Garmin Alpha 200i - First Impressions

Chestle

Active member
During the SD opener my son's DoubleTT Lab went missing in a tall cane field for about 15 minutes. Cane was about 6'+ in height, strong winds blowing; I doubt she could hear the whistle with all the cane rattling.. We all came out the other end, no dog. You can't go home to the grandkids without their dog. We found her though.

So I ran into a deal I couldn't refuse on an Alpha 200i with 2 collars. I took both dogs and it back to SD after Christmas. I didn't receive it in time to do a lot of online YouTube learning about it. The manual that came in the box is minimal. So, I'm certainly no expert on this thing yet. I'd rate myself barely competent.

Here's my initial thoughts. I'll preface this with saying I'm fairly techie but not all that techie. I didn't grow up with all the computer stuff; we had ONE black and white TV when I was in high school; only the rich folk had a color TV. :)

First, the "Pro". I always KNEW right where both dogs were, even in the huge cattail slough. Even if I couldn't see them, I could tell if they were stopped (point?) or moving. Both are trained to recall on the "beep-beep-beep" of the collar and that worked well with knowing their distance when out of sight in the 'tails. I used the vibe a few times and it vibed enough to get their attention. In all 5 days, I think I used correction maybe twice on each dog when they were chasing running birds; it worked. I tried both the clock type compass pointer and the arrowhead for showing where the dogs were. I prefer the arrowhead. These things were the things I actually used while hunting.

You can also set alerts for various things which I think will be useful once I get more familiar with the setup. I had alerts off on this trip.

It will show the dogs track on a map. To me that's a post hunt thing. I really didn't use it in the field. I forgot to start/end each hunt when leaving/returning to the truck. So at the end of the day my dogs covered a lot of distance because it tracked them while the truck was moving too. :ROFLMAO: It will track the handheld too, so you can tell how far you walked; same problem for me though - off/on/off.

The Con: The handheld is pretty big/heavy; you know it's hanging on your neck when you use a lanyard. I put the extra 32GB microSD card in it and downloaded (has to be WiFi) some of the BirdsEye Direct satellite imagery. I wasn't impressed. There are a couple ways to select the area you want to d/l. I thought the easiest was to stick a waypoint pin and tell it to d/l by radius. It says it will do a 10 mile radius; that caused it to lock up. The most I could get to d/l was about 5 miles. So I'm sticking pins all around my area; PITA. There is also a $70 OnX microSD for a state; that would be much better IMO.

All the buttons are user configurable, so that's a plus. You can set it up the way it makes sense to you. However, I was wearing my leather Plainsman gloves and I found the top row of action buttions (mine are tone/vibe/continuous) to be a bit small when wearing gloves. The side buttons (selects which dog on mine) are better.

This is really kind of a small computer. The options/possibilities are many. I have a lot of YouTube watching to do before I really decide how much I like it and its features. On balance, I suspect there's a lot of gee whiz that's cool stuff that I will likely not use while hunting or even ever.

With that in mind, I sort of think if I had it to do over again I might just get a Garmin PRO 550 Plus. Everything you need for training and control and the directional info as well. Not as cool of a display and certainly far less features but it has the essentials. A negative would be that the 550 won't display multiple dogs simultaneously like the Alpha will. It requires toggling through the various dogs for positions. I did like seeing both dogs on the Alpha.

I'll probably update this as I use it more and learn more about it.

 

Munster927

Active member
The Con: The handheld is pretty big/heavy; you know it's hanging on your neck when you use a lanyard
Not sure what kind of vest you have, but on my Alpha 100, I bought the little garmin lanyard carabineer clip accessory and clip my handheld from a loop on my vests shoulder strap. On my off shooting shoulder. That seems to help alot for me. It's in a handy place, I don't feel any weight. The only con is if I need to run, it bounces off my chest. Otherwise normal walking it stays put.

I hated having it around my neck too. Just too damn heavy. I used to loop it through part of my vest and stuck it in the bird pouch but that was a pain in the ass to get to when I needed to make a correction or use the tone, etc.

I also changed the carabineer that comes with the garmin accessory to a lockable carabineer so I know I won't bump it loose in the brush.
 

Chestle

Active member
I use two different vests but both have a place to hook a lanyard. I initially put it on a thick whistle lanyard around my neck. As you point out, that's not ideal. I'll check out the Garmin lanyard carabineer clip you mention.

At the time I bought the Alpha, I also got an Instinct watch that will show the dog direction. I was in such a rush though that I didn't get them connected. I need to do that tomorrow. I like the idea of that on my off hand; should be easier to quickly check positions than picking up the Alpha. You know how it works. Look down, use your trigger hand to pick up the Alpha and that's right when the bird will flush. :ROFLMAO:
 

Bob Peters

Active member
Thanks for posting this info. I was looking hard at one, but didn't pull the trigger. That being said, I now have 8 months to mull it over and I very well might get one, just for the peace of mind more than anything. A few times this year I got nervous about where the dog was. Once she was trailing a pheasant I dropped in a public land food plot, and it was my first time ever at that hunting spot. She was gone for a few minutes running him down and I got nervous, but she showed up 5 minutes later with a rooster in her mouth. The other time I was in some REALLY TALL AND THICK BLUE STEM and I backed out of the spot because I couldn't keep track of her. The last time was in that really tall cane, and it was tough to know her location. I know some type of GPS is in her future.
 

Munster927

Active member
Yeah I love my Alpha. It definitely was a hard pill to swallow when I bought it but I got my 100 for a pretty good deal. After a sale at Cabela's, a gift card I had, and money off for putting it on my Cabela's credit card I paid somewhere around 500 for mine. The 200 has some improvements I like the sound of but idk if I can justify buying ANOTHER one.

My dog/training club has a fundraising raffle going right now with the prize being the 200i, maybe I'll get lucky haha
 

Matt D

Active member
Thanks for posting this review. Been tempted to look at moving to this but think I will stick with the pro 550 plus.
 

Chestle

Active member
I bought the little garmin lanyard carabineer clip accessory and clip my handheld from a loop on my vests shoulder strap.

Munster,

What do you think of this lanyard set up? I weighed the handheld; it's 10 ounces. This Boomerang will retract up to 14 ounces. I'm thinking it would stay retracted and you could pull it out as necessary. Your thoughts?

LINK: Boomerang Xtreme Duty gear tether

Matt,

I think for actual hunting the PRO 550+ is plenty adequate, particularly if you only run one dog at a time. There are Alpha features though, like putting the OnX microSD card in that can be pretty nice. I have the OnX on my phone and seeing land boundaries, owners and public land is nice. I will probably add this to my Alpha.
 

Munster927

Active member
Munster,

What do you think of this lanyard set up? I weighed the handheld; it's 10 ounces. This Boomerang will retract up to 14 ounces. I'm thinking it would stay retracted and you could pull it out as necessary. Your thoughts?

LINK: Boomerang Xtreme Duty gear tether
I think that would work for what you're looking for too. I don't see why not.

I also use an OnX chip in my Alpha and it's great. Just wish they weren't $120 per state. I'd have had to spend $360 to have a chip for each state I regularly hunt.
 

Matt D

Active member
Matt,

I think for actual hunting the PRO 550+ is plenty adequate, particularly if you only run one dog at a time. There are Alpha features though, like putting the OnX microSD card in that can be pretty nice. I have the OnX on my phone and seeing land boundaries, owners and public land is nice. I will probably add this to my Alpha.
Having the OnX info on it was one thing that I was interested in but have it on my phone so not the end of the world.
 
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