Nicholas Skinner

Freelance website and web application developer

Archive for September, 2010

Garmin Dakota 20 GPS: First Impressions

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Garmin Dakota 20Recently purchased a Garmin Dakota 20 GPS. One thing that impressed me immediately was with how the Garmin interacts with a computer. It has a mini USB connector which when plugged into a Mac or PC mounts two standard drives (one for onboard memory, and one for the optional memory card). GPX waypoint/track files can then simply be copied to and from the device without the need for any proprietary software. Garmin does however provide the BaseCamp, and MapSource applications that makes the process easier, along with allowing you to create and view tracks/waypoints.

I was also impressed by the units ability to orientate the map using the compass (i.e. you do not need to actually be moving for the map to be correctly orientated), and its general solid feel that makes you think it can easily handle harsh outdoor conditions.

A few things that I was not an impressed about:

  • It is not ideal that after purchasing a £290 RRP unit you then need (at least to use it to its full potential) to purchase additional maps at around £75 in the case of ‘City Navigator Europe‘.
  • Unlock procedure for ‘City Navigator Europe’ – the website asks for a “Serial Number” and “Product Key”, however the serial number is wants Is not the clearly labelled serial number on the CD, but the serial number hidden away behind the battery cover of the GPS.
  • Inability to use it very easily when in a protective carry case, although granted the carry case is not really required at it is a very hard wearing / waterproof (IPX7 rated) unit when I have paid that much for a gadget I feel happier having it in a case.
  • MapSource seems like a more professional / polished application for managing the Dakota when compared to BaseCamp, however MapSource is not available on the Mac.

In terms of batteries, I initially used Duracell and seemed to be getting nowhere near the recommended batter life (although I did not carry out precise tests), after switching to the recommended lithium batteries however (I chose Energizer) battery life improved greatly, and I stopped receiving warnings about the backlight not operating.

When purchasing electronics I try to stick with buying from well known names such as Dabs, expansys, ebuyer etc however on this occasion due to the large price difference and number of positive Google Checkout ratings I purchased my Garmin from hantec http://www.handtec.co.uk/product.php/2164/ for £189.40 (£194.09 with shipping).

Overall I am still getting used to the unit, and while I do have a few issues with it, I think it is one of the better ones available today.