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Garmin Dakota 20 Review

   

Handheld GPS

  • Currently 3.0/5
Overall avg rating 3.0 of 5 based on 4 reviews. Most recent review: March 26, 2015
Street Price:   $168 | Compare prices at 1 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, easy to use, good battery life, intuitive interface, customizable menu system.
Cons:  Small display is hard to see in bright sun, imprecise screen, no push buttons.
Best Uses:  Budget touchscreen device for geocaching.
User Rating:     
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 (3.0 of 5) based on 3 reviews
Recommendations:  67% of reviewers (2/3) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Garmin
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ July 30, 2013  
Overview
The Garmin Dakota 20 is our top rated budget touchscreen GPS. It's easier to use and faster than the Magellan eXplorist 310 and is faster to type on than the Garmin eTrex 20. However, the Dakota's touchscreen is outdated and sluggish compared to the new Garmin Oregon 600.

Check out our complete Handheld GPS Review to compare all of the model tested.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes


The Garmin Dakota 20 is a smaller and lighter version if the Garmin Oregon series. It offers hikers and geocachers an affordable touchscreen device that makes text entry easier than on a push button unit. It's also small enough to fit in your pocket and light enough to join you anywhere. This is our favorite affordable touchscren device. Get it if you don't want to cough up the cash for the Oregon series.

Garmin's software, Basecamp, is equally powerful yet easier to use than Magellan's VantagePoint, and it's much simpler than DeLorme's Topo North America. One of our favorite features is its ability to show waypoints and tracks in Google Earth.

Dislikes



The main drawback to the Dakota 20 is its lack of push buttons. (The power button is the only button.) Magellan incorporates two customizable push buttons on its eXplorist 710 that, under the default configuration, take a photo and mark a waypoint. This is an excellent feature that would greatly improve the Dakota 20. Not having buttons can be problematic in cold weather when the screen tends to behave sluggishly and requires bare fingertips. We found that it takes longer to move from one page to another with the current version of the Dakota 20's interface. Exiting the map view to mark a waypoint can take three taps. A push button device can do it with one touch of a button. Comparing the touchscreen interface of the GPS units we tested to those of iPhone and Android will leave the GPS user disappointed. In Apple's iOS5, for example, two taps of the Home Button bring up the four most commonly used applications. A feature like this combined with the addition of two hard buttons would make this device's interface much more efficient.

Although the Dakota 20's touchscreen makes typing faster, we still aren't impressed with the display when compared to other electronic gadgets. Again, the iPhone 4's display is orders of magnitudes better (higher resolution, more precise, improved visibility). The plastic touchscreens found on the GPS units we tested were considerably harder to see in direct sunlight than standard GPS screens. In sum, get a touchscreen if you enter lots of text. Otherwise we recommend push button units with standard displays.

Value


This is the cheapest good quality touchscreen device we tested. Though we recommend getting the Oregon 550, the Dakota 20 could be a good bet if you don't want to spend the extra money. The eTrex 20 is slightly cheaper and is easier to see in direct sunlight, but also slower for entering text. Your screen preference will determine which is best for you.

Other Versions


The Dakota 10 Waterproof, $200, has a 2.6 in color touchscreen display, high sensitivity GPS, and 20 hour battery life span.

Chris McNamara and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: March 26, 2015
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)

67% of 3 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
4 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 50%  (2)
3 star: 25%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 25%  (1)
Sort 3 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Mar 26, 2015 - 06:52pm
Don't buy this device, and seriously consider avoiding this brand. The device itself is now old, and it is quite slow. Locking on to satellites if you've moved or had it turned off for a while can take a long time (even their own manual says 20 minutes, and Garmin play a little loose with the truth generally).
However, the real problem is with the maps and the mapping software on your computer. Maps are very expensive, and outside the UK, of poor quality. Basecamp (their computer software that "works" with their devices) is difficult to use and buggy. The included global map has wild inaccuracies (e.g. Henley-on-Thames and Oxford are in completely the wrong place, and shown as joined by utterly the wrong roads).
Worse, if you download a map to your device, you may well not be able to use it in Basecamp, except by using the Dakota as an external disk drive. You will probably not be able to install the map on your computer (that requires you to buy the DVD version of the map, a fact well hidden on their website). And you cannot transfer the map to another device later if you upgrade. Since there is relative little memory free in the device, significantly sized maps require an SD card. Together with the fact that the version of the USB protocol used is ancient, this means incredibly slow rendering of maps. It can take several minutes to redraw if you move position or zoom in or out. Walk planning becomes an exercise in extreme patience.
Worse, however, than the map problems, is their customer service. Not only can you not get a refund or exchange, but they are also rude and patronising, when they eventually do reply (IME the quickest response is 2 days)
In summary, this device is too old and slow to be useful. Beware of downloading maps, they are expensive and might not be usable everywhere. If you buy a new device, you will have to replace your maps. Support is extremely poor. Customer service is non-existent.
Zero stars if it were allowed.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 24, 2014 - 02:50pm
Mason · Kayaker · NORWALK
Have used this unit dozens of times in the past two years for kayaking, hiking and cycling. Use it mostly to track the trips and catalog time, distance and speed, stopping time, etc. It is fully waterproof (have dropped it in the water several times) and fairly shock resistant (drop my first one 8-9 feet onto concrete and had to replace it). Was fairly quick and dependable at picking out satellites. Screen is a bit difficult in bright sun, but not impossible. Customizing the screen to your liking is easy, with reasonable data flexibility. Even during 10-12 hour trips I have never run out of battery power, although I limit the tracking points to be safe. Has a good compass and tracks climb with questionable accuracy.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 29, 2013 - 02:47am
I have used my Dakota 20 for 2 years and have found it an excellent GPS. I purchased the unit of eBay with Topo and street maps loaded (australia & NZ). I purchased this unit as it had good reviews at the time and came with the maps included. The size was also a big plus as it fits into any pocket unlike the larger 3" units which are more bulky and use up batteries faster. I live in Perth, Australia so it's mostly sunny and I have had little difficulty reading the screen on my hikes in the hills.
I use the GPS about once a week on hikes and have also used it in the car (street maps) with no issues. It has a small internal speaker which beeps when you get near your turn/destination. I have used other GPS's but have loved using the Dakota 20 because of its size and convenience.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Garmin Dakota 20
Garmin Dakota 20
Credit: Max Neale
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