you route on the road on the garmin stuff on an etrex 20?
i mix gravel and dirt roads and pavement, and plan on using the gps for brevets this year. would love to be able to set up a route and have it tell me upcoming turns while on roads...
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #5 on: January 31, 2012, 09:03:37 PM
RossC


Location: Australia
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2012, 09:03:37 PM »

For me, the biggest win seems to be increase in the number of trackpoints it can store. The 10,000 limit on the vista HCX was always an annoyance. From the testing some friends have done, the etrex 20/30 can hold way more than this which becomes very valuable when trying to navigate a maze of single track on very long files. I can't wait to get my hands on a new etrex 20 later this year.
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #6 on: February 01, 2012, 06:14:59 PM
ScottM
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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2012, 06:14:59 PM »

For me, the biggest win seems to be increase in the number of trackpoints it can store. The 10,000 limit on the vista HCX was always an annoyance. From the testing some friends have done, the etrex 20/30 can hold way more than this which becomes very valuable when trying to navigate a maze of single track on very long files. I can't wait to get my hands on a new etrex 20 later this year.

I'd agree this is the biggest win -- ability to upload a 10k point track without having to split it up and fiddle around on the GPS itself to clear beforehand.  You wouldn't believe how many people I've had to help with that convoluted process.  It's a lot easier on the 20/30, and you can have 20 of those 10k tracks, meaning you can have a decent sized library of tracks to display while riding.

The custom map feature the OP mentioned is pretty cool -- sometimes it is nice to have USGS raster maps.  TopoFusion [shameless plug] uploads all of its imagery types including two sets of USGS maps and a couple sources of aerials.  But... I don't know, unless I am doing a ride in a small area where I really need high detail, I find myself just sticking with Garmin's vector basemaps (Topo 2008 DVD) or one of the gpsfiledepot or open street maps free alternatives.  It's consistent and not too busy so it does clutter the screen.  I just find the vector maps easier to view and that they are easy to pick out your main piece of information -- the track you are following.  But then I'm more of a 'do your map work at home then follow the line' type of rider.

You can upload OSM maps as raster (e.g. in TopoFusion) but also vector based free installs for mapsource are available. So it is possible to get OSM maps onto an older eTrex w/o too much hassle.  But the new units are so much easier to use and are faster.  I recommend them all the time to folks.
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Author of TopoFusion GPS software.  Co-founder of trackleaders.com - SPOT event tracking.

  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 07:09:17 AM
aaron w


Location: Salida, CO
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 07:09:17 AM »

I own both of these units and they are both great.  Of course it's nice on the 30 not to have to deal with file size limitations.  The 30 is faster, smaller, and has some nice bells and whistles (love the alarm clock for bikepacking). 

My main complaint with the 30 is that the unit's odometer cannot be reset.  Also the trip odometer cannot be reset without resetting other trip data as well.  With the Vista I had become accustomed running 2 odometers....for example I might use one to show my total mileage for the day and the other I would reset  throughout the day to help me know when to start looking for a turn, or when to expect the next town, aid station, etc. 

Not a huge deal but for biking long distances I really liked having 2 independently resettable odometers. 
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 09:19:46 AM
mtnbound


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« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 09:19:46 AM »

I have briefly checked out the new eTrex 20/30 and they do have good features.  I like the alarm clock too. 

Do they have a elevation profile feature?  If I have a set of waypoints, am I able to pull up an elevation profile to see what the steepness of the trail/waypoints is ahead of me (w/o trying to figure it out on a topo)?
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #9 on: February 03, 2012, 09:01:00 AM
Done


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« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2012, 09:01:00 AM »

I'm a pathetic gear head, known for buying WAY too many unnecessary gadgets. But I'm sticking with my Vista HCx. I just don't see enough reasons for upgrading this time around. Not because the 30 isn't great, just that the HCx is almost perfect! I'd easily pay $50 to get a longer-track feature, but I'm not going to buy a new GPS for it.
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  Topic Name: Garmin eTrex 30 vs. Vista HCx - the biggest difference! Reply #10 on: February 08, 2012, 09:42:07 AM
arno


Location: Bavarian Alps
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« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2012, 09:42:07 AM »

The biggest difference, or the new selling point for me seems to be the capability to transfer GPX tracks directly to a folder in the etrex 20/30 in USB mass storage mode. At least this is the reason I consider upgrading from an etrex legend hcx, because I would like to have the flexibility to transfer tracks from any computer or even cell phones (with USB OTG) without the need of a special transfer software.

Can somebody of the etrex 20/30 owners confirm, that this is possible? Are there special restrictions? Does the track appear with its file name?
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