Double U’s Comprehensive Product Review: DriveTrack™ 70
Big game houndsmen have been asking for a larger truck mount screen for some time and this year (2016) Garmin delivered with the release of the Drivetrack 70. The Double U Hunting Supply team was very pleased with the many usable features built into the DriveTrack 70. Of course we enjoyed how easy it was for us to get our collars linked up and back into the field. Once in the field we found the 7’ screen bright and easy to read with either our favorite the 24k map, or with the 100K topo map that comes included. We hadn’t utilized the free 1 year Birdseye View subscription that is provided by Garmin with the Alpha 100 in the past simply because of the small screen. However, we did find the free 1 year Birdseye View far more useful with the Drivetrack 70.
The new Garmin Drivetrack 70 boast many of the conveniences of a standard GPS navigation system with one major difference, the ability to show your linked collars, up to 20 collars, on the 7’ screen with detailed TOPO maps. One of the Major differences between the DriveTrack 70 and other Garmin navigation devices is the ability to display topographical maps, as well as your dogs location. With the DriveTrack 70 you can choose between street maps, Birdseye View, TOPO maps or simply install any Garmin compatible map by inserting the microSD card into the DriveTrack 70. This includes our favorite the 24K or the popular landowner maps. We found that the TOPO maps provided plenty detail in our area while in the field. However, while using the Drivetrack 70 as a navigation device we found “street maps” to be far more useful while navigating to hotels, diners and especially fuel stations during a recent trip.
Although we understand most of our customers simply want to track their dogs on a larger screen, not fiddle around with computers, tablets and a bunch of wires hanging all over the place, we found the DriveTrack 70 to be a great 2 for the price of one type of product. We recently had one of our field testers who is not one of our most “tech savvy” guys accompany us on an out of town trip. He was able to quickly learn how to navigate between screens perform searches and navigate to and from points of interest. In fact, he commented that “the Drivetrack 70 is every bit as useful in town as it is up Lookout Butte. In fact, maybe a bit more useful in town because it helps me get the heck out of town faster.”
As with many new product releases by Garmin, the DriveTrack 70 boldly goes where no other product has gone. Sure, there have been attempts to get GPS tracking onto a bigger screen but only one has ever gained much traction and is the GPS Dawg. Essentially what the GPS Dawg device does is combine the free software provided by Garmin called “Base Station” to a refurbished tablet. Once paired with a Garmin handheld device using a USB cable, and several other steps the user is then able to share information through the handheld to the tablet. We found this process to be somewhat complicated and not “user friendly”. Once we got everything configured, we found mounting the tablet to be a whole new issue. We considered mounting the tablet in the window but feared it would overheat from the sun beating down on it through the window. Next we looked at a console mount but had to reconsider when we noticed all the coffee stains in, on, and around the console. Our options to mount the tablet were further complicated by the fact that we had to continuously swipe the screen on the tablet in order to keep our dogs on the screen. Although we did find value in the paired tablet system, things like the ability to do updates on our tracking equipment in the field, receive and send emails and on one occasion downloading a how to fix your RV heater video from youtube, the Double U Hunting Supply team didn’t feel comfortable endorsing the product because of price (between $500 and $800.00 depending on unit size), dependability, lack of user friendliness and a poor overall user experience.
Having a computer engineer on the Double U Hunting Supply team we decided to make our own run at building a larger screen unit for our customers. We explored every option we could come up with but ultimately ended up going down the same path as GPS Dawg. Initially, it was straight forward from a “tech geek” point of view, until we got to the point of downloading maps. Finding a map that would run smooth proved to be difficult, at which point we abandoned the project. We simply felt the system was a failure on too many levels to receive a green light from the Double U Team. At this point we turned to our friends at Garmin and shared with them some ideas that we felt would be in solid demand. Following what seemed like an eternity, we are pleased to finally give the Double U Hunting Supply endorsement to the Garmin Drivetrack 70.
So what sets the new Garmin DriveTrack 70 apart from other larger screen attempts? Well as mentioned before you get the very easy “plug and go” setup along with the fact that you get wireless communication between the Drivetrack 70 and either the Astro 430 or an updated Alpha 100, built in 100K Topo Mapping, 1 year Free subscription to Birdseye View mapping, free lifetime Street Mapping, as well as the ability to load maps through the microSD card slot (including our favorite 24K map or the popular land-owner microSD card), a convenient window mount is included, Auto Zoom, on screen alerts, a highly functioning navigation device, bluetooth capabilities all for $399.99 and backed by Garmins 1 year warranty you can’t really go wrong.
- Built in Topo 100K maps are included.
- Easy to connect, virtually turn on the device along with your handheld and your dogs start showing up on the screen.
- Built in options to follow the dogs in the race, the unit zooms in or out to keep all your dogs in view so you can follow the race.
- Free Birdseye 1 year subscription.
- Navigation works well.
- Hands free Cell Phone Calling.
With all that said what do we feel Garmin could have done better. One of our first issues with the Drivetrack 70 is it only tracks on the screen while it is actively paired with the new Astro 430 or an updated Alpha 100. If the power is interrupted, or if you turn off either of the paired units you will lose all your tracks up to that point. Essentially you will start a new hunt on the DriveTrack from that point forward. It currently does not save the Tracks. Also, we felt a stand alone unit would have been the better choice. We feel the customer would have been better served had the unit been designed with the ability to track your dog without being linked to a handheld. Our idea of the perfect vehicle mounted tracking device would have been on a 7” screen platform much like the DriveTrack 70, however it would have the capability to be attached to a truck mount antenna, serve as a hub for mass information transfer for things like dog tracking information. Imagine how handy it would be for the handler if he was planning to hunt with another pack if all he had to do is scroll to the “share all dog” info icon and press “share wirelessly” and presto your info is shared to your hunting partners paired Drivetrack device, or if you happen to lose your handheld unit and needed to replace it. You would simply pair the handheld to your truck mount unit and share all dog info to your new unit. We have on several occasions received calls from customers hoping to reconnect to a collar that is on a dog in the field. Most of these calls come from customers who had set their handheld down during a hunt and couldn’t locate it. Currently, the only way to reconnect is to have your tracking numbers saved on another handheld or to write them down. Had these handlers had a truck mount unit that automatically syncs with the handheld and transfers mass information all they would have had to do is get another unit, pair it and get back to hunting.
Summarized Con’s :
- Not a stand alone unit, does not easily allow for an external truck mount antenna.
- Tracks are only on the screen while you are connected, If you have to turn off the device or re-pair the handheld you will start a new track and lose your previous tracks. You can not save your tracks on the device.
- Could have added more helpful features for hunters with larger packs as a stand-alone unit
How does the device compare to Other Larger Screen options for your Pickup.
Drivetrack 70: Cost 399.99. 7 Inch Screen wireless communication with Alpha 100 Or Astro 430
Tablet with Base Station: 399.99 up to $800 The Value tablet 8 inch for 399.99, or the Pro 8 inch tablet for 549.99. Prices can go up to 800 for an 11 inch tablet.
We feel the price of 399.99 for the DriveTrack is priced accordingly -You might be able to find other options using Base Station that are similar or slightly lower in price than the DriveTrack 70. However, for the value it will be difficult to accomplish an out of the box working unit for the price of 399.99. We should also mention you might be able to build a Tablet system yourself for less money than a DriveTrack. However, by the time you purchased Maps and Mounts,the cost would be approximately the same. It would also take a considerable amount of time and experience with computers to set it all up.
Ease of setup and use Comparison:
The DriveTrack 70 wins handily compared to all of the windows tablets, Simply Turn on the Alpha/Astro 430 and the DriveTrack and the unit starts picking up the dogs in your dog list. When using a Tablet you’ll need to connect the Alpha/Astro to the Tablet using USB cable, and start and run Base Camp program on your computer to display and show the dogs and You’ll also need to install maps on your tablet before you can view maps on your tablet. We found that mounting a Tablet in your truck was difficult to find a good place due to size.
Comparing Features of the DriveTrack VS. Tablet with Basestation:
Comparing Features is difficult. The features that each have are different. The DriveTrack has more features regarding Navigation, Turn by Turn Directions, and pairing to your Cell phone. With the Drive Track it’s simple to search and find addresses, waypoints or points of interest (Food, Hotels, Gas stations).
The strong points about the Tablet systems, these are essentially mini computers which allow you to run any software you would normally run on a computer. For example you can receive emails and perhaps the most useful feature is the ability to update your Garmin Devices software. (Today I’m flying at 30,000 and I now use my BaseStation device for Traveling, hence I’m typing this review on my “Basestation Tablet Unit”) In summary, it really depends on what and how you will use it, If you really use and need a Tablet/computer for travel then there are situations that a Base Station Tablet could be more useful, If your device is strictly for the Truck then I would recommend the DriveTrack.
In summary, if you want or need a Mini Computer for email, software updates, and etc., you might consider a Tablet. For most of us we want a dedicated platform to the truck it makes a lot more sense to get the DriveTrack 70, the features with the DriveTrack 70 help with navigation and turn by turn directions.
DriveTrack 70 Maps: The DriveTrack built in 100K Topo Maps for the entire US, included is also lifetime Street maps. If you use birdseye you receive a 1 year free subscription to Birdseye Satellite Imagery. The DriveTrack has a Micro SD card slot so that you can put any Garmin Compatible Map chip in it and easily upgrade to 24K, Hunt View, or Landowner maps within seconds.
Tablet: Basestation maps are not included with the tablets, however some of the Bundle packages include one state of 24K Maps included. You’ll need to install the maps on your tablet before you go hunting. To do this you will need to connect to internet and find a downloadable map. This can be time consuming and confusing for some houndsmen.
Clearly the Drivetrack wins the mapping section, When you purchase the DriveTrack 70 you’ll have all the maps you need ready out of the box, Topo, Street, and even Satellite imagery(By Subscription) included. Also Installing other Maps on the driveTrack is much more simple with the MicroSD card compared with a windows tablet.
Durability against Heat when mounted to a windshield:
Drivetrack 70 is designed for the Windshield, Garmin heat tests their navigation devices to withstand with the hottest days while the device is mounted and left in your windshield, we personally tested them in AZ with 106 degree days driving and experienced absolutely no issues at any time from Hot or Cold. We have been informed by Garmin, that in the worst case situation, their devices are designed to discharge the battery for safety reasons if the device get’s too hot. Clearly, Garmin has put some thought into where and how this device is going to be mounted. Garmin claims -4 to 131 Degrees Fahrenheit.
How do the Tablets Compare: Google the term “Dell Venue Pro 8 Tablet Overheating”, and you can read about these tablet’s susceptibility to overheating under normal usage. Now imagine mounting this to your windshield on a warm day. Computers are very susceptible to heat and they are not built to stand the harsh conditions mounted to a windshield. Tablets/Computers will slow down their processors when they get hot which will drastically slow the performance. They can also stop working and have permanent damage in hot environments. If anyone has left their Tablet or phone in a ar we have all seen the screen that shows the device is too hot to use. Specs for the Dell Tablets for example are 32-104 which is much less forgiving of the Harsh environments.
In conclusion, our suggestion is clearly with With the Drivetrack 70. It was too simple to operate, turn on your handheld and turn on the DriveTrack 70. Our customers want to hunt dogs, not try and figure out how to setup and operate these devices. After a minute or two you should have your dogs showing and tracking on the screen with Roads and Topo Maps. The DriveTrack is easy to understand and simple use. Also, Garmin Priced the Drivetrack right at 399.99 saving money in the long run by including Maps and lifetime street updates. The Headaches and time users will save quickly cover any small savings that a person would make by trying to piece together a lower cost Tablet system.
Purchase a Drivetrack 70, You find out it’s easy to get it up and running, and your days of Driving down a Dusty Dirt road during a race, straining to keep up with the dogs will be a thing of the past. The passengers in your truck will also appreciate and can witness the chase from their seats as well.