We tested the top 23 handheld GPS devices on the market in 2021.
Simply, to laser point the very best GPS in 2021.
In this article, we present the Garmin eTrex 20x as the Best Value GPS in its category, and you’ll soon find out why…
We’ll also be covering:
- The reception quality of the device
- The ease of use and versatility
- A side by side comparison with its competitors
- Lots more…
We firmly believe the search for an easy-to-use GPS that allows anyone to confidently venture into any outdoor terrain ends here with the Garmin eTrex 20x.
We liked it so much…
… did I say, we marked it as the TopNotch Best Value in this category.
So let’s crack on and find out more about exactly what this GPS offers.
- Smooth connection with GPS and GLONASS satellites
- Very easy to use
- Small and lightweight
- Superior display
- Great value for money
- A long battery life
- The screen is bright but small
- The owner’s manual could have been better
Our Verdict (Garmin eTrex 20x):
So you love heading outdoors but don’t want the hassle of handling maps?
You just want an UBER cool point to point map reader in your pocket.
The solution- a dependable handheld GPS.
Hello Garmin eTrex 20x, a great GPS with all-round reliability.
It’s extremely easy to use and a breeze to handle.
After we finished testing (more on that later), we decided it’s the perfect choice for any casual adventurer not wanting ‘expensive’ or ‘high-end’, but rather a ‘no frills, ‘get the job done’ GPS
If you need something small but highly accurate, you’ll love using the eTrex 20.
Moreover, it’s solidly made and will easily withstand a few knocks and drops.
…The battery life.
No matter the type of terrain, our TopNotch review team found the device delivering a consistent battery life of 23+ hours.
A micro SD card slot for adding maps – and support for geocaching GPX files.
Two great features making a big plus.
The cherry on the top?
…The affordable price that won’t strain your pocket offering great value for money.
Like everything else, the device isn’t perfect.
Though the faults weren’t serious enough to put us off.
The lack of an electronic compass and altimeter can be an issue for some users.
And those who’re looking for the functionality of a touchscreen will have to look somewhere else.
But let’s be clear on one thing.
The Garmin eTrex 20 is an entry-level GPS that does exactly what it’s meant to do.
It’s suited for a whole range of outdoor activities.
The verdict from the TopNotch team was unanimous. This GPS is our Best Value choice, hands down.
Our Analysis, Comparisons & Test Results
We had two teams testing our GPS collection which took one from Montana to Oregon and the other to the Himalayan terrain of Nepal.
We battled heavy snowfall at high altitudes for compiling this eTrex 20x review.
We also checked the various GPS models against our standard metrics for comparative analysis.
At every point, we noted the speed and accuracy of the eTrex was easily matching that of the high-end GPS units.
On top of that, the device is also a good choice for activities like biking, fishing and canoeing.
However, those who are looking for a greater range of features should do a Garmin eTrex 20x vs 30x comparison before choosing.
So how does this stand out against the other competitors?
Keep reading and you’ll find out more.
Don’t let the size of this GPS fool you about its performance. We found the device remarkably fast while locking with satellite signals.
Want to know the secret behind that?
It’s capable of connecting with both GPS and GLONASS networks that makes it much faster.
Coming back to our standard practice…
We tested the accuracy of the device in densely forested trails and over glacial terrains. The WAAS-enabled GPS receiver guided us within six to eight feet of the marked waypoint.
In addition to that, locating our position and holding on to it was also precise at all points. No exception. Thanks to the additional support of the HotFix satellite prediction.
Now, what about urban terrains?
The eTrex 20x supports City Navigator maps that offer turn by turn guidance in any urban jungle.
The device supports GPX files and you can download geocaches for paperless geocaching fun.
Apart from that, it also supports BirdsEye Satellite Imagery for using satellite images along with Garmin maps
Keep in mind though – you’ll need a subscription to access Garmin’s BirdsEye Satellite Imagery system.
Before we go any further, note that this device is not as accurate as the other high-grade GPS devices from Garmin. We also found the signal acquisition slightly slower under dense canopies.
However, under clear skies, we found the horizontal as well as the vertical accuracy within a range of 3 to 4 feet.
We feel the Garmin eTrex 20x will guide the part-time adventurers among you perfectly.
Ease of Use
We’re sure that the ease of use of this Garmin beauty is one aspect every user will love.
The overall design of the Garmin 20x makes it simple to use in every way.
The 4-way toggle and the associated buttons are very receptive and allow easy scrolling and selection.
Ease of Use Rating
Next, we used it with our gloves on in freezing temperatures without facing any issues with the handling…
Beyond that, the user interface of the device is extremely simple.
The profiles can also be customized to your liking.
With six ergonomic buttons and the simple menu, the Garmin 20x GPS turned out to be favorite for the not-so-expert members in our team.
Also, we found accessing the battery chamber through the back panel is straightforward – through a turn screw.
The only problem?
Typing through the toggle or joystick is not an easy task and gets a bit tedious.
On the whole, with its simple and effective design, the device shares the top spot for ease of use in our chart.
The Garmin eTrex 20 features a transflective, 65-K color TFT display.
In addition, it also has a backlight with adjustable intensity. We found this feature very effective in the dark. The fact is, even under bright sunlight, we found it easy to read.
The 2.2 inch screen is small but good enough to read maps of higher resolution.
Display Quality Rating
The eTrex has good color differentiation so that the contour lines in the maps are easy to read. The font size is also ideal for ensuring quick readability.
Want to know something interesting?
The device automatically inverts the screen color to change the background to black as the light fades.
What if you want to change it?
No worries. You can easily do this from the settings.
Truth is, the display doesn’t have the finesse of a touchscreen. The map redraw is not as quite as fast as the top-end models.
But, for that, you’ll need to spend a lot more for a high-end GPS.
Even in the deepest Himalayan terrain, we found the eTrex 20x picking up new locations with lightning speed – super impressive!
Moreover, anyone comparing the Garmin eTrex 20 vs 20x will find this device much faster than its predecessor.
The key factors are the high-sensitivity and the HotFix satellite prediction feature.
In addition, with access to both GPS and GLONASS satellites, it can lock on to more satellites.
And another thing…
We checked the Time To First Fix (TTFF) for the device and for a cold start, it was close to 55 seconds. We think that’s a decent score.
You can learn more about TTFF here.
To add to that, we found the overall processing speed of the Garmin eTrex 20x well within the acceptable range.
The typing speed is a bit slow and marking waypoints can take some time.
We also noted some lag zooming in and out of high-resolution maps.
But, these points didn’t make enough of a difference in the overall performance.
On the other hand, we found the features like Area Measurement and Route Calculation beautifully fast and smooth.
Weight and Size
Honestly, we feel this GPS is a perfect choice for lightweight hiking and backpacking.
Firstly, the eTrex weighs just 5.1 oz.
Secondly, with a width of 2.1 inches and a length of 4 inches, you can easily store it in your backpack or pocket.
The eTrex 20x also has a lanyard hole and a built-in mounting spine on the back – making carrying and mounting easier.
While this is primarily a handheld GPS, the weight and the size means you can also use it in a bike, car, or boat.
What about durability?
From all aspects, this is a solidly built GPS that has rubber coatings to withstand shocks and drops. (We actually dropped it quite a few times in the mountain trails – by accident and for the sake of testing!)
To top it off, we also found the device is easy to grip and perfect for one-handed use.
So, my point is this.
When you’re off for a multi-day trek that takes you across high altitude terrain, you know you need to pack light.
From this aspect, the Garmin eTrex 20x is a great option that balances TopNotch performance with a lightweight build.
Does this GPS provide the right range of services for a variety of outdoor trips?
Be it trekking, kayaking, fishing or cycling, we found the compact size and lightweight convenience a real advantage.
In addition, we also found the IPX7 water rating another great feature.
We were carrying it when we got well and truly caught out in a heavy downpour in the Herman Creek trail in Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness.
It performed smoothly without a hitch.
Now, here’s another thing about the device worth mentioning in our eTrex review.
The excellent battery life of this GPS.
Further to that, even when temperatures went far below freezing at higher altitudes, the battery performance was consistent.
Just a small tip…
…Ensure you navigate away from the maps menu when not in use to conserve the batteries.
Time for more good news.
The device comes with a microSD card slot and 3.7 GB of internal memory.
So loading larger maps is seamless.
The Garmin eTrex 20x can hold 2,000 individual waypoints and 200 routes that can be managed through the Basecamp software from Garmin.
We understand that its simplicity and lack of additional features may not suit advanced users.
But, if you’re looking for a simple GPS you’ll love it for those exact same reasons.
Horses For Courses.
Conclusion: Garmin eTrex 20x
So, time for a recap.
As we tested the Garmin eTrex 20x, three main features that stood out were the lightweight convenience, simplicity, and affordability.
To start with, even though it’s a small device, it packs a punch when it comes to performance.
One thing’s for sure.
You can be assured that this highly sensitive device will keep you on track even in the heart of the wilderness.
(We fell in love with the eTrex while exploring the beautiful but desolate trails around the Scoundrel’s Viewpoint in the Gokyo Ri trail in Nepal – hard job – someone has to do it…)
And did we mention the rugged built and the long battery life? Oh yes!
These are two other features that impressed us here at TopNotch.
And considering the Garmin eTrex 20x price, our team was more than impressed that it offers exceptional value.
Even with its limitations, the Garmin eTrex 20x is a great all-rounder that’s perfect for almost any kind of outdoor activity.
We didn’t hesitate to award it TopNotch Best Value product in this category.
Make no mistake about it…
Once you get used to this TopNotch GPS, you won’t want to hit the trail without it.
There are multiple versions of the Exped Mega Mat 10 that differ in overall dimensions. So if you’re buying the Megamat for a couple, make sure that you choose the “long wide” Duo version.