I’ve just treated myself to a new toy, a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS receiver. What a wonderful gizmo. This is one of the new generation high-sensitivity GPS units. Mine is sat on a the bench in the shack right now in a downstairs room looking West. It has lock on 6 satellites indoors. In fact I had it delivered to work and inside the office in a steel framed building with a metal roof it did a cold start and got a fix in just under 1 minute.
It does all the standard GPS stuff, you take that for granted. I bought this one as it has a high-sensitivity rxer, a memory card slot, USB interface (and comes with a cable) and has a claimed battery life of 25 hours on AA cells. One day I’ll read the manual but I plugged the USB lead into the PC, fed it a CD for the drivers and then told Anquet to go and find the GPS. Everything worked FB first time and a few clicks later I had downloaded a route for Sunday.
Everything ‘just works’. No faffing about, no manuals, no effort. Just as things should be. Plug it in and the software ‘just works’. I’ve been writing embedded software for the last 25 years and it’s very seldom that I come across stuff that works faultlessly like this. (Unless I’ve written it of course!)
I have an old Aisin $20 GPS from 1999 (look it up on Google). That needs the antenna in the shack window and with a following wind might see 3 sats and get a fix. From cold that can take over 3 hours. However, the sensitivity of this new Vista HCx is astounding. One of my colleagues thought I’d put it into demo mode and was mucking about. When he saw it was working inside a building with a tin roof he was gobsmacked. He was so stunned that I think his plain old eTrex will be on eBay this weekend and he’ll have ordered one of these.
I’m not sure I like the way the menus work but that’s just a learning process which would probably be helped by reading the book. I can’t do that yet, it’s against the law for engineers to read the book!
So if you are in the market for a GPS then make absolutely certain you buy one with a high-sensitivity rxer. They make the older ones look rather feeble.