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Garmin Dakota 20 Handheld GPS Navigator review



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Garmin Dakota 20 Handheld GPS Navigator
  • Garmin Dakota 20 Handheld GPS Navigator
  • Garmin Dakota 20 Handheld GPS Navigator
  • Garmin Dakota 20 Handheld GPS Navigator
  • Garmin Dakota 20 Handheld GPS Navigator
  • Dakota 20 Cycling GPS


Our Score:


Garmin’s Oregon outdoor GPS devices pack in a host of features, but they pack hefty price tags as well. If you don’t fancy paying over £300 for digital hiking assistance, Garmin has another option which also includes a touchscreen and supports Ordnance Survey maps, but costs less than £200. It’s called the Dakota, and this week we’re looking at the current flagship, the Dakota 20.

The main reason why the Dakota 20 is cheaper than any current Oregons is its smaller, lower resolution display. This is 2.6in diagonally rather than 3in, and the resolution is 160 x 240 pixels rather than 240 x 400. This makes the device considerably smaller, and it weighs in at under 149g rather than 193g.

But the Dakota 20 is equally rugged. It has the same robust build, and is also accredited to be waterproof to IPX7 standards. This means it can withstand half an hour submerged under a metre of water, although there’s no guarantee about whether it will survive a fall. Also, like the Oregon 550t, the Dakota 20’s digital compass is three-way, so it displays directions correctly no matter how you orient the device.

As standard, the Dakota 20 comes with a very basic world map, which only includes a few major roads and isn’t topographic. So adding an extra map will be essential if you want to use it as more than just a posh digital compass. As stated before, Garmin’s Ordnance Survey-based GB Discoverer maps are supported, and there’s a microSD slot hidden under the batteries.

You can also upload maps to the devices on-board memory, of which 850MB is free. However, the USB port is only version 1.1, so will be slower when transferring data than the Oregon’s USB 2.0 interface. We also found the Dakota a bit more sluggish zooming and scrolling these bitmap-based maps than the Oregons we’ve tested, whilst the lower resolution made it noticeably harder to get an overall idea of the surrounding terrain.

The usual range of destination options are available, though. You can navigate to waypoints, tracks you’ve recorded during previous trips, coordinates, and addresses. The latter can either be via the traditional city-street-number input process or you can enter a postcode, but not a full seven-digit UK one, just the initial group and first number of the second group. You can choose to navigate via roads with maps that support this feature. So although the Dakota 20 would not make a particularly good in-car sat-nav, it shouldn’t take you down any dead ends when on foot. The Active Route option provides turn-by-turn directions to help you along your way as well.

Andrew Marshall

February 15, 2010, 2:45 pm

I think 9/10 for value is a bit generous when the OS maps needed to make the device useful in the UK come it at around £120 (each). Granted that's not Garmin's fault, but in the end it makes the TCO of this device and the higher specified Oregon not that much different.

Jon Williamson

February 15, 2010, 3:20 pm

For more casual usage (and for people with an iphone) Roadtours offer regional OS 1:50,000 mapping for £15 http://www.roadtour.co.uk/i... - I've got all of the South East and it is a bargain - obviously not as rugged, and rubbish battery live, but at a fraction of the price of a dedicated handset.

I'm just waiting for 1:25,000 mapping ...


February 15, 2010, 6:17 pm

JonWill - have you seen RouteBuddy? £100 for the whole UK at 1:50k and 1:25k mapping at £19.99 a shot. Yet to try it, but seems to be decent judging by the comments I've read on it so far.


February 17, 2010, 6:24 pm

Isn't the OS expected to make the map data available in open formats for free from April? The consultation paper is here: http://www.communities.gov..... It will be very hard to continue to justify a price of £120 a map at this point.

Jon Williamson

February 18, 2010, 4:48 pm

The Routebuddy approach looks great, but the mapping is still expensive. Just thought I'd clarify that the Roadtours maps are £15 for the ENTIRE of the South East at 1:50,000. England and Wales are split into 8 regions, and so you'r getting 20 or so traditional maps for the price. Not sure how they manage it ...

I would be very surprised if the OS started giving their data away - perhaps to other Governmental organiastions (schools and LAs need to pay for it).


February 18, 2010, 6:14 pm

@JonWill - Check section 7 of the consultation paper, particularly 7.1, "The Prime Minister announced proposals on 17 November 2009 to release a selection of Ordnance Survey products free of charge and without restrictions on use and re-use." and 7.17, "The download centre would provide the facility to select pre-defined areas and tiles of mapping to download and save locally. The data will be provided in industry standard compressed file formats. No charge would be made to download the data."

7.17 does not represent a commitment, merely an option in the consultation, but if you want free downloadable maps then write in to the consultation.

Personally I wouldn't mind paying a modest fee to download maps in an open file format, but did resent paying inflated fees multiple times to get the same map in different vendor-proprietary file formats. And in the case of one vendor, the file format was obsoleted shortly after I bought maps for the entire UK, although they kindly offered me a discounted price for buying all the maps again!


March 4, 2010, 2:52 pm

Hi guys,

Saw these comments come up and though I'd respond personally; forgive me if this an intrusion but I can offer you information straight form the horses mouth... :-)


RoadTour only sell maps that go on the iPhone.

The maps RouteBuddy sell can be loaded onto an iPhone (from Mac or PC), used in RouteBuddy for Mac OS X and will also load onto an iPad when it appears (not that I'd lug one around these muddy trails in these Surrey Hills near our office in Guildford). This is an advantage when planning on the same OS map on a desktop and transferring a highly-detailed route to your iPhone that's using the very same map.

I might add that RouteBuddy are not here just to sell topographic OSGB or USGS maps for the iPhone; we are a dedicated UK digital map company and our engineers all have over twenty years of experience in software development for Apple devices. What this means is we are committed to long term development, and support, for digital mobile and RouteBuddy on the desktop.


THe OSFree consultation is on 17th March, but no date has been set for release if it is decided the data will be free. (Remember that this is a costly hand-grenade-in-the-lap for the next incoming government to pay for, whatever party, or leader.)

However there's 'Free' and 'Free' - viz. To make use of OS data you would need experience with software, ability to build and deploy software, and time/money to build an infrastructure to offer long-term support. Yes there could easily be hundreds of one-off apps-with-a-map you could only pay a few quid for but if the person who wrote them moves on for any reason then you'll just have to buy the same map all over again and from another vendor. Worthy of note is that just one iPhone OS change can mess with an app, so it doesn't work as you wish...

(For OS maps on the internet then all sorts of issues come in to play with the restrictions that coding for the internet causes, as internet apps are nowhere near as flexible as desktop apps.)


Actually we are the lowest priced OS map solution on the iPhone. RoadTours do sell maps of 13 regions (not 8 - that's RouteBuddy, we offer 8 regions but each one is much bigger than a RoadTours region) and you can't use RoadTours regions on both the iPhone and a Mac. So 13X£14.99 for limited-use maps compared to RouteBuddy's £99.99 for the whole country...

(BTW - the lowest non-sale PC Explorer map prices are from Tracklogs at £29.00 each, ours are £19.99 each.)

Hope this has been of interest and feel free to write to me via support@RouteBuddy.com or even post on our own RouteBuddy Forum.



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Connie Orlando

December 6, 2013, 2:03 pm

Is this good for inland fishing?

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