Magellan handheld GPS devices are generally affordable but you if you really take the time to analyze each of these devices, you could potentially spend even less. The key is understanding which features could benefit you. It is likely that you will be hiking or trekking with a smartphone too so naturally the most frequently used features should be found on your main GPS device while the smartphone functions can be used in a pinch. Fortunately, Magellan has a pretty wide selection of GPS devices under the eXplorist brand. The Magellan eXplorist 510 in particular is the gateway device to the more advanced GPS navigators but it is priced in the midrange zone making it appealing to check out in-depth first.
About the Magellan eXplorist 510
The Magellan eXplorist 510 is Magellan’s most affordable handheld GPS device with a touchscreen. Some of the more traditional hikers will prefer the physical buttons and navigation stick found on the eXplorist 310 but eliminating these buttons allows the display to be a taller. The 3-inch display now makes way for a 240×400 pixel screen. That is still poor compared to the cheapest smartphones found today but it is just enough to see your current position and more of your surroundings. Although the user interface is optimized for touch use, there are still 2 customizable physical buttons on the side along with a physical power button.
The standard version of the Magellan eXplorist 510 starts at $279.99 although Magellan offers certain bundles for explorers with special needs such as the Pro Angler Edition which includes fishing spots and the Marine Edition which is much more expensive and includes plotter cartography.
In addition to the larger touchscreen, the eXplorist 510 also has a 3.2-megapixel camera. Your smartphone will most probably beat the Magellan eXplorist 510 in image quality but at least the 510’s camera can take pretty decent daytime shots outdoors. Plus, the camera has autofocus so taking portraits is a possibility too with adequate lighting. Video recording with the eXplorist 510 is less impressive because of the max 320×240 resolution. All photos are geotagged with location data.
Another noteworthy exclusive of the Magellan eXplorist 510 is support for 3D views so you can better see the road details and elevation. Because of the added microSD card slot, you also have the option to buy Navionics maps and easily load them on to the device. This means that you don’t have to buy any of the bundled packages if you cannot afford them upfront since you can buy the add-on you like later on. The eXplorist 310 should be able to store weeks’ worth of data but the eXplorist 510 raises the bar a bit more by being able to store twice as many waypoints and four times as many tracks. The Magellan eXplorist 510 has a built-in microphone too allowing voice notes to be added to waypoints, routes, tracks or geocaches.
Hardware-wise the Magellan eXplorist 510 has the same SiRFstarIII high-sensitivity GPS as the entry-level eXplorist models so accuracy is pretty good. World Edition maps are preloaded to the device too and they are powered by NAVTEQ’s impressive road network. This means detailed roadmaps across 200 countries. It gets even better if you subscribe to topo maps service like the one provided by National Geographic.
The eXplorist 510 can help find geocaches too. You can look up any geocache to see its many unique characteristics. This helps you find out how difficult it is to retrieve the geocache as well as other details made by other fellow geocachers.
While the Magellan eXplorist 510 has the similar internal hardware as the 310, the touchscreen interface makes the device far more pleasant to use. The four corners menu found on the map view is the most interesting part of the experience because it lets you switch to other vital dashboards without the need for going back to the home screen. These buttons are customizable too.
For faster route planning, the OneTouch menu can be used as a one-stop area to favorite destinations like your house or your car. Up to 9 shortcuts can be added to this menu. The battery lasts about 16 hours under normal usage although you could go further if you use high quality rechargeable batteries like the Panasonic Eneloops.
• Clever menu systems make it easy to go from the map to another important screen.
• Plenty of customization options.
• Great preloaded maps.
• Decent battery life.
• Tough build quality.
• Interface could take time for newbies to get used to.
• Topo maps cost extra.
The larger screen, simple touch interface, camera and custom topo maps sum up the main reasons to get the Magellan eXplorist 510 over a budget device. It is far more talented than your smartphone when it comes to hiking features.