on February 4, 2008
Before buying this new Venture HC, I had spent many hours trekking with several of the original eTrex models over the years. I think it's fair to say that while the concept of the original eTrex was great, the execution was frequently disappointing.
It disappoints no more. The Venture HC is the eTrex perfected. It remedies almost every shortcoming that plagued the original models. The new high-sensitivity receiver is amazingly effective. Countless times I've stood in wide open spaces cursing my old eTrex because it wouldn't acquire a single satellite. Last night I turned on the Venture HC on the bottom floor of my two story house, and it locked onto 8 satellites...through the roof and the upper floor! No more "need a clear view of the sky" messages. Amazing.
The old monochrome display has become color, and the user interface is now substantially more intuitive, while adding even more functionality. The cable, which was serial on previous models, has been upgraded to USB, another welcome improvement. The case is somewhat wider than before, but the design bears a strong resemblance to the original eTrex.
A basemap is included but it's just that - basic. It shows the largest highways, bodies of water, and has some limited capability to display highway exit services. If you need turn-by-turn street directions, an eTrex is not for you. This is a GPS receiver true to Garmin's outdoor GPS heritage.
Promised battery life (14 hours) is near the bottom of the range when compared to the existing eTrex models, but is still perfectly adequate and has posed no problems.
One weakness that remains is Garmin's waypoint manager PC software. It has the feel and functionality of a software product released circa 1994. Garmin could certainly develop a better PC interface. For $75 you can buy ExpertGPS from Topografix, or download the free version (EasyGPS) from their website. I use the free version and it meets my needs very well. Either is far more functional than the Garmin OEM software.
Still, the software criticism is a quibble. The Venture HC itself is great. It is a market changing product that renders all previous eTrex models (and many competitors) obsolete. Finally, an affordable outdoor GPS receiver that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
on February 11, 2008
I was totally chessed off at Magellan when my Explorist 100 died under warranty and they refused to support or repair it (this was a new unit!). So I only considered Garmin based on liking my car unit.
It's a bit tricky, but I am able to use the USB cable and the 'send to Garmin' to automatically load waypoints from geocaching.com. One warning is that they have a Mac firmware web updater and it's very new and froze on my attempt to use it, which blanked my unit. [...]. I did the update for this unit on a friends PC and it went fine.
There are some Mac caching software, but none of them are working for me with this unit. So keep that in mind if you really want to go beyond the web waypoint downloads. That's a bummer, since Maccaching and GeoJournal look like they'd be great.
The included software does not work on a Mac, so ignore that CD. From the Garmin site, you can download the plugin for Mac to make Safari aware of the unit so you can do the "send to Garmin' trick. They also have the Mac version of their WebUpdater (the one that hosed my first unit) on their site. Finally, you don't need any USB drivers for Tiger or Leopard OSX, so don't worry about them only being for Windows on the Garmin site.
Crazy fast turn on and acquiring satellites. We are thrilled that we can turn it on in the car and it will start to pick up satellites right away. Our Magellin (an cheap 100 unit) would take awhile even outside in cloudcover.
It also seems to save all the time, as the shutdown is very fast, with no 'saving' note like our Magellin made us wait for.
I guess our only complaint is that we like to use the backlight a lot and that sucks batteries. It's winter now, and so many days and locations are dim, and without the backlight, the unit can be pretty dim to read. It takes 2 AA's. It also has a system pref for the type of battery you use (Alkaline, NiMH or LiOn), why? Maybe to only USB charge when they are NiMH's?? But remember to set that to the correct type.
We really love auto loading the coordinates. And even with the free account on Geocaching.com, we get the cache name, GC# and coordinates. That saves tons of time and mistakes. We find ourselves loading up any cache that interests us, just in case.
The unit seems right on. Our other unit would usually be more like 20-30 feet accurate in the woods, and this one led us right to the cache and showed 16' accuracy at that point under normal tree cover. It also refreshes more often than our old unit, so it feels more responsive. No more going 20 feet and then seeing that the arrow just didn't update to show we were going the wrong way, or overshot.
It seems solid and took our last rainy hike well. The back has a bit of a gap, but the seal must lock in fine. It uses the 'D' lock, so just half a twist to lock and unlock, which is fast and appreciated on a cold cache while changing batteries. We always had to dig to get the Magellin's ring out and turning to pop the back.
If you've used the old Garmin's with button input, the toggle on the front is really welcomed. We zip through data entry and you push the toggle in to accept an entry. It's also a shortcut to Mark your current location (holding down the toggle button). Another tip is that holding down the lower left button brings up the 'Find' menu quickly.
One thing I noted was that when I went just one setting more on 'detail' for the maps, it really cut the redraw speed (which is a tad slow to begin with), so that was disappointing.
Hope that helps someone and happy caching!
for Team Spiderweb4-2
on March 10, 2008
I got this unit after much research into different brands and, after settling on Garmin, different models. It's a great all-around GPS at a great price. It's my first, so I can't comment on the increased sensitivity of the HC chip, but I get plenty of coverage inside my house, and when I step outside the accuracy goes to about 9'. I would have liked the compass and altimeter of the Vista, but really don't have much need for them since I'm not an avid hiker, and didn't need to spend the extra money.
The Venture HC is great for geocaching. I took my family out on our first hunt last weekend, and although we only had about an hour to spare, we had a great time finding caches stashed around a park nearby. I can see this as a fun family activity on road trips as well. The Venture has built-in geocaching features that let you download waypoints directly from geocacher.com (using the free Garmin browser plugin), and even mark caches as found right on the GPS. The color screen is very readable in sunlight. Although the Venture HC doesn't have a proper compass, the "compass" page is very useful for closing in on the target.
The Venture HC is also great for amateur astronomers. My computerized telescope needs to know lat/long/time to accurately slew to and track objects in the sky. I can get coordinates on standard addresses on geocoder.us, but if I just want to set up at a dark site somewhere, a GPS is a must. Rather than pay $200 to get the GPS option on my scope, I can use this general purpose GPS and just plug the numbers into the telescope's controller, or even connect through my laptop. Although any GPS will give you the time and location, not all have as nice a backlit screen as this one, a good thing when you're out in the dark. The customizable color schemes (with automatic night mode) and the variable backlight intensity are also great for astronomy to keep stray light to a minimum.
If I'm disappointed with anything it is with the built-in base map. Again, because this is my first GPS I was somehow expecting more detail, not necessarily in terms of street names, but certainly with respect to canals, mountains, even major cross streets etc. The only features I've been able to distinguish are freeways, lakes and cities. There are many mountains where I live and none of them are shown on the map. More detailed topo maps are available, but cost anywhere from $80-$120. I'm not subtracting any stars for this, because I'm sure all basemaps are pretty much the same. And with 24MB of memory, there's room for decent quality maps.
Garmin updated the firmware for the Venture in February 2008, so one of the first things I did was download their free WebUpdater utility to automatically install updates. I had one scary moment when my GPS lost the USB connection in the middle of the process, and I was worried my unit would be disabled. But after turning it off and back on it came right back up and, after a second try, the new firmware was installed in about 5 minutes.
All in all, I'm very happy with the quality of this unit. It feels sturdy yet light weight, with a nice rubberized feel to it. It's also waterproof, so no trouble using it in the rain. The interface took a little getting used to, but after a while it becomes second nature. The Venture lets you customize almost every screen to your taste; for example, I wanted to have time, elevation and location on the same page for astronomy purposes, so I set one of the screens up to show all these fields. At $130, the price point was perfect: significantly lower than the next model up (sacrificing only the compass/altimeter and microSD slot), and not much higher than plain-vanilla black & white units without geocaching features.
I highly recommend it.
on June 1, 2009
I have owned previous similar Garmin hand held GPS units. Very good units, pretty durable, reasonably priced and I've been very happy with them. Precision and usability has been amazing...
After multiple years of car trips, backpacking, camping and other uses of my previous Garmin handheld, it finally needed major service -- so I decided to upgrade.
This unit is good in most areas and features, but with one major problem. Sensitivity is great, turn on and signal acquisition time is much improved! Color screen is bright and colorful, with excellent readability -- except you need to turn on the backlight to read the screen, even in daytime. Links well with my existing National Geographic TOPO! software. In general a good, solid unit. Precision of the unit, based upon it recording routes and tracks is excellent -- you can even see what side of the road you're on! The USB interface works very well -- amazingly faster than the previous serial cable.
However, the base map sucks. I'm sorry, but compared to the base map in my previous unit the coverage is horrid. My previous unit included coverage in the base map down to major secondary roads. I could use it with confidence if I needed to grab it out of the glove compartment or backpack, and navigate. This base map is missing *everything* except major interstates, and major state highways. As an example, State Highway 2 (the Angeles Crest Highway) north of Los Angeles is totally missing -- let alone any of the connector roads to this state highway. Cities are listed as floating dots with no linkage to any of the road networks. In the LA basin, it's missing any indication of major inter-urban roads which are 4-6 lanes wide! Makes you wonder how the new "navigate" function works from where you are to a listed location, doesn't it?
I suspect that you need to spend the additional $100-200 to get the Garmin Mapsource additional map data, in order to download more detailed maps. I've already ordered a copy of this, to see if it helps. Figure this additional purchase into your price if you are going to use this other than on a major interstate. However, the HC unit only has about 24 MB of memory, so you can't download significant amounts of map data to the unit.
Overall, I'd not recommend this unit at all. If they had put in the previous map base, I'd be writing a 5 star recommendation. But without the previous map base, you need to spend at least $100 ain additional to make this as usuable as the previous model -- and the unit has little ability in 24 MB to add additional map data. I'd recommend at a minimum going for the HCx model which allows you to add a micro SD card for up to at least 4GB of additional map memory.
Now, why did they downgrade the quality of the base map? My suspicion is they want to sell the map software as well. In which case, they should offer a bundle of the two items, which I've not seen offered anywhere.
I'm going to be using this extensively in the next few months for backpacking and road tripping (including beyond major highways), so I'll give it a fair test. From my initial usage, most likely I'll be junking this and going for a HCx in a few months...
on November 20, 2007
I wanted a GPS primary for hunting and have used Garmins with good success in the past. This model provided all the features I was looking for and more. I never once lost reception while hunting even in the deepest woods. The unit worked equally well in a pocket or inside the truck which wasn't the case with the previous GPS units I've used. I've recently started using my GPS while running to track milage and speed. The Trip Computer will track distance, max speed, average speed, time spent moving and time spent stopped. While you have to reset the data each time it's still a very useful tool.
on July 27, 2008
I purchased this unit several weeks ago, have used it a lot so far, and I'm very pleased with its performance.
I began geocaching several months ago and had been using my Nuvi 350 Garmin nüvi 350 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator with Text-to-Speech for that. It worked well (and is fantastic for driving), but I was afraid I would damage it or that it would get wet from so much outdoor use. I wanted a unit that was more durable, with an excellent satellite receiver, but economical. Therefore, I ordered a Garmin eTrex Venture HC, just to use for caching. (It would probably also work well for hiking, etc.; I've only used it for geocaching.) This is the current basic eTrex model that has the new receiver (H), color screen (C), USB connection, but no card slot (x).
This little GPSr has all the features I need for geocaching, and a good many that I've still not used.
*Small size, shaped to be handheld, has a lanyard, is lightweight and easy to carry, very convenient to use
*Waterproof and durable for outdoor use
*Easy to read screen in sunlight
*Simple to use, with lots of features
*Locks on satellites quickly and holds signal very well, very accurate
*Has geocaching mode with ability to mark caches as found (not a necessity, but nice)
*Two screen choices to look for waypoint/cache--map screen and compass pointer screen
*Batteries last a long time--I've just now changed out the first set of regular alkaline batteries. I've found a couple dozen caches, placed a couple, and worked with the unit at home a lot to learn its features, usually with the backlight on, on one pair of regular AA's.
*Connects to computer with USB cable, can send brief cache info directly to unit by clicking on "Send to Garmin" on geocaching website. You can also enter the info manually, and there is space for some brief notes.
*Great price--around $115 here the last time I checked.
I really can't think of any cons. I was afraid the screen might be too small on this smaller-size unit, but it's big enough and not a problem at all. I wish it had a setting to automatically turn the backlight on each time, but it's very easy to turn it on so that's no problem.
The maps are very basic without much detail (as on most of the "outdoor" units), but I use the Nuvi if I need driving directions. After parking, I use the eTrex to find the cache and haven't needed maps for that. I haven't loaded any extra maps (I don't do wilderness caching) or used any of the 24 MB of internal memory. Forums have indicated that this is enough space for loading a good many topo maps, but not for many driving navigation maps. If you want to buy & load City Navigator for driving, you'd need a model with a card slot. For me, the Nuvi 350 and Venture HC make a great combo to cover all bases better than a single unit would.
One of the friends that I often cache with has the more expensive 60CSx, and our units usually give almost identical information. I know there are technical differences, but the eTrex performs very well in comparison.
This is the Venture HC, not the older eTrex Venture model. The more expensive eTrex units (Vista HCx, etc.) have features like an additional electronic compass & altimeter and a card slot, but I haven't needed those. I think those are the major differences in the newest eTrex models, they basically work the same and have the same receiver. Garmin's website lets you compare features on different models, and you can read the manuals there.
If you need a great unit for caching, consider the Venture HC.
on May 3, 2008
The HC model's high-sensitivity antenna really works!! I have an old model without the H-antenna, that really had trouble receiving a 3D signal under cover. The HC was able to maintain a satellite link even under forest canopy (but with pockets of holes in the canopy), and under sheltered walkways (open sides). However, if indoors or under extremely dense canopy the receiver loses all signal; but this is expected. The lock-on after turning-on the system is quick. I was not able to test the WAAS function as my location is not covered. However, without the WAAS, I have verified that the GPS tracking was accurate to within 5-10m, and that was good enough for me.
The colour display is very readable, even under bright sunlight. The controls are intuitive. I can use all the basic functions without reading the manual.
The unit is small, compact, and rugged. Battery life is OK, although the Legend HCx lasts almost twice as long. However, I can't justify the big jump in price to the Legend HCx. It would be good if Garmin decides to increase the batt life of the venture hc.
There is considerable lag when scrolling the map. It takes a while for the unit to redraw the map. This is not a problem with the GPS, but rather, the processor chip that is being used. They should come up with a faster processing chip. If you are in a hurry, the slow redrawing of the map, when you want to quickly scroll-search a new location, can get on your nerves.
Overall, at US$137 from Amazon, this is a good buy. I use it for mountaineering and adventure travels. I bring extra lithium batteries for cold conditions. Not for car use. This model doesn't come with the barometer, altimeter, compass that the Summit has. And this is a GOOD THING. Use your GPS purely for that function: GPS. Carry a separate magnetic compass and topo map. And bring along a dedicated altimeter/barometer/digital compass. This is the only safe way of navigating remote mountains and extreme environments.
Amazon packed my GPS unit very nicely in their cardboard box lined with air bags to protect the unit. I appreciated that. The product arrived flawless.
on October 19, 2007
I was very pleased with the purchase of my new eTrex Venture HC. I've used a Garmin Legeng Cx for geocaching for the last year and coords jump off too much under heavy canopy. This is not the case with the new eTrex Venture HC. I was also able to load Topo and City maps without any trouble using my old software. I also had no problems loading waypoints directly using GSAK software.
on November 17, 2008
Got this unit to start geocaching with my kids.
PROS are: It seems to be very accurate, screen is easily readable, color is good, seems well made and durable. The unit is also able to obtain a satellite when indoors near a window which was very surprising.
CONS are: no built in compass which makes it very difficult to get to the geocache when you get very close. If you stand still it will confuse you and point to a different direction. The unit only points toward the destination when you are moving. So when you get close to the cache you need to constantly walk back and forth to figure out where it is. If you stop walking the display will point toward screen-north and not the destination.
Also, the Garmin operating system was a little less than intuitive causing me to read the manual more than I would usually need to for other small electronics. After much searching the manual still does not tell you how to manually enter a waypoint if you have the coordinates. It makes mention of the possibility then fails to explain how. (By the way, you use the "Mark" feature and then edit the info to do this).
Despite the fairly major limitation of not having a compass we have still had success in finding our destinations. However if I had known about what trouble lack of a compass would bring I would not have bought it. My kids (9 and 6) are not able to find a geocache without the compass and get frustrated walking in circles when near the destination.
I can see a unit with a compass in our future.
on November 22, 2007
The Venture HC is great. Its easy to use and it is pretty accurate. The H in the HC means high sensitivity chip. This wont make it any more accurate but it will help you still receive a signal under tree cover.
If this unit is in your price range but the Vista is not then get it. Otherwise upgrade to the vista as it has better battery life and you can get the removable memory.
For me it was at the right price and has enough features for me. This was my first GPS unit and I havent had any issues with it. It has worked very well for geocaching.