Top critical review
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I wanted to LOVE this unit, but its just not possible ~yet~
on December 1, 2014
I bought this unit through Cabella's and used it on a recent hunt with three other users. We had been debating the purchase all fall time - because its expensive, and we wanted to make sure the new features really met our needs. It did not, and we are all returning them.
Pro's - the pro on this is that the Garmin GPS feature works like any Garmin, and is nice and reliable. But that's the only Pro.....
Con's. Here is the down low after using the item for an off the grid weekend, with 3 other users.
1) The unit comes loaded with TOPO 100k maps - which suck for outdoor stuff. They are great for city hiking. You will need to buy a chip with the 24k maps - that cost $99 everywhere.....
2) What Garmin calls the "polling feature" is unreliable. This is where you can find your friends on the same GPS map. We quickly found out that it only seems to work within 1/2 mile of another user. And, that it doesn't always work. There are several ways to access the feature:
a) A button on the side - when you push this, everyone hears a tone, and in theory it updates your position on their map. When someone would press this, it would update to some Rino's, and not others, even though we all heard the tone. This occurred maybe 50% of every press. It's not two way though, it just show your friend the update of where you are, it doesn't update where they are.
b) To update a friends position without their hitting the polling button, you must go to Contacts, Select the User, then touch a button that says "Poll Contact". When you do this, only if you are in a line of sight, less than 0.5 mile range, will update the user. This also only worked about half the time, even if we were standing 50 feet away. There is a counter next to each user that shows the last time they were updated, and it was common to not get an updated position for 5 hours or more, even though other users in our party were able to plot them.
c) The unit automatically would find your friend and poll them in the event they used the radio, so, when they would talk, an icon that says "update" would appear and show their most recent position. Again, this occurred about half the time - there was no rhyme or reason - sometimes it would update on mine, sometimes on my buddies, but it always seemed that one unit would not "get" the transmission even though we were all relatively close.
This feature was one of the key reasons we bought the unit. So we could safely know where the rest of our hunting party was. Any line of sight issue - a boulder between you, would cause it simply not Poll. The range of poll, was also a major issue - we never were able to use the feature over 1/2 mile, in many different terrains.
Another issue, which is not really explained until after you buy it, is that the FCC doesn't allow this kind of feature but once ever 30 seconds. That may not sound like a big deal, but basically, if I press the button to poll myself to my friends GPS, they receive, but if they press their button in kind, it doesn't send because they are in the 30 second window. Eventually, everyone is trying to either update their position or their friends and it doesn't tell you that it didn't send the poll, it just doesn't do it, and you are sitting their waiting, and waiting and waiting, for no updates. It is extremely aggravating to say the least. It would sure be awesome if you hit one button and it updated everyone, on everyone's devices, all at once, but whom am I to make an obvious suggestion.
3) The radio portion was HORRIBLE. Just like the polling feature, it doesn't seem to work past 0.5 mile, even in perfect conditions without obstruction. If there is obstruction, forget about it, you get nothing. Sometimes one user would talk and one in our party (never the same person) would simply NOT get the call. We could be standing 10 feet from each other and I would hear buddy talking, then the next message, he would hear buddy talking. At the end of the day, we had to carry another Motorola radio with us, operating on the same frequency to stay in communication.
The two issues above are reason enough to pass on this unit. If I have to carry another radio "just in case" the Rino stops working, it defeats the purpose of having it in one unit. Everyone in our party agreed that when the Group GPS was working, it was awesome, but it was so glitchy, and you had to be so close together, and the restrictions on when the unit can and will send or receive, that it was a technology that requires some more work before it gets to "prime time".
Additional annoyances were perhaps petty, but real. We wanted to wear earphones to cut down on the noise of the unit while we hunted. There is no option to turn off the polling beeps, and keep the radio volume so you can hear a call from your friends. So, we wanted earphones. Surprise, you can't use the earphones that you already have for your iPod, phone, etc. You have to buy Garmin earphones for $30. ;-/ Not cool, Garmin.
Then there is the charger. In an age where everything has a USB jack to charge in the car or with an emergency power pack, you guessed it, it MUST be the Garmin charger, and those adapters are extra. ;-/ Not cool, Garmin.
Then there are the instructions. PS, it doesn't come with instructions, just a quick start guide. I downloaded the instructions on the Garmin website, and there are NO instructions about "Polling". There are no trouble shooting tips when the unit can't "Poll", but even funnier, I thought, was that the terminology is totally from left field and there are no instructions anywhere for what Polling means in the first place. Its like they just made up a word and expect everyone to know it. Press the "polling" button, stupid!
Then there is tech support.... I called to ask about why were got such spotty reception before our hunt. They told us we all needed to update operating system. We all did. Nothing changed. Their only advice was "less obstructions" when we tried in our neighborhood immediately after buying. They told us in the forest, it would act different because the unit can see through tree's. it sees through trees for navigation, but not radio or "polling".
In summary, we are all returning the item. The new features are super cool, if they worked. I think its the holy grail to have all this stuff in one unit, and I believe they will get it right, someday. But today is not someday, and you can pay less to get the same Garmin GPS with a bigger screen. Its hard to gander going out in the wilds with just this item, because those features are the ones that could save your life. If you still need to carry a separate radio, it amplifies the fact that you can't 'rely' on this unit for anything more than your own personal GPS location.