In the past few years the best GPS receivers have dramatically improved their performance in difficult reception areas. Their souped-up digital signal processors can have many thousands of times or more processing power than their analog 12-channel predecessors. This allows them to acquire and maintain an accurate GPS fix in deep canyons and under heavy tree cover where there is only a faint and highly degraded GPS signal-places where their older counterparts, with less sophisticated electronics, were useless.

This new technology works. In one test in a difficult reception area, the Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, with a new high sensitivity receiver acquired 8 satellites and a 10-meter position fix in less than 30 seconds. In the same test, a direct competitor's best unit failed to locate a single satellite in over 8 minutes. Detailed test results are discussed later in the review.

We haven's seen much of this GPS technology in small lightweight units for backpackers but the new Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS, with its high sensitivity receiver…

ARTICLE OUTLINE

  • Overview
  • Small High sensitivity backpacking GPS?
  • What’s Good
  • What’s not so Good
  • Background
  • Field Testing and Performance Measurement
    • Number of Successful Fixes by Difficulty (total of 13 tests)
    • Fix Time by Difficulty
  • Rationale for testing
  • Why a High Sensitivity GPS?
  • Assessment
  • What’s Unique
  • Recommendations for Improvement

# WORDS: 3220
# PHOTOS: 1
# TABLES: 2

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