Garmin! Which satellite systems should I use? GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO? Technology Trends 2022!

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The use of two satellite systems is now the standard for many current outdoor handhelds, bicycle devices and wearables from Garmin. GPS & GLONASS is usually already activated in the device settings. Alternatively, you can switch to GPS & GALILEO or GPS only.

Many current Garmin devices allow these GNSS* combinations:

  • GPS
  • GPS + GLONASS (currently the Garmin standard)
  • GPS + GALILEO

Positioning with the help of two GNSS has its advantages. The availability of two systems means that more satellites are available. This can have an impact on the time to first positioning (TTFF = time to first fix) and the positioning accuracy.

*GNSS = Global Navigation Satellite System

How many GPS, GLONASS & GALILEO satellites are available?

(status: November 2021)

  • GPS: 30 operational satellites
  • GLONASS: 23 operational satellites
  • GALILEO: 22 operational satellites

Information on the current statuses can be found here:

Check the live positions: in-the-sky.org

What are the advantages of using two satellite systems simultaneously?

A good example is shown in the figure. Due to the availability of only four GPS satellites and an unfavourable satellite geometry in a mountain valley (three out of four GPS satellites are in a row), the position determination is relatively inaccurate. The accuracy is shown as "25 m".

The same applies to large cities. High buildings ("urban canyons") can also cause shadows effects, there are fewer satellites in the direct field of view of the GPS receiver.

In addition, "multipathing" effects often occur in mountains and cities, caused by walls, snow, facades of buildings & road surface. Reflected satellite signals also result in poorer accuracy.

Really bad GPS satellite constellation
GPS only, bad satellite constellation and accuracy

What positive effect has a second GNSS?

More satellites distributed over the sky can lead to a more favourable distribution ("geometry") and thus to a better accuracy and a faster positioning (TTFF).

Garmin defines GPS accuracy as follows:

Accuracy of the position in m (CEP, Circular Error Probable: 50% of all measurements are within the specified radius (e.g. 25 m), 50% of all measurements are outside of this radius).

Another note: At least three satellites are required to determine the position, and at least four satellites must be in use to determine the GPS altitude.

What are the disadvantages of using GPS, GLONASS and GALILEO simultaneously?

The disadvantage is the slightly increased power consumption of the GPS receivers, in my experience it is about 10% (GPS handhelds like Garmin Oregon or eTrex). The situation is likely to be similar for bike computers and wearables.

Garmin – GPS only, GPS & GLONASS or GPS & GALILEO – What do you recommend?

This is a generally difficult topic, as many factors play a role: chip manufacturer, firmware, algorithms, GPS antenna type, antenna placement, energy consumption of the GPS receiver and antenna, available energy, mounting of the device, environment, …

Outdoor handhelds

My recommendation is to deactivate GLONASS or GALILEO if possible and to use GPS only, especially when you want to increase the battery life. Switch a second GNSS on when necessary (mountains, cities, forests with a high tree density). GPS + GLONASS should be preferred over GPS + GALILEO as this is the Garmin standard … and the devices could be optimized in this respect.

Figures (screenshots Garmin eTrex 32x):

Excellent satellite reception; GPS + GLONASS (left) does not lead to a better accuracy compared to GPS only. The accuracy is always 3 m. GPS: 02 – 30, GLONASS: 68 – 84.

eTrex 32x: GPS and GLONASS satellites
eTrex 32x: GPS and GLONASS satellites
eTrex 32x: GPS satellites
eTrex 32x: GPS satellites

Edge cycling devices

Since the devices are attached to the handlebars, signal shadows can occur through the rider’s body. So I would recommend to use GPS + GLONASS, except you want to save battery.

Wearables

The situation is different for wearables.

For example, when you run, the wearable is attached to a second dynamic system: your moving arm. The GPS antenna usually points somehow to the side and not skywards, your body causes shadowing when receiving satellite signals. All these factors can lead to GPS inaccuracies.

Therefore, it is better to get the maximum out of it by using GPS + GLONASS – this setting is also the Garmin standard for wearables and is continuosly optimized.

However, runners report that the pace can be more consistent when using only GPS. Try it out!

There are now handheld devices with chips that support not only simultaneous reception of multiple GNSS ("multi-GNSS"), but also of multiple frequencies ("multi-band"). Examples are the GPSMAP 65s and the GPSMAP 66sr (review), launched in 2020. These devices can provide a faster TTFF and a better accuracy. However, my experience shows that no miracles should be expected – standard GPSMAP devices are already very good in terms of accuracy (in my opinion the helix antenna plays a big role).

An example of such a chip is the Broadcom BCM47755, which can use GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou (the Chinese GNSS), QZSS (the Japanese GNSS), and GALILEO, as well as two frequencies (L1 + L5). Similar chips come from Sony and Airoha.

A similar development can be seen in wearables. In 2021, Coros and Huawei launched wearables with multi-GNSS and multi-band (Coros Vertix 2, Huawei Watch GT 3, Huawei Watch GT Runner).

Exciting news – Garmin launched the fenix 7 and epix 2 with the latest GNSS technology. Read: Garmin fenix 7 GPS accuracy review.

Garmin might have initiated another development with the new GPSMAP 79s handheld (launched late 2021). The GPSMAP 79s does not provide multi-band. But it is equipped with multi-GNSS for simultaneous reception of GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and BeiDou satellites. In my opinion, this will become the standard for future Garmin handhelds and Edge devices.

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Leave a Comment

16 thoughts on “Garmin! Which satellite systems should I use? GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO? Technology Trends 2022!”

  1. Joachim,
    Thank you for this excellant website – I have learned a lot by simply reading your articles and the comments.
    Very happy owner of an Etrex 30x and 64s – recently got 2m accuracy showing on the Etrex – the new GP3 satellites helping maybe ?

    Thanks
    Craig W

    Reply
  2. Do GPS, GLONASS and Galileo cover southern Africa? I operate mainly in the South Africa bush and like the garmin fenix 6x to use as a GPS.

    Reply
  3. Dear Frieds,

    I bought a Garmin Forerunners 245 befor 2 months. I tried GPS, GPS+Glonass and GPS+Galileo also. All of which measured bu a great failure. i.e GPS+Galileo measured my 12 km of run as 24 km in 1 h 8 min as if I were a olimpic runners:) GPS+Glonass measure my 5 km run in 14 min that is not also possible and when I checked the mape, the route was quite differ that I runned. Later I tried only GPS but the result was not differ. It was a great disaappontment for me because my old watch "tom tom runner" that it much more cheaper was better in measurement. I used it for 4 years and with a great accuracy.
    Could be please advice that what was wrong in my application? I run in forest area but formerly I runned many times mw to tom woth without problem. Please let me inform about adjusment ofmy watch for to get a good accuracy.
    levent.ballice@ege.edu.tr
    Best regards,

    Ballice

    Reply
    • Hello Ballice,

      that sounds very strange; I have never seen or heard of such great deviations (12 km vs. 24 km)!

      Did you install the latest update and did you connect the Forerunner with the Garmin Connect App (for an automatic update of the EPO file, this data enables the GPS chip to predict where satellites will be in the sky)?

      You can also try a factory reset of the device.

      May be your device is defect (can you give it back?).

      Best regards

      Reply
  4. Great article 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻
    It would be even better (at the end of reading 😅) to get a Linkedin share option 🙏🏻
    But as I said, it’s excellent!

    Reply
  5. Today a ran trail run in hills and forrest with Gamin Fenix 6 with GPS+Galileo and was less accurate than my second device Apple Watch 5. Garmin measured 11.04km and Apple Watch 11.94km. When i imported my activity to the Strava and Runkeeper and corrected the distance, both apps measured 11.98km, so very close to the Apple Watch. Before this run a had GPS + GLONASS as default in Garmin and last runs was almost equal with Apple Watch. (I wear two device on workouts, daily and sport). So i think GPS + Galileo for me is less accurate, but i will do some more test for final result in my case and my locations 🙂

    Reply
  6. Ben yeni aldığım forerunner 45S kullanıyorum. 2 gün arka arkaya aynı güzergahta (12km) yaklaşık 50m lik aynı hataları yaptı. hatalar gerçeğinden 50m eksikti (11,95km). Saat GPS+GLONASS modundaydı. Bana göre kabul edilebilir hatalardı. hataların tek yönde ve yaklaşık aynı değerde olmasını şimdilik standart hata olarak değerlendiriyorum.

    Daha sonra aynı mesafeyi GPS+GALILEO modunda deneyeceğim.

    Reply
  7. My Garmin watch VivoActive4 works best with GPS + Galileo.
    With GPS only or with GPS + Glonass I always have problems receiving satellite signals at all, even out in the open field.
    Often I have to walk – run – cycle 6 kilometers or more before the VivoActive senses GPS + Glonass
    With GPS + Galileo a brief 40 seconds max wait will do to get going.

    Reply
  8. I have a garmin 945 watch. Until now I used polar vantage and I had no problems with gps.
    When registering a known route with a garmin watch, I was surprised that it is shorter than usually recorded with various watches or telephones, and the "actual tempo" indicator always shows a much lower pace than I actually run.
    I did various tests for several weeks and I have such observations.
    – In Europe (Poland) the GPS + Galileo configuration works best on a garmin watch
    .
    – GPS + Glonass works best on Polar
    .
    – When I set gps + glonass on my garmin watch, the accuracy of measurements decreases drastically.
    – When I run with two watches, the distance is the same on both only when set (gps + glonass on polar) and (gps + galileo on garmin)
    .
    I wonder if one of these watches has a naming error and if by chance in a garmin watch gps + galileo mode is not really glonass.
    Do you know how to check this?
    Changing the registration from "smart" to "every seconds" did not improve the measurement accuracy very much.
    What do you think about it, what are your opinions?

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,

      I do not believe that the Garmin wearables have a naming error – however, I do not know how to check which satellite systems are in use as the Garmin wearables have no NMEA output (except the quatix) or a satellite page.

      My standard for the fenix is GPS + GLONASS as I want to compare it with other devices like the Polar GRIT X (Polar recommends GPS + GLONASS as default and has no option for "GPS only"), and I think it is generally better to use a wearable with two GNSS.

      The data recording has no impact on GPS accuracy, because you change only the algorithm for recording and not the GPS frequency.

      Cheers!

      Reply
      • Hi, i úsed fenix 5+, testing in Hanoi, Vietnam. Gps only, gps + glonass , and gps + galileo , it is cloudy and raining condition. Result of gps +galileo showing more accurate than the others. Cheers

        Reply
  9. My Garmin 1000 doesn’t stay "fixed" on map mode, even when I push on the map + to expand. Any idea on how to correct this? It’s aggravating when I am out in the middle of the woods and trying to figure the road to take…(I care a paper map of the areas that I travel)

    Reply
    • Hi,
      what do you say? Does the position of the position marker changes continuously (can be a normal behaviour depending on the GPS signals)) or is the map moving even if stationary (sounds strange)?
      Cheers

      Reply
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