Garmin Geko 301

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Garmin Geko 301

If there was a contest for GPS receivers, the Garmin Geko 301 would win the most value per ounce. With it's two AAA batteries, it only weighs 3.4 ounces, and yet has a built-in barometric altimeter and electronic compass along with the receiver. It might win the fun per ounce contest too, since it also comes with five video games.

Normally, to get an electronic compass and altimeter with a GPS receiver, a case twice the size of the Garmin Geko 301 is required. But despite its 1.9" W x 3.9" H x .96" D dimensions, there's nothing small about its features. The electronic compass works just like a mechanical compass to give you direction readings whenever you want. GPS receivers can also show your direction, but only when you've moved from one position fix to another. In fact, when you're moving, the Geko does use GPS for direction information and then switches to the compass when you've stopped.

Using GPS to determine your altitude is harder to be as accurate as finding your position and the amount of error is usually about twice. To overcome this inherent problem, the Geko 301 includes a barometric altimeter. This altimeter can produce elevation readings with an accuracy of within 10 feet. Besides showing your altitude, the Geko uses the barometric sensor to display the air pressure. It can plot the pressure readings over time so you can watch for changing weather.

Six screen displays provide the navigation information produced by the Garmin Geko 301. The Satellite Page lets you see the signal strength and location of the GPS satellites tracked. The Menu Page directs you to the main functions of the receiver including managing waypoints, routes, and tracks, setting display options, and calibrating the altimeter and compass.

For creating and viewing your route, there's the Map Page. With this display, the Geko 301 shows an animated figure to represent your location and it moves as you do. The waypoints are identified by name and symbol and when you have a route, a line is shown from your location to the next waypoint. As you travel, the route line is removed and replaced with a dotted line representing the path you took. The path is recorded by the track log which can save 10 tracks of up to 500 trackpoints. There's also enough memory to save 20 reversible routes of up to 125 waypoints each. The scale of the area shown is adjustable from 50 feet to 800 miles. And both the map datum and coordinate system used, are selectable.

To get navigation information en route, the Garmin Geko 301 has the Navigation Page and the Trip Computer Page. The Navigation Page supplies the distance, direction and name of your destination. A compass image shows your present heading, as well as, the destination's direction. A data field beneath the compass has your choice of trip information, such as the distance traveled or your position coordinates. And for further information, the Trip Computer Page has four data fields to display virtually any navigation item, from your estimated time of arrival to your vertical speed. Altitude and air pressure readings are shown plotted on the Elevation Page along with a data field for various ascent/descent and air pressure calculations.

Position accuracy isn't shortchanged with the Geko 301. Its receiver can use both Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) and Differential GPS (DGPS) correction signals. With WAAS, accuracy is within three meters (10 feet) and with DGPS within one to five meters. However, DGPS use does require a DGPS beacon receiver to pick up the signals.

Making sure you can read all the information it provides, the Garmin Geko 301 lets you adjust the contrast of the grayscale LCD screen. And with its backlighting, you can navigate night or day. Since the case is waterproof, weather conditions aren't a problem either.