First Impressions / Mini Review: Garmin eTrex Touch 25 GPS

Well, I stopped by REI recently and lo and behold, some of them are just now getting the eTrex Touch series in stock. They had several of the eTrex Touch 25 models in the store, so I decided to jump in with both feet and try one out. Here are some very quick first impressions / mini review… (**See below for updated info.**)

Specs & Likes:
* Screen is the same dimensions as the GPSMAP 62/64. It is a 65K TFT at 160 x 240 pixels.
* Screen visibility is very good — if you’re used to the GPSMAP 62/64 series, this looks the same. Should be no problem viewing this in the shade.
* Satellite reception is excellent — have even seen down to 9-12 ft. “accuracy” indoors (near window). Further indoors and I’ve seen anywhere from 16-32 feet roughly.
* Map scrolling seems very quick, no issues there. There is a “normal” and “fast” menu setting, too.
* Filtering & scrolling through a couple of thousand geocaches (installed from pocket query GPX files) seems to be just fine so far.
* Unit size is just a little bigger in width than the previous eTrex 10/20/30 line. Probably to accommodate the touch screen.
* Nice to have a 3-axis electronic compass in all models, including the base model Touch 25.
* Similarly, it’s great to have an SD card slot in the Touch 25.
* Had multiple previous third-party maps loaded to an SD card and the unit recognized & loaded them with no problems. You are still able to turn on/off each map set individually through the menus, as you have been able to do with more recent Garmin GPS units.
* Supports road routing / turn-by-turn directions. You can also switch to direct routing (best for caching) and others through the menus.
* Battery life appears to be pretty respectable. Using partially-depleted Eneloop NiMH cells, I still managed to get 8 hrs. of solid use, including backlight, until one battery bar was showing in the menu. (Though I still wish Garmin would show the actual battery voltage.)
* You can use the newer interface view (focused more on profiles) or switch to a “classic” view which appears like the Oregon 600 menu system. Either way, briefly pressing the power/light button brings up the main menu where you can access everything.

Issues / Bugs:
* Out of the box, installed firmware was 2.20. There was already a firmware update for 2.50 (now up to 2.70 as of 9/30/15) once connected to the computer.
* A pesky small pop-up menu (home, start/stop track, battery life, satellite signal, etc.) on the bottom of the screen keeps activating. Only seems to go away if you press “start” and record a track. Once you press “stop” the menu keeps popping up, blocking the ability to view & use the map screen. At first I thought it was a hardware issue (something touching screen), but it turns out to be a software issue.
* Word-around for above right now seems to be to: 1) start track log, 2) press power button to access main menu (instead of pressing “stop” in pop-up menu), 3) go to current track icon, 4) pause current track. You wind up with one or two track points in the background, but the pop-up menu doesn’t keep activating.
* Saved track log colors default to teal and if you change them for saved tracks, the color reverts back to teal after a power cycle.
* No way to set a default track log color for future tracks.
* When searching alphabetically for map database items, the unit has locked up only a of couple of times, requiring the batteries to be pulled.
* Using Eneloop NiMH batteries, Garmin recommends setting the Battery Type system menu choice to “Pre-Charged NiMH”. But that still seems wildly inaccurate (fully charged cells still show 2-3 out of 4 battery life display bars), and using the regular “NiMH” choice seems better. Again, it would be nice to see actual battery voltage displayed!

Per Garmin Customer Support:
* Unit supports around 4 million caches, similar to other more recent units, dependent on memory available.
* The screen on the eTrex Touch line is plastic, *not* glass like the Oregon 600 line.

Brief Conclusion:
Overall, the eTrex Touch 25 seems pretty stable out of the box. I haven’t had a lot of time to test it out, but first impressions are favorable. It takes a little while to set up the home screen and various menus & settings to your preference, but that was expected. The screen can be a little cramped (such as when spelling out waypoints), being only 160 x 240 pixels, but works fine. I’ll know more overall once I take it out caching and record some track logs. So far, so good.

**Ongoing Update 10/8/15**

Ultimately, this unit was returned to the retailer. Read below for further…

Having spent some more time with the eTrex Touch 25, especially while traveling, caching, and logging, this seemed like a good point to provide an ongoing update.

A firmware of 2.70 is now available via Garmin for the unit as of 9/30/15, which can be downloaded and installed via their free software. See the link here for the latest firmware file and instructions: Garmin eTrex Touch 25/35 Updates

The unit has locked up or had a frozen screen a handful of times, and there doesn’t seem to be an exact reason why. Sometimes it happens while scrolling the map, sometimes when scrolling through menus. This results in needing to power-cycle the GPS to get it running again. At no point have I had to pull the batteries for a reset, which is definitely a good thing. (Edit: Since then, the unit froze and  batteries did have to be pulled.)

There is still no way to turn off the “nag screen” menu that pops up along the bottom of the display when not actively recording a track or activity. Going to the Setup Menu -> Activities and activating both “Auto Pause” (default of 1.50mph) and “Auto Start” helps keep track length to a minimum when in a static location. Still, it’s quite likely that having a track log active and recording in the background consumes battery life. (IMHO, Garmin needs to address this and make it possible to completely turn off track / activity recording and eliminate the “nag screen”.) On the plus side, they have consolidated much of the track recording and setup menus, whereas in older GPS units you needed to go through several menus to even start / stop a track.

After installing a pair of fresh Energizer lithium AA batteries, the unit seemed to chew through them pretty quickly. I’d estimate around 3-4 hours of very minimal use before a low battery warning, and then the unit shutting off, which seems unusual for a GPS. (Again, it would be great for Garmin to allow the end-user to see actual battery voltage in a data field or menu.) I will try to repeat this scenario with another pair of lithium cells soon and see what happens. (Edit: Same result with another fresh pair of batteries. Seems to be a battery drain / hardware issue on the particular copy that I received.)

So, while I still think this is a good GPS unit, especially for caching and traveling, there are a few kinks and speed bumps that need to be worked out via firmware updates. Garmin, if you’re listening, please provide an option to disable the pop-up track / activity recording menu, and also to show actual battery voltage. Thanks!

Photos:

(Note: Belt clip shown below not included with unit, but used for scale.)

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