I jumped on this as soon as I heard about it. The fact that it had an inReach built into it helped because we’d been considering getting an inReach for a while. The Alpha 200i is a tiny bit thinner and has a bigger screen than the Alpha 100, which I’ve used nearly flawlessly for years.
The main reason anyone would have a GPS handheld for upland bird hunting is to track their dogs in undulating terrain where they’re not always visible. The Alpha 100 immediately increased the number of points I was able to get to on each hunt.
I’ve completed 10 hunts of about 4 hours average with the Garmin 200i and TT15 Mini collars. The dog tracking on my 200i is rubbish. At best, it points about 15 degrees from where the dogs actually are. At worst, the compass dial spins and jumps around, or points 180 degrees off (see the video below). I’ve done all the updates on the handheld and the TT15 Mini collars, consulted with Garmin’s tech support team, Gun Dog Supply’s (where I bought it – they’re awesome) tech support (more knowledgeable than Garmin’s), calibrated and re-calibrated the compass, and it’s proving to be worth than useless in locating the dog.
I reached out to some readers who I knew had pulled the trigger on the 200i to see if they’d been experiencing anything like my problems with it. One person said it was working fine for him, but he’d heard from several others who were having similar problems. I immediately flashed back to having bought the Garmin Fenix a couple years ago because I wanted to use a watch instead of the clunky handheld to find my dog, but its compass was also rubbish, and I returned it. I’m not sure if this is just bad luck or if I got a lemon from Garmin (twice), but it seems like they might not have done adequate testing on this in the field before putting it out there for mass consumption.
If you do decide to go for it, and you have issues like this, Garmin’s tech support person told me that they hope users will contact Garmin if they have problems so that they can work on them. This seems bass-ackwards to me, but what do I know? I probably shouldn’t be using these kinds of toys anyway.
The other problem, which pales in comparison to the compass disaster, is that the touchscreen on the Garmin 200i does not work with gloves. WTF? It worked with a “tech finger” glove, but not with a light leather glove. The Alpha 100 worked fine with any glove I threw at it.
Below are some visuals of the issues with my Garmin 200i. At the very bottom of this post are some comparison photos between the Alpha 100 and Alpha 200i.