Garmin eTrex SummitHC vs eTrex Legend

Summit HC
Garmin eTrex Summit HC

I recently went geocaching with my sister, who I gave my eTrex Legend to, and was able to finally use my new eTrex Summit GPS unit.  It was a great opportunity to compare the two GPS units.  I quickly noticed that the Summit seemed to be a lot quicker at acquiring a GPS signal than the Legend.  Although, I can’t really state that as fact since I had turned on the Summit in the car, on the way to Chickies Rock, and didn’t pay attention to it.  Anyway, it sure felt longer!  (…That’s what she said!)

The accuracy of the two devices is nearly identical; they were always within 20ft of each other.  The main differentiating physical feature between the two is the Summits’ color screen, although I can’t say that it’ll help you to navigate any better.  If anything, it may make it harder, since you’ll have to find just the right angle to hold it in relation to the sun.  That may make it seem like a real pain, but it really isn’t bad.  It has a day and night color scheme to make it all but a non-issue.  My point here, is that this notion of tilting the screen to see it clearly never crossed my mind with the Legend.

One major advantage that the Summit has over the Legend is its’ electronic compass.  I seriously underestimated its’ usefulness.  When using the Legend, you’d have to be moving in order for the device to calculate which direction you were heading and for it to give bearing information.  Sometimes you’d have to walk 15 to 20 ft before it would be able to give you a new reading once you changed direction.  This, royal pain in the ass, is has been made painfully obvious by the electronic compass and is completely non-existant with when using the Summit.  In my opinion, this feature alone is enough to warrant buying yourself and upgraded unit.

The difference in battery life between the two unit isn’t much.  The Legend will get about 8-10 hours, while the Summit HC will get roughly 14 hours.  Both of them use two AA batteries and have a setting for alkaline or NiMH.  I’m not exactly sure why you would need to change that setting though.  My guess is that its there so that it can give the a more accurate battery life reading.

eTrex Legend
Garmin eTrex Legend

All in all, the two devices are very similar and can share many of the same accessories, such as the belt clip and bike mount.  My recommendation would be to go with the Summit HC or HCx.  The HCx is the same as the HC, but includes a mico SD card slot.  All of Garmin’s GPS units come with PC/Mac software that allows you to add maps and upload your track information from the device as well as download waypoints and other info from it.  I was able to get my Summit HC for $129 on, which is a steal compared to the list price on Garmin’s site.

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