Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Review: Garmin Geko 201

I'm a huge fan of my Garmin eTrex GPS. It's one those rare pieces of hardware which is simple, reliable and does what it claims to do very well. But like most technology, after 2 years, it was time for an upgrade.

After healthy amount of research I settled on purchasing another Garmin GPS - this time, a Geko 201. The Geko promised to be an improved version of the eTrex - the same basic functionality, but in a smaller form factor. (That's a 3 1/2 x 5" notepad above, for size comparsion.)

Having played with it for a few days now, I can say, I'm happy I made the upgrade. Some reasons why include:

  • The Geko really does have a nice and small form factor. It's more cell phone sized, and seems like I'll have fewer excuses not to bring it along.
  • The buttons are much more comfortable to use. I found the placement and stiffness of the eTrex buttons to be surprisingly annoying. Paging through the different options could be a thumb-numbing experience. The Geko buttons are much softer to the touch.
  • Battery life promises to be long, and the fact that the device is powered by two easy to find AAA batteries is a plus.
  • The Geko 201 uses the same physical connectivity as the eTrex, and is compatiable with Microsoft Windows Vista.
  • There appear to be some firmware enhancements to the Geko, such as viewing not just all waypoints but those nearby to you.
  • Pretty much all the advantages of the eTrex are available on the Geko.

My chief complaint about the eTrex was that occasionally it would take an excessive amount of time to establish a satellite link. Perhaps it's been luck, or or maybe it's psychological, but the Geko does appear to be linking up pretty dang fast. I've done side-by-side comparisons with both the eTrex and Shira's Nuvi, and so far, the Geko keeps up with them both. It even connected faster than the Nuvi because it didn't have to load up the initial set of maps.

I'll be keeping a close eye on how well the Geko performs when it comes to establishing a satellite lock. It would be this metric, more than any other, that would cause me to re-consider the Geko. But for now, it's holding its own.

This definitely isn't a GPS for everyone. I certainly wouldn't venture on a road trip without Shira's Nuvi. But for travel, hiking, and as a general purpose tool, I think the Geko is an outstanding device.

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