warning about manufacturer category

This post belongs to the category warning about manufacturer. Please read the following post before: new category: warning about manufacturer

introduction: Garmin and dog devices

Garmin is one of the oldest bigger manufacturers of handheld GPS devices for consumers. Everyone who owns a Garmin device knows, that their hardware was always very good while the software was crap. Nowadays classical handheld GPS devices are pretty obsolete as smartphones have excellent GPS hardware and software which outperforms most dedicated GPS handhelds. Garmin is trying to develop new markets like smartwatches. In the last 15 years there was not much development any more with their outdoor handheld devices but the prices stayed high. The software basically did not get any real improvements and the hardware did not got major improvements either. Battery runtime of most devices is still somewhere around 20 hours which was very good 20 years ago but nowadays phones are much better with the right settings. Battery and hardware improvements during that time should lead to a much much better runtime.

As a dog owner I mainly have Garmin devices for tracking and training dogs. Other manufacturers often only offer GSM signal transmission which is useless in our wilderness without coverage. The alternatives with VHF signal transmission are pretty expensive and you need an additional device and still your smartphone. So Garmin has the better solution here of offering a full featured GPS device with no dependency on the smartphone.

Because I stay in wilderness pretty long I normally do not track my dog. With the older devices I always set the interval to 2 minutes and shut off the handheld. Then one full charge of the collar lasts about 5 days. If my dog is on a track then I started the handheld and set the interval shorter. I can’t turn the collar completely off as my dog is normally suddenly away on the track and I do not want to interrupt and calling him back to start the collar.

Garmin Alpha 200i

As with the Garmin dog devices never anything big changed, so it was not really mattering if you had an old or new one. But then Garmin brought about 2 years ago the Garmin Alpha 200i out and I bought it for two reasons:

  • I needed an inReach device as part of the secruity concept of my expeditions and courses with participants. The demand was also that I can write custom messages, so the cheaper inReach devices where not enough. That is the main reason as I did not want to have an additional device with me.
  • Finally it was possible to put the collar to a sleep mode where it is hardly consuming any energy. This allows me to use the collar for a much much longer time as I do not track the dog a lot. This was a dream of me as I do not need to care for the battery all the time.

The software also changed and a lot of good functions were added to it.

The device itself got a record high price. While you could buy the Alpha 100 with a collar new for 600€ in Finland the Garmin Alpha 200i cost with the collar 1.000 €. So the price got 2/3 higher (the handheld device alone doubled in price)! But it was still a little bit cheaper then if I would have bought a dedicated inReach GPS for writing messages and I got an additional dog device. I did not expect a lot and most critics I found on the internet were not really important for me.

but it came different

I ordered the device from varuste.net. That is one of the biggest shops in Finland and as Finland is a small market it is hard to avoid it. When it came I immediately noticed that the power button was super sluggish and not working reliable. I never experienced a Garmin device with such a low quality part. As I said their hardware is normally very reliable. The power button felt worse then from every cheap china device you can imagine. Besides that it had the classical Garmin software errors like random rebooting and things like that.

After just a very short usage time the power button got much worse. It mainly kept sticking in the pressed position. It was still working somehow but there was hardly any physical feedback any more. Besides that the charging port was also not behaving normal. If there was the slightest tension of the cable in the wrong direction it was not charging. I did not always notice that which left me with an uncharged device.

Remember: The handheld device alone costs 700 €! An older Alpha 100 device costs about 350€ without a collar.

Besides that the wake up function is also not reliable. It happens pretty often that you can’t wake up the collar, no matter how often you try and how close you are to the dog. You need to reboot the collar with the power button. That is very annoying making the sleep function very dangerous as you could loose your dog if the dog is not trained to reliable come back.

varuste.net was not interested

I wrote varuste.net about the power button. They refused to replace it and just said no. This was clearly a defective device and no one could know how long the power button will still work. I complained, but they were not interested.

In general I had a lot of problems with varuste.net service. Perhaps I make a warning about shop for them.

They write about themselves on their website:

The ultimate goal is to provide our customers expert-level service with a friendly attitude. We aim to be fast in our actions & responses in real life and online. We want to provide only the best gear what we use ourself as well. Only the best will do – If we would ever make a mistake in purchases, it will be noticed by us and our customers – you guys, who will give feedback immediately.
So for short: only the best of the best gear will do.


Then, more as a side sentence I also explained about the problem with the charging port and they suddenly said that they will replace it. As I needed the device every day I agreed with them to buy a new one and send the old one back then. It would have been nice to just send me a new one without the need of paying it beforehand. The hole replacement and e-mailing/calling took over 40 days! And they did not refund the shipment costs by themselves.

The new device arrived and it had basically the same problem. The serial number was just a few numbers away from my old one. At that point I thought all devices are affected and gave up.

a few month later – contact to Garmin

After a few month the power button was so bad that I decided to contact Garmin. I described the problem and gave them the serial number and they immediately admitted that there was a problem with production of these units. So basically most likely all Garmin Alpha 200i units varuste.net sold are broken. I think varuste.net knows that and they just try to get away without any replacements. I can just recommend everyone who bought a Garmin Alpha 200i from varuste.net to replace it.

But, Garmin said this is an out of warranty case (even the device was just a few month old) and it would be replaced voluntarily with a refurbished device. I was confused by that but I was just looking forward to have a reliable device so I agreed. I paid the refurbished device first, around 350€, and later sent my device back, and got the money back.

other hardware problems again

But, other hardware problems occurred. The power button still feels very poor but it works. But now the middle training button is normally not working. I need to press it sometimes several times and very strong that it works. This is ridiculous. I bought a 700 € expensive “premium” device which hardware is not very expensive and the build quality is just so poor. Devices for 50€ from china have better buttons.

This middle button is important for me as I always used it to lock the device and unlock it. If I know press it I always need to verify that it locked the device. This is a huge disadvantage during hunting as I normally do not want to care for devices then and need to focus on other things.

I did not contacted the service again. Migrating all the data, reconfiguration of the device, sending the packages, ordering and paying new display foils and handling the “service” just requires too much resources.


Regarding the price, the handling of my matter and the build quality I can not recommend buying any Garmin devices any more. I used so many Garmin devices over the last 20 years and I knew the software is crap but the hardware works. This changed now with an absolutely premium priced device, the most expensive one I ever used from them. Now the hardware is crap also.

A short time later they brought out the Alpha 300i. Normally their dog devices were much longer on the market. The Alpha 300i got again much more expensive without any real improvements.

There are also a lot of other flaws not covered in this post, you can find it on the internet.

I would like to use my Alpha 100 with the sleep function. But even it has the latest firmware I can not put the new collar asleep, the menu point is not there (even it has that function with the old T5 mini collars). This is really sad that even officially the collar is compatible with the Alpha 100 they do not offer that function, even it is programmed in for the mini.

I will not buy any Garmin devices any more.

I sent this review beforehand to Garmin for a statement, but they did not respond. Varuste answered, but they only said I should contact Garmin.