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Garmin eTrex 20x Review

Garmin eTrex 20x
Best Buy Award
Price:   $200 List | $169.98 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, great screen quality, longest battery life, reliable push buttons.
Cons:  No electronic compass, basemap is very limited, small screen, owner's manual lacks detail.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Garmin

Our Verdict

If you've been in the market for an inexpensive handheld GPS with fantastic value, the latest eTrex 20x may be a perfect fit. Featured as our Best Buy award winner, this unit is lightweight (5.1 oz) and very affordable (only $200). Enjoy 25 hours of battery life, a large internal memory (3.7 GB) and all the basic functions of a handheld GPS unit. Similar to the Magellan eXplorist 510, this unit can hold up to 2,000 waypoints and 200 routes. It comes with a basic base map with the option to upload topo maps. We are also very impressed with the accuracy of this device. It utilizes both GPS and GLONASS satellite networks (with WAAS compatibility) for accuracy up to nine feet in open areas.

This simple handheld GPS is perfect for navigating through the backcountry. It does lack some features that our higher performing models don such as wireless share technology, electronic compass, and barometric altimeter.

Looking to Upgrade?
If you love the eTrex 20x but want a little more out of your Garmin, consider the Garmin eTrex 30x. This version of the eTrex comes with enhanced screen resolution and more internal memory storage for increased map holding capabilities.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Handheld GPS Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Amber King
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
January 15, 2016

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The Garmin eTrex 20x won our Best Buy award and stands out as our lightest and most affordable handheld GPS.

The eTrex 20x replaced the eTrex 20 in 2015. This unit comes with a better display, more memory, and better reception. It is one of the cheapest color GPS units you can find on the market.

Chris is looking to find a powder stash he found a while back. The eTrex 20x tracks where he's been and where to go next.
Chris is looking to find a powder stash he found a while back. The eTrex 20x tracks where he's been and where to go next.

Performance Comparison


Check out the Overall Performance chart below to see how each handheld GPS ranked compared to our Best Buy winner, the eTrex 20x.


Reception


The updated eTrex 20x has significantly changed its reception and coverage compared to the earlier model - the eTrex 20. When carrying out our tests we learned this unit was the quickest of all units to find a signal in both covered and wide open areas. With the option to utilize both GLONASS and GPS networks this device (similar to the Garmin Montana 680) is able to quickly lock onto a position within nine feet of accuracy in open spaces. However, due to its small size, reception decreases in covered terrain (such as a stand of trees).


We also performed navigation tests to better determine the accuracy of the units. We flagged out an area and marked a waypoint. We then walked away and had the device navigate us back. All devices navigated us back within 40 to 98 inches of our original way point. The Garmin Montana 680 proved to be most accurate while the Garmin eTrex navigated within 85 inches of the original position. Overall, the device is fast to attain a signal, but not as accurate as higher performing devices.

Dan (our main tester) marks a way point as a storm begins to roll in.
Dan (our main tester) marks a way point as a storm begins to roll in.

Ease of Use


The simplicity of this Best Buy winner is what we fell in love with. This device does not support fancy wireless sharing options, an electronic compass, or barometric altimeter, but it is quite easy to use.


The exterior of the device is equipped with a simple toggle that serves as a button for direction and entering. On the right are two buttons. One is a "back" button while the other is the backlight. On the left are three buttons. One for quick menu access, and the other two for zoom in/out. This device is not equipped with a touchscreen, which makes it a great option for those who prefer buttoned devices.

The eTrex 20x has six buttons in total. On the left there are three - one for quick access to the menu  and the other two to zoom in/out. On the right is a button for quick access to the back light and to go back. The main push button on the front functions as the cursor directional and enter. All are simple and easy to use - especially when wearing a pair of gloves.
The eTrex 20x has six buttons in total. On the left there are three - one for quick access to the menu, and the other two to zoom in/out. On the right is a button for quick access to the back light and to go back. The main push button on the front functions as the cursor directional and enter. All are simple and easy to use - especially when wearing a pair of gloves.

This device has a similar menu layout to other Garmin devices. Its simple features make the menu easy to navigate. One big downside of the unit (and consistent with most of the Garmin GPS units tested) is the basemap. Unlike the Magellan eXplorist 510, it is very limited in function.

The menu layout is simple  icon-based  and easy to use.
The menu layout is simple, icon-based, and easy to use.

We could not fully rely on this map to navigate from point to point as it only really contains road (not trail) information. It would be helpful to download maps from others souces like GPS File Depot to supplement your navigation. A 25K topo map for trails is a perfect size for navigating all kinds of terrain features. We liked the quick access to change the battery. The back cover features a simple turngate screw that is very easy to take on and off.

The back cover comes off easily with a turn of the screw. This makes it quick and easy to change out batteries in all sorts of conditions. There is also a girth-hitch point at the base of the unit if you prefer to have it attached to a lanyard.
The back cover comes off easily with a turn of the screw. This makes it quick and easy to change out batteries in all sorts of conditions. There is also a girth-hitch point at the base of the unit if you prefer to have it attached to a lanyard.

Display Quality


Of all the units tested, the eTrex 20x sports the smallest screen. The 2.2" transflective display is similar to the Garmin GPS MAPS 64s in quality and does surprisingly well in high and low light conditions.


Even though the display is small, the font on the device is large enough to see. If you're looking for a large screen and big font options, check out the Garmin Montana 680.

Here we compare the Garmin eTrex 20x  the Garmin GPSMAPS 64s  and the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60. Both the Garmin screens are made from similar durable materials and do well in both high and low light conditions. These are all buttoned units tested.
Here we compare the Garmin eTrex 20x, the Garmin GPSMAPS 64s, and the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60. Both the Garmin screens are made from similar durable materials and do well in both high and low light conditions. These are all buttoned units tested.

Speed


What we really loved about this device is how quickly it was able to pick up a new location. Even though the signal wasn't as accurate as other devices it was one of the fastest. Its processing speed was average when compared to higher performing devices.


In terms of draw and redraw capabilities, the device was surprisingly quick for its small size. Like many of the devices in this review, there was a quick pause between view zoom in and zoom outs. We also noticed that there was a bit of a lag when tracking a route. Entering waypoint information is also a slow process. This is because you have to select each letter with a toggle and hit enter before moving to the next letter. The Garmin GPS MAPS 64s also utilizes this method except using one large button to select enter instead. That said, this unit is not as modern or quick as the Oregon 600t but the speed is adequate.

Here we show the units keyboard. It takes a little longer to enter a way point as the toggle is used to select letters to form words and descriptions. If you prefer a faster unit  check out touchscreen options.
Here we show the units keyboard. It takes a little longer to enter a way point as the toggle is used to select letters to form words and descriptions. If you prefer a faster unit, check out touchscreen options.

Weight and Size


The lightest and smallest device of them all. Weighing only 5.1 oz, this GPS is perfect for stashing away on long lightweight adventures. The unit is small enough to fit into a breast pocket or the side of a pant for easy access. It also provides a point to girth hitch a lanyard if you choose to wear it around your neck.


Here we compare all units. From left to right: Garmin eTrex 20x  Garmin Montana 680  Garmin GPSMAPS 64s  Magellan eXplorist 510  Garmin Oregon 600  DeLorme PN-60. The eTrex 20x is our smallest and lightest unit.
Here we compare all units. From left to right: Garmin eTrex 20x, Garmin Montana 680, Garmin GPSMAPS 64s, Magellan eXplorist 510, Garmin Oregon 600, DeLorme PN-60. The eTrex 20x is our smallest and lightest unit.

Versatility


We truly loved the simplicity and versatility of this unit. Even though it does not have a barometric altimeter, wireless sharing options, or an electronic compass (like its cousin - Garmin eTrex 30x), we were impressed with how easy it was to pack with us while skiing, mountaineering, backpacking, and fishing.


It is water resistant, doesn't lock up in cold weather, features a battery life of 25 hours, and is super lightweight. When performing our glove tests, we learned it was one of the easiest to use with very thick gloves. The simple toggle works as both a directional and enter button. Even though it took a little longer, all way points taken were marked and labelled accurately.

Need a unit that works with varying glove thickness'? No problem - the eTrex 20x proved to be perfect for just that!
Need a unit that works with varying glove thickness'? No problem - the eTrex 20x proved to be perfect for just that!

Even though this is an extremely versatile and reliable unit, it comes with limitations. It does not have an electronic compass or barometric altimeter. This means altitude readings may not be as accurate. It also lacks fancy features like a camera or video recorder. But all in all, this is a great unit with many applications.

This unit features a differential compass. Unlike a electronic compass you need to move in order to determine direction.
This unit features a differential compass. Unlike a electronic compass you need to move in order to determine direction.

Best Uses


You can use this device for any adventure. This is attributed to its small dimensions, 25-hour battery life, and crisp display quality. We also think this is one of the best winter devices tested. The buttoned setup makes marking a way point with thin or thick gloves accurate and easy. Feel free to bring it with you on any or all adventures - especially long ones.

Planning a long adventure where you need to go light? This unit is perfect for those expeditions.
Planning a long adventure where you need to go light? This unit is perfect for those expeditions.

Value


A sticker price of $199.99 is pretty darn sweet. It carries out the same functions as any mid-performing GPS handheld with the luxury of a small and compact size.

Lightweight  reliable  and inexpensive. Take home our Best Buy award winner - you won't be disappointed.
Lightweight, reliable, and inexpensive. Take home our Best Buy award winner - you won't be disappointed.

The battery lasts 25 hours with a 3.7 GB internal memory. You can upload topo maps and utilize basecamp software to track and analyze routes. With such a low price point and so many features, this is a steal of a deal. In fact, it had the best value of the bunch, earning our Best Buy award.

When purchasing the Garmin eTrex 20x  you are provided with the unit  a usb cable  and users manual. Batteries are not included.
When purchasing the Garmin eTrex 20x, you are provided with the unit, a usb cable, and users manual. Batteries are not included.

Conclusion


The Garmin eTrex 20x is lightweight, simple, and inexpensive. Our Best Buy award winner is reliable and awesome. Need we say more?
Amber King

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Most recent review: April 27, 2016
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Apr 27, 2016 - 03:27am
 
Jon Beck · Climber · OCEANSIDE
I swear by the Garmin 20x. Battery life is amazing, multiple days on a trip. I like that I can customize the display for the info I want to see all on one screen. If you minimize use of the back light you will get more life out of your batteries. I turn the backlight all the way down until sunset.
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