The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

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The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Jan 17, 2019 9:46 am

The Garmin Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

I'm an old duffer so I'm always trying to increase efficiency and simplicity when I hunt. I was running multiple dogs with three collars on them: Astro 320, Pro 100 and an ID collar. I could easily have omitted the ID collar but I'm lazy and it doesn't interfere with anything so I generally just leave it on. With that combination when I hunted I had to carry the 100 transmitter and the Astro receiver, and the dog's had two collars on, one training, one locating. I thought that there must be a better way for both of us. Enter the Alpha, the all in one, do-it-all unit. I read the reviews and instructional DVD's and headed off the the store with my $1,100.00 (the base unit an two locator collars).

I have used Astro's since their introduction and TriTronics ecollars for over 40 years so learning the Alpha was reasonably painless though typically, they are short on instruction on some programs. I set the unit up for two dog's and happily bounced off to the woodlands. I knew the dog's would appreciate having only one instead of two large collars clanking around their necks and I was happy with only one transmitting-receiving unit. So I thought. Problems from the start.

I set the unit up with one screen for each dog. On each screen I had two different levels of stimulation and a tone button. Seemed foolproof until I started into the woods. I carry the Alpha in a shoulder holster so I can hear the beep on windy days. Great system and I've done it that way for many years but not so great with the Alpha. The Alpha is a touch screen unit so every time the screen is touched, it changes screens. When it does this it may delete a dog, may change dog's, may change to any one of a number of different screens. If you go to correct a dog, you may be correcting the wrong dog.

The answer to these woes is to LOCK THE SCREEN. This works very well except that then to change dog's or screens, the screen first has to be unlocked. This makes the unit very, very, slow to use and many times correcting at the instant of infraction is impossible. It is also reasonably difficult to change levels of stimulation being a touch screen and not a toggle.

Now, think winter. Try operating the unit with gloves on. It is nearly impossible. I ended up taking off my gloves to operate the unit, a real pain in the posterior. It seems this unit was designed by a person that has never hunted or trained a dog in their lives. Nothing about the unit is user friendly. All Garmin would have had to do was simply make the screens operate by toggle and not by touch. The touch is a massive mistake.

Now, I'm stuck with an $1,100.00 mistake. If you only have one dog and if that dog is trained, the unit is great. Just lock the screen and go. If you have multiple dog's you are going to be a very unhappy person. As a pure training collar, it's a piece of garbage. I've thought of selling mine and going to the 550+ but I need GPS so I'd be right back to carrying two units and the dog's wearing two collars.

All in all, this is a very poorly thought out unit for the multi dog person.
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby JONOV » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:04 pm

Do you need the mapping function of the GPS? The Pro 550+ does tell you where the dog is and how far, you just don't have the map.
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:49 pm

JONOV wrote:Do you need the mapping function of the GPS? The Pro 550+ does tell you where the dog is and how far, you just don't have the map.



I do. I hunt the big woods for grouse and they'd have to send out a search team for me if I didn't have GPS. :D
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby AverageGuy » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:51 pm

GH I have lived your pain as well. I bought the 550 Plus transmitter and paired it with my existing collars and life improved immediately. You can run both the Alpha and 550 Plus at the same time so if you bought a 550 plus transmitter you will have the training tool, keep track of dogs easily using one toggle switch on 550 plus and still have full gps mapping on your Alpha. And only one ecollar unit on your dog.
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby Coveyrise64 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:53 pm

AverageGuy wrote:GH I have lived your pain as well. I bought the 550 Plus transmitter and paired it with my existing collars and life improved immediately. You can run both the Alpha and 550 Plus at the same time so if you bought a 550 plus transmitter you will have the training tool, keep track of dogs easily using one toggle switch on 550 plus and still have full gps mapping on your Alpha. And only one ecollar unit on your dog.


Or the Astro 430.....
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby JONOV » Thu Jan 17, 2019 1:21 pm

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:
JONOV wrote:Do you need the mapping function of the GPS? The Pro 550+ does tell you where the dog is and how far, you just don't have the map.



I do. I hunt the big woods for grouse and they'd have to send out a search team for me if I didn't have GPS. :D

I understand the feeling. Last time I was in your neck of the woods I went for a walk in the woods and thought I was heading back to my car. Nope, 1.5 miles away on the road.

If you have a smart phone, drop a pin where you park. I use it with google maps. When I need to head back to the car if I'm a bit turned around, it works well.
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby Coveyrise64 » Thu Jan 17, 2019 11:49 pm

GONEHUNTIN' wrote:....As a pure training collar, it's a piece of garbage.

I've heard that from several people. Some have used the Alpha and some I know don't even own one only repeating what they have heard.

Why do you think it is garbage as a training collar....? Not asking about the tracking function.
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VC TJ's Miss Filson MH, UTI R.I.P. 5/13/03-10/15/14

Thunderhead's All Jacked Up R.I.P. "My Buddy" 9/9/09-1/27/14

"I'd rather train for perfection than fix the problems of mediocrity" ~ Me

"There are always going to be those who prefer to freeze in the dark rather than put forth the effort to light a fire." ~ Lvrdg07
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Fri Jan 18, 2019 11:36 am

Coveyrise64 wrote:
GONEHUNTIN' wrote:....As a pure training collar, it's a piece of garbage.

I've heard that from several people. Some have used the Alpha and some I know don't even own one only repeating what they have heard.

Why do you think it is garbage as a training collar....? Not asking about the tracking function.


To recap what I said above. You should look at an Alpha in a store. Let's say you have two dog's like I do. Or, could be more. The problems really show up with two and get worse the more you add. You have to set up each dog with it's own page. On that page you can have a level for continuous, a level for momentary, and a button for tone or vibration. You can also use a rising stimulation. To set everything it's touch screen. You can quite easily change levels but you have to be on the right screen. So, thing is, the damned thing changes screens as you walk. Any bump changes a screen. I've even had it delete a dog where I had to add it back in. You can lock the screens so it doesn't change. If you do that, you have to first unlock the screen to switch dog's. Very slow. Or, you can set up each dog with one button but then you only have one feature to use on that dog; stimulation, tone, vibration. You have to look at the screen before you correct a dog to make sure you have the right dog or switch screens to get to the right dog. It is a colossal pain in the ass.

All they would have had to do was use a toggle switch like the Astro instead of touch screen and they'd have had a fabulous unit. They're field testers told them to do that but they knew better and wouldn't listen to the guys that used it. I would probably NEVER try to train a dog with it. I'd use my old Pro100. For a one dog HUNTER it's great. For a training collar or multi dog user it's an overpriced disaster. I just purchased a special holster for it called the GIZMO that is supposed to keep it form changing screens with a screen protector. Another $60.00. The boneheads at garmin should AT LEAST include the GIZMO as part of the package. Jerks.
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Jan 18, 2019 1:36 pm

I owned a Garmin Oregon Handheld GPS before I bought and used an Alpha. It is obvious that Garmin took an ill-advised shortcut and just threw some minimal ecollar functions onto their existing GPS handheld when they rolled out the Alpha.

Having a touchscreen to control an ecollar training transmitter is an inherently dumb idea at its core. No one wants to be unsure, slow, looking at a transmitter instead of the dog, or limited in stimulation level options in the moment of correction, when using an ecollar for training. And yet the Alpha is guilty of all those downsides.

I got along with the Alpha hunting with one dog which was trained using a 550 and therefore needed minimal corrections in the field and two buttons were adequate when he did.

But the Alpha screen lock has been completely inconsistent. Even when locked the screen would jump to the training button screen when I used the tone and then would never return to the compass screen which it had been locked to. I have updated software and the problem still exists. So each time I tone my dog, I have to unlock the screen go back to compass and relock the screen. The only value I am getting out of it currently is at least the buttons remained locked, but loosing the compass screen each time I use a training button is crap!!!

Having used the two a bunch I would buy the 550 Plus again and would never buy the Alpha again. Even if I had a need for a GPS while hunting I would carry my Oregon GPS in the my vest and use my 550 Plus while hunting. The frequency/need to look at a GPS for navigational purposes while hunting is tiny compared to how often a guy will look at the screen to keep track of his dog in heavy cover while hunting.
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby Coveyrise64 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 2:20 pm

Sounds like your Alpha is broken. Send it my way....I'll take it off your hands. Probably cost more to repair than it is worth anyway. :wink:

AverageGuy wrote:I owned a Garmin Oregon Handheld GPS before I bought and used an Alpha. It is obvious that Garmin took an ill-advised shortcut and just threw some minimal ecollar functions onto their existing GPS handheld when they rolled out the Alpha.

Having a touchscreen to control an ecollar training transmitter is an inherently dumb idea at its core. No one wants to be unsure, slow, looking at a transmitter instead of the dog, or limited in stimulation level options in the moment of correction, when using an ecollar for training. And yet the Alpha is guilty of all those downsides.

I got along with the Alpha hunting with one dog which was trained using a 550 and therefore needed minimal corrections in the field and two buttons were adequate when he did.

But the Alpha screen lock has been completely inconsistent. Even when locked the screen would jump to the training button screen when I used the tone and then would never return to the compass screen which it had been locked to. I have updated software and the problem still exists. So each time I tone my dog, I have to unlock the screen go back to compass and relock the screen. The only value I am getting out of it currently is at least the buttons remained locked, but loosing the compass screen each time I use a training button is crap!!!

Having used the two a bunch I would buy the 550 Plus again and would never buy the Alpha again. Even if I had a need for a GPS while hunting I would carry my Oregon GPS in the my vest and use my 550 Plus while hunting. The frequency/need to look at a GPS for navigational purposes while hunting is tiny compared to how often a guy will look at the screen to keep track of his dog in heavy cover while hunting.
VC TJ's Highfalutin Hawkeye MH, UTI R.I.P. 5/13/03-10/15/14

VC TJ's Miss Filson MH, UTI R.I.P. 5/13/03-10/15/14

Thunderhead's All Jacked Up R.I.P. "My Buddy" 9/9/09-1/27/14

"I'd rather train for perfection than fix the problems of mediocrity" ~ Me

"There are always going to be those who prefer to freeze in the dark rather than put forth the effort to light a fire." ~ Lvrdg07
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Jan 18, 2019 2:26 pm

Coveyrise64 wrote:Sounds like your Alpha is broken. Send it my way....I'll take it off your hands. Probably cost more to repair than it is worth anyway. :wink:


Yea, my Alpha has been broken since the day it arrived, even when it works as designed. :)

Let me know when you are ready to swap my Alpha Transmitter for your 550 Plus and the deal is done!
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby Coveyrise64 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 2:36 pm

Operator Error.... :puppydogeyes:

AverageGuy wrote:
Coveyrise64 wrote:Sounds like your Alpha is broken. Send it my way....I'll take it off your hands. Probably cost more to repair than it is worth anyway. :wink:


Yea, my Alpha has been broken since the day it arrived, even when it works as designed. :)

Let me know when you are ready to swap my Alpha Transmitter for your 550 Plus and the deal is done!
VC TJ's Highfalutin Hawkeye MH, UTI R.I.P. 5/13/03-10/15/14

VC TJ's Miss Filson MH, UTI R.I.P. 5/13/03-10/15/14

Thunderhead's All Jacked Up R.I.P. "My Buddy" 9/9/09-1/27/14

"I'd rather train for perfection than fix the problems of mediocrity" ~ Me

"There are always going to be those who prefer to freeze in the dark rather than put forth the effort to light a fire." ~ Lvrdg07
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby AverageGuy » Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:04 pm

You keep pedaling that Terry, but I am in a big crowd of folks who echo my feedback on the Alpha.

But for sake of argument lets say all my problems and dislikes with an Alpha are operator error. (which they most certainly are not)

I am a reasonably smart guy. I own and operate a whole bunch of equipment, had a long successful Corporate Career in the highly technical field of Telecommunications serving as an Expert Witness before the FCC and over 30 State Utility Commissions. Passed the CPA exam first try when the national failure rate was 90%.

If I struggle to operate an Alpha smoothly while finding the 550 Plus just about effortless in comparison, I think that is an important clue the Alpha just might be over the top complicated and cumbersome for its purported core purpose of training and handling a dog.
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby Coveyrise64 » Fri Jan 18, 2019 3:56 pm

Not peddling anything.....if this doesn't fix your problem let me know.

You will have to scroll to the bottom of the pictures to see the examples....

At the bottom of the screen (lower right corner is the symbol of a push pin. In this position the compass screen is pinned to the top of the screen. When you push a button the screen flashes to the stim level screen. After an 8 second delay the screen will flash back to the compass screen. You will have to touch the push pin symbol to toggle between the normal push pin state and slashed state.
Pinned (360x640).jpg
Pinned (360x640).jpg (147.58 KiB) Viewed 802 times


If the push pin has the slash through it that means the stim level screen will be pinned to the top anytime a stim button is pushed and will not return to the compass unless you hit the return arrow at the bottom left of the screen.
Unpinned (360x640).jpg
Unpinned (360x640).jpg (147.33 KiB) Viewed 802 times


If you want the screen locked and have the display flash back to the compass after a stim your Alpha should look like the bottom of this photo with the lock displayed and the push pin normal. If it shows the lock and push pin with the slash the screen is locked but the stim page will still pin to the top of the screen when a button is pushed and will remain there. The only way to return to the compass is to unlock the screen as you have found out..
Locked and Pinned (360x640).jpg
Locked and Pinned (360x640).jpg (149.71 KiB) Viewed 802 times

AverageGuy wrote:You keep pedaling that Terry, but I am in a big crowd of folks who echo my feedback on the Alpha.

But for sake of argument lets say all my problems and dislikes with an Alpha are operator error. (which they most certainly are not)

I am a reasonably smart guy. I own and operate a whole bunch of equipment, had a long successful Corporate Career in the highly technical field of Telecommunications serving as an Expert Witness before the FCC and over 30 State Utility Commissions. Passed the CPA exam first try when the national failure rate was 90%.

If I struggle to operate an Alpha smoothly while finding the 550 Plus just about effortless in comparison, I think that is an important clue the Alpha just might be over the top complicated and cumbersome for its purported core purpose of training and handling a dog.
VC TJ's Highfalutin Hawkeye MH, UTI R.I.P. 5/13/03-10/15/14

VC TJ's Miss Filson MH, UTI R.I.P. 5/13/03-10/15/14

Thunderhead's All Jacked Up R.I.P. "My Buddy" 9/9/09-1/27/14

"I'd rather train for perfection than fix the problems of mediocrity" ~ Me

"There are always going to be those who prefer to freeze in the dark rather than put forth the effort to light a fire." ~ Lvrdg07
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Re: The GARMIN Alpha; An Expensive Mistake.

Postby JTracyII » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:00 pm

If anyone is interested in buying an Alpha transmitter let me know. It works flawlessly as designed. PM if interested...
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