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Dakota 20-who owns one?


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I have owned my Vista HCX for awhile now and it has been a really solid unit. I would like to upgrade to a paperless unit. The Dakota 20 happens to go on sale at a local sporting goods store this week for $299 with a case and Top DVD. The problem I am having is that I have read more negative reviews than positive. I don't know if this is because there is a serious problem with this particular unit or if just more people that have had problems with it are the only ones writing the reviews. I would like know if anybody out there owns this unit and what are the pros and cons, and if it is worth purchasing. Thanks.....

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I had one. My first one I bought put batteries in it it turned on and worked. I turned it off and back on and it would not boot up. I was still in the paring lot so I went back in and traded it. I had the second for a month. I started having glitchy touch screen response. I would touch near the top and a button on the bottom would press. Also the screen brightness bothered me it was too dim. I was told the screen was suppose to bebrighter than the Oregon x00 series but my friends 200 was brighter. I took it back and am now sewing how I like the oregon 200.

 

I have owned my Vista HCX for awhile now and it has been a really solid unit. I would like to upgrade to a paperless unit. The Dakota 20 happens to go on sale at a local sporting goods store this week for $299 with a case and Top DVD. The problem I am having is that I have read more negative reviews than positive. I don't know if this is because there is a serious problem with this particular unit or if just more people that have had problems with it are the only ones writing the reviews. I would like know if anybody out there owns this unit and what are the pros and cons, and if it is worth purchasing. Thanks.....

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I have owned my Vista HCX for awhile now and it has been a really solid unit. I would like to upgrade to a paperless unit. The Dakota 20 happens to go on sale at a local sporting goods store this week for $299 with a case and Top DVD. The problem I am having is that I have read more negative reviews than positive. I don't know if this is because there is a serious problem with this particular unit or if just more people that have had problems with it are the only ones writing the reviews. I would like know if anybody out there owns this unit and what are the pros and cons, and if it is worth purchasing. Thanks.....

 

I bought a Dakota 20 to complement my 60cx a couple of weeks ago. I bought it because of the size, paperless support, and the brighter screen compared to the Oregon models. I primarily use it for geocaching and Waymarking. I've loaded it with various free maps.

 

So far I am pleased with the unit. It does suffer from a WAAS issue same as the Oregon, Colorado, and DeLorme PN series (it seems to be a chipset issue with the GPS chip). Supposedly Garmin is finally admitting there is an issue and is working on a fix. That's been my biggest issue, but it hasn't been a deal-killer for any caches I've found.

 

I'm impressed with the battery life. I can get a full day's use out of 2000mah NiMH cells or a couple of days of use out of lithium cells (non-rechargeable though). The screen brightness has been acceptable, although it's not as bright/easy to read as the 60cx in sunlight. The touch screen overlay and the higher-resolution screen both limit the brightness a bit. It is brighter than Oregons I've seen, although I don't have easy access to an Oregon unit to compare.

 

There is no support for Wherigo - honestly I didn't care. There are no modules for any area I've spent time in. You can't load your own pictures for the background and there's no built-in picture viewer, once again, I don't care. The road routing functions seem acceptable, but all I use it for is guiding me to the cache, I have a TomTom for most of my highway navigation needs. The Dakota has no Spanner support, you can't get NMEA output through the USB port. This is only an issue if you want to use it as a GPS dongle for a program like MS Streets and Trips. I kept my 60cx partially because it can output NMEA through serial or USB and I have a couple of legacy applications that need that. Most people probably won't.

 

One thing I do like is that it creates and reads standard .gpx files. It's very easy to drop tracks or waypoints into google earth.

 

In summary:

 

Pros:

- reads/creates standard GPX files

- good geocaching support

- fast GPS lock

- reasonably bright screen (for a touch screen)

- compact, can pass off as a cell phone

- good battery life

- good quality free maps available

- custom maps (raster maps)

- compatible with Oregon/Colorado accessories (bike mount, carabiner clip, etc)

 

Cons:

- WAAS issues

- no Wherigo support

- no Spanner support (no NMEA mode)

 

So far having a compact paperless unit has outweighed the cons! I hated entering text on the 60cx (waypoint names, etc), it's less of a chore on the Dakota. The touch screen makes all the difference there.

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The brightness compared to a Oregon is lower, but battery life is 60% longer. The first units had a power on failure that was corrected by a newer firmware release only two weeks later.

If you buy a new unit, there should be no problem with this. In any case, check for the latest firmware and update the new device.

 

The touchscreen can be calibrated by user in a few easy steps, if necessary. Mostly this dont need to be done on a new unit.

 

Compared to the Vista, the Dakota has a better responding compass, a familiar battery life, but has a darker screen in direct sunlight.

Benefits are the paperless feature and the capability to handle multiple map-files up to a couple of thousand map-tiles. So you can take free downloadable maps with you and all on one memorycard.

 

For 300 Dollars, its a good deal. If you already own a Vista HCx, it might not be such a great advantage, but the Dakota 20 is a stable unit. Its just a smaller Oregon. The Oregons have a larger screen and can display more text on it. Going paperless is a bit more comfortable with this.

Youre choice.

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I recently used a Dakota for a few weeks. Really it is just a mini version of the Oregon. Curiously - it really doesn't cost any less and it has fewer features. Fun to play with but I like my Oregon just a bit better.

 

Another line you might consider is the Lowrance Endura units. Had a lot of early problems but they are a very good unit now and futre upgrades promise to add more features.

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I just did the same upgrade. There are two big cons for the Dakota: the (regular) price and the screen. I got mine on sale but I would not have paid the regular price for it. The screen, as you've probably read, is much harder than the Vista to read in sunlight. It's a big pain, but it's not impossible.

 

The touchscreen is a big pro though. 100x easier to use than the Vista, and much nicer to look out except in bright sun. The custom maps feature is a bonus, and one of the reasons I got one.

 

For me the pros outweigh the cons and I'm glad I upgraded. I love the bigger, easier to use touchscreen, and I love loading custom maps. I can deal with twisting the angle to see it in sunlight, but I can see how this would be a deal killer for some.

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Thanks for all of the responses on the Dakota 20. It is a tough decision on whether to purchase this unit as either people really like it or others have had serious problems with it. Like Viper715 stated that the unit had crashed. That would not be good. Especially if you had a ton of caches loaded for a geo trip or you are out in the back country. Several reviewers on REI had said this happened to them. I also have a friend that lives in Samoa and was deep in the jungles when his Dakota 20 just died on him. To say the least he was not very happy. But like Jopasm stated that Garmin is working to correct the problem, and they really like their Dakota 20. The Oregon 400T might also be an option for me too as allot of people really like that unit and I haven't read anything about a problem with the unit crashing like the Dakota. I wonder if Garmin has anything on the slate for 2010 with some newer units coming out.

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Dakota 20 owner here.

 

Screen is a vast improvement over the 400T you mention. In fact, you can use the sun to your advantage to make the screen more readable in bright sunlight. Winds up brighter than the backlight if you aim it right. We've all noted that Garmin made a major change to the touchscreen technology they are using somewhere between the 400 series vs. the 450/550 units and the Dakotas. Major improvement. After seeing a friend's 400, I was hesitant about dealing with a touch screen for caching, but taking a Dakota 20 out into the daylight put my mind at ease.

 

We needn't get into the discussion about the usefulness of the compass and red arrow here again (another thread beat that to death), but if you DO plan to use those features, the 3-axis version of the Dakota 20 and 450/550 series is much easier to use in the field as, unlike the prior models, it does not complain about being held so doggone flat.

 

Neither the Oregon or Dakota works consistently with WAAS yet - a major ding in the accuracy to my way of thinking - but in conversation with Garmin earlier this week, I was pleased to hear that they are in testing with new firmware to correct this. Frankly, my old eTrex Summit HC has the edge over my new Dakota when it comes to the time it takes to generate stable readings. That said, the Dakota has only been a nuisance a couple of times in the last 400 or so caches I've found with it -- there are certain "cluttered area" type caches where you need every last inch of accuracy to speed up the find, and hope like heck the other guy had a decent GPSr when he hid it.

Edited by ecanderson
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