Garmin Alpha 200i

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.

This compass “spasm” on my Alpha 200i is more common than not when trying to locate pointing dogs. This is on a flat field. Chukar terrain is not flat. Usually you cannot see your dog when you get the “Dog is on point” notification. The Alpha 100 was almost always pointing in the precise direction of the pointing dog. We learned to rely on it. The new unit, at least mine and many others’ I’ve heard from, is very unreliable.
“True North,” “Magnetic North,” and “User Defined” (where you enter your particular magnetic deviation (or declination) settings on the Alpha 200i) result in about a 50-degree difference between the old-school compass’s reading.
Peat is the white dot in line and to the left of the antenna
You can see Peat at least 45-degrees to the left of where the compass shows him
Peat’s with his malamute buddy, Rocky; the compass shows Peat about 40-degrees to the left of where he actually is. Not helpful. Hurtful.
The 200i is actually wider and just as tall and fat as the Alpha 100.
The touchscreen on the 200i is bigger, but doesn’t work with regular gloves. You’ll need a techfinger glove. The Alpha 100 works with any glove.
The Alpha 200i is actually heavier than the Alpha 100.

15 Replies to “Garmin Alpha 200i”

  1. Looks like I’ll be sticking with my alpha and leave my inReach mini on the back of my vest. Thanks for the review. Very helpful. btw – I find Garmin’s support and instructions terrible. Thank goodness for 3rd parties.

  2. Thanks for the review! I have been considering a 200i but held off to this point and I suppose for now will continue to do so.

    Note- I have a Garmin 750 two way radio and the compass function has the exact same issue. It seems Garmin doesn’t know how to make a compass which just blows me away given I have a free app on my iPhone that works flawlessly.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Matt. I agree Garmin has some questionable technology and/or production and testing processes. I’ve been happy with my Alpha 100 for years, but don’t use the compass AS a compass, but only to find the dog, which it does really reliably. Not with the 200i specimen I got, though. I used my iPhone compass to compare to the new Garmin, and — you’re right — it’s pretty solid. Gun Dog Supply is sending me another unit to see if it works. I’ll post again when I get it and have used it. 2020, right?

  3. Thanks Bob. I had a similar problem with the Astro several years ago. In the process of getting one that would work I had 3 units on my table and figured out the problem was the metal belt clip that Garmin was providing. This was a months long process and Garmin was not particularly appreciative that I figured this out. Maybe they were embarrassed. No compass problems since getting rid of the belt clip.

    1. Bob, I purchased a pro 550 plus two years ago and have been very happy. Doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, but was exactly what I was looking for. All I need to know is: what direction is my dog, is my dog moving or on point and how far away is my dog. Its the closest product they’ve come out with to the old tri tronics days.

      Thanks for all your passion and efforts,

      Cale

  4. I have a Astro 100. The last 2 times I have used it this week the compass has done the same thing as yours Bob. Resetting the compass has worked both times. Wondering if there is a hack in their software.

  5. One of the things we have done for the glove issue on the touch screen is buy some metallic thread (a spool is less than $5) and put some stitches on the finger of the glove you use for the screen. Not a perfect solution, but it works. Great review, I will hold off selling my Alpha 100 until the 200i dog compass is fixed..

  6. Thanks for posting this, Bob. I’ve been on the fence about making the purchase. My Alpha 100 sometimes has the same compass issues as your 200i. It seems to happen without rhyme or reason—ie it’s not the topography.
    It’s tough because I’ve become totally reliant on these Garmin products, yet they seem to be a HUGE failure considering how much they cost. I’ve had two collars over the past few years that suddenly just stopped syncing up with the Alpha receiver. Garmin customer support was NOT helpful and basically told me to pound sand (luckily the Cabela’s where I purchased the collars allowed an exchange, even though the 90 day warranties were long expired).

  7. Good information Bob. I have the 100, and was interested in the 200 because of the reported ease for running and monitoring and correcting 2 dogs. But, my questions have not gathered clear answers, so I held off. The 100 periodically “loses” its location and distance on my dog. My dog was 20 yards away visibly, the last time; the the 100 said he was 186 yards in a different direction. This was a real problem the time he was several hundred yards away in a different direction. However, the beep/call back worked he found me. When this happens, I turn both receiver and transmitter off, then back on, and recalibrate the compass. That has solved the problem. I hope it continues to.

    Perhaps I should think about a Pro 550 Plus, for an easier 2 dog solution. Do you or readers have experience with it? Some reviews say that it is good on direction but not distance at less than 100 yards.

    1. Hi Joseph, thanks for your comment and question. I experienced the same thing you described with the Alpha 100 a few times, and yes it’s annoying. I’ve used the 200i now — the replacement unit Gun Dog Supply sent me — flawlessly for at least 10 hunts. I love it. The gripes I had with it in my revised review are now insignificant. Controlling 2 dogs is as easy or easier than the 100 once you get used to the buttons and figure out how to program them (which wasn’t hard). I hunt with a couple who have 1 Alpha 100 and 1 550+ and they fight over who gets the Alpha. It’s just easier to use they tell me (I’ve never used the 550). I do use the map feature on my Alpha all the time to check if I’m on public or private land. To me, that piece of mind is worth the extra bucks. The inReach feature has also relieved a lot of stress when I hunt alone outside cell service (at least once a week); it takes just a second to let Leslie know I’m heading home, or if I’ll be delayed. So I’m really glad it worked out for me to get a unit that works! I hope this helps. Good luck in your decision.

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