The Garmin Alpha 100 handheld set a new bar for the industry when it was released. It took the technologies and lessons learned from the Astro 220 and Astro 320 tracking systems and added new, great features like dog training, faster update rates, touch screen, built-in Topo mapping. The Garmin 200i handheld takes everything we love about the Alpha 100 and takes it even further. In this article, we are going to take a deep dive into all the new features of the Alpha 200i, compare that to the Alpha 100, and help make that decision of if it’s worth upgrading your equipment.
The first thing you are going to notice with the Alpha 200i is they changed the color to a sleek black. You’ll also notice new buttons on the side of the handheld that provide quick functionality without the use of the touch screen; we will dive into that more later. Another thing you’ll notice is that the screen is no longer set in as deep. This makes using the screen easier and makes the screen feel even larger.
Screen Size Comparison
The Alpha 200i features a larger 3.5” touch screen. Compared to the Alpha 100’s 3” screen, this is an increase of 27% (3.9 square inches of surface area verses 5.4 square inches of surface area). The Alpha 200i also utilizes a transflective color TFT touchscreen, which provides a much better screen visibility especially in high sunlight scenarios. With the Alpha 200i, they also upped the pixel count from 240x400 to 282x470. This is not a huge increase, but it does make a difference when trying to read details on the map screen.
Battery Size and Life Longevity
Something that I found surprising, they did not change the battery. Both the Alpha 200i and Alpha 100 use the same lithium-ion battery. This may lead you to believe that the Alpha 200i is going to get less battery life than the Alpha 100 due to the larger screen and more features; however, the Alpha 200i, manages to get the same 20 hours of estimated battery life per charge. This is likely due to software and hardware improvements. One thing to note with battery life, it will differ greatly with the brightness setting, time that the device is actively being used, and what features are turned on. Turning on the inReach feature on your Alpha 200i will consume 5 hours of battery life on its own. It’s important to figure this in when planning your hunts. Good news though, like the Alpha 100, the battery can easily be swapped if you are carrying a charged spare Alpha battery.
The Garmin Alpha 100 has an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means that it can withstand incidental exposure to water up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Likewise, the Garmin Alpha 200i also has the IPX7 rating, giving it the same waterproofing up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. This waterproof rating ensures the ability to safely use the either Alpha in rain, snow, or heavy morning dew without risking damage to the handhelds.
Number of Dogs (Devices) and Group Management Features
Both the Alpha 100 and Alpha 200i can track and train up to 20 devices at a time. This can be any combination of dog collars and other handhelds. New to the Alpha 200i is the ability to store collars in managed groups. This gives you the ability to store the device data for up to 100 devices at a single time in the handheld. What does this mean for you? No more adding and removing dog collars and handhelds between hunts. You can use the managed groups to store different hunting groups, sets of dogs, and any other grouping that you could need. This feature has a few advantages past not having to add and remove collars every time. It also allows you to track more than 20 dogs or devices in a single hunt, though not continuously. By using groups you can switch between groups to get updates on where each group are at, but you can only get active updates on 20 devices at a time and there is a few second lag when switching between groups as the handheld reacquires the new groups signals.
New Buttons to Alpha 200i
The Alpha 200i has the same three training buttons as the Alpha 100; however, the Alpha 200i allows for these top three buttons to be customizable. The Alpha 200i also gained four additional buttons on the right side of the handheld.
The first button you are going to notice is the large orange SOS button. This activates the SOS feature, which triggers an interactive SOS message to GEOS, the Garmin-powered International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) with professional 24/7 global monitoring and response center. Near the top of the transmitter, there are two scroll buttons. These two buttons allow you to transition through your dogs without having to use the touch-screen. The scroll buttons can also be used to raise and lower stimulation. The last of the new buttons is directly below the two scroll buttons, this button is the training enter button used to confirm your selection.
Pro View Compass
New to the Garmin Alpha 200i: The pro view compass mode gives you simple, at-a-glance tracking that shows which direction and how far away your dogs are, plus you will see when a dog is “Treed” or “OnPoint.” This display is a similar view to what is utilized on the Garmin PRO 550 Plus or the Garmin GPS watch screens.
InReach, Interactive SOS, Two-Way Messaging, and Location Sharing
With the Alpha 200i handheld, you now get access to the Garmin inReach system, which is a 100 percent global Iridium satellite network. Instead of relying on cellphone coverage, with the inReach feature your messages, SOS alerts, and tracking are transferred via the global network (with an active satellite subscription).
The Alpha 200i also has the emergency SOS feature. In case of an emergency, you can trigger an interactive SOS message to GEOS, a professional 24/7 global monitoring and response center (active satellite subscription required).
Have you ever wanted to have someone be able to monitor your location when out hunting without having to carry multiple devices? The Alpha 200i now features a location sharing capability that allows you to share your location to those at home or out in the field. They will be able to track your progress and ping your device for GPS location and more. This is an extra peace of mind when hunting in remote locations without cell service or if you’re an older hunter with concerned loved ones. An active satellite subscription is required to use this as well.
Birdseye Map Downloads Over Wifi
New to the Alpha 200i, BirdEye Direct provides the ability to download BirdsEye maps straight from your handheld with a Wi-Fi connection. No longer do you have to use the Garmin Basecamp program on your computer, connect your Alpha via USB, and transfer your maps over to the handheld. Just select the area you want to download and select upload. This works great for small areas, if you are downloading large areas, we would still recommend downloading them on a computer and then transfer.
Collar and Handheld Compatibility
The Alpha 200i is backwards compatible with everything that the Alpha 100 is compatible with. Like the Alpha 100, you can track and train with the TT15, TT15 mini, and TT10 collars, track only with T5 and T5 mini collars, and pair up with devices like the Garmin Instinct watches, Garmin Fenix Series watches, and the Garmin Drive Tracks. The Alpha 200i and Alpha 100 can both see other Alpha 100 and Alpha 200i handhelds, and the Garmin Astro 430 handheld will be able to see both the Alpha 100 and Alpha 200i handhelds.
Training Settings – Stimulation, Tone, and Vibration
The Alpha 200i utilizes the same great training features as the Alpha 100 handheld. Training features include 18 levels of static stimulation, tone, and vibration. These training features use the same three training buttons on the top of the handheld. With the Alpha 200i handheld, you do gain the ability to further customize the functionality of these three buttons.
Topo Map and Other Mapping
The Alpha 200i and Alpha 100 both come preloaded with TopoActive mapping that provides detailed views on terrain contours, topographic elevations, summits, parks, coastlines, rivers, lakes, and geographical points. Both devices also come with a free one year subscription to BirdsEye satellite imagery that allows you to download a “better-than-life” view of routes, trailheads, clearings, and more.
Both handhelds can use the Garmin HuntView Plus map cards, which are purchased as a single state, that are packed full of information including property lines, public land information, Topo 24k digital topography, and Birdseye imagery.
Are there any downsides to the Alpha 200i?
One of the biggest downsides to the Alpha 200i is the cost difference. The Alpha 200i handheld comes in at $749.99, whereas the Alpha 100 handheld comes in at $599.99. The Alpha 200i handheld on its own cost almost as much as a Garmin Alpha 100 Handheld TT15 Collar bundle. The Garmin Alpha 200i handheld with a TT15 collar comes in $999.99.
Another downside to the Alpha 200i is to use the inReach feature, you have to buy a monthly or yearly subscription. This could be as little as $11.95 per month, but up to as much as $64.95 per month for the Expedition plan that has unlimited text messaging, location requests, etc. each month.
At the time of writing this article, the Alpha 200i is not compatible with OnX mapping cards. We believe this might be a software restriction and could possibly change in the future, but OnX mapping cards will not work with Alpha 200i at this time, but it still works with the Alpha 100 handhelds.
The Alpha 200i’s added features compared to the Alpha 100 make it a very appealing upgrade to the Alpha 100 for most users. This is especially true if you frequently hunt with different groups of people, hunt with more than 20 devices at one time, frequently add and remove collars from your handheld, or want the inReach features. The Alpha 100 handheld still remains a great handheld, and has all the features needed to hunt, train, and navigate with ease. Garmin still plans to continue producing both systems for the foreseeable future, so ultimately, it comes down to price and your need or desire for the new features. Whichever you choose, you are getting a handheld that will enhance your hunting and training experience.
Make sure to check back as we update this blog and future blogs on the Garmin Alpha 200i as we and our customers get more field time. As always, we will also share software updates or changes to the Garmin Alpha 200i device.
Now it’s time to hear from our customers about the Garmin Alpha 200i. What are your thoughts?
- Michael Cassatt, LCS Director of Marketing
Garmin Alpha 200i Handhelds are available in the following: