The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Garmin eTrex 20x Review

This economic unit offers basic functionality for a bargain
Garmin eTrex 20x
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $200 List | $138.49 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use, great screen quality, long battery life, reliable push buttons.
Cons:  No electronic compass, basemap is very limited, small screen, owner's manual lacks detail.
Manufacturer:   Garmin
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 15, 2016
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 7
  • Reception - 20% 6
  • Ease of Use - 20% 8
  • Display Quality - 20% 7
  • Speed - 15% 6
  • Weight and Size - 15% 10
  • Versatility - 10% 7

Our Verdict

If you want a solid, GPS without the bells and whistles that drive the price up, look no further than the Gamin eTrex 20x. Despite only being 5.1 ounces, this device packs 3.7 GB of memory, and hold up to 2,00 waypoints and 200 routes. It comes with a basic base map like all Garmin units, but it has the option to upload more detailed topo maps. The eTrex 20x is light, fast, accurate, and with 25 hours of battery life, it won our Best Buy Award. If you want an inexpensive GPS unit that packs a lot into a little, we think this is an excellent choice.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

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

Performance Comparison


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.

Reception


For how light it is, this thing is darn zippy when it comes to finding a signal in both open and covered areas. It was a little slower than some of the higher-end units — especially coming out of a slot canyon — but still performed adequately.


Like most of the Garmin units, the eTrex 20x uses both GPS and GLONASS networks to lock onto a signal. This unit also features a differential compass; unlike an electronic compass, you need to move in order to determine direction. It was pretty darn accurate, but in more covered areas, it did suffer a bit.

About the only place this unit totally lost reception was in an experiment to see if might be possible to use a GPS unit underground while on a caving adventure.
About the only place this unit totally lost reception was in an experiment to see if might be possible to use a GPS unit underground while on a caving adventure.

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 waypoint. The eTrex 20x 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. It's a no-nonsense GPS unit for basic map and orienteering functions — we also think this is one of the best winter devices tested. The buttoned setup makes marking a waypoint with thin or thick gloves accurate and easy.


As a simplified model in the eTrex line, the 20x doesn't have a touchscreen. Instead, the face of the device has a toggle that works for both scrolling and selecting, as well as scrolling buttons and a menu button on the left side, and a back button and light/power button on the right. Without a touch screen, this allows better cold weather use, both because of the buttons, and simpler controls reducing battery use.

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!

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 base map. We found that 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 other sources 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 turn gate screw that is very easy to take on and off. The back cover is also molded to include a spine that makes it compatible with mounting attachments.

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 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.
We found that the accessory spine on the back of this unit conveniently slots into a standard GoPro mount  which makes it easy to attach to the top of a pole for long ski traverses.

Display Quality


The eTrex series of GPS units are the smallest devices we tested — the screen of the 20x measures a mere 2.2 inches. Still, the backlight is easy to adjust and makes it easy to read in direct sunlight, and dim enough to not blind us at night.


The eTrex 20x has a 25-hour battery life and crisp display quality. We found it to be very readable, but if you want a bigger screen, a touchscreen eTrex model might be for you. But it must be considered that other models with larger screens tend to carry larger price tags as well.

The layout is simple: a single menu with large icons  and is all-around easy to navigate. The screen performs well in both high and low light conditions.
The layout is simple: a single menu with large icons, and is all-around easy to navigate. The screen performs well in both high and low light conditions.

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.

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


Weighing only 5.1 oz, this GPS is perfect for stashing away on long, lightweight adventures. We found that it was as convenient to stash in a backpacking pack, as it was to hold in our hand while out on adventure runs.


The unit is small enough to fit into a breast pocket or pant pocket for easy access. It also provides a point to girth hitch a lanyard if you choose to wear it around your neck.

This unit's small size and lightweight make it perfect to toss into any pack -- or even into your pocket -- so you can set-and-forget the tracking feature and check out your adventure later on Garmin BaseCamp.
This unit's small size and lightweight make it perfect to toss into any pack -- or even into your pocket -- so you can set-and-forget the tracking feature and check out your adventure later on Garmin BaseCamp.

Versatility


While a lot of the other units have all sorts of other things tacked on, as far as GPS functions go, this unit pretty much covers it. It doesn't have many (or really any) bells and whistles, but most of the other things can be covered with a smartphone, which we were usually carrying anyways. We would have liked a barometric altimeter and electronic compass, but even so, we found it quite useful.


Because it's so small, light, and durable, we found it really easy to toss into a pocket and take it with us skiing, biking, hiking, and fishing. The controls are easy, the batteries last for longer than the other units, and we could easily use it when it was wet, cold, or dark out. Some of the functions, like typing, take a little bit longer, and the lack of a barometric altimeter make some of the altitude readings less accurate, but all in all, we really think this device could be used almost anywhere.

This GPS is just as convenient to have in your pocket for long ski tours as it is for marking new cragging spots.
This GPS is just as convenient to have in your pocket for long ski tours as it is for marking new cragging spots.

Value


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

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.

Conclusion


The Garmin eTrex 20x is lightweight, simple, and inexpensive. The batteries last a respectably long time, even in the cold, and especially if you throw two lithium batteries in the unit. You can use it when wet, cold, and even when trying to go ultralight. Our Best Buy award winner is reliable and awesome, and useful pairing with a smartphone, especially when conditions make using a smartphone tricky.

Amber King