The Garmin eTrex 30 is one of three recent additions to the popular Garmin portable GPS eTrex series. This line is designed with multiple uses in mind including marine use by boaters. The eTrex 30, like its siblings, boasts a compact design and the capability of using a Garmin marine chart card. Garmin eTrex handhelds are one of the smallest and lightest weight GPS units on the market today.
The 30-series is equipped at a high level with features including a removable MicroSD memory card slot and high-sensitivity GPS receiver capable of tracking up to 24 satellites and able to use the new GLONASS satellite system. This new satellite network is built by the Russian Federation and expected to be fully operational in 2012. According to Garmin this handheld should locate about 20 percent faster when using the GLONASS system.
The eTrex 30 is small and compact, measuring a mere 4-inches high, 2.1-inches wide, and 1.2-inches thick and weighed in on my scale at a mere 5-ounces with a pair of AA batteries in place. The eTrex 30 package ships with the unit, USB cable, and an owner’s manual in English as well as 6 other languages.
To explore the full potential if the eTrex 30 as a navigator in the marine environment I accomplished my testing and review with a BlueChart g2 marine chart installed which covered the US and western Canada.
Handling and Control
This unit shares the same side-mounted pushbuttons and joystick used on its siblings. On the left hand side you will find up and down arrow buttons and menu key while the power/backlight and back button reside on the right side. The front panel mounted joystick also serves as an enter button.
I found that this unit, like others in the series, fit nicely in hand and was easy to use. After a bit of practice the unit can be operated with the fingers of the holding hand. Right handed users should be able to manipulate the joystick with a thumb and not block the screen.
Pushbutton nomenclature is printed on the unit face. Black letters laid out on a contrasting background make the labels easy to read in good light. I found the button labels impossible to read in a dark cockpit.
It took about a minute for the Garmin eTrex 30 to lock a position on the first cold start. After that it had no trouble locking onto satellites and giving a GPS in mere seconds.
The Garmin eTrex 30 has an easy-to-use menu driven software package that allows the user to access most functions via a list of 25 main pages. Using the joystick allows easy page highlighting and selection.
The eTrex line of handheld GPS units operate on power supplied by a pair of AA size batteries. All types of batteries will work, but NiMH or Lithium are recommended to achieve the 25 hour battery life claimed by Garmin. I did not test the overall battery life during my review.
The Garmin eTrex 30 uses a display screen the measures 2.2-inches on the diagonal. It features 65,000-colors and thin-film transistor technology in portrait layout with 176 x 220 pixel resolution.
You can expect curved lines and small fonts as well as other fine chart details to to sharp and easy to read. The only issue you may note will be the fact that that all this detail requires good eyes and holding the unit fairly close.
I found the Garmin eTrex 30 display screen easy to see under all tested lighting conditions. Fourteen color palettes are available for both daylight and night viewing. No pushbutton backlighting is provided.
Odds and Ends
The unit features a 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass as well as an altimeter and elevation plot page.
Access to the battery compartment, USB port, and microSD card slot are all located on the case back. The microSD card is inside the battery compartment and requires removal of the batteries to access the card slot. You will find the USB port located near the top hidden under a hinged weather resistant cover.
When connected to a personal computer using the supplied USB cable the eTrex 30 can transfer data related to waypoints, routes, tracks, and any saved screen shots. This unit can also transfer data wirelessly with another compatible handheld GPS.
The Garmin eTrex 30 will store up to 2000 user waypoints and as many as 200 routes. The unit carries a one-year warranty and is rated to IPX7 standards for water resistance. That rating means the unit can be submerged to a depth of one meter for 30 minutes without sustaining any damage or ill affect. It passed our drop and submersion test but be aware it does not float.
With its high resolution color screen, electronic compass, and ability to track multiple satellite networks the Garmin eTrex 30 will make a top notch addition as a primary or backup navigation system. Adding a BlueChart g2 chip for your area will give this little package capabilities similar to what you’d find in a large hardwired GPS navigator.