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Garmin eTrex Vista® HCx review

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Vista HCx and homemade holder



Manufacturer data
My Pros (+)
My Cons (-)
For advanced users
Legend HCx and Vista HCx elevation profile
External links




Garmin eTrex Vista HCx is a new 2007 GPS model with high sensitive MediaTek (MTK) chipset. The new Vista HCx unit provides the same functions as the old Vista Cx. H means high sensitivity. MTK chipset is the new low power consumption chipset. Vista HCx is an universal GPS with small size and can be used for hiking and mountain bike (MTB’s) rides. For bikers there are many useful functions like total ascent & descent, graphical presentation of the ascent and descent, complete trip odometer including speed, moving and stop time. Vista HCx is supplied with electronic compass and electronic altimeter/barometer too. eTrex Legend HCx is very similar model but without electronic compass and electronic altimeter/barometer.


Manufacturer data


Dimensions, WxHxD: 4.2" x 2.2" x 1.2" (10.7 x 5.6 x 3.0 cm)
Display size, WxH: 1.3" x 1.7" (3.3 x 4.3 cm)
Display resolution, WxH: 176 x 220 pixels
Display type: 256 level color TFT
Weight: 156 g with batteries
Battery: 2 AA batteries (not included)
Battery life: 25 hours
Waterproof: yes (IPX7)
Floats: no
High-sensitivity receiver: yes
PC interface: via USB
Basemap: yes (Europe or USA)
Ability to add maps: yes
Accepts data cards: microSD card (not included)
      Waypoints: 1000
Routes: 50
Track log: 10,000 points, 20 saved tracks
Automatic routing (turn by turn routing on roads): yes
Electronic compass: yes
Barometric altimeter: yes
Geocaching mode: yes
Outdoor GPS games: yes
Hunt/fish calendar: yes
Sun and moon information: yes
Tide tables: no
Area calculation: yes
Custom POIs : yes


My Pros (+)

The housing is robust & 100% waterproof

Standard batteries, 2xAA alkaline or rechargeable NiMh.

Low power consumption. In practice 2500 mAh NiMh batteries can give around 15-25 working hours. It depends of the backlight intensity and outdoor temperature. GPS units with SirF III chipset have at least 20% more power consumption.

Display is clear and easy visible even during strong sunlight.

Keyboard is good. Even with the gloves it’s easy to use all buttons and the joystick. Recording of a waypoint is very easy, only few presses of the joystick are needed.

Unlimited track log if stored on the Micro SD card. The limit of the track log size is the capacity of micro SD memory card only.

High speed cold and warm start. The synchronization after signal loss is fast.

The sensitivity is high and on the same level like the GPS units with SirF III chipset. Even in the deep forests and canyons the signal is available.

The housing is robust & 100% waterproof. You can wash your bike and Vista HCx together.

Trip odometer counts cumulative distance of more trips too (see right image).Total ascent & descent including moving and stopping time is available
Total ascent & descent including moving and stopping time is available.

There are many possibilities to organize screen data with the function - change data fields.

Fast zooming and scrolling of the map on the display.


My Cons (-)

Not possible to organize waypoints, track logs and routes into the files. Internal memory can be used only for single set of waypoints. In practice it means that you can record and upload totally 1000 waypoints into internal memory only and there is no way to organize them into the groups or files. For a single trip it is acceptable but if you want to organize data for more trips it is not possible. All waypoints from all the trips have to be mixed together into internal memory. For instance Magellan eXplorist GPS can store the groups of waypoints, track logs and routes into separately files and the number of files is limited with the size of SD card memory only.

External micro SD card can be used for maps and track log files only.

Operating manual doesn’t explain clearly how track files are stored and limited with 500 points only when stored into internal memory. If you need long and precise track log it is necessary to record the track log into the Micro SD card memory. There is no possibility to upload back the track log stored on the SD card or to convert it into the route.

The provided MapSource program is slow during scrolling and zooming of the maps on PC.

the bad electrical contact issue

Original bike holder is very bad. It can be easy broken.

After around 3-4 months I noticed that battery indicator shows the false power level. Furthermore,  after strong vibrations it's possible that Vista HCx turns off because the bad contact between pins of battery socket and the main PCB of the unit (see right image). Due to vibration of  two different metals, sooner or later  you will be faced with the bad electrical contact issue.  It is the typical issue of Garmin eTrex and 60 GPS series. The solution is to open the unit and solder the contacts. Be warned, you will loose Garmin warranty if you do this.


For advanced users

How to get the secret screen with temperature and other data? Turn off Vista HCx. Keep pressed Menu and Enter (Rocker) keys and than press the Power key.

In the track log you can record the elevation data received from barometric sensor or  values calculated from GPS data. To record the values calculated from GPS data in System > Altimeter, turn on Barometer mode to Fixed Elevation.

There are many maps available worldwide for Garmin units. Furthermore, an advanced user can build homemade maps and upload them to the Vista HCx. For the simple maps, the software is free of charge. To build the map consider the following links:

Download cGPSMapper free & Sendmap20 free from this link

Download GPSmapedit from this link

Download Mapwel from this link


Legend HCx and Vista HCx elevation profile

eTrex Legend HCx model has the same functions as Vista HCx except altimeter (barometer) and compass functions. In the track log file  Legend HCx unit records the elevation data calculated from GPS data and Vista HCx can store the elevation data from altimeter (barometric pressure).  The question could be what is better? I measured the track log of the both units in the same time on the well known road with the sections through the forest and through the opened view.  Check below diagram. As expected the main difference is on the section in the forest and it's clear that Vista HCx measured the profile as it is in reality.




Supplied with a new high sensitive MTK chipset, Vista HCx is a big improvement over old Garmin and Magellan GPS units. The navigation in deep forest and canyons is possible without interruption of the synchronization. The size of the housing is suitable for biking and hiking but due to bad contact issue mentioned above Vista is not suitable for biking without the modification of the contacts between battery socket and main PCB. The standard bike holder is not acceptable for MTB rides. Vista HCx exhibits very good battery life, much more than older GPS units. Some improvement is needed in usage of external memory functions. Grouping of the waypoints into the files and file managing functions for routes, waypoints and tracks are missing.


External links

Garmin official web site

Vista HCx's successor - the new eTrex 30



Top Hit MTB Routes