There are several variations in the Magellan eXplorist GPS range of hand-held units, five models of which are included in the eXplorist 10 series. These include the 110,310, 510, 610 and 710 models. The model under review here is the 610, which measures 65.3x128x36.8mm and weighs 195g.
In designing the eXplorist 10 series, Magellan's engineers have considered all potential users, from the casual user who wants a reliable basic functioning GPS to the serious adventurer who enjoys advanced mapping features and multi-media applications.
The body of this series is robust, aesthetically pleasing and fits comfortably in the hand. The on/off switch is located at the top of the body and under a rubber button, maintaining the unit's waterproof integrity.
When assessing any electronic unit, I always review the specifications to determine its potential and ability to meet service requirements. There are two ways this is achieved: reviewing the promotional material available; or visiting the manufacturer's website (www.magellangps.com) and obtaining a copy of the device's operations manual.
The specifications for the eXplorist 610 include:
The back of the unit is tightly fitted onto the waterproof body and is removed by lifting the tab and rotating 180 degrees to unclip the cam lock then pulling upwards to release the two base retaining hooks.
The back has a recess for the camera and holes for the speaker outlet and provides access to the batteries and the mini SD card storage, camera lens and speaker.
Waterproofing is an essential requirement for hand-held GPS units. Unpredictable weather conditions and internal condensation can play havoc with internal electronic components. The two replaceable batteries in the eXplorist 610 are contained in the battery housing, which has a flat rubber seal that is compressed by the back upon closing and locking with the rotation of the fold-down lock tab.
Located under the batteries is the mini SD card, which provides the additional programming and storage memory for the unit. The back of the body provides a ready base for the 3.2MP camera. The lens is located under a protective glass screen, which is easily cleaned when the back is removed.
The shutter release is located on the left-hand side and is covered by a clearly marked rubber press button. As with many compact cameras, it is easy to get your fingers in the way of the lens when taking a quick photograph. The 3.2MP camera is adequate for taking site location images. The lanyard loop at the bottom of the case allows significant side travel.
While this has benefits by making the unit easy to use on the lanyard, it could also be a drawback should the GPS become snagged in heavy scrub. Magellan has developed this GPS series to use alkaline or rechargeable batteries. Alkaline batteries provide about 16 hours of operation.
The decision about power takes into account the time the user will be away from base, and AA-size alkaline batteries are a readily available, lightweight and good power option for camping or hiking. AA batteries are used by many LED torches and other camping extras, so they arc easily included in a hunter's pack.
The 610 menu requires alkaline batteries to he selected in the menu options when setting the power source there is also the provision for rechargeable batteries.
Touch-sensitive screens for field use always cause a level of discussion among hikers and hunters. The argument that generally ensues is: If the screen is bumped or brushed, it could change the settings.
I am a sceptic, however, as the current trend in hand-held interactive electronics devices is for touch-sensitive screen-activated menus. This is used with iPods, iPads, iPhones and other smart phones, tablets and computers and will continue in other technology while this is the trend chosen by manufacturers and while it fulfils the customer's needs.
The eXplorist 610 has the ability to lock the screen, but I did not activate this option during the trial and experienced no problems. The benefit of touch-screen technology is that the menu's options appear to be more intuitive, making them easier to access and reference.
Being a little older - (pre-technology), I find this a welcome approach, as it helped me understand the 610's menu applications, which resulted in easier and more effective use. Geocaching is a modern development of GPS use and easy operation is a requirement for the people who enjoy this challenge when they visit a new location.
The eXplorist 610 fits snugly into the hand of the user.
The screen is large enough to be comfortably read when being used as a hand-held device. However, while being capable of very bright screen settings, touch-screen technology still suffers from readability problems in bright sunlight. The map screen has four activation menus located in the corners, which opens submenus for the user's convenience.
Top left is a dial, which displays the current 'Dashboard' (Active information) including satellite activation, satellite accuracy, speed and average speed. On the top right-hand corner is the 'One touch' (Waypoint information), including three set ones (home, camp and car). These would be used when planning a trip out and back in for the basic user.
On the bottom left-hand corner is the 'Options Menu' where you can add a waypoint, search, start a new track, back-track, look at your track summary, trip odometer, trip time, show the compass and see other maps options.
On the bottom right-hand corner of the 'Main Menu Start', including waypoints, tracks, maps, geocaches, routes, addresses, media and point of interest (POI). When this menu is active, the most important menu on the unit, 'Tools', can be quickly accessed and this contains all the optional set-up menus for the unit.
Two breadcrumb trails: The GPS used in vehicle for street directory, left; and the GPS used free for roaming on the river/fishing app.
The Summit Series Topographic Map comes preloaded on eXplorist 610 and 710 models. The map features detailed topographic information and color contour lines, and can be zoomed in and out to get accurate fixes on a desired location. This is essential when looking for specific places and navigating to saved waypoints.
The map also contains areas that have been classified as parks, forests, trails, campsites and other points of interest. These mapping feature are well-suited to the casual user and provide accurate street location information.
Personal computer connections are required for advance mapping and information transfer to and from the GPS. The eXplorist series has a USB connection located at the base and is covered with a rubber dust and moisture cover.
Access is achieved by plugging in the USB connection to the computer and accessing the SD card storage to download saved pictures, video and voice recordings, and captured 610 screen images. The GPS screen image is captured by setting the 'Screen Capture' mode in the settings menu.
The advanced user would benefit from the free VantagePoint Magellan computer software package. This download increases the user's options and allows better management of the GPS's files. The user can view and search for satellite imagery and Magellan maps (Summit and City Series), as well as create a GPS journal including geotagged pictures, voice memos and videos.
The Satellites available and Accuracy information on the Location screen.
Magellan provides an option for users to further extend their GPS experience to include DigitalGlobe (www.digitalglobe. com), which provides the option of seamless satellite imagery of areas chosen by the user.
The GPS can also link to other third-party software which provides a good option for preplanning, allowing the user to establish a route, set waypoints and then upload the track information to the GPS.
Magellan has established a solid reputation with its wide range of GPS products. The eXplorist 610 is pleasing to use, with many of the menus being intuitive. The Summit Series Topographic Map software proved to be a good navigational tool with both country and town capability. Touch-screen operation an pull-down menus provided quick access to the menu functions.
However, single-purpose GPS manufacturers are in a marketplace where there is a great deal of competition. Integration of the GPS tuner in a variety of mobile phones and tablets has no doubt caused this market change. Examples of this include Apple iPhone and iPads > Google Android apps for Samsung units, and other phones and tablets.
All of these units are capable of wireless network-free GPS applications and mobile mapping when the appropriate apps are downloaded.
The mobile phone network allows them to have dynamic internet access when in reception range. This extends the in field mapping capability to include satellite imagery with Google Earth.
As such, to survive in this marketplace, the stand-alone GPS manufacturers like Magellan need to extend the capability of their upmarket GPS models and include advanced mapping features and a variety of unit functions.
In saying that, I found the Magellan eXplorist 610 to have a number of features that were worth considering.