Garmin's eTrex Legend C and Vista (H)C(x) -With Horizontal Compass and Antenna
"H" is for High Sensitivity ° "C" is for Color and Autorouting ° "x" is for microSD card
For specific questions about this product, log onto the FORUM
New Car Navigator models are SMALL! -by joe mehaffey and jack yeazel
(5 April 2006 -Add Vista Cx)  (11 Oct. 2007 -Add Vista HCx)
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LEGEND C                                         VISTA C                           VISTA (H)Cx (microSD slot)
The Garmin eTrex LEGEND Cx, (street price ~$205), VISTA Cx (street price ~$230), and VISTA HCx (street price -$230),  check latest prices (HERE),  are upgraded eTrex Vista/Legend packages.  One major difference between the Vista (H)C(x) with its electronic compass and the other color "Sensor" units by Garmin, is that the unit is held HORIZONTALLY for best reception -the only way the electronic compass can work.  This is most important for geocaching work.  The Legends don't have an electronic compass, but are otherwise similar.

Firmware Version:
Is found under, Setup, System, Menu, Software Version.  Also it's found by turning the unit on while holding down the click stick. This also gives the diagnostics page.  Pressing PAGE multiple times brings up additional diagnostic screens.

Controls and Memory:
The units have Garmin eTrex's familiar  "click stick" switch to the upper left of the screen along a power switch, page switch and zoom in/out switches.  We don't like the click stick as well as the four way rocker switches on larger models BUT, on the eTrex units, the click stick seems the right way to go considering the very compact size of the unit.

The non-x units have 24 MB of internal map memory -the same as the old Vista.  In the "x" models, one must have a microSD card to store maps.  The Vista Cx came with a 64MB microSD card, but the HCx does not come with a memory card.

The new color display is 176 x 220 pixels and is 1.3"W x 1.7"H.  This compares with 160 x 288 pixels and 1.1"W x 2.1"H for the Vista/Legend.  Thus the color screen is not as tall, but is wider.  The Vista/Legend C(x) actually have less resolution than the Vista/Legend, see unit resolutions (HERE).  We have criticized the text size on previous eTrex models as being difficult to read,  because the text was so small, but the Legend and Vista Color units are considerably improved with the map and text easier to read, and we now consider it satisfactory.

So what's different about this unit?  "x" stands for a microSD card for map memory storage and not for the new SIRF-III processor as in the GPSmap 76Cx.  The "x" units have been tested with up to 2GB. The card is easier to extract than the one in the 76Cx.  It's just under the battery cover on the left and 'pops' straight out.  (See picture above).  In a battery rundown test with the compass ON, the unit lasted 18 1/2 hours.

This new Garmin (H)igh sensitivity receiver (C)olor unit contains the (x) microSD card slot.  A card doesn't come with the unit, but a 1GB card costs only about $20.  In a battery rundown test with the compass ON, the unit lasted an astounding 30 hours!  The Vista HCx's backlighted screen is somewhat brighter than the Vista C and will hold 1000 waypoints as compared to the Vista C's 500.

"H" Receiver Inside a House (is Obviously More Sensitive)
    Vista C                               Vista HCx                            GPSmap 76Cx

Here we have compared the older Vista C receiver to the new Vista HCx receiver and the GPSmap 76Cx SIRF receiver.  At present, there is some 'mystery' as to where this new receiver comes from.  Garmin tells us that they purchase from many different receiver chip vendors, but there is a news release, "Garmin Integrates New GPS Chipset from STMicroelectronics" (HERE).  However, an early HCx Splash Screen shows MediaTek (HERE).

NOTE: The old Vista C receiver will lock onto two WAAS Sats at the same time (above) while the SIRF and the new "H" receivers will lock onto only one. WAAS Sats all transmit the same corrections, so using only one frees up using an additional GPS Sat.

Accuracy (Not too shabby for a small unit):
The Vista units have no NMEA output, so SA Watch can't be used to measure a definitive accuracy.  In its place, we visited a first-order survey marker in the clear.  There we placed a Vista HCx, Vista C, and GPSmap 76Cx over the marker and took error readings every minute for ten minutes on three separate visits.  The overall averages were: Vista HCx=6.0 feet, Vista C=5.3 feet, and a GPSmap 76Cx=7.4 feet (no significant difference in accuracy) -all well within the expected WAAS-corrected error of 10 feet.

However, (as reported on the Forums) the HCx receiver has difficulty detecting walking movements less than about 2.0 mph.  The Vista C detected movement less than 2.0 mph and recorded significantly more trackpoints in the Normal mode than the HCx.  (The GPSmap 76Cx was able to detect walking movements less than 1.0 mph.)  Also, the alarm clock available in the Vista/Legend C(x) has been removed from the HCx.

Barometric Pressure Plot (Vista HCx):
Here the Vista HCx didn't fair so well.  The below HCx pressure plot is not as versatile as that of the Vista C, which records the pressure even though the unit is turned off.  The HCx only records pressure when it's turned on.

Barometric Pressure Plots over About 40 Hours
Vista HCx                                     Vista C

Barometric Pressure Plot (Vista C):

Barometer Self Calibration                                    Barometer Recording of a Passing Hurricane
Running Elevation Plot ** Read Data at Crosshairs ** Hurricane Francis Pressure Plot ** Click above thumbnail

In the first two screen shots, the barometer was calibrated to 1500 feet (in the Fixed Elevation mode), where the actual altitude was about 1,100 feet. In approximately an hour and a half, this large error was basically wiped out.  Under normal conditions, it only takes about 30 minutes to Auto-calibrate the barometer to within 0.02 In-Hg of the correct barometer setting.  The above plot also can be displayed as a function of distance traveled.  Moving the Click Stick activates movable crosshairs to read out Elevation and Time along the plot.  The above plot is similar to (THIS) plot of the GPSmap 76S barometric and GPS altitudes with only 100-foot initial calibration error.

The second two pics are a screen shot of an actual pressure plot of Hurricane Francis (and Ivan)  as it passed by Atlanta and a screen capture of the hurricane.  This hurricane was 'excruciatingly' slow moving.  The center of the storm passed near Atlanta at about 5:00pm on Sept. 7, 2004, and the GPS recorded a low pressure point of 29.50" at that time.  In order to get this plot, the unit was connected to a notebook computer for two days via the USB cable, which provided uninterrupted power.  However, I discovered later that the unit can go for at least a month (without any external power and turned OFF) and still record the pressure.

GPS Altitude:
Unlike the GPSmap 76S, the GPSmap 76CS(x) and Vista (H)C(x) don't show a continuous readout of GPS altitude.  All the data fields show barometric altitude.  GPS altitude must be accessed from the Satellite Page by pressing  Menu Key, then select GPS Elevation.  This is a "one time" reading, and is not continuous.

A similar procedure is required in the original Vista.  However, the Vista does not have a "barometer" function, only Barometric Altitude.  In the Auto-Calibrate mode, the Vista (H)Cx GPS altitude does appear to calibrate the barometric altitude, as shown below.  And contrary to the Vista's original Normalized Pressure, the Vista C's Barometer doesn't go up and down when you go down and up!

In the Altimeter Setup, there is a selection of Variable Elevation or Fixed Elevation.  The reason someone would want to used a Fixed Elevation, is that any fluctuations in air pressure would be seen as air pressure fluctuations, not altitude fluctuations.  This allows the Altimeter to function as a standard barometer.  (See above for an example of the Pressure Trend mode set to Always -then it records even when the unit is turned off.)  Elevation trip data isn't recorded in the Fixed Elevation mode.

Garmin recommends City Navigator maps for the (H)Cx rather than the City Select maps, recommended for the other units.  It appears that all "x" units support City Navigator maps. These models require City Select or City Navigator, for automatic car navigation,  but can also operate with MetroGuide maps, blue charts, and World Map and other Garmin map products.  eTrex models come pre-loaded with a regional basemap for the part of the world where the unit is purchased.  Descriptions of the USA (Americas) basemap can be found (HERE) and the description of the European (Atlantic) basemap can be found (HERE).  Included in the kit is a copy of Garmin's Trip and Waypoint Manager CD which permits download/upload of waypoints/routes/tracks to your IBM compatible PC.

COMPASS: Tests of compass accuracy will be published when we can get repeatable results. The Legend C model does not have the electronic compass and barometer, included in the Vista C and HCx, which are otherwise similar.

Functional GPS receiver for Hiking and Automobile use?
We do agree that eTrex LEGEND and VISTA are easy to learn,  not-so-easy to use, but fully functional in getting you from A to B.   It is accurate and provides all necessary functionality for hiking use.   The extremely small package is coupled with good battery life.  Battery life was measured at 29 hours for the Vista C with the backlight and compass OFF and 18 hours with the compass ON.

What's New and Different in the eTrex Vista and Legend Color?
The eTrex Legend and Vista have been around for several years now and constitute one of Garmin's larger sellers.  Now comes Garmin with the eTrex Legend and the Vista Color units.  These are Garmin's latest in the medium cost eTrex line but enhanced with automatic CAR NAVIGATION features, improved battery life and a good color display that is easy to view in bright sunlight.  These models are the SMALLEST, and among the least expensive car navigator units we know of as of August 2007.

The  Legend/Vista were the first Garmin model GPS receivers to offer (WAAS).  These new models continue this tradition.  WAAS give best case accuracy of approximately 3 meter position error (95% confidence).  Selected screen shots are shown (HERE).   Note: The screen shots file contains about 50 jpg photos and is about 1.5 megabytes in size.

Note:  The eTrex Color units do NOT have a standard serial port.  Thus they have no NMEA capability.  They use a USB interconnection to a computer for map uploading and waypoint/route/track downloading.  The Garmin MapSource systems can use this USB data to allow position tracking on Garmin MapSource maps on a PC.  Also, the units are powered by the PC when connected by the USB cable.

The Vista (H)C(x) models have two options for the barometer feature.  They can either be set to act as an aneroid barometer OR it can be set to be used to stabilize the (normally fluctuating) GPS altitude.   The older eTrex eliminated the "Remarks" feature from waypoint names.  However, the Legend and Vista Color allow 24-character waypoint comments.  Also, all waypoints created in the units include the time of creation in the remarks.

ROUTES and MAPS: Vista and Legend can upload ALL of Garmin's digital mapping products.  A major new feature is the ability of both Legend Color and Vista Color to automatically generate a route from current location to a destination address input by the user WHEN either City Select or City Navigator digital maps are installed in the GPS.  The destination can be (among other things) a street address,  city,  street intersection,  POI,  hospital, police station, and etc.   The map area that can be loaded into a GPS depends on the road system in a state,  and internal memory.  The non-"x" models have 24 MB memory.  If no map is installed, the units will auto-route on the base map.

Hard Reset:
With the unit turned off, press and hold the follow buttons: PAGE + Enter on the click stick. Then press and release the POWER. The unit will power up asking if you want to release all user data. Select yes, and the unit will be reset.  After the master reset, place your unit outside, so that it has a clear view of the sky for 25 to 30 minutes for the unit to acquire new almanac data.

What about  regular GPS features?
The eTrex model series are designed with a new "non technical" GPS user in mind.  However,  the Vista and Legend have  a  complete feature set for hiking and motoring.    Standard features of Legend and Vista include: Sun and Moon predictor,  Calculator,  and "Best time to hunt and fish".   A list of major features and descriptions is given below.  Garmin's Fishing Hot Spots maps also are not compatible with eTrex.

Other Features of Interest Are:

  CLICK HERE to see typical screen images with explanations (1.5 MB to load)
               Note:  There are usually some "hidden options" available on display screens by pressing the Find/Menu key.

A few less used features (or features Garmin considered non-essential for Hikers or Motorists)   are not present in Legend and Vista.  battery hours timer,  and user timers,  are among the missing.   There is a new stopwatch/lap timer feature Both the Legend and Vista Color have 24 megs of map memory which will  be enough map memory for "many" people.  (Personally,  Jack and Joe were never quite satisfied with the available amount of map memory until the vendors came out with units (such as the StreetPilot 2610) which could use 2 GB CF cards or micro Hard Drives.)

What do we think about eTrex LEGEND COLOR and VISTA COLOR?
These offer almost everything a hiker/motorist needs to navigate.  Automatic best-route calculations, and the electronic compass can be used in the units' most sensitive position.

Even though these are not marine units, they include a HIGHWAY PAGE which makes the units much more useful to marine users as it can be used to give left/right steering information.  The VISTA unit has useful and interesting elevation profiling features that will be of great interest and use to hikers,  glider and soaring enthusiasts,  and private pilots among others.  These Vista elevation features include a "trip profile" in elevation much the same as your bread crumb trail gives you an (x,y) profile of your horizontal travels.  In addition, altitude data is stored as a part of the tracklog so you can do post trip analysis on your voyage in (x,y,z) coordinates.  Waypoint Averaging is also featured in the units.

Like other Garmin units in current production,  they are rated for submersion to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.  We did not try the submersion but Garmin has a reputation of replacing or repairing any unit found to leak.

There has been discussion as to the degree of "waterproofness" of Garmin GPS receivers and especially the eTrex and Summit (Legend and Vista use essentially the same package).  Here is Garmin's statement on waterproofness:

Garmin reports: "Our specifications for  eTrex are that it is waterproof per IEC529-IPX7.  IEC is a European specification published by the International Electrotechnical Commission.  It is very similar to the Japanese  Industry Standard JIS-8.   IEC529 gives an excellent breakdown of the relative degrees of protection against water ingress.  IEC529 specification can be found (HERE)  A layman's breakdown of IEC529 can be found (HERE).

 Elevation Profiling features:
- Real time plot over time and distance.
- Zoom in/out elevation profile
- Review individual elevation points with time and date
- Current ascent/descent rate
- Total ascent/descent (Resetable)
- Average ascent/descent rate
- Min/Max ascent/descent rate (Resetable)
- Min/Max elevation (Resetable)

Barometric Altimeter Features:
- Accuracy: 10 feet with proper calibration (user and/or automatic calibration)
- Resolution: 1 foot
- Range:  2,000 to 30,000 feet
- Pressure: 48 hour automatic pressure trend recording.

Electronic Compass:
- Accuracy +/- 5 degrees with user calibration
- Resolution 1 degree
- Built in LEVEL sensor aids compass reading accuracy.  GPS must be held LEVEL to read compass accurately.
- Compass operates in both North Up and Track Up map modes.
- Automatic Declination adjustment with manual override.

LEGEND and VISTA C(x) Feature Highlights:
Sight 'N Go:
- Sight and locked in a bearing
- Navigate along course by following CDI with off course information.
- Sight and project a waypoint, and navigate to it.

Track Log:
- Automatic elevation and track logging (3000 points)
- Save up to 10 tracks (along with elevation profile) with 250 points each
- Note: Clearing track log will also clear elevation profile

- Option to show/hide waypoint
- Option to display heading using big numbers
- Option to set different units for distance/speed, elevation, and pressure
- Options to turn on/off GPS and Compass (saves power when entering data)

Other Features:
- Automatic map rotation, Track Up or North Up.
- Create new waypoint by projecting from an existing waypoint
- 500 Waypoints (with Icons/graphic symbol,  and name)
- 50 reversible routes with up to 250 waypoints in a route.
- Trip Computer with current speed, average speed, sunrise/sunset, max speed, trip timer and trip odometer
- Position format has Lat/Long,  UTM/UPS, Maidenhead, MGRS, and other grids, one USER  grid, and one USER Datum.
- Receiver is 12 channel parallel and operational with the WAAS system.
- WAAS accuracy is in the range of +/- 3 meters 95% confidence.
- Antenna is slightly smaller than on larger Garmin units, but gives sensitivity almost equal to the larger Garmin receivers.
- No external amplified antenna connection port is available.
- Legend and Vista C(x)  have only 6 control buttons,  one a "clickstick", for easy one-hand operation.
- Interfaces:  proprietary GARMIN USB only.
- 108 map datums

- Position Error: <15 meters 95% typical.
- Acquisition Times: Warm ~15 sec,  Cold ~45 seconds, Auto Locate ~2 minutes (longer in non clear-sky situations.)
- Speed Accuracy specification  0.1 knot RMS steady state
- Physical  Size: 4.4"H x 2.0"W x 1.2"D (11.2 x 5.1 x 3.0 cm)
- Weight: 5.46 ounces (155 g) with alkaline batteries
- Display: 1.7"H x 1.3"W (4.3 x 3.3 cm) high contrast TFT LCD 256 colors, sunlight viewable with bright backlighting
- Case: Waterproof to IEC 529 IPX7 standards (Immersion to 1 meter for 30 minutes)
- Temperature range (operation): 5°F to 158°F (-15°C to 70°C)
- Data storage: Indefinite; no memory battery required
- Power  Source: 2 AA batteries or via the USB cable or via the accessory cigar power cable.
- Update Rate: Once per second, continuous
- User Waypoints: 500/1000
- Trackpoints: Up to 10,000
- Saved trackpoints: Up to 500
- Saved tracks: 20

Specific questions answered:

Technical Questions?  Comments? Additional Info we should add?
Contact: Joe Mehaffey  - Jack Yeazel

For: How Do I operate my GPS? See: news:sci.geo.satellite-nav