The Garmin Alpha 100 is a little nifty device is a must have for sporting dog owners, or anyone who enjoys being outdoors with their pet.
The packaging comes with all that you'll need to operate the device optimally. There's the Alpha 100 handheld, a rechargeable Lithium-ion pack, a split adapter cable, an extended range antenna, an AC adapter; and Garmin was thoughtful enough to add things like a belt clip, a vehicle power cable and a USB cable.
Talk about a sweet deal. And they get extra brownie points for packaging all this in a nicely designed cordura Tri-Tronics training bag.
If you're familiar with the previous Astro 100 from Garmin, then it’s best to let you know now that this device is way different. In a good way of course.
Although they're the same size, the Alpha 100 has a touch screen interface instead of buttons, but don't despair, the touch screen is glove friendly, so you won't have to freeze your fingers off while tracking your dogs in the winter.
It also comes with a TT10 GPS e-collar which is slightly bulkier. Great thing is that you'll never be without power thanks to the split adapter cable, that allows you to charge both the Alpha 100 device and the collar at the same time. The user's manual is pretty extensive and really easy to understand. Setup is even easier, no complaints there. All you have to do is switch it on, and you're good to go for the next 20 hours before it needs to get recharged. The Alpha 100 comes with built in superior GPS tracking and it's preloaded with the top 100 maps from around all 50 States.
With the Garmin Alpha 100, you're guaranteed to never lose your dog during a hike, or have your buddy hunt the wrong game. You'll always know where your dog is even if they're not in your line of sight. Through its high-tech GPS, the device is able to flawlessly track up to 20 dogs and buddies within a 4 to 9 mile radius without a hitch.
Of course you'd have to get separate collars for that, but for the peace of mind this things gives you it's well worth the extra bucks. Other than being able to see where the dogs were going, we found one of the tracking features to be especially cool, and that's the ability to track our buddies' speed and the distance that they ran that day.
There's also a BirdsEye Satellite Imagery function which is synchronised to the collars, and allows you to totally view the terrain being travelled by the dogs when they're far away.
The device comes with 18 easy to use training buttons that pop-up on the touch screen interface, designed to help you make sure that your buddies are not hunting unwanted game. And you can choose to lock-in or lock-out this feature, to avoid any accidental stimulation. The customised stimulation feature is great for switching between traditional and linear stimulation, which makes for flexible and effective training. Although the Alpha 100 already has an impressive battery life, you can extend it further by activating 'Rescue Mode' which minimises updates for maximum power efficiency.
How Did Other Reviewers Find It?
A quick search on Amazon and you'll find that most buyers were quite impressed by this device. Stand out features include the ability to track dogs for longer distances, precise and accurate mapping system, a loud collar beep that's audible even to older dogs, and the diverse stimulation settings make training super easy.
Trainers especially loved it because it allows them to train and track multiple dogs at the same time. There were a few complaints about the unit having way too many features, which makes it really complicated for some. Another complaint was that users had to constantly reprogram the device during and after charging, which was quite tedious.
Do We Think It's a Worthy Investment?
Yes, definitely! The Garmin Alpha 100 is one of the most innovative dog tracking devices, mainly because the engineering genius behind it was able to flawlessly combine training and tracking efficiency into the device without compromising on the effectiveness of either function. Like any piece of technology, there's always room for improvement, but overall, this is worthy buy, and you really get what you pay for. It makes hiking and hunting with dogs really easy, even if you're not a pro at it.
What We Loved
Great reception capacity: Even in woody areas and long distances. You'll be able to easily view your dog's location as it's pointed out with a red arrow on the map, along with information on your dog's distance relative to you and his movements, all indicated on the bottom of the screen interface.
Groundbreaking Tracking and Training Capabilities: With the Garmin Alpha 100, you can now track your dogs with the swipe of a finger. Literally. It gives you access to 100 maps from all 50 states which include roads, trails, elevations changes and even creeks. You're also able to see where your dog/s are located in relation to your own location by viewing both side by side on the screen. There's a waypoint marking feature on the map section as well, which you can use to mark the location of your car, so you always know where you are in relation to your vehicle.
Versatile Stimulation Options: You're spoilt for choice with up to 18 different stimulation levels. These work through linear stimulation, where you're able to go from stimulation level one and progressively move up until you reach level 18. Another, more traditional stimulation mode allows you to switch between six stimulation levels while making swift changes between low, medium and high stimulation. Or you can use the audible tone and vibration commands if you're just looking to keep track of your dog while you're out hiking in the mountains with him.
Battery Life: The battery capacity on this thing is already pretty special, but what makes it even more so is the Rescue Mode feature, which you can easily switch to in order to extend the device's battery. Whereas, the collar that it comes with automatically switches to Rescue Mode when the battery reaches 25% power capacity. It does this by automatically modifying the rate at which location updates are synchronised between the device and the collar. You have to manually enable this feature through the device's menu, and doing so will buy you 12 more hours to track your dog.
Additional Software: Notable software that comes with the Alpha 100 includes the BaseCamp and Birdseye Satellite Imagery programs. Firstly, the Birdeye Satellite Imagery allows you to have a realistic view of your dog's location through their collar, which is synchronised to your device.
The BaseCamp feature on the other hand, allows you to customise your trip by creating specific routes and waypoints. You can even create a boundary that you want your dogs to travel in and note that on your device's map, so that it alerts you whenever one of them actually crosses that boundary. This way, you'll have peace of mind knowing that you'll be able to correct your dogs if they go beyond the designated area. BaseCamp also comes with Garmin Adventures, which is a free app that enables you to share your hiking and/or hunting adventures with friends or other adventurers.
Rescue Teams with a lot of dogs to keep track of will appreciate the BaseStation feature, a program that you can load to your laptop to help you track up to 20 dogs or buddies, just like central field control. And it's superior tracking capabilities don't even require internet or cell phone service to work. As long as the program is configured into your laptop, you can use it to stay connected to your buddies for up to 9 miles.
You can track your dog while he goes for a swim in the river with the waterproof collar, or you can join him, as the hand-held device is also waterproof.
Great customer service
What We Didn't Dig As Much
Although it's a really cool feature, the full touch screen can be a bit of a problem when you're out in the woods, as you tend to bump across quite a few objects that may accidentally change the setting without your knowledge. One reviewer in particular complained that a small tree branch had changed his dog's name settings, causing him to give commands to the wrong dog. Perhaps a password enabled screen feature similar to that found in smartphones would be in order, as this would enable users to switch the touch screen off when not in use, while not necessarily switching the device off at the same time. Another complaint related to the screen interface was that it's way too small for some visually impaired customers to work with it.
Complicated to work with: This device can be a bit complicated to work with because of all the features that it comes with. It can get confusing sometimes having to switch between the different settings for training and tracking. It almost feels as if the device is trying to kill two bird with one stone, and sometimes failing to do so.
There's major room for improvement when it comes to the recharging function. It's not unusual to lose contact with the dog’s collar while recharging and one has to constantly reprogram both the collar and the device after recharging the batteries. Needless to say, this is tedious process and no one wants to go through this while they're in the middle of a critical moment of trying to track their dog.
This device does not come cheap, and with a hefty price tag like this, one has to really think twice before buying.
Also, just make sure that this system really does meet your needs. As some reviewers pointed out, it's not a one size fits all type of device, and it doesn't fit all the different types of hunters on the market. For example, one bird hunter found the system to be incompatible for his needs, although he did compliment it for it's superior tracking capabilities. So it can be a bit of a give and take in terms of value.
Well, apart from a few hiccups here and there, working with the Garmin Alpha 100 can be a real treat. It presents superior GPS tracking capabilities that enable you to track your dogs over long distances, while being able to correct and communicate with them at the same time.
Particularly impressive is the Birdeye Satellite Imagery option which gives you a truly real view of your dog's surroundings, the terrain, the road, and it's relative distance to you on the map. There is no better device enabled software on the market to rival this feature.
The battery life Rescue Mode feature, which is available on both the device and collar, is equally impressive, allowing you to extend battery life for up to 12 ours. That's 12 extra hours to search for your dogs in critical situations.
Plus, you can set a parameter for your hunting or hiking expedition beforehand with the BaseCamp feature, which allows you to enjoy customised trip and share them with friends through the Garmin Adventure app.
The shock delivered by the vibration stimulation option is subtle but adequate enough for your dog to perceive it without getting a heart attack and I especially appreciated the kindness and thoughtfulness of that feature.
Of course, like any other piece of technology there will be some malfunctions and room for improvement here and there, but overall, this is a great offering from Garmin. It is a bit on the expensive side, but well worth the money you spend for it because you get what you pay for at the end of the day. We hope you enjoyed our Garmin Alpha 100 Review - let us know in the comments if you've tried one!