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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Magellan eXplorist 710 GPS > Test Report by Mike Curry

MAGELLAN EXPLORIST 710
TEST SERIES BY MIKE CURRY
LONG-TERM REPORT
February 06, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Curry
EMAIL: thefishguy AT hotmail DOT com
AGE: 41
LOCATION: Aberdeen, Washington
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 210 lb (95.30 kg)

I've been backpacking, climbing, ski-packing, bushwhacking, and snowshoeing throughout the mountains of Oregon and Washington for the last 25 years. I'm an all-season, all terrain, off-trail kind of guy, but these days (having small kids) most of my trips run on the shorter side of things, and tend to be in the temperate rainforest. While I've carried packs (with winter climbing gear) in excess of 70 pounds (32 kilos), the older I get the more minimalist I become.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Magellan
IMAGE 1
Photo Courtesy of Manufacturer

Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: www.magellangps.com
MSRP: US$549.99
Listed Weight: 6.87 oz (195 g)
Measured Weight: 7.9 oz (225 g) with batteries (6.9 oz, 197 g without batteries)
Other details:
Batteries Required - 2 AA

FEATURES (From Manufacturer's Website):

•Core Outdoor Navigation Rugged and waterproof, the eXplorist combines high sensitivity GPS reception with aesthetic mapping and accurate navigation. Find your way using more than 30 navigational data fields. Create waypoints, record tracks, and route from point to point.

•Experience Recording Integrated 3.2 mega-pixel camera, microphone, and speaker enables outdoor enthusiasts to record geo-referenced images and voice notes. Relive your outdoor adventures on the device, on your computer, or share with others on various online communities.

•Superior Maps with 3D Perspective View The eXplorist series packs some of the most accurate maps into the palm of your hand. The World Edition map allows for 2D or 3D viewing angles and covers the globe with details roads and land use areas. Summit Series is a new breed of topographic outdoor maps covering various regions with high level of detail. City Series will add turn-by-turn routing to your handheld GPS receiver.

•3.0" (7.62 cm) Touch Screen and Button Controls The best of both worlds, the eXplorist combines the user friendliness of a touch screen with the reliability of two customizable hard buttons. Program the hard buttons to your two favorite or most used functions.

•3-axis Electronic Compass & Barometric Altimeter* Always know exactly where you are going, which
direction is north, and your accurate altitude about sea level with built-in sensors. Know the direction to the geocache while standing still. Measure barometric pressure over time to track changing weather conditions. Use a number of different digital compass' to always understand your cardinal directions.

•Paperless Geocaching Download and view more than 20 unique characteristics of each cache and view, search, filter on the device. Details include name, location, description, hider, size, difficulty, terrain, hint, and recent logs created by other geocachers.
IMAGE 2
Photo Courtesy of Manufacturer

•16 Hours of Battery Life Powered by two AA batteries, the eXplorist 710 will last up to 16 hours under normal conditions. To help conserve power, use the suspend mode to turn off the device but maintain GPS tracking. You can also adjust power management settings to your preference.

•OneTouch™ Menu Magellan's award winning OneTouch™ favorites menu is now on our handheld devices. It provides instant access to bookmarks of favorite places. Set your home, base camp, and car. Easily re-assign a new location for each new adventure. 12 customizable icons to create personalized searches, save unique locations, or assign quick access to your favorite screens.

•World Edition Pre-loaded Map The World Edition includes a complete road network in United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Australia and major roads throughout the rest of the world that provides cartographic orientation in almost any location. This unique preloaded map also includes water features, urban and rural land use, and a realistic shaded relief background.

•Summit Series USA Summit Series USA is highly detailed topographic map based on 1:24,000 scale source maps. The map includes contour lines, land use areas, trails, waterways, and points of interest. Locate the nearest trailhead. Search nearest bike shops, fuel stations, or potable water source. Navigate safely in 3D perspective view while knowing the boundaries between private and public lands.

•City Series City Series USA allows your eXplorist device to navigate through the city streets with turn-by-turn directions on your way to escaping to your favorite open spaces. Enter a variety of destinations, including address book entries, waypoints, geocaches, or previous destinations.

•Navionics® Map Compatibility. Navionics is a world of products that enhance your enjoyment on and off your boat. Simply purchase a Navionics Gold Chart, HotMaps® Premium, or FishN' Chip Region (sold separately) and plug the SD Card into the eXplorist 510, 610 or 710.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Magellan eXplorist 710 comes in an attractive retail display box that provides information on the eXplorist's features and system requirements. The box contains the eXplorist 710 GPS receiver, a standard mini USB cable, 2 AA batteries, a quick start guide, and a 30 day premium membership to Geocaching.com.

My first impression was that the eXplorist 710 felt hefty and well-built, with a body made primarily of plastic with some metal, and a screen that was recessed slightly which may offer it some protection in the event of an accidental dropping. I also liked that hit had a loop built into the case that would allow me to attach a lanyard, though I was disappointed that the opening isn't quite large enough for my standard carabiners.

The back is opened using a flip-out twist lock that provides easy access to the SD card slot and batteries without the need for any tools. The camera lens and speaker are found on either side of this twist lock. The microphone is found below the screen on the front of the device, and the device uses only three buttons: the power button (on the top of the device) and a large camera button on the left side of the device, with a smaller button above that is used to save waypoints The USB port is found under a rubber plug like those found on many cellular phones, only larger, near the loop there a lanyard can be attached.

Additional discussion of features can be found in the "trying it out" section below.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The eXplorist 710 comes with a Quick Start guide that covers basic operations, including using buttons, installing batteries and a micro SD card, compass calibration, the map screen, the 4-corner screen menu, adding a waypoint, creating a route, tools and settings, and recording a track.

These basic instructions were more than adequate to get me started. Most things I wanted to accomplish I was able to do so with this basic information.

The full user's manual is available for download at the manufacturer's website as a .pdf document. I have downloaded the manual, but have only just begun reading it. It is extensive and detailed, and under normal use I would probably use it only as a reference, though for the context of testing, I plan to read the entire document to ensure I have a complete knowledge of the eXplorist 710's capabilities.

TRYING IT OUT

After glancing quickly through the quick start guide, I installed the batteries. This was easy enough, and the only thing of interest I would note is that the micro SD card slot is beneath the batteries, and there is a seal around the battery door that flops loose every time I take it off (it hasn't fallen off, but I keep an eye on it and carefully re-position it before putting the door back on). Since I can't anticipate the need to remove or install a micro SD card in the field, I don't think the placement is a problem, but mention it for those interested in where it is located.

Powering the device on it went into its startup cycle, which takes approximately 45 seconds. The first time I did this I was in my living room, and showed my location somewhere in California (presumably where it was last powered on). I was impressed not only to find it was able to achieve a satellite lock in my living room, but that it did so in under 2 minutes!

I began to play around some with the touchscreen interface. I found it to be crisp and responsive, I look forward to seeing how that changes in the rain (if at all) since most touchscreens I've used don't work well in our climate without sheltering them from the rain. The main display has a menu bar across the top with icons showing various data (signal strength, battery charge, mode, time of day, etc.). The map is displayed in the middle, with zoom in and out buttons to the right. At the bottom are two data displays which I quickly discovered were user-customizable by holding my finger on one. Fields available include heading, speed, elevation, depth, primary coordinates, secondary coordinates, accuracy, bearing, course, destination, distance to next, time to next, and distance to end. What I loved was that it only takes a moment to switch between these.

Tapping the screen on the map pulls up the corner menus. In this mode, the map is still visible in the middle, but tapping in a corner brings up one of four menus. Upper left is the dashboard menu, which displays 8 user-defined fields (from the list in the last paragraph) plus a compass which shows cardinal directions and points to your destination as well as other basic details. The upper right menu is the OneTouch menu, which allows the user to create personalized shortcuts. The lower left menu is the main menu, where features and settings can be accessed, and the lower right menu is the options menu, where the user can select basic options.

My general take on the device was it was intuitive enough that I could get it to do what I wanted it to do without consulting the manual in most cases, but to access advanced features I was definitely going to need to study. At one point I decided to navigate to a known destination, and it took me almost 20 minutes to learn how to clear the destination (changing it I could do intuitively, but returning the device to where it had no destination at all took some exploring!).

After some playing, I decided I needed to connect the eXplorist 710 to my PC and see what I could make happen. I installed VantagePoint, which I haven't played around with much, other than to see it appears to allow me to view my tracks, etc., using Digital Globe maps. I also installed Magellan Communicator (which allows me to transfer .gpx files, allowing me to use the "Send to GPS" function at Geocaching.com). Finally I installed Content Manager, which checks to make sure my device's software is up-to-date.

One of the very next things I did was updated the devices software when prompted, which took less than 10 minutes.

After all that, I went to Geocaching.com and downloaded a cache that is a block from my house to the device. It was simple and intuitive. I was able to go into the main menu, select geocaches, and there it was. I tapped it, tapped go, and I was on my way. Five minutes later we were on the cache (or rather, where the cache used to be, since it's been muggled). It showed me as being on the cache with an accuracy of about 2 meters (7 feet) when I was standing about 1.5 meters (5 feet) from where the cache used to be.

SUMMARY

The Magellan eXplorist 710 GPS receiver so far appears to be a feature-rich yet relatively easy-to-use gps receiver. The paperless geocaching is an interesting feature that is very easy to use. Maps are adequately detailed, and the user experience so far has been very good. The device seems rugged enough for my typical outdoor activities, and I look forward to trying more of the device's features over the coming months.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1
Photo taken with camera
I have used the Magellan eXplorist 710 on two backpacking trips totaling 5 nights, on three day hikes, three geocaching outings, and on one occasion as a navigation device in my car. Weather conditions have included temperatures ranging from freezing to approximately 60 F (16 C). I've used the eXplorist in sun, rain, and mist, and have used it under variable cloud cover as well as under dense forest canopies in the Olympic Rainforest. I've used the GPS in broad glacial valleys in the southern Olympics, but not yet in any of the narrower, deeper valleys.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

As this is a very complex device, I've arranged my discussion of it's performance in the most logical order I can think of including major and minor headings.

GENERAL COMMENTS
IMAGE 2
My favorite data screen


Ease of Use

I'm going to lead with one of the most negative things I have to say about the device, which is that it is so advanced and sophisticated it is easy for me to get lost in its menu structure. When I haven't used the device in a few weeks, I have to re-learn how to access and use some features. Part of this has to do with the complexity of the device, but some of it has to do with the fact I don't find its menus very intuitive. Some aspects of it are easy, but some features I consider fairly important for me to be able to access I often struggle to find.

An example is if I want to choose a different map datum or coordinate system. When I enter the main menu and select settings, I would expect to find my option to change these under something like "map options" or maybe "units" . . . but where they are found is under "Navigation." This isn't a fault or even a problem, but I find lots of items, particularly settings items, just aren't where I would expect to find them.

That said, the device is full of features, and one of my most beloved features is the One Touch menu, where I can assign functions to 12 different One Touch buttons. These "shortcuts" in essence may be a location or a function (such as the compass or altimeter). Assigning my most frequently used functions (compass, for instance) is easy, as is assigning locations, and the functions are easy to change. Tapping an unassigned button will let you select a function or location, and for buttons that already have assignments, touching and holding them will bring up an option to change them.

One of my other favorite things is the dashboard menu. This menu can be user defined to display a compass, road view, strip compass, satellite status, barometer, altimeter, dashboard view, or my personal favorite, data only view. The data only view brings up 14 fields that are visible simultaneously, in two columns of 7 fields. The data contained in each field can be defined by the user, and includes a wide range of fields such as satellite status, accuracy, coordinates, speed, time traveled, distance to end, date, bearing . . . the list is extensive. Being able to customize the fields in the Dashboard menu allows me to create a data screen with all the raw data I'm looking for in one convenient location.

One small glitch I've encountered is that when I try to open the altimeter using the One Touch button I've assigned, if I don't have an active track, I get an "Active Track is Not Available" warning. I'm not sure why, but apparently I have to have an active track in order to use the altimeter function, which I think has to do with the fact that it tracks the change in elevation.

Features

While I've played with most of the features on the eXplorist 710, such as the camera and the ability to save tracks and waypoints, the features I use most are the data features. The barometer, altimeter, and current coordinates are what I use most while backpacking. The integration of the barometer is a great feature for me in looking for potential changes in weather conditions. The altimeter is a great feature that has the ability to replace a conventional altimeter should I want one with me. Most of all, though, I use a GPS to identify my current coordinates for the sake of identifying my location, and the Magellan does this just fine, and makes it easy to find.

Other features, such as the compass, work well, though I would never feel comfortable replacing my regular compass with any electronic device. The camera works well and takes photos of reasonable quality, certainly suitable for the web. Additional features will be discussed in individual sections below.

IMAGE 3
OneTouch user-defined shortcut screen
Battery Life

Battery Life has been a mixed bag. The original lithium batteries lasted through all 5 backpacking days, 2 day hikes, and 2 geocaching outings while only dropping slightly on the indicator. It is important to note, however, that I did not run a continuous track during any of this, but rather did spot location checks while backpacking and hiking, and only turned the device on when close to a cache while geocaching. The total time the device was on was likely less than 3 hours.

I then must have forgotten and left the device on for a couple weeks, because when I came back I found the device lifeless. I replaced the lithium batteries with alkaline, and didn't see a drop in power during my last two outings, but the device was on for probably a total of only an hour or two.

I conducted a test with fresh alkaline batteries and ran a continuous track checking the device about once an hour. The batteries were dead in 12 hours.

I then activated the automatic suspend mode in the Power settings, which suspends everything on the device except the tracking after a user-defined period of non-use (I set it for 5 minutes). With almost identical conditions, the batteries ran for 31 hours before the device powered off with dead batteries.

Touchscreen

Most of the time the touchscreen works very well, but at times it is slow to respond, and in the rain it can sometimes seem to develop a mind of its own. I've found sheltering it from the rain and drying the screen as best I can have always allowed me to get to what I'm trying to access.

Screen/Sound

The screen is crisp and easy to view, and the screen brightness and volume are easy to adjust.

Maps

The pre-installed map pack has proven to be quite accurate, and easy to use (zooming in, zooming out, reading, etc.). The road data seems very up-to-date, even including a number of recent forest road number redesignations in my area.

Water Resistance

I've had the device in some torrential rain, and so far, no issues.

GPS NAVIGATION

I've carried the eXplorist 710 side-by-side with the GPS on my Android smartphone (and HTC Incredible) and have found the Magellan to be equally or more accurate under all conditions. I've taken UTM coordinates when I was at a known location on a map and found the device to be accurate to several feet most of the time, even when the device described its own accuracy as being far less. Overall, I've found it to be very reliable, and able to get a solid satellite signal under all conditions I've encountered so far.

GEOCACHING
IMAGE 4
Barometer is handy feature


Downloading geocaches to the device is a snap, and accessing those that have been downloaded is simple. Once a cache has been selected, pulling up the Options menu allows me to mark the cache as found, not found, needing maintenance, to enter notes, and many other functions quite easily. Even though it lacks the convenience my phone has in being able to download cache data over the air, as a geocaching aid it is far superior to my phone in almost every other way.

AUTOMOBILE NAVIGATION

The automobile navigation works. I don't really care for it, principally because entering an address is rather laborious compared to other GPS devices I own. That said, it does its job and does it well, it just isn't my first choice in my car or SUV. It does do the trick, though, and the installed maps are more accurate on our local forest roads than either of my other two GPS devices.

SOFTWARE

The VantagePoint software works, but I haven't played around with it as much as I'd like to. I'm able to easily upload geocache notes when I connect and open the software, but I haven't played around much with features like transferring tracks or waypoints. I plan to spend more time with it during long-term testing. One big turn-off for me is that the installed satellite maps from Digital Globe have their logo across them and to download and save the images requires an annual subscription.

IMAGE 5
Strip compass mode
IMAGE 6
Regular compass mode
MANUAL

I have to admit I've only accessed the full .pdf manual twice, to find features I wasn't able to quickly locate. I decided shortly after my initial report to not read the entire manual straight through to gain a better understanding of how easy to use and intuitive the device was. Now that I've gained experience with it, I don't really feel I need the manual other than as a reference, but I still plan to sit and read the entire thing soon and will comment further on it in my long-term report.

SUMMARY

Overall, the Magellan eXplorist 710 has been a wonderful GPS device with loads of features and a highly customizable interface that allows me to set up the device to allow me to access the information I want in as easy a way as possible. I don't always find the interface as intuitive as I'd like, but so far I've always been able to track down what I'm looking for without having to spend much time digging through the .pdf manual.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Magellan eXplorist 710 GPS on 3 overnight trips and 4 dayhikes during long-term testing, including one geocaching outing during long-term testing. I've also used it one more time in my car, and on several longer trail runs and runs around town (where I was wearing a hydration pack to carry it). Weather has included rain, snow, sleet, hail, and sun, with temperatures ranging from about 16 F (-9 C) to 58 F (14 C). Elevations have ranged from sea level to approximately 4,800 ft (1463 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

There is not much new for me to report in terms of performance for the Magellan eXplorist 710 GPS. It has continued to work well, and my feelings on its basic performance haven't changed. New observations include:

WEATHER RESISTANCE:

I've attached the eXplorist 710 to the outside of my pack for all long-term testing outings. It has survived torrential rain, wind, snow, sleet, and hail with no discernible damage or change in performance. It has been bumped, dragged, beaten, and scraped against all kinds of things, and shows only minimal mild scuffing on the case. It has proven to me to be very durable and very, very weather resistant. The only challenge I have found is that I generally have to dry the screen somewhat for the touch screen to respond well in very heavy rain, but this hasn't been a major issue. It gets a bit finicky when wet, but I expect that with a touchscreen.

SOFTWARE:

I guess I continue to be less than impressed with the free VantagePoint software. It performs the basic functions I want it to (profiles, mapping and planning tracks, measuring distances, etc.), but the basic pre-installed map provides no detail, and the DigitalGlobe satellite photos just aren't my thing. Once I figured out that I could download the map packs installed on the device to my computer to use with VantagePoint, it was much, much better (mostly because I prefer topographic maps), I still found the level of detail on those maps somewhat disappointing. I might prefer the software with a map pack that is closer to what I would expect to see on a USGS Quad.

Aside from those limitations, the device synchronizes nicely with the software, and it's easy to spot geocaches, POI's, waypoints, tracks, etc. on VantagePoint once they're transferred. Profile and other data can be pulled up by hovering over a track, and all-in-all it's useful and intuitive from that standpoint. It is a very easy way to mark a waypoint at a location you're trying to find and transfer it to the device.

MANUAL:

Ok, so I finally sat down and read the entire manual that can be downloaded (not the small one that comes with the device) and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to do it. BOY do I wish I'd have done that on day one! I think Magellan would be doing themselves a big favor if they put a note in the box that said "We recommend downloading and reading the full version manual available at our website as soon as humanly possible!" It was a tremendous help and provided me with all the missing pieces I wish I'd known up front. It is an extremely well-written, concise, and comprehensive manual. My recommendation to anyone purchasing this unit . . . read the full manual before powering the unit on!

PERFORMANCE:

The altimeter/barometer seems to function accurately compared to benchmark locations I encountered and national weather service data. I've not had any signal acquisition problems under trees or heavy cloud cover or even under extremely heavy snowfall, though in some deep canyons I did encounter a few issues when I simply didn't have a favorable satellite constellation given the limited view of the sky. Thankfully the device can show the satellite locations, so I can gain an idea as to where I might want to move to get a bigger signal if it were ever a concern.

SUMMARY

Overall, I've found the Magellan eXplorist 710 to be a very versatile GPS device that performs well in wet environments. While it can be used for automobile navigation, it really shines outdoors and especially while geocaching. The only drawback I can see is its battery life, though this can be extended by choosing appropriate settings (one of many reasons to download and read the full manual). It's reasonably intuitive to use, up to a point, after which the full manual that can be downloaded is an absolute lifesaver. It is very weather-resistant, and performs well under a variety of conditions.

CONTINUED USE

I will likely continue to use the Magellan eXplorist 710 when I use a GPS. While I've used GPS in the past, I don't rely on it as my primary means of navigation, but rather use it as an aid in locating specific locations (such as geocaches). When I need a GPS, this is probably going to be the first one I reach for given its versatility.

I'd like to thank Magellan and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the eXplorist 710 GPS device. This concludes my report.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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