Personal review of the Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx

After several months using my first GPS hand held device, the Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx, here are the pros and cons.


  • Fast boot and GPS fix (typically 15 sec – 1 min )
  • Nice and readable screen
  • Good dimensions for a hand held device
  • Can be used for turn-by-turn navigation (ie. car) if you have the right map
  • Uses normal AA batteries
  • USB connection and USB mass storage mode (to send the maps or get the logs)
  • Power over USB : very useful in the car, but no battery charging over USB
  • Good battery performance (8h or more)
  • Can save logs (ie. tracks) to the memory card
  • Customizable, ie. :
    • the main pages (displayed in a round-robin manner, ie. map, compass…) can be switched off or on at wish
    • on all pages (map, stats, …) the displayed fields can be defined very precisely (ie. average speed, max speed, ETA…)


  • The controls needs getting used to
  • There is only one main page for the statistics. I miss one more, because I don’t need the same fields in your car as on my bike, so I have to change the fields manually when changing activity
  • Screen resolution could be better
  • Detailed maps are very expensive, especially for France
  • Detailed maps are slow to navigate in when zoomed out
  • Batteries can not be charged over USB
  • The map is one big file at a hard coded location. So there is no way to have 2 map files and choose which one to use on the field (for instance, Garmin maps vs. OpenStreetMap)
  • The map file takes a looooooog time to generate.
  • The map file must be completely regenerated if you want to add a piece of map
  • No MacOS X support for the map file
  • Limited to 2GB cards
  • For the frequency of track points stores in the log, there are 5 settings, but even “Most often” is quite coarse, so I have to force it to “Every second”, but then the track becomes huge very fast. There is no good compromise.
  • Does not record Hdop, Ldop or similar informatio in the track logs
  • The device has to be held 100% horizontally for the compass to be accurate. If you hold it naturally, ie. at the level of your breast with the screen perpendicular to your visual sight, then you hold it with a 10°+ angle, and that’s enough to get an error of 20° or more in the compass function
  • You can’t decide (and at the beginning it’s not clear) which altitude is displayed or stored in the log (the device can have up to 3 sources : GPS altitude, barometric altitude, map)
  • I really miss a function that would reset the statistics after X hours of inactivity, or ask at startup to do so.
  • When the bike clip is fixed, the device doesn’t fit in its case anymore
  • Therefore, you have to remove the clip when not using the device on the bike, but the little thing is easy to loose, and couldn’t even find it to buy on Garmin’s page 😦
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4 Responses to Personal review of the Garmin eTrex Vista Hcx

  1. Zdenek says:

    you can merge two or more map files with free utilities like GMapTool or mkgmap. I use 2 commercial maps together with my custom OSM map and switch among them as I want (by clicking menu button in Map Setup – Information Page).
    AFAIK, 2 GB limit is fixed in the new firmware v. 3.00.


  2. ocroquette2 says:

    Hi !

    Thanks, I didn’t know there was there was a new firmware update (

    I know it’s possible to merge map, but my point is that regenerating the huge file for every little change is frustrating.

  3. Zdenek says:

    The merge itself is very fast and for the faster transfer of the map file to the card I suggest you to use a card reader instead of connecting the GPS device to the PC.


  4. Pingback: Personal review of the Garmin Oregon 300 « ocroquette’s Blog

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