The Garmin 72H is the latest version of this venerable Garmin portable GPS. Earlier versions of this handheld GPS have been around for a number of years and have a proven track record of reliability.
The “H” designation added to the model number indicates this portable GPS now features a 12-channel WAAS-enabled high-sensitivity receiver. This is a large portable GPS that fits well in hand. I measured the unit at 6.2-inches tall, 2.7-inches wide, and 1.2-inches thick.
It is easiest to operate while holding in one hand and button pushing with the other. However, it is possible to operate the buttons with the thumb of the holding hand without blocking the screen view.
Eight clearly labeled pushbuttons and a single rocker key with up/down and left/right provide operational control of all functions. Five main pages give the user access to most functions.
The GPS Information page provides satellite status plus date, time, and present position. The next main page in the default sequence is the Map page. It displays a very rudimentary map with a latitude/longitude number overlay plus user selectable data boxes as well as cursor position information.
The Compass page comes next, it features a compass rose, waypoint bearing pointer, and data boxes. The Highway page has four large user selectable data boxes and a graphic highway display as a basic navigation aid.
The last navigation page is the Active Route page. It displays information for the current waypoint. You can change the number, size, and information displayed in the data boxes on any of the navigation pages.
Other available pages accessible from the main menu include a trip computer, waypoint and route information, celestial data, an extensive setup menu, and best fishing times.
Waypoints and Routes
I found the easiest way to save a present position waypoint was with a couple second hold on the Enter key followed by a quick second press to accept.
The first button push builds the waypoint and displays onscreen and the second, with the default OK selected finishes the job and returns you to your previous page.
Waypoints are generated with a numeric name upon creation. You can edit data for any waypoint. The symbol can be changed to one of a long list of preloaded icons and the name can be changed to use letters or numbers and be up to 10 characters long.
To create a route youd got to the Route page via the main menu, select a new route, and then start adding waypoints. It is a very easy procedure to follow when the waypoints you plan to use are already saved. The Garmin 72H will store up to 500 waypoints and 50 routes.
One advantage of a rather large unit is the room to have a big display screen. The 72H has a 2.8-inch 4-level gray scale display screen with 120 x 160 pixel resolution. This unit power key, with its red light bulb icon label, also adjusts screen brightness.
A single press gives you maximum screen backlighting, a second press brings up slider adjustments for both screen brightness and contrast, a third press shuts off the backlight. You can also use the rocker switch to fine tune of the brightness and contrast sliders.
I am going to rate the display screen on the Garmin 72H excellent. When viewed outside in sunny conditions I found it easy to read. Putting on my polarized sunglasses did not degrade the view at all.
Odds and Ends
The man overboard function on this Garmin portable GPS is activated by pressing and holding the MOB key and then hitting enter to select navigation back to the MOB waypoint.
I found the Compass page provided easy navigation back the MOB. Just follow the compass needle and use the data box info to know when you have arrived. I always prefer a single button press MOB function best, but this one is acceptable.
A battery compartment on the case back holds the pair of AA batteries required for operation. With them installed the unit weighs 8.0 ounces.
A mini USB data port and serial port, both with protective flaps are also located on the back. An optional dash mount will facilitate permanent mounting on your boat.
This Garmin portable GPS is not only rated waterproof to IPX7 standards, it floats too, a huge advantage for gear to be used on or near the water. The IPX7 rating means it can be submerged to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes without suffering any damage.
It passed both our dunk test and drop test with no problem. The unit carries a 1-year warranty.
The Garmin 72H is an easy to operate basic handheld GPS unit. It does not have any mapping capabilities or any specialized marine information like built-in tide charts. What is does have is an accurate high-sensitivity multi-channel GPS receiver, a readable display screen, and easy to use software.
If all you are looking for is basic navigation this unit will get the job done reliably and inexpensively. Adding the marine mount and a power cable effectively makes this a very inexpensive fixed mount GPS unit for boaters.