Garmin eTrex 30x Review
The Garmin eTrex 30x is a well-built successor to the eTrex line and the 20x model which comes at a moderate price and is packed with all the essential GPS features that someone might need. It is compact, really easy to use, and has a functionality similar to some more expensive Garmin models. In this review, we will go over all of these features and see how well each of its components works and how well it stacks up against some of its closest competitors…
Before we dive into the features of the eTrex 30x, make sure you check out our guide on some of the best handheld GPS trackers on the market right now. There, we’ve discussed the top models and have also given you a few pointers on how to choose the right model for you!
Overview & Features
One of the most important and noteworthy features here is the design and overall ease of use it brings. Let’s take a closer look at that now and talk more about its size and how well it is built.
Design and Durability
What the eTrex 30x does is just take the 20x platform and built on top of that. As a result, there aren’t any significant changes to the construction but there have been some improvements in the build quality as well as the material quality. Just like the older eTrex models, this one is also waterproof with an IPX7 rating. That means that it isn’t fully sealed for fine dust particles but it does handle the outdoors well enough to be called robust.
While officially there isn’t any downsizing or upsizing, this model does appear to be slightly slimmer than the 20x and 10x. Their sides, however, are identical with all of the sealed buttons and contoured sidelines which make gripping it a lot easier. The front main button is a bit more protruding here, while it was a little flatter on the previous generations. The display sizes are the same so, as a whole, you see that there haven’t been any truly groundbreaking design changes here, which is one of the main reasons that this model is often looked as a refresher rather than a whole new generation. Price-wise, it is also very similar to the older ones.
All the subtle design changes have also shaved a little bit of weight off the 30x, making it identical to the 20x weight-wise but slightly lighter than the first eTrex version (10x).
The eTrex line is actually very special in regards of its tracking. It is one of the, if not the first consumer-grade tracker that made it available to people to use both GPS and GLONASS satellites. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the eTrex trackers were enabled to use both of these satellite signals at the same time, making them incredibly fast and accurate. Fast, mostly due to the faster locking-on times from the GLONASS systems and more accurate thanks to more accurate triangulation. There are also other sensors that help with tracking such as a 3-axis tilt-compensated compass and a barometric altimeter. None of these were present in the 20x and 10x making their signals a bit less reliable when you’re in remote locations.
The receiver is also a high-sensitivity WAAS-enabled one which also uses HotFits satellite prediction for those moments that you briefly lose signal or are in heavy-cover locations such as canyons. The 30x also supports geocaching by allowing you to upload geocaching locations and GPX files. The display then gives you all the information you need about finding them and you can also save any of that onto your eTrex thanks to its 3.7GB of internal memory. There is an SD card option in case you run out of that amount, since it isn’t exactly a lot, especially by today’s standards.
With the 30x, you can also upload and run different maps such as HuntView, TOPO 24K, BlueChart G2, BirdsEye, and City Navigator NT. Unlike the eTrex 10, you can store up to 200 routes here. The tracklog is at the same 10,000 points and 200 saved tracks like the previous two generations.
The display here is a colored one (65K colors) and is quite cibrant. Unfortunately, it isn’t very big and it also lacks the contrast which is present on some better models like the 64-series. It does read well under direct sunlight, however, and has a better resolution than the 20x at 240×320 pixels.
Despite not being huge, the display does a wonderful job of giving you all the essential info you need. It shows you the location, difficulty of the route, terrain, and even gives you descriptions and hints for geocaching.
The battery life is definitely a key feature here. Despite its relatively small size and a big display-to-body ratio, the eTrex 30x manages to consistently get more than 20 hours out of its batteries. Unlike some other Garmin models, it doesn’t use AA or AAA batteries but instead relies on its own built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Thanks to that, it also benefits from not having a panel at its back that opens and is better insulated against dust and water. You can also bring a portable charger to charge it up directly through the micro-USB charging cable.
The connectivity here isn’t great but the 30x can still wirelessly transfer data between other compatible Garmin devices. It can also communicate to a VIRB camera and other accessory sensors through its ANT connection. If you’re looking for a Garmin model with upgraded connectivity and tracking capabilities, I suggest checking out the Garmin GPSMAP 64st.
Ease Of Use
The eTrex 30x is just as comfortable to use as its two predecessors. With its compact footprint and convenient one-handed practicality, it really nails the portable aspect of modern GPS trackers. It has 5 buttons around it which are – menu, back, light, and up and down (for various functions). You also have the main big button up front which has been a trademark of the eTrex line of trackers.
The hard-plastic surroundings of the tracker haven’t been changed much from the previous model and are still contoured to provide a better grip even in wet conditions. On the back, there are still quite a few attachment options, which are all located at the battery protrusion. There is no antenna here which makes the tracker quite pocketable compared to other Garmin models.
There aren’t a lot of additional features that the 30x can brag with and that is alright considering the price you pay. This model has really tried to stick to the essentials, making the price as low as possible for the best budget Garmin experience. Still, there are a calendar, alarm clock, stopwatch, calculator, area calculations, sunset and sunrise times, moonrise and moonset times, moon phases, and more! For the heart rate, cadence, temperature, and other metrics you will need the optional monitors and sensors which work only with the 30 and 30x models. You also get different useful terrain information for fishers and hunters on the 30x.
One thing that is worth mentioning here is that the 30x comes with a worldwide base map that has shaded relief and is fairly detailed. It also has BaseCamp pre-installed which will make trip-planning and route sharing much easier. Lastly, there is support for Chirp geocaching beacon (only for the 30 and 30x models).
The Garmin eTrex series has had a few models to its name so far – the 10, the 20/20x, and the 30/30x. This version we’re reviewing now is the 30x, although there is a slightly lower model option called the “eTrex 30” without the “x”.
The main difference between the 30 and the 30x is the resolution. While the 30x has a 240×320 pixels display resolution, the eTrex 30 only has 176×220 pixels (in the same colored 2.2-inch display). They are both equally big and have the same features and tracking capabilities. The 30x also has a bit more built-in memory at 3.6GB compared to the 1.7 GB on the 30. This is due to the more maps and information pre-installed on the eTrex 30x. Still, there have been rumors that the eTrex line will be discontinued as a whole, and the 30 models are already being sold out in a lot of places with only 10, and 20x being left to sell.
Now, let’s quickly sum up some of the pros and cons of the 30x…
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Excellent value for your money
- Superb battery life
- Automatic routing
- Works with custom maps
- Can save up to 200 routes
- Garmin BaseCamp compatible
- Waterproof and very durable
- Third-party maps often cost extra
- The display isn’t very sharp and crisp
- Could use official dust-proofing rating
Garmin eTrex 30X vs Garmin Foretrex 401
While similarly priced, the Garmin eTrex 30x and the Foretrex 401 are fundamentally different at what they offer. The 30x is a handheld unit that is easily pocketable and has a colored display that will give you a good look on most maps. The Foretrex, on the other hand, is more navigation oriented and isn’t going to help you a lot with map reading due to its basic LCD display. However, the Foretrex trackers are extremely potent and accurate in their signal readings and are also very reliable. Not to mention they are also very durable and comfortable, at least as comfortable as a bulky wrist tracker can be.
If simplicity and wristwatch convenience are your priorities, definitely go with the Foretrex, but if you want something that you can throw in your backpack and use every now and then on your geocaching route, then the eTrex 30x brings a much better value for your money!
Check out my review on the Foretrex 401 by clicking here!
Conclusion & Rating
The Garmin eTrex 30x is one of the cheaper trackers from the company that comes with all the essential features you need for basic tracking and navigation purposes. It has a small but vibrant display that is easy to read under direct sunlight and has a good resolution on the 30x version. Speaking of versions, while the 30x is the best value for your money, the eTrex 30 isn’t that bad of a deal either since its quite cheaper and isn’t that much handicapped compared to the X model. Still, the 30x comes with the highest level of build quality and processing power from all the eTrex range. It also has the best tracking sensors and receivers on the inside, making it really reliable in almost all terrains and conditions. Lastly, arguably the best part of it is the battery life that easily outperforms other bigger Garmin trackers with its 20+ hours of life on a single charge. I gave the 30x a ranking of four and a half out of five stars!