Garmin RINO 120 review: Garmin RINO 120

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Strong GPS and radio performance; rugged design; reasonably priced; extra memory and applications.

The Bad Small buttons; sensitive Click Stick; no low-battery alarm.

The Bottom Line Spend the extra money for the RINO 120; it's all you'll ever need in a navigation/communication device.

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Garmin's RINO (Radios Integrated with Navigation for the Outdoors) 120s may not be the most stylish two-way radios on the market, but these are no ordinary walkie-talkies. The RINO is an FRS/GMRS radio and a GPS receiver all rolled into one rugged device, and it's loaded with cool bells and whistles.

Done up in an olive-green-and-black-rubber casing, the RINO 120 ($268 list price) has a 12-channel GPS receiver, as well as 14 FRS and 8 GMRS (5-mile range) channels with 38 squelch (privacy) codes. It's also waterproof for up to half an hour in one meter of water. Sharing space with the PTT and Call buttons on the left side of the unit, the Page button is used to cycle through the main radio, navigation, and trip computer pages. On the front of the RINO sits the Click Stick, a volume button, and a zoom button, all three of which are just a tad too small for the average user. We found the Click Stick, which moves the cursor in four directions when choosing main menu items or entering text, to be a little too sensitive. However, this is a minor flaw in an otherwise well-designed product.

Like the 110, the RINO 120 can store up to 500 waypoints and 20 tracks, as well as 50 contacts from other users for peer-to-peer positioning, wherein each user has a unique personalized icon and ID that allows fellow RINO users to beam their location to each other via an FRS channel so that they can track each other's location during communication. The GPS receiver is WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) enabled for enhanced accuracy, and the 120 includes a hunt/fish calculator, a stopwatch, an alarm clock, a sun/moon calculator, and a page with four team-oriented games.

The main difference between the 120 and the step-down 110 are the extras included with the 120. You get built-in Americas Highways and Marine Point Database maps, plus 8MB of memory for storing data from one of several optional MapSource CDs, including Fishing Hot Spots, BlueChart marine maps, MetroGuide, and Topo maps. The 120 includes a vibrate-alert option and a voice scrambler for extra security when communicating with other users of the same model.

In an urban setting, both the FRS and GMRS radio functions performed as expected, giving us a clear signal within a 1- and 3-mile range, respectively. Out on the water, the FRS range topped out at 1.8 miles according to our boat's navigation system, while the GMRS range held steady at 3 miles before communications became garbled. It's important to note that the 2- and 5-mile claims for FRS and GMRS radios are maximum ranges that are rarely obtained due to atmospheric and geographical conditions.

The RINO's GPS functionality was typical of Garmin products; it took less than a minute to acquire a 3D satellite lock and even maintained a strong signal while driving in a car. Whether roaming the streets of Manhattan or cruising the waterways of Long Island, we were able to pinpoint our location as well as that of a fellow RINO user. We particularly liked the Find N' Go feature, which lets you instantly locate the nearest cities, service exits, and other RINO users, as well as addresses, intersections, and points of interest when used with a detailed MapSource map. The RINO uses three AA alkaline cells (not included) or an optional rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride battery pack. We tested the radios with alkaline batteries, getting a little more than 14 hours of continuous use before the battery meter registered zero and the radio quit on us; a low-battery alarm would be nice.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Maps Included Canada
  • Run Time (Up To) 28 hours
  • Weight 8.3 oz
  • Receiver 12 channel
  • Recommended Use hiking