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Magellan eXplorist 610 Review

Hitthespot 86 Points
edited November -1 in Magellan Handheld Forum
Magellan eXplorist 610 Review

Since I wanted to include some back ground on my GPS experiences, and because I've been so hard on Garmin lately, this review is a little long winded with a lot of my opinion. I've been using GPS for hiking and hunting since the first GPS came out. Long before the multi-channel receivers we have today. I think my first GPS would only track 6 satellites, and usually only under perfect skies. The things I look for in a GPS seem to be somewhat different than what others look for, based on the reviews I've read. For instance if you look at the Garmin GPS 62s reviews on Amazon, you will note most people are extremely happy with this GPS, yet I returned it. I also returned a Garmin Oregon when they first came out. Why? Frankly it was the navigational accuracy, and less important the screen brightness on the Oregon. However, both the Oregon and the 62s had wandering compasses and maps, or it would stick occasionally. If I was in the map screen, or the compass screen navigating, the goto direction would wander back and forth 120 degrees sometimes. It wouldn't do it all the time, but enough to worry me. Sometimes the 62s would settle down for 5 minutes at a time and be fine, but for the moments it acted up, I would get extremely worried. You see I don't care that much about pretty screens, making beautiful maps, a perfect interface, cameras, and instant satellite lock on, if the compass is pointing me in the wrong direction. I don't go geocashing, plan trips based on trails that are already well marked, use my GPS just as a mileage meter, or play games on my GPS. I actually go into the woods, I find and see things other people may not have seen otherwise. Just last year I found a grave marked in the early 1800's of a woman from Massachusetts. For her to have been this far west that long ago simply amazes me. Most will never see that grave because they never travel off the trail. I marked it as a way point, then told my GPS to take me back to my truck, and off we went. I didn't have a clue which way to go until my trusty Garmin 60CSx pointed the way. To me that’s what a GPS is all about, and for me it's what a GPS is for. I would never go hiking or hunting without one. Yes I had a compass with me as backup, I always do. I know it's ironic and that Daniel Boone or Davy Crocket probably never carried a compass, and there was nothing but woods back then. I once read that someone asked Davy Crockett if he had ever been lost before. He replied, "not really, I got turned around once for two or three weeks". It reminds me of the story my grandmother used to tell me as a kid. When your Granddad was young he used to grab his knife and rifle and disappear into the West Virginia mountains for two weeks. The closest wilderness areas to me here in Ohio would make my Grandfather laugh I'm sure, if you walk for just an hour in any direction your bound to hit a road, or more importantly a cell phone signal. But I digress.

I think I will always consider my Garmin 60CSx the standard by which I will measure all future handheld GPS, and I compared it frequently to the 610 in this review. The 60CSx has been a trusted friend. I've used it hiking and hunting with very good and accurate success. There have been many improvements since I bought it and have been looking forward to its replacement. It finally quit around a month ago. I managed to clean the internal battery contacts and get it working again, but that is what prompted my search. I always wanted a backup GPS and now my 60CSx has been designated to that task. However since both of my experiences with the newer Garmin products was less than I had hoped for, I decided to try a different manufacturer. This led me to the Magellan eXplorist series GPS's.

It's ironic that many of the features I did like about the Garmin 62s is nowhere to be seen on the Magellan 610. However the things that I couldn't live with on the 62s actually work quite well on the 610. As you look at the liked list and what needs improvement list, you may feel there are just too many improvements needed on the 610, and you would be right, however, the things I liked about the 610 are the things that are most important to me. Here is how I break it down.



What I liked about the Magellan 610

First let me state I purchased the unit from Amazon for $371.00 and the unit came with software version 6.05. I immediately upgraded to 6.52 through Magellan's web site.

GPS and Compass Accuracy---Once you set your destination, the compass or map points the way with little wandering of the direction pointer, (with one caveat) I did notice the compass completely spin one or two revolutions. It done this a half dozen times in around 18 hours of use. It would always settle right back in again with no problems. I also did not notice any stickiness to the compass and it would continuously update as expected Accurate navigation is the single most important function of the GPS to me, and the Magellan 610 performed very well. It was even more stable than my 60CSx which tends to wander just a little and stick just a tiny bit. No where near as bad as the 62s. (which is why I returned it)

Distance Accuracy---In all cases, where I brought the GPS waypoints over from the Garmin, or if I saved them using the 610, the Magellan 610 consistently took me to within 10 feet of the way point. My 60CSx was almost as good and the 62s came in around 20-25 feet.

Satellite Lock---Satellite lock is fast and stable. Right out of the box the cold acquisition of satellites was under two minutes. Hot, the lock on is within 45 seconds. Why anyone would need any faster lock up is beyond me, however, the 62s is faster. I was in deep forest cover, right around 600 feet above sea level for most of my testing. The woods was thick enough that on a bright sunny day no sunshine could penetrate the woods. I never lost satellite lock with either my 60CSx or my 610. I had also previously tested the 62s under the same conditions. It also kept satellite lock perfectly.

Dashboard---The dashboard on the Magellan is a screen with a compass and user defined data blocks. I found myself liking and using this screen more and more. (Please add the sun icon to this compass!!) I'm really, really, confused what the green monster (is that a snake) and two empty meter gauges are for on this screen? I'm laughing as I'm typing this because I know I'm missing something. I should note that the 60CSx has no such screen but the 62s does have a very similar screen.

Screen Backlight---In general the screen on the 610 is bright and crisp, and better than my 60CSx but not as good as the 62s. I had a hard time seeing the Altitude lines. Light brown on light green is a very poor color choice in my opinion. More on this later.

Ergonomics---I liked the way the GPS felt in the hand. It has a nice rounded back to it. I also thought is was a good looking unit in general. So are the Garmins.

Sun and Moon Icons--- The sun and the moon Icons are on your main compass screen showing you in which direction they are. I found this invaluable. When standing still I could check with a quick glance that the compass was pointing in the right direction just by making sure the sun icon on the compass actually lined up with the direction of the sun. Please never lose this feature! None of the Garmin units I've owned have had this feature. They should add it!

Electronic Compass---The electronic compass is actually pretty accurate. I found it much more reliable than Garmins, and with the sun on the dial it was easy to check.

Altitude---More accurate and more stable than Garmins. I calibrated it once right out of the box and it has remained accurate.

Battery Meter---The battery level indicator is much more accurate and calibrated much better on the Magellan.


What needs Improvement

Processing Speed---The 610 is sometimes slow to recognize commands. You hit an icon on the screen and one or two seconds later the new screen opens up. It doesn't happen every time, but often enough to be noticeable.

Battery Life---On two 2000mah Eneloops I got around 4-5 hours of continuous use. Screen brightness at 100%. The 60CSx. 16 hours or more. The second day I reduced the screen brightness to 40-60% and didn't see much of an improvement. Within 45 minutes my battery icon had already dropped one notch. I was navigating the whole time with the unit so I couldn't place it in suspend mode which is suppose to help battery longevity. I hope so. I just ordered some 2500mah eneloops, and I'm going to reduce the screen backlight from five minutes to one minute, and I'll see how much these two changes improve battery time.

Map Display---I found the map screen very hard to read, not from a brightness standpoint but from a contrast stand point. The colors used on the map need improvement in my opinion. I can barely see the topo lines, and the green background on a bright overcast day render the map almost unreadable, especially street names. I would much prefer a shaded white background. It would help this unit a lot. I purchased the National Geographic maps through Magellan and they are much easier ( not perfect mind you) but much easier to see. I down loaded the GPSFiledeopot Ohio topo maps for the 62s before I returned it, and those maps were much better and easier on the eyes. It does make using the 62s map screen a much more enjoyable experience.

Map Panning---This can be the single most frustrating thing about this unit. You place your finger on the map and slide it to go into panning mode. Never once has my unit panned the first time. Usually I have to try 4 or 5 times or more. Then once you lift your finger to pan some more you have to try 4 or 5 times again. I have a suggestion, zoom out until you only have to pan once, then your frustration level won't cause you to throw the unit deep into the woods.

Touch Screen Sensitivity---The screen can have a mind of its own at times, and I guess this fits right along side the panning sensitivity problem. You press an icon (like the go back in the lower left corner) and you press and you press. Sometimes three or four times before I can get a response. I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong or just need more time with the unit, because at times it fine. I can't imagine trying to use this unit with gloves on. We will see this winter.

Weight---This unit is heavy. I guess it's all that multimedia built in. I could do without the camera, voice recorder, and any other extra's not directly related to navigation. I would have to think long and hard about adding this unit to my hiking pack. I would like to see a newer 560 model unit with no camera, voice recorder, or geocach extras, just the electronic compass and Altimeter. I don't need a weather forecaster either. I have a watch with a barometer and a phone! So forego the barometer. Tool Weight is important, especially when your trying everything you can to get your Camelbak as light as you can.

Interface---I'm a little confused about this units interface and have no idea what the thought process behind it was. Something's you can do on other GPS devices in two commands takes 4 or 5 on the Magellan. Just having to go back to the map screen in order to get to the main menu, or any menu, is enough to irritate you about this unit; and not being able to user set and scroll through different screens is unacceptable. I seen in another review where the user simply quit using it because they thought is was too difficult. Being able to program the two buttons on the left is nowhere near enough. No offence Magellan, but you need to hire someone from Apple or Android's interface department. Even after two 6 hours days and two nights playing with this thing, I can't remember where half of the commands are. I tried for 5 minutes to figure out how to stop a navigation, twice! The Garmin 62s and the 60CSx for that matter wins hands down. I realize one has buttons and one is a touch screen, but I've used the Oregon briefly too with no problems.

Text Input---I guess this sort of goes along with the interface. I will just say its challenging. I like to capitalize the first letter of each word. Going back and forth between two screens is difficult and time consuming. At least squeeze all the letters on the same page.


Conclusion

There are also things I don't consider better or worse about the Garmin or the Magellan devices, just differences. Like the distance read outs. The Magellan reads feet for any distance less than a mile. It seems strange seeing 1320 feet instead of .25 miles, but I have no preference. I love the Carabiner holder on the bottom of the Magellan, but the 62s included Carabiner with clip was also a nice touch. I had heard complaints about Magellan's Vantagepoint. I down loaded VantagePoint 2 and found it just fine. I didn't use BaseCamp long enough to get a good feel for it and I haven't used VantagePoint2 for very long either, but both seem fine to me. VantagePoint2 seems a little less intuitive if you can't immediately find what your looking for, but most of the common commands can be accomplished by an included icon right on the main screen. I had no problems using VantagePoint2 to import my Garmin Waypoints, (NICE!) signing up for National Geographic Maps, then downloading them to my GPS. All without any manual or using the help file. Then there are the little things the 610 does, like how well it geocashes, takes long waypoint notes and has a lot of customization choices. Some the same and some different that the Garmins. I didn't touch on any of that or this review would go from 5 pages to 15, and usually those things are down in the order of importance for me.

To sum up this is my first Magellan GPS and despite my complaints, I've found I really like this GPS. I'm definitely keeping it, if for nothing else it's navigational accuracy. I can live with my complaints because of the simple fact I trust this unit to safely get me home, and as I said, "that's what it's all about for me.". I will just make sure I take plenty of batteries with me. lol. Will this unit work for you? Ask yourself if your just interested in top of the line accuracy with a rugged device. It has most of the options you would want somewhere in the device. it just might be difficult to get to them. However, if you’re a power user and enjoy making and using your own maps, constantly changing screens, comparing notes, checking altitude, barometer, distance traveled, then back to the compass screen, and navigation is second tier, or the best user interface available is most important to you, better get the Garmin as most do. For me, I prefer this Magellan 610, even with its short comings. I'm sure some of my complaints could be corrected or improved through software updates. However I would like to see a new line with the same chip set, faster processors and a better touch screen display. Of course I have no way of knowing if Magellan is planning any of these updates, or a new device, or if they even consider any of my complaints valid. If I hear anything I will do a follow up and post it in this review thread. Now turn off that TV, shut down the computer, and go enjoy the wonderful outdoors.

Thanks

Bill

I can be reached for questions or comments at guitarman1129@gmail.com

Comments

  • Boyd 1735 Points
    Thanks for the detailed review, hopefully it will help others with a decision. As mentioned in another thread, I have a Magellan Triton 1500 and really don't like it as much as my Garmin units.

    My only comment is that $371 sounds like a lot of money considering the long list of things you don't care for. But hopefully it will serve you well.
  • Hitthespot 86 Points
    I would agree Boyd. 371 is a lot of money to spend on a unit that isn't better than this one. However I paid 399 for the 62s and thought they really cheapened that unit up. I will admit if I could find a better unit in the 300-350 range I would buy it.

    I just had the 610 out for another two hour hike this evening. While I did find I either don't understand how this unit is working or what I think is some major software glitches in the trip timer recorders, this unit is still keeping me happy with its accuracy and it's stable navigation screens.
  • Hitthespot 86 Points
    Well I went to turn the unit on today and nothing. Changed the batteries three times and nothing. Sent the unit back for replacement. We will see how unit two works.
  • Boyd 1735 Points
    Wow, didn't even last a whole month. :? My 3 year old Triton still works, although I never use it.
  • Hitthespot 86 Points
    Wow, didn't even last a whole month. :? My 3 year old Triton still works, although I never use it.
    Yea just a little bit more than disapointing. I really don't want a GPS I can't depend on. I was tempted to return it for a refund but I'm willing to give another one a try. At this point I'm already paying for a Garmin subscrition I can't use. I would hate to waste the Magellan one too. LOL
  • Thanks for a great review. At last someone that shares my priorities when it comes to a GPSr. I have also used a CSx for many years and loved it. USB died recently, so I bought an Oregon 450. What a disaster that was. I sent it back for a refund. I was planning to get the 62s, but more research showed this was another turkey. I need to do some more research, particularly on UK maps (they are important to me) and I may just buy this unit as the best of a bad bunch. I don't want to buy Garmin again, that's for sure.
  • Thanks for a great review. At last someone that shares my priorities when it comes to a GPSr. I have also used a CSx for many years and loved it. USB died recently, so I bought an Oregon 450. What a disaster that was. I sent it back for a refund. I was planning to get the 62s, but more research showed this was another turkey. I need to do some more research, particularly on UK maps (they are important to me) and I may just buy this unit as the best of a bad bunch. I don't want to buy Garmin again, that's for sure.
    Somehow I missed getting a notice about your post. I feel your pain. I think if I had it all to do over again I would buy the Delorme. I've had a chance to handle one lately. I would prefer a bigger screen, but I'm willing to give this manufacturer a chance to win my loyalty.

    Have you purchased anything yet? I would be interested in what your choice was and how you like it.
  • Boyd 1735 Points
    if I had it all to do over again I would buy the Delorme. I've had a chance to handle one lately. I would prefer a bigger screen, but I'm willing to give this manufacturer a chance to win my loyalty.
    I'd be very careful with that. I have recently seen many people complain that DeLorme has lost interest in their handheld devices. Over at gpstracklog.com, Rich Owings just said the following in his "GPS Predictions for 2013"
    DeLorme will introduce no new standalone GPS units this year, effectively leaving the handheld GPS market
    Like it or not, Garmin truly owns the GPS market today.
  • dhn 228 Points
    Like it or not, Garmin truly owns the GPS market today.
    In North America, absolutely.

    In Europe, it's till TomTom (for now ....)
  • Boyd 1735 Points
    So.... which TomTom handheld GPS would you recommend and which TomTom topo map do you like? :twisted:
  • Boyd Wrote:
    "I'd be very careful with that. I have recently seen many people complain that DeLorme has lost interest in their handheld devices. Over at gpstracklog.com, Rich Owings just said the following in his "GPS Predictions for 2013"
    DeLorme will introduce no new standalone GPS units this year, effectively leaving the handheld GPS market
    Like it or not, Garmin truly owns the GPS market today.
    Thanks Boyd. I had not heard any of this, but will admit I've done very little lately to keep up with GPS News. I will admit I found it extremely strange that Delorme had not released anything new since their PN-60. However I just attributed it to why mess with a good thing. Thanks for the info and you are right. Garmin owns the GPS market. We need some more competition. Want to start a company. LOL! IF we could incorporate the things you want in a GPS and the things I want, we would have one hell of a GPS.
  • Boyd 1735 Points
    That's a tough one... we have companies exiting the market instead of joining it. Honestly, I've always been content with my Garmin devices and the Montana sets a new standard - I can set it up just the way I like. I also like to make my own maps and there's a lot more software available to do that for Garmin.

    Really, the only thing I would now like is something like the Oregon with a big screen, designed for vehicle use. An iOS or Android app could do a good job of that and we could bring our own hardware. I am probably just dreaming here though. :)
  • Hello,

    I just bought my first ever GPS after reading a number of reviews, the Magellan 610 as per your review and I agree with the difficulties in usiong the device but have had nothing in the past for comparison. However, I bought it for safety here in the arctic as I am not all that experienced on the land in the north. I took my Magellan to the Hunters and Trappers Organization to have the local map complete/with all local routes and, most importantly, cabins marked out. It turns out that they only have ,maps for the Garmin. Is there a way that I could convert their Garmin maps for my Magellan? I'm told that I bring in a chip and they download it for me. Thanks.

    Mark
  • Boyd is the resident map expert around here I'd say. I don't think just down loading them to a chip is all that is needed. They will probably have to be converted from a Garmin format to a Magelland format. However, I know very little about the mapping capabilities myself.

    Hopefully someone else will chime in here shortly.
  • Boyd 1735 Points
    Unfornately there is no straightforward way to convert Garmin maps to Magellan maps. But from what you've said, I'm not sure you are talking about a "map". What you describe sounds like it might be a collection of tracks/routes/waypoints. What kind of file is the "map" you want to convert?

    If it has a .img file extension, that is a map and you can't do anything with it. If it has a .gpx or .gdb file extension, it is waypoints, etc and these can be converted. There are many ways to do that - you could try http://www.gpsvisualizer.com/ for starters.

    But if the file has an .img extension, and if the map is important, your only real alternative will be to sell the Magellan unit and get a Garmin handheld.
  • Hitthespot 86 Points
    Wow, when I wrote this review 4 years ago I never expected this many people would be interested. You still out there Boyd?
  • Tim 1456 Points
    Over 17,000 views, not to shabby! Yes, @Boyd is still around daily.
  • Boyd 1735 Points
    Yep, I am still here. :)
  • Hitthespot 86 Points
    Glad your still around. You can't believe how many emails I have received off this one review in the last couple years. I don't mind though, hopefully I've helped a few good people.
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