Hikers, campers and outdoors people alike now have a new tool to ensure they get the best outdoor experience possible. The Magellan eXplorist 600 has a number of features that will make sure that while you are outside you will feel comfortable and find all the landmarks, fishing and hunting spots and you never have to worry about getting lost again.
- Electronic compass
- Barometer and Thermometer
- Barometric Pressure Altimeter
- Full color screen
- Unlimited SD Card Expandability
- USB data port
The eXplorist 600 has many features. Many you will find useful and some will leave you scratching your head and asking why it was included. The first screen we will look at is the satellite screen. This screen is for information only because it only displays a list of the satellites that you are currently receiving data from. The more satellites that you are connected to the better the accuracy of the eXplorist 600 is. The most satellites that I have ever connected to at the same time was about 10. This gave me an accuracy of about 20ft.
The next screen that you can get to by pressing the nav button is the map screen. By default this map does not provide much detail except major highways and cities. You can purchase more detailed maps through the MapSend product line that are sold separately. On this screen you can follow your movement with the on screen arrow and the track log which plots the points that you have visited. Using this screen you can mark Points of Interest (POI) and plot a course that will take you to those points. By using the mark button you can set those points based on the longitude and latitude. If you don’t know the coordinates of the place you are looking for then you can also use the directional stick to move the curser to a point and by clicking the stick you can mark it. There are several other options that will assist you in using this screen. If you are on this screen and you push the menu button then three specific options for this screen are shown above the regular menus. The Hide Map Info option hides the two fields that are at the bottom of the map. The Customize Page option lets you customize the two fields that appear at the bottom of the map screen. By default they are Heading and Speed. The map setup option gives you two tabs. The Format tab lets you choose the map orientation, detail level of the map, track mode and primary usage. The map orientation lets you decide how the map is shown on the screen. CompassHDGUP uses the built in compass to display the map so that the top of the map points toward where you’re heading. North UP makes it so the top of the map always points north, Course Up has the top of the map pointing toward your destination and Track Up is like CompassHDGUP, but instead of using the built-in compass it uses the GPS signal to show the top of the map as your current heading. Detail goes from low to highest and determines how much information is show on the map. This really only affects your map if you have one of the detailed maps loaded. The Track Mode selection determines how often track points are logged. Leaving this on auto is usually good enough for most applications, but the detail can be increased if you need it. Keep in mind that you can only store 2000 points per track so if you get too many points the eXplorist will start deleting old points to make room for new ones. I personally think this is a silly limitation and it should be changed to allow an infinite number of points up to the amount of memory you have and if you add more memory you should be able to have the points stored on the SD card. Primary Usage is used to switch the colors of land and water so that you can more easily read the text on land if you use it for land and just the opposite for water. The display tab gives you more options to configure the individual maps. Those options include turning on and off POIs, Geocache Points, etc.
The next screen is the compass. The compass provides an easy to read graphical compass that will act like a regular compass. The compass will need to be calibrated before it can be used reliably. The calibration can be found in the menu under the preferences. This takes about a minute and may have to be repeated because the compass will lose its accuracy over time. The compass will also display the location of the sun and moon. This is normally not useful because when you are outside you can just look up and see where the sun or moon is. The compass also has two customizable fields like the map screen. The compass will also use extra battery power while it is turned on and being used. If you have a destination, then there will be a small graphic that will point to the destinations location. This helps you keep yourself oriented on the right direction. If you don’t find this screen useful I suggest that you turn it off in the menu. Unfortunately, even when the compass is turned off the screen is still active. It would have been nice to have been able to turn off the whole screen. I personally found that the map screen provided all the same information without the extra power drain. With the arrow on the map screen you could easily tell which direction you were facing and if you were headed toward your destination.
The final screen that is accessed with the nav button is the position screen. This gives your current location based on the coordinate system that you choose in the preferences menu. The default is longitude and latitude. There is also elevation, accuracy, date and time, trip odometer and a battery indicator. These fields cannot be changed except in the format that the numbers are displayed in. The elevation is calculated based on the signal from the GPS satellites. The date and time are also adjusted based on the GPS signal. The trip odometer, like your car odometer, tracks how far you have gone and can be reset at anytime.
There are several other screens that you may find useful, but they cannot be accessed with the nav button — you must go into the menu. The first one is the Weather. This screen displays the Temperature, Barometer and Pressure Altimeter. The temperature is a measurement of the internal temperature of the device and can be affected by leaving the device in the sun or in a bag. Because of this, the reading is fairly inaccurate. The Barometer Displays the barometric pressure. Below the barometer it will display one of the following three words: Rising, Falling or Steady. This is based on the readings over the last 24 hours. The pressure Altimeter displays your altitude based on the barometer. Because of this you must calibrate it every 2-3 hours. This can be enough of a pain that you may want to forget about it all together and use the Elevation reading on the location screen, since that one never needs to be calibrated.
There are other screens including a Hunt/Fish screen that will display the optimal time to hunt and fish at a particular location. The Sun/Moon screen displays the Sunrise, Sunset, Moonrise, Moonset and Moon Phase for a particular location. The Vertical Profile will graphically display the elevation for a track log.
One feature I would really like is the ability to add, remove and rearrange the screens. Since I never use the compass screen I wanted to be able to remove it from the nav button screens. Also, if I wanted to use the Hunt/Fish screen alot, instead of having to go through the menus to get to it I would like to have it in place of the compass screen.
With the exception of the colors, the eXplorist 600 looks exactly like the rest of the eXplorist product line. On the right side of the device is the power button. If the device is off, pressing it will turn it on. If the device is on, pressing it will start the shut down process. This process consists of a short countdown from 5 to 1. After it reaches 1 it saves the data and turns off. If the power button is pressed again during this count down the eXplorist immediately turns off.
The left side of the eXplorist holds the backlight button. This button has three settings — high, low and off. This is probably the biggest drain on the battery so the lower this setting the better. To cycle through the settings just press the button multiple times. You can also set the device to automatically turn off the back light after a specific amount of time in the menu. I highly recommend that you do this to save battery life. You can also set it to completely turn off after a certain time. This is less useful because it stops tracking your movements while it is off.
The front of the device has the screen and the majority of the buttons that you will use. The In and Out buttons will zoom in and out of the map screen. The nav button moves to the next navigation screen. The Menu button takes you to the options that are available. The Mark button will set a position that can be a POI or destination. The Goto button will quickly take you to a predefined location. The Esc button will escape out of menus and will also go backwards through the navigation screens. The last button is the joystick. This is used to move through and select menus and also move the curser on the map screen.
The Back of the device is the battery compartment. This is where you will find a rechargeable battery pack and under that is an SD card slot. The SD card slot can hold any size SD card for use in storing maps, POIs, routes and tracks. If you are a heavy user of maps and routes then you will want a fairly large SD card. Standard size maps can range anywhere from 10 to 50 MB. Large maps like Southern California can easily exceed 100 MB. You will notice that the device does not take standard batteries. Instead it has a battery pack. This is a big negative, first because battery packs are expensive, second because you must keep them charged and at the time of this review the only way to charge them is inside the eXplorist. So if you have several battery packs you lose the use of your device while you are charging them up. Now if you are clever you can find ways around this problem of expense and charging. Some users of the eXplorist have found a fairly cheap Motorola phone that uses the same battery pack as the eXplorist and you can not only use it to charge your batteries with, but you can also get replacement batteries for the phone for really cheap that work in your eXplorist. Keep in mind that by doing this you may void the warranty on your device. If you have already had your eXplorist for more than a year it doesn’t matter because your warranty has already expired.
One of the things an explorer will like the most about the design is that it is waterproof and shock resistant. The eXplorist 600 is sealed to IPX-7 specifications, this means it will not suffer from a dip in the water. The rubber around the eXplorist acts like armor, the impact resistant plastic means that if you accidentally drop it then it has a better chance of surviving then your PDA or laptop. This is good because you never know when you will be hiking near water or drop it while you are look for directions and the last thing you want is a broken GPS when you are in the middle of the wilderness.
One thing I wanted to point out, this is true with all devices that use an LCD screen, there is the possibility that you will get bad pixels in your screen. There is really nothing that you can do about it and most companies will not service them under warranty unless there are a lot of them or they are in very annoying places. I have included an image of the weather screen where if you look below the second “s” in pressure you will see several white squares. These are bad pixels. You don’t normally see them because most of the screens have a white background. I only noticed them on this screen because it did not have a white background.
The device itself responds quickly to button presses and changes in location. The place that you will find the biggest problem with performance is transferring files. If you try and transfer files like maps to the internal memory or an SD card then the speed of the transfer is very slow. For example, I have a 20 MB map that I made. It took 10 minutes to transfer it to the SD card, which was in the eXplorist. If I take the card out and put it into a card reader it only takes about 25 seconds. I also do not recommend that you use the software that is included for transferring maps, routes and such. You will just end up confusing yourself and getting a headache. In fact, unless you want to use the Geocache manager, then there is no reason to install any of the software.
If you enjoy Geocaching then you will also enjoy the Geocache manager that is included. This software allows you to connect to Geocaching websites and download locations and then you can upload them to your device. This will save you tons of time because you do not have to hand type all the location, hints and other info.
Battery performance is very important. It determines how long you can stay out and still keep track of your route and location. With full back light Magellan claims you can get about 8 hours of life from the battery. With the backlight off they claim you can get 17 hours of life. I decided to test this my self and this is what I got.
|High backlight, compass on||7 hours 41 minutes|
|High backlight, compass off||7 hours 55 minutes|
|Low backlight, compass off||12 hours 41 minutes|
|Backlight off, compass off||14 hours 6 minutes|
Even though these numbers are way less then what Magellan claims they are still fairly good. I still recommend that you carry more than one battery pack if you are going to be away from civilization for more than a couple days.
The eXplorist 600 is a really helpful device. It has all the features that an explorer could want and some that you will probably never use. With prices ranging from $323 to $529 you will want to make sure you shop around to get the best price. If you don’t think you need the compass or weather information, then you may want to consider the eXplorist 500. Overall this is a very sturdy device and works well plotting courses and finding your way. I recommend that you get one of the additional map software packages which will add a number of additional features and make the device more useful.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|