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GPS Review - Garmin Geko 101

Garmin eTrex GPS receiver March, 2004
by: J. Chartwell

Introduction:

The Garmin Geko 101 GPS receiver is one of the least expensive handheld units available. The Geko line of receivers was introduced in the Spring of 2003 and includes the 101, 201, and the 301. The bright-yellow 101 is quite small, but don’t let that fool you. This receiver is still a serious navigation tool.

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Garmin Geko 101 GPS receiver package

What You Get:

  • The Geko 101 GPS receiver
  • owner’s manual
  • quick-start guide

Optional accessories:

  • Carrying case
  • Belt Clip
  • Lanyard
  • Marine Mounting Kit
  • Bicycle Mounting Kit
  • Suction Cup Mounting Kit
  • Training Video
  • Vehicle Mounting Kit

What It Does:

All necessary information is on four main display screens called 'pages.' They are: Satellite page, Map page, Navigation page, and Menu page.The Satellite Page shows (in animation) the satellites, satellite signal strength, and the estimated location accuracy.

Garmin Geko 101 GPS receiver normal skyview Garmin Geko 101 GPS receiver map page

The Map Page shows where you've been, displays waypoint names and symbols, and shows where you're going. The map can be oriented Northward so that the top of the map is always north, regardless of your direction of travel or 'Ahead,' which means the map will rotate so that the destination is always in front of the person icon that represents the user. Auto Zoom will automatically adjust the scale so that your entire trip fits on the screen. Otherwise, you can manually choose the scale with the 'up' and 'down' buttons. The scale goes from 80 feet to 800 miles. The Pan Track Log will let you move the pointer to any location on the track to set waypoints, to start 'goto,' or start a 'tracback.' As you pan the track, the times display to show when you were at a particular point. Tracback is used to guide you to return on the same path left behind. Goto points you to the shortest distance to any chosen waypoint.

Garmin Geko 101 GPS receiver pointer page

The Navigation Page uses a compass (the compass only works when you're moving) to show your moving direction and speed. If you're moving toward a specific destination, it shows the name of the location, the distance and time to go, and displays a direction arrow in the compass ring. The Navigation Page can display 13 types of data: average speed, elevation, heading, location, max speed, speed, time/date, trip odometer, trip time, arrival time, bearing, final distance, time left to go.

Garmin Geko 101 GPS receiver menu page

The Menu Page is the access point for all the unit's features. From the Menu Page, you can change the longitude/latitude, elevation, and choose waypoint names and symbols. The time can be displayed in 12 or 24 hour time. You can choose between 12 different position formats (longitude/latitude, UTM, etc.). You can also choose map datum, units of measure (nautical, statute, metric), and north reference (true north, magnetic north, grid, and user). The backlighted display timeout can be changed here (15, 30, 60, 120 seconds) and so can the display's contrast.


Specifications:

Physical:

Case: Fully-gasketed, high-impact plastic alloy, waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes
Size: 3.92"H x 1.85"W x .96"D (99.1 x 48.3 x 24.4 mm)
Weight: Appr. 3.1 ounces (88 grams) with batteries, 2.3 ounces (65 grams) without batteries
Display: 64 x 100 pixel, backlit LCD greyscale
Antenna: Built-in patch
Temperature Range: 5 to 158 degrees F (-15 to 70 degrees C) (operating) User Data Storage: Indefinite – no backup battery required

Performance:

Receiver: Differential-ready, 12 parallel channel
Acquisition time: Cold – appr. 45 seconds
Warm - appr. 15 seconds
First time - appr. 5 minutes
Update Rate: 1 second continuous
Position Accuracy: less than 15 meters (49 ft)
1 - 5 meters, w/ DGPS

Navigation:

Waypoints: 250 with name and graphic symbol
Map datums: 30 plus one user
Tracks: 3000 trackpoints; automatic track log
Position formats: 12

Power:

Input: Two 1.5 volt AAA batteries
Battery Life: Up to 12 hours

Price:

Suggested Retail: $113.32
Mean Price Available on Internet: $112.22 USD



Practical Use:

The Geko is a sharp-looking little receiver. And I do mean little – it’s less than 4 inches long. This makes the screen rather small, but since the Geko 101 can’t support maps, this isn’t a concern. The placement of the five buttons on the face of the unit are easy to access. There is a rubber strip around all sides where the front and back meet. This gives a good feel and a good grip. The battery cover on the back also has a rubber pad attached – good for staying put on the console or dash of a car.

The manual says to allow 15 to 30 minutes for the unit to track satellites when turned on for the first time. My Geko 101 took 2 minutes and 45 seconds to get a fix. The first test was to take a 1.5 mile walk around the neighborhood. I marked and named waypoints at significant locations and doing so was easy. Estimated location accuracy displayed was as low as 19 feet at times.

In a second test I marked a waypoint at my beginning location and then after walking some distance, I used the ‘Goto’ feature. After choosing my destination (the beginning location) the pointer accurately told me which way to turn. The unit showed how far it was to the destination in miles. Below one-tenth of a mile, the unit displays that distance in feet. When I reached my destination, the Geko 101 was off by only 35 feet out of a one-mile walk. Not too bad.

Wanting to have it create a track log during a hiking trip, I started by letting it get its satellite fix and then placed it in my pants pocket. At the end of the hike, I discovered most of the track log missing, indicating that in a pants pocket it loses its fix. Replicating the same route under identical conditions using the optional belt clip, the Geko 101 never lost its fix. An even more reliable way is to attach it to a shoulder strap of a daypack or backpack.

Testing under conditions of moderate foliage cover and next to 60-foot sheer cliffs showed that the Geko 101 held its signal fairly well, and maintained a lock on enough satellites to enable me to navigate.


Cons and Pros:

Cons:

  • Owner's manual could be a little more complete.
  • Power button can turn on when carried in a pocket or backpack, even though it barely protrudes from the face of the unit and you have to press and hold a couple of seconds to turn on/off.
  • Battery cover difficult to open.
  • Cannot be connected to a PC or Pocket PC.

Pros:

  • Small size
  • Inexpensive
  • Relatively simple to operate considering all it does

Conclusion:

Being a basic receiver, it does have its limitations. However, for someone just beginning, it’s a great value. It appears to be a sturdy little unit and Garmin is known for quality products. Garmin also has responsive technical support.

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