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Simple question on included maps

This should I think be a simple question, but one I'm having difficulty answering from either the Garmin website or reviews. I'm after a hand-held GPS and think that the eTrex 20x might fit the bill.

However, I'm not sure what type of maps it comes supplied with - I don't want to be paying extra on top for something additional. I want something that's pretty much the same as a car sat-nav so it will direct you from A to B using maps of the road. So, for example, I arrive at a train station somewhere and want to find my hotel. I'm not interested in any sort of "off road" detail.

The Garmin website says that the eTrex 20x comes with a "TopoActive map" of Western Europe and a worldwide "Basemap". I assume TopoActive is some type of topological map which is fine as long as it's got all the road names, junctions, etc., as well. What does a basemap consist of?

On the other hand, the specs say that "Automatic routing (turn by turn routing on roads)" is only available with "optional mapping for detailed roads" so I guess this is not included. The Western Europe version of that seems to be another £75. So if it's not included, what do you get with the basic unit? Isn't the basic function of a sat-nav to get you from A to B?

Also, as the eTrex 20 is not part of the "Touch" range, I assume it's not a touch screen. So how is it used? There don't seem to be many buttons on it. How would I enter a road name, for example.

Perhaps I don't want an eTrex at all, but the range seems rather confusing and I don't find the Garmin website very helpful in describing the difference between the ranges. I just want a hand-held version of a car sat-nav!

Thanks for reading.


  • alanb 556 Points
    edited November 2015
    In general, Garmin handhelds do not come with routable road maps. City Navigator maps which give you routable road maps are available at extra cost. There are also some free map sites like Open Street Maps that can provide routable maps.

    The Garmin Montana is probably the best handheld for street navigation. With optional (extra cost) City Navigator maps and an automotive mount with speaker, it gives you nuvi-like functions for road navigation. By the time you buy these add-on's it is very expensive. It would probably be cheaper to buy two lower end devices ...a nuvi for road navigation and a handheld for hiking/offroad use.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    I don't really think the eTrex is what you want. It has a simplistic pushbutton interface that uses a little joystick. So, for example, when you get off the train and want to find your hotel, you select a menu item that would bring up a grid of numbers and letters. You would then use the joystick to choose "H", press enter, use the joystick to choose "I", press enter, etc. until you spelled the word "Hilton". :) This interface is very tedious for anything involving text entry.

    I don't know what a "topoactive" map is. That's a new one… But you need maps that specifically support routing for what you want. That would be Garmn's City Navigator product. Not sure what the prices are in your part of the world, but in the US this map costs about $100 if purchased separately.

    So this is going to be an expensive proposition if you want to use one of Garmin's handheld "on the trail" models. Not familiar with the European variety, but in the US the basic devices don't include any useful map at all. They include a "basemap" that only shows political boundaries, major waterbodies and a few roads. And when you zoom in you will see they are very inaccurate. There is an option on some Garmin handheld to get the device bundled with a pre-installed topo map. These devices have a "T" in the model name, such as Oregon 650T. The topo map is not all that good, and it does not support routing so it wouldn't do what you want.

    Guessing that you don't have a smartphone? Honestly, for your purpose, I think that would be the best solution. You might consider putting your money into a phone instead of a dedicated GPS. There are apps where the full map is installed on the phone so no cell connection or data charges apply to its use. I have the Garmin StreetPilot EU app on my phone and used it while visiting a friend last year.

    If you are determined to get a dedicated device though, see if you can find something like a Nuvi 3450: models/nuvi-3450/prod99838.html

    It looks like a phone, has a 4" glass multi-touch screen and includes the City Navigator maps. Might be hard to find since it's an older model though. Garmin does factory refurbishing on older models and they are then sold at a big discount however. The refurbs have the same warranty as new and are a good value.

    Another possibility would be a Nuvi 3550 or 3590. These are similar to the 3450 but larger, with a 5" screen. These are available as refurbs in the US now for $150. And they not only inlclude the City Navigator map, but also free lifetime updates to the map.

    There are other Nuvi models, but these two are especially well suited for pedestrian use. They include a special pedestrian mode that Garmin dropped from the Nuvi series shortly afterwards. You will not get as good battery life with these as you would with an eTrex or other handheld, but it depends on your use as to whether that would be a problem.
  • Thanks both for your replies. It sounds like one of the Nuvi range that you mention might be the best option, although I don't know if these were ever available in the UK. I can't find any reference to them. It seems odd that I can't seem to be able to get something that I thought would be very straightforward. Perhaps smartphones killed off the market for these sort of devices.

    Talking of smart phones, you're right, I don't have one, I've still got my trusty Nokia 6310! But my wife does, and I can see that may be the way to go. I hadn't considered it previously as I assumed you needed a data connection to download the maps, and seeing as it would be used abroad much of the time I didn't want to pay the roaming charges. But if you can download the whole map so that a data connection is not required, that sounds good.

    Thanks again for your help.
  • privet01 228 Points
    Though still pricey, something like a Garmin Edge 1000 or the cheaper Edge 520 might work for you. They typically include maps that are routable. But they are routable for both road and bike trails which sometimes adds to the "fun" of trying to make your route go using the path you prefer. Much smaller screen than a nuvi or handheld. Battery life is much better than a nuvi.

    As they are intended for bicyclist, the software optimization may or may not allow it to fully perform what ever it is you are wanting to use it for.
  • Boyd 1999 Points

    It sounds like one of the Nuvi range that you mention might be the best option, although I don't know if these were ever available in the UK. I can't find any reference to them.

    You must be looking the in wrong place. We have a number of members from the UK that come here to discuss the Nuvi series. See this:

  • Apologies, I was looking for the specific model numbers you mentioned. The Nuvi range has got exactly the functionality that I want, just not in a hand-held portable unit.

    Because these are designed to be used in a car, the battery life seems to be typically about 2 hours, and I assume these are internal rechargeable batteries, so you can't just pop in a new set. And of course the charger that comes with them is for car use, not much good if you're in a hotel room!

    I think I will go for the smartphone option. Thanks all for your replies.
  • sussamb 829 Points
    Smartphone option is probably your best bet but just note you can charge a nuvi with a mains charger as well as the car charger, or indeed charge them off a USB port if you have a laptop with you for example.
  • Boyd 1999 Points
    You can get much more than two hours runtime, depending on your usage pattern. Do you actually need it to be on all the time? Or would you just pull it out of your pocket periodically to look at it? The new models have an instant sleep/wake feature when you tap the power button. So you would put it to sleep in your pocket, and wake when you need to look at it.

    And as @sussamb says, you can use pretty much any USB charger, or an external battery as discussed here:

    Smartphone battery life varies, but if you run a navigation app continuously, you will probably only get a few hours runtime as well. Garmin's outdoor/handheld devices like the eTrex are designed for longer run times however. They use a different screen technology that can be viewed in ambient light without the need for a backlight. The backlight on the Nuvi or a smartphone is what sucks the battery down quickly, especially at high settings.
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