This is that thorough review. Presented in chapters as I gain experience with the Explorist 500, you can follow along to learn the features and quirks of Magellan's newest GPS.
This review was written from the perspective of a fairly experienced GPS user. I had owned a Magellan Meridian Gold for more than three years, so many of my comparisons will naturally be with respect to that unit. I have also briefly owned a yellow eTrex, and have used an eTrex Legend for an extended period.
I ordered my Explorist 500 from Harmony Computers (http://www.shopharmony.com) on 6 April 2005. Listed price was $279 plus $14.95 UPS ground shipping for a total cost of $293.95. I also purchased a copy of MapSend DirectRoute software from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/) to use with my GPS. List price for DirectRoute is $99.99 plus $5.58 shipping for a total cost of $105.57. I already own a 32mb SD card to use with the GPS.
The GPS arrived via UPS at 1:30pm, 14 April 2005. Here is a picture of the contents of the package. Included is:
- Explorist 500 GPS
- 3.7v Li ion battery pack
- GPS to USB cable
- 120v AC power cable
- 21-page "Basic User Manual"
- 5-page "Using Mapsend" manual
- Roadmate and GPS accessory advert
- "Installation Wizard" CD ROM
- 1-page "Read Me First" guide
- bilingual (English/French) Warranty guide
After removing the contents, I made a brief inspection of the GPS and accessories before connecting the GPS to the power cable for its initial charge, as recommended by the Read Me First guide.
The USB cable attaches in a similar fashion as the cable on the Magellan 300-, Sportrak-, and Meridian-series GPSs. it is not the same cable, however. The GPS contact point is much smaller, and as noted elsewhere in these forums, quite cumbersome to attach. It can be attached in two different directions.
The cable appears to be designed to fit inside a cradle for immediate connection to the GPS, a la the Meridian cradle/cable.
The cables are pictured here:
As you can see, the USB cable has a Y-connecter where the power cord plugs. The power cord appears to be a standard-type plug, so finding a 12v equivalent should not be difficult. It was noted elsewhere in these forums that the GPS will charge via USB also, but I have not tested this.
The Explorist 500 has 10 buttons. Eight are on the face of the GPS and there is one button on each side. The eight front buttons will be somewhat familiar to a Magellan user, however they are significantly smaller and closer together.
The same "in" and "out" buttons and the "nav" and "menu" buttons are located in similar positions. the "enter" button is located in the center, and doubles as a the rocker. It feels very much like the rocker button on the eTrex line. I hope it doesn't suffer the same failure rate as on those units.
Directly below the rocker is the familiar "esc"ape button. The bottom two buttons are labeled "mark" and "goto" which were combined as one button on previous Magellan units.
The left side button, located near the top of the GPS for easy reach with a thumb or finger is the backlight button. On the right side is the power button. These two buttons are molded into the rubber surround.
This location for the power button appears initially to be a better design than the front location as was on the Meridian series.
On the back of the unit, you will find the battery compartment and the IO port. Also note the lanyard attachment at the top of the unit, a severe oversight on the Meridian series. The GPS is not included with a lanyard, however.
The battery compartment smartly attaches with a screw, rather than the sliding contraption on the Meridian. This is a much better design. The battery compartment must be unscrewed to open, which takes a few seconds, but is far less likely to come off on its own. It also appears to provide a better seal.
The SD card is inserted by placing it on a hinged holder, then snapping it into place. It is quite flimsy. I am not keen on using this mechanism repeatedly. I fear this will become a weak point in the GPS. Fortunately, it should be rare that one needs to take the SD card out and re-insert it.
The battery slides in very snugly and is held securely inside the GPS. This is good, as it will reduce the chance that the GPS will lose battery power through vibration, a problem on some other GPS units. You can also see a foam insert on the battery cover. Again, to keep the battery from moving inside the GPS.
Overall my first impressions of the GPS are positive. The inclusion of a lanyard attachment was smart, and I'm impressed by the battery cover and the new layout of the buttons.
The negatives that I perceive are the SD card slot and the cable attachment point. It's a shame Magellan didn't fit this USB-ready GPS with a standard mini-USB slot. Time will tell if the buttons are too small for comfort.
Next chapter will be released after the batteries have charged and I've had time to turn the unit on and use it.