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The Explorist 500 Experience

#1 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 11:39 AM

Since the release of the high end Magellan Explorist series (400, 500, 600), many of us have been itching for information and pictures about this new GPS unit. Early users were kind enough to share some of their experience and pictures of their GPSs. It's from this information that I decided to purchase an Explorist 500, but I wanted for a thorough review.

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
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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jamie

#2 User is offline   Marcie/Eric 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 11:54 AM

You rock Jamie. Thanks.... & keep them coming. I am thinking of getting a 5 or 600 and letting the GF use my Gold. Love to hear more.

Much appreciation.
E

#3 User is offline   embra 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 01:02 PM

Nicely done, Jamie; I look forward to your continued report. Your pictures show good detail.

A few reflections on your report so far: you'll likely want a larger SD card. I was quite comfortable with a 64 when I used Topo alone, but the advantages of autorouting with DR drove me to get a bigger card. I currently use about half of a 256 MB card.

I think your analysis of the battery compartment is spot-on. Waterproofness was a problem with Meridians, and this one looks to have a better seal. It would be a pain if you had to replace batteries frequently or take the SD card out a lot, but that's not the case for explori.

Edit: rather than post an additional message, I'll add that I don't think the flimsiness of the SD holder will be an issue. With the USB connection, there won't be much need to remove it.

The universal USB connector would be very convenient, but I'll bet the engineers were apprehensive about a waterproof seal.

This post has been edited by embra: 14 April 2005 - 01:25 PM


#4 User is offline   Hard Oiler 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 01:26 PM

Good summary - I got mine today so was particularly interested. You say:

"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."

I suspect you mean a cig lighter adaptor that will plug in - but not 12 volts. The wall wart output is 5 volts - I wouldn't want to try 12.

I do have a small 75W inverter for the car - I assume that plugging the wall wart into that wouldn't cause any problems?

#5 User is offline   Marky 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 03:02 PM

If you keep your eye out on deals, you can get a 1gig SD for around $59.

--Marky

#6 User is offline   badlands 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 05:27 PM

Great review! I’ll be watching this post for updates. Thanks

#7 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 05:28 PM

To answer the above posed questions:

I'm only using the 32mb SD card because it's what I have. My 128mb SD card was inside my Meridian Gold when it was stolen, this was an extra I had.

Of course I mean one could find a 12v cigarette lighter adapter with 5v output to plug into the USB cord.

Well, now that I've had a few hours to flip around the screens on the GPS, I have a few impression. Keep in mind that I have not used the GPS in the field, only about 30 minutes of playing in my room plus about 45 minutes when I walked to my class and back this evening.

One thing I forgot to mention in the last post is that the screen is nearly flush with the front of the GPS. The Meridian, in contrast, has a deeply recessed screen for protection. The Explorist 500 is more exposed, and thus more apt to be scratched.

To answer RobertLipe's question from another thread. This appears to be just a rework of the 300 and Meridian series firmware. Most of the menus and screens are identical to those on my Meridian Gold. Here are pictures of the four main screen. Note that the horizontal lines in the pictures are not on the GPS. In fact, the screen is quite clear. (All pictures were taken with the backlight on the medium setting)

Map Screen:
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Compass Screen:
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Location Screen:
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Satellite Screen:
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The color screen is very clear, and the resolution is excellent. I cannot compare the color to any other GPS, since I've only handled a 60cs for a few minutes several months ago.

The click stick has proven to be quite handy. I much prefer this input technique over the balky scrolling on the Meridian followed by pressing the enter button. Combining the enter button and the click stick was a good idea. That said, my click stick is already a little finicky. I said a little. I can notice that pushing in the up direction requires slightly more force than the other directions. It's not a problem now, but what about in a few years? This feature has me worried about longevity.

You'll notice on the location screen in the bottom right corner, the indication for External Power. Very nice. Simply attach the USB cable in the "down" direction, and the GPS is powered by your computer. If you turn the cable to the "up" position, the battery will be charged through the USB port. Again, great feature.

Another nice feature I've found is a screen to personalize your GPS. See here:

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I like being able to enter my personal information into the GPS in case it gets lost or stolen. Trouble is, this data is not readily available. The screen to enter your personalized data is two menus deep. I found that the data does show up on the "About" screen, shown here:

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The "About" screen is also two menus deep. I doubt any good samaritan will be able to figure that out very quickly. The personal data should appear on the power-up screen when you first turn on the GPS.

The power up: My big gripe here is that upon powering the GPS, the backlight default is full bright. The screen is quite readable in the daylight even at the lowest setting, so after turning the unit on, I have to press the backlight button twice to reach the lowest setting.

I found a workaround to this, sort of. Under Preferences-->Power Management, there is a backlight timer. Set to 30 seconds, the backlight will turn off when no buttons have been pressed for 30 seconds. The problem here is that when the backlight is off, your first button press only serves to turn on the backlight, and not perform the function you desire.

The backlight button itself is an issue. As I stated earlier, I like the postion of the backlight button. Unfortunately, it responds instantaneously, rather than the typical press-and-hold backlights of other GPSs. This means that in your pocket or pack, any slight pressure for an instant will turn on the backlight.

The power button, on the opposite side, is similar. One instantaneous press, and the GPS will turn off after a 5-second countdown. There is no two-button confirmation power-down option as there is on the Meridian line. There should be.

The trip odometer, as shown on the location screen, is no longer shown to 0.01 mile as it was on the Meridian.

The main thing the Explorist 500 lacks is a selection of screen. I sorely miss the 6-data field screen on the Meridian. Four screens is simply not enough. The location screen is not even customizable. Only the map screen and the compass screen with two data fields each are customizable. This was a bit mistake from Magellan. Hopefully they will quickly realize this error and make corrections in upcoming firmware.

Well, as you can tell, the function of this GPS has not impressed me in my first few hours of use. I have not had a chance to use the geocaching mode, and I have not used any detailed maps yet.

Magellan should have rebadged this one the Meridian Color Lite. It's basically a Meridian minus several major and minor features but with a really cool color screen.

As I get a chance to use it more, I will post further impressions.

Jamie

This post has been edited by Jamie Z: 14 April 2005 - 05:58 PM


#8 User is offline   Hard Oiler 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 06:19 PM

I've been comparing the Explorist with the Meridian and there is a fair bit of functionality that is missing - not just the extra screens. Secondary coordinates and the ability to do projections are two of the Meridian firmware features I've found useful that I can't find on the Explorist. The area calculation is new but not sure I'll have much use for it. Projections I'll miss as there are a few caches that need it. Even my old 315 would do it! Might need to take it along as back-up.
Hopefully some of these will get re-introduced with firmware updates.

#9 User is offline   embra 

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 06:41 PM

As I play around with mine, I'm not liking the joystick as much as Jamie so far. I do expect I'll get used to it, but the same sort of control on my IBM ThinkPad just bugs me. It *is* a clever, efficient design...those rocker buttons on the Meridian would never fit in here.

On the other hand, I'm less worried about accidental pushes to the power or light buttons. They are exposed, but it seems to me to take a pretty firm push. Failure to push the joystick within 30 seconds of powering on leads to automatic shutoff.

I'm more reassured after handling the 500 for a little while that one-handed operation will be doable. The keys are small enough and close enough that your thumb touches two or three of them at once. It's a little disconcerting, like typing on a tiny keyboard. Still, when you want to push a particular key, that's the only one that gets pushed.

FWIW, the clock seems to be within a second of what my computer reports as atomic time.

#10 User is offline   dboggny 

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 02:46 AM

Any comments on reception withe the switch from the quad helix to the patch antenna?

#11 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 02:54 AM

dboggny, on Apr 15 2005, 04:46 AM, said:

Any comments on reception withe the switch from the quad helix to the patch antenna?

I would attribute any change in antenna sensitivity to size rather than design--and the Explorist antenna is most certainly smaller than the Meridian antenna--I haven't had enough experience with the antenna to make much of a comment. Also, since I no longer have my Meridian, I cannot make any direct comparisons anytime in the near future. I can only relate how I recall the performance of the Meridian.

That said, one of the first things I noticed when I began playing with the GPS in my room is that while my Meridian would usually get a signal inside my room sitting on my desk, the Explorist did not do this.

If I put the GPS near the window, I could get a signal, and when I went outside and then came back in, the GPS held a signal for several minutes afterward.

I took a short trip in my car, and the GPS had not trouble keeping a signal while sitting on the seat beside me.

[edit] by "get a signal" I mean maintain GPS lock. In my room, the Explorist shows a couple of bars on the satellite screen, but not enough to calculate a postion.

Jamie

This post has been edited by Jamie Z: 15 April 2005 - 03:48 AM


#12 User is offline   dboggny 

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 03:02 AM

thanks jamie. when you get into the woods, let us know how the reception is. i appreciate the comments you are all making.

#13 User is offline   embra 

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 04:53 AM

My 2 cents: I still get reception on my 500 at my desk. The leaves are just coming out this week where I live so in a few days I can do a foliage comparison. It's a wee bit early now.

Edit: after letting both units sit next to each other on my desk for 15 minutes, I have 6-8 sats plus one WAAS on the plat, while the 500 is tracking 6-8 birds plus it has a lock on 2 WAAS birds. There's some fluctuation because several of the signals are marginal.

Both units report EPE/Accuracy dancing around 13 to 20 feet. In my book they seem to be comparable, I don't really see one doing better than the other.

This post has been edited by embra: 15 April 2005 - 06:54 AM


#14 User is offline   SgtSue 

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 05:47 AM

Right outside of DC in a still very built up area while inside my apartment my Explorist was pulling 7 satellites last night. The only time I completely lose reception is in the underground parking garage. My Garmin V pulls 5 in the same location.

#15 User is offline   SnaptheFrog 

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 06:00 AM

Excellent review. I'm looking forward to what else you'll be writing.

This the first GPS I've ever owned, so everything is novel and interesting to me.

Don't forget to include the lanyard hole in your review. haha I remember somebody was curious about that.

#16 User is offline   Hard Oiler 

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Posted 15 April 2005 - 01:35 PM

I took my 500 along with my old Meridian Gold for a test walk today. Carried them in non-optimum configuration - in their canvas bags, strapped to my waist, one each side. Recorded tracks with Track Mode set at 0.01km which I've usually found more reliable than the default Auto Detailed. Uploaded both tracks to Mapsend Topo Canada (took a bit of figuring out how to do it with the Explorist but it works). Was in trees a lot of the way although no leaves yet. Not a controlled test but the Explorist did a better job of following the route I took. The track uploaded to Mapsend said I'd walked 3.2km - which is about right - however the odometer on the GPS said I'd only been 2.8km. Something wrong there although I've seen the same thing with the Meridian. The Meridian read higher on the odometer but the track took some excursions (without me) including a big jump across the river at the end. Again I've seen this before with the Meridian - one bad reading throwing off the averaging which shows up as a track deviation. Overall I was pretty pleased with the Explorist. I get the impression it's doing a lot less smoothing/averaging as it shows a couple of minor detours off trail that the Meridian missed. On the way home I let it autoroute for the first time with DirectRoute and it worked fine.

Here are the two tracks - Explorist in red and Meridian Gold in gold:
Posted Image

#17 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 02:15 AM

After a number of days of use, including several geocaches, drives in the car, and one 20-mile bike ride, I feel I can comment about using the Explorist 500 in the field. This review will be based mostly on the software aspect of the GPS.

First, let me again voice my disappointment that the Explorist 500 has only four navigation screens. Using MapSend DirectRoute software, which defaults the map screen to show the turn-by-turn directions leaves the GPS with just one customizable screen having only two data fields. This is bordering on unacceptable.

I had noticed that the Explorist 500 seemed to take a little longer to acquire satellite lock than my Meridian Gold. An unscientific comparison with a friend's Meridian Gold agreed with my feeling. In two "warm" starts, the Explorist required a few more seconds than the Meridian to acquire lock. During side-by-side use in the car, I noticed no difference in reception.

The screen continues to amaze me. A brief comparison with an eTrex Legend C and a GPSmap 60cs indicates that for all practical purposes, the color and resolution of the Explorist 500 is comparable to the Garmin units. The Explorist screen is very high contrast, with all the different object on the map being highly different colors, with the exception of the tracklog and the GOTO line. Curiously, both the tracklog and goto lines show up as black dotted lines.

Here are pictures of the Explorist 500 next to a Legend C and GPSmap 60cs. Unfortunately, the quality of pictures doesn't allow a very good comparison of the screen color or resolution, but the pictures provide a good overview as well as a good size comparison of the units.

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The other great new feature of the Explorist 500 is the file management system. The Meridian series were always considered incredibly flexible owing to their SD expandability. The Explorist takes this several steps further. The GPS has 16 megs of internal memory, plus the SD slot. Both the internal memory and SD card can be used to store maps, tracklogs, waypoints, and geocache files. In fact, switching between internal memory and SD memory is virtually seamless on the GPS. You can see the file trees below. It is a simple task (although sometimes button intensive) to navigate the many different files and folders.

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A great addition to the file management system is that you can search for waypoints without having to load a particular waypoint file into memory. Want to create a GOTO to a particular multicache? Open up your multicache waypoint folder, find the geocache, and press GOTO. Next you want to GOTO home? Open up the appropriate waypoint folder, highlight "Home" and press GOTO. There is no need, like on most other GPSs, to have the waypoints in GPS memory. You can easily copy or move waypoints from one folder to another. This is very slick, and a well thought-out design from Magellan.

Note the waypoint name "Home". Waypoint names can be upper- and lower-case on the Explorist, and can be relatively long 20-characters. Add the 46-character comment field and that's a lot of data you can have for an individual waypoint. Again, nice touch.

The geocaching "mode" on the Explorist is a nice touch also, although in practice I find it has little advantage over regular waypoints, and several disadvantages and limitations.

To use the geocaching mode, you must use a GPX file and the supplied Geocache Manager program to convert the GPX file. When sent to the GPS, the geocaches go to a special geocache folder, which is separate from other waypoints. When you view geocaches on the map screen, an icon similar to those used on geocaching.com appears. You can click on the geocache and a geocache screen displays information about the geocache, seen here:

Posted Image

Unfortunately, this screen is of limited value. Most of the data displayed is not useful for finding the cache. The useful information it does have is terrain and difficulty ratings, and cache type. Date placed and date of last find might also be considered useful in some cases. As you can see in my demonstration picture, some text runs off the right side of the screen. You cannot scroll to view the obscured words. There is no field for container size.

The hint can also be accessed on a separate screen, here:

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The hint is truncated if longer than 50 characters. Oddly, the data imported to the Explorist actually contains the entire hint if more than 50 characters, but only the first 50 are shown on the hint screen.

The geocaching mode on the Explorist 500 is a welcome effort by Magellan, but I think they missed the mark. If you are used to using your PDA or carrying the cache page, this does not replace that. The Explorist 500 simply doesn't show enough information about the cache to become a self-contained caching machine.

The main flaw of the geocaching mode is that individual geocaches cannot be edited or deleted from the database. There is no way to indicate a found geocache. If you are like me, I like to delete the cache waypoint after I find it to clear up the map screen and also to denote (indirectly) my finds. This is not possible on the Explorist 500. Also, if you typically edit the coordinates as you progress through a multi-cache, you won't be able to do that within the geocache mode on the Explorist. As noted previously, the Explorist 500 currently lacks a waypoint projection feature, which is necessary for some offset caches.

Those flaws and limitations make the geocaching mode an unused novelty on my GPS. I will likely continue to treat geocaches as regular waypoints, so I can edit and delete them as I please, as well as include the information I want in the waypoint name and comment field.

My overall impression of using the Explorist can be summed up rather nicely by a quote from Embra:

"The general feel I have is that the exlorist does a few things that the Meridian didn't (the file manager is nice, the geocache thing is a step in the right direction but stunted), doesn't do a few things the Meridian did (loss of some of the screens), but what it does seems to be pretty solid."

Jamie

#18 User is offline   Dosido 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:48 AM

I bought an Explorist 500 from Harmony (thanks, Jamie!) to replace my Sportrak Topo. I have taken them out twice together on trips. I had the same experience as Jamie in noticing that the satellite lock was just a touch slower on the Explorist than the Sportrak.

However, the Explorist has no 'position lag' like the Sportrak. This is very welcome, as I hated caching with the Sportrak, and having to stop 100 feet from the cache and wait for the Sportrak to settle down - if I walked to ground zero for the sportrak, I'd routinely have to backtrack 50-100 feet.

Unfortunately, the leaves aren't out in full force, so I can't compare the Sportrak reception in tree cover (excellent) to the Explorist yet.

I'm awaiting my DirectRoute CD to start playing with it a little more.

Brian

#19 User is offline   thefabfive 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 05:06 AM

This info is great. I will be interested to see how they perform in the trees with canopy cover and finding caches. Keep up the great posts!

#20 User is offline   Stunod 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 05:53 AM

Dosido, on Apr 20 2005, 07:48 AM, said:

However, the Explorist has no 'position lag' like the Sportrak.  This is very welcome, as I hated caching with the Sportrak, and having to stop 100 feet from the cache and wait for the Sportrak to settle down - if I walked to ground zero for the sportrak, I'd routinely have to backtrack 50-100 feet.

I'll confirm this, too. As a previous user of a Meridian I got used to "stopping early" or having to turn around and backtrack while the Garmin users walked right up to the cache. Earlier this week I found 7 caches and my new eX600 took me right to the cache location, never past it. I'm very happy that Magellan fixed this annoying problem.

This post has been edited by Stunod: 20 April 2005 - 05:54 AM


#21 User is offline   JohnnyVegas 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 07:36 AM

I have had a chance to use my Explorist to find some caches along with my Meridian gold. I have not seen any real differance in the reception between the two, and both are very accurate. I did have a chance to try the explorist in Down Town San Francisco while at a meeting close to the transamerica building, and as expected the signel reception was not very good there, just like with my meridian a few months ago. Like any GPS, they just do not like large buildings ( It must be real bad in a city like New York were the buildings are even taller ).
For me not being able to edit the cache page on the explorist is not a problem, I have never done this with any of my other GPSrs. While I agree the hints could be longer, for most caches they should be ok, the Explorist will not replace my Pocket PC, but it will reduce the number if times I have to take it out of my pocket and challange the laws of gravity. If one becomes broken it would be more expensive to replace my Pocket PC than my explorist 500.

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 08:15 AM

Although you're probably right that there is no difference in reception I have noticed that the Explorist gets better reception when held horizontal while the Meridian prefers being held vertical - due to the different antennas used. In that my natural instinct is to hold a GPSr horizontal, even if theory says I shouldn't, I have been finding what I think is a small advantage for the Explorist.

I do plan a test of the boomerang effect to see if it really is reduced but haven't had an opportunity yet. I can never get it happen with my Meridian in the backyard - not enough tree cover and not a long enough distance I suspect. Need to wait for a few more leaves on the trees and take it into the bush for a better test.

#23 User is offline   embra 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 10:15 AM

Since Jamie's excellent report strives for comprehesiveness, I'll piggy-back my last battery run-down tests here (including the two previous results):

With backlight on lowest: 16 hours 23 minutes
With backlight on mid-level: 13 hours 52 minutes
With backlight on highest: 7 hours 36 minutes

Time from low battery alarm to shutdown: approx 15 minutes with backlight on low.


Also, let me add a slight clarification to a number Jamie reported above. While it is true that the 500 has 16MB internal memory, 8MB is taken up bythe basemap effectively leaving 8MB for the rest of the things one might want to store there.

It is not yet clear to me if one could dump the basemap or replace it with a smaller one, leaving more memory for other things. For most of us, the SD card makes it a moot point.

#24 User is offline   flir67 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 10:37 AM

you would think after all the magellan units they made , the text problem could be addressed with wordwrap or some controls to scroll over or down.the sprotrak color had the same issue waypoint and texting lenght naming. but the new unit looks nice with the pictures you posted. can't wait to get mine in a few days. I just ordered the 600

#25 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 11:08 AM

embra, on Apr 20 2005, 12:15 PM, said:

Also, let me add a slight clarification to a number Jamie reported above. While it is true that the 500 has 16MB internal memory, 8MB is taken up bythe basemap effectively leaving 8MB for the rest of the things one might want to store there.

Thanks for the clarification. I forgot to include that part.

Also, thanks for the battery run-down times.

I have purchased a bike mount for my Explorist, and have successfully mated it to a RAM mount for my car. (If you follow along with my rants, you might know that I strongly dislike Magellan's excuse for a car mount.) I'll try to get pictures up soon.

Jamie

#26 User is offline   Stunod 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 11:59 AM

Jamie Z, on Apr 20 2005, 02:08 PM, said:

I have purchased a bike mount for my Explorist, and have successfully mated it to a RAM mount for my car. (If you follow along with my rants, you might know that I strongly dislike Magellan's excuse for a car mount.) I'll try to get pictures up soon.

Does it work like the Meridian mount...holding the data/power cable against the contacts when the GPS is snapped into place?

#27 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 12:02 PM

Stunod, on Apr 20 2005, 01:59 PM, said:

Does it work like the Meridian mount...

Short answer: yes. Long answer coming later.

Jamie

#28 User is offline   Stunod 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 12:09 PM

Jamie Z, on Apr 20 2005, 03:02 PM, said:

Stunod, on Apr 20 2005, 01:59 PM, said:

Does it work like the Meridian mount...

Short answer: yes. Long answer coming later.

Jamie

Uh oh... ;)

#29 User is offline   Marky 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 02:18 PM

Jamie Z, on Apr 20 2005, 11:08 AM, said:

I have purchased a bike mount for my Explorist, and have successfully mated it to a RAM mount for my car. (If you follow along with my rants, you might know that I strongly dislike Magellan's excuse for a car mount.)

I dislike Mag's suctioncup windshield mount, but I love the swivel mount (I have mine stuck to the dash with extra strength cushioned double stick tape). I would hate any solution that didn't automatically connect me to external power when I plopped the GPS into the mount.

--Marky

#30 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 03:48 PM

Stunod, on Apr 20 2005, 02:09 PM, said:

Uh oh...  :laughing:

It's not bad.

I purchased my Explorist bicycle mount at the local Bass Pro Shops. Price was $29.99 plus tax, which I think is overpriced. Several online retailers had it for less, but with shipping worked out to be almost the same. Here is the package:

Posted Image

Quite plain as you can see. Other Magellan products have a picture of the GPS. Oh well.

Since this is a bicycle mount, it has the curved handlebar bracket on the back, here. As with the Meridian cradle, this cradle has the hardware to use with Marky's favorite swivel mount.

Posted Image

But I know most of you don't care about the handlebar mount, you want to know about the cradle, and will it hold the data cable. As I said, yes.

There are no moving parts like the Meridian cradle. The GPS is held in place by the rounded bottom, and a small tab on the top that clicks into the lanyard hole on the Explorist. To remove the GPS, there is a thumb tab at the top of the cradle to bend the tab out of the hole. It's not as cool to this mechanical engineering student as the Meridian cradle. My only concern is the small tab breaking.

The tab can be seen in this picture, which has the data cable also installed:

Posted Image

The cable is held in place by the small tab which is on the top of the cable. You can see it here:

Posted Image

It snaps into place, and like the GPS, bending the tab slightly removes the cable. It's a little hard to get in and out, and it can only be attached in the "cable down" position.

It's a pretty simple device, and seems to work well. Like I mentioned before, the cable can only be mounted in one position, and the tab is small enough to be breakable. Also, the small tab precludes the use of a lanyard on the GPS. There is no cutout for routing the cable on the back of the cradle as there was with the Meridian cradle.

My only other complaint is that the bottom of the cradle which wraps around the GPS comes within about 1/8 inch of the lower buttons. It can interfere slightly with pressing those buttons.

In the next post, you'll see pictures of the GPS mounted in the cradle.

Jamie

#31 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:01 PM

Marky, on Apr 20 2005, 04:18 PM, said:

I dislike Mag's suctioncup windshield mount... I would hate any solution that didn't automatically connect me to external power when I plopped the GPS into the mount.

I had this same dilemma with the Meridian. I've found a quick and easy fix for my Explorist.

If you're like me, you've insisted on a RAM mount for your GPS. If you're like Marky, you won't accept a GPS cradle that doesn't automatically attach the power cable. Here's my fix:

As per my previous post, I've purchased the bicycle mount for the Explorist. I wanted a way to mount the GPS in my car, also. Here is a picture of the bicycle mounting components, plus the piece of the RAM which normally bolts (RAM mounts bolt, They don't screw) to the RAM GPS cradle.

Posted Image

As you can see, the holes won't line up. My first thought was to simply drill a couple of additional holes into the RAM piece, which would line up with holes on the Meridian mount. While that is a good solution, I realized that one bolt would probably work fine.

Posted Image

I simply used the sheet metal screws that came with the Explorist mount and attached the RAM component through one of its holes. You can see that the RAM attachment is too long, but all the parts here are sturdy enough to make it good and tight. It doesn't rotate unless I use a strong force with my hands.

This is what it looks like in my car:

Posted Image

And a close-up:

Posted Image

Here you can also see how the cradle slightly interferes with the bottom buttons.

Voila! RAM mount for the Explorist which will automatically connect external power.

Now if only Magellan made a cable for the Explorist which didn't that Y. Will they make one that just goes from GPS to 12v outlet?

Jamie

#32 User is offline   Hard Oiler 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:17 PM

Jamie Z, on Apr 20 2005, 07:01 PM, said:

Now if only Magellan made a cable for the Explorist which didn't that Y. Will they make one that just goes from GPS to 12v outlet?

Jamie

Several stores have one listed - but I don't see it on the Magellan site yet (but what's new!)

Boatfix lists them for $13.64

#33 User is offline   embra 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 07:40 PM

Re: the Y. Note that the wall-wart can be unplugged from the Y, leaving just the USB.

I'm going to start off going with the USB cable plugged into a USB cigarette lighter adapter as EScout has described elsewhere.

I'm a bit bummed that use of the Magellan mounts may preclude the use of a lanyard. I've been using a lanyard borrowed from my digital camera for the last week, and I rather like it.

#34 User is offline   Stunod 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 07:53 PM

embra, on Apr 20 2005, 10:40 PM, said:

Re: the Y. Note that the wall-wart can be unplugged from the Y, leaving just the USB.

I'm going to start off going with the USB cable plugged into a USB cigarette lighter adapter as EScout has described elsewhere.

I'm a bit bummed that use of the Magellan mounts may preclude the use of a lanyard. I've been using a lanyard borrowed from my digital camera for the last week, and I rather like it.

The lanyard I use is from a digital camera and has a very fine wire loop for the connection point. I would think that it wouldn't interfere with the mount...whaddya think, Jamie?

As for the USB power...as far as I can tell, the unit will only RECHARGE the battery if the GPS is turned off, otherwise it is just running on external power.

#35 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 08:04 PM

Stunod, on Apr 20 2005, 09:53 PM, said:

The lanyard I use is from a digital camera and has a very fine wire loop for the connection point. I would think that it wouldn't interfere with the mount...whaddya think, Jamie?

I'd give it about 20%. Just for you, I attempted to insert the Explorist into the cradle with my geocaching.com lanyard connected. No luck. The tab fits very snugly into the "lanyard" hole. Maybe if your lanyard is very fine.

Awkward solution: use the loop on the battery compartment screw for your lanyard. I'm not sure how much you can trust the integrity of it, though.

Embra... of course I know you can unplug the power cord, but it still leaves me with a USB cable that has a strange looking un-necessary add on. I'm only being picky when I want a dedicated cable for my car. What if I tear this cable up? It's the only access my Explorist has to the outside world.

Jamie

#36 User is offline   embra 

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 08:43 PM

Stunod, on Apr 20 2005, 10:53 PM, said:

As for the USB power...as far as I can tell, the unit will only RECHARGE the battery if the GPS is turned off, otherwise it is just running on external power.

Oh, drat. I think you're right. Well, that will probably work well enough for a day's worth of use, although I may have to succomb to the 12-v Magellan adapter eventually.

As you point out, Jamie, it's nice to have a dedicated cable you can just leave in the car. I figured if I ruin the data cable that I'd just buy another; it somehow seems unlikely but who knows?

We'll have to figure something out on that lanyard deal. Maybe carving the tab down a little, making a loop with some dental floss through the lanyard hole, I don't know. Creative minds will find a way, as seems to have happened with that RAM/Magellan mount marriage. Nice work, Jamie.

#37 User is offline   Dosido 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 04:22 AM

Jamie Z, on Apr 20 2005, 08:04 PM, said:

Awkward solution: use the loop on the battery compartment screw for your lanyard. I'm not sure how much you can trust the integrity of it, though.

The battery compartment screw should hold up fine. It's the same screw that is used on the Sportrak Map GPSrs (on their battery case) for the lanyard attachment on those unit.
I've used mine for a year and half with no issues.

Brian

#38 User is offline   Marky 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 05:53 AM

Jamie Z, on Apr 20 2005, 08:04 PM, said:

Stunod, on Apr 20 2005, 09:53 PM, said:

The lanyard I use is from a digital camera and has a very fine wire loop for the connection point.  I would think that it wouldn't interfere with the mount...whaddya think, Jamie?

I'd give it about 20%. Just for you, I attempted to insert the Explorist into the cradle with my geocaching.com lanyard connected. No luck. The tab fits very snugly into the "lanyard" hole. Maybe if your lanyard is very fine.

Oh, that's sad. They did such a good job with the Sportrak Color in that regard, I thought they would have continued that functionality.

--Marky

#39 User is offline   jamesbe2759 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 06:36 AM

Excellent review & pictures Jamie. You've done such a good job that I need to go buy the 500. My wife will have a sh_t hemorrage.
:rolleyes:

#40 User is offline   vagabond 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 07:24 AM

I've been a long time gold user, but these new units look a little questionable. Maybe 6 months down the road they'll have all the bugs out of them. Either that or gag gag I'll be going with one of the garmin 60 series.

#41 User is offline   robertlipe 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 07:30 AM

Because the 60 series doesn't have bugs and annoyances?

#42 User is offline   hermdog 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 07:35 AM

On the eXp 500 is there anyway to set the default storage location to be the SD card always?

HermDog

#43 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 11:30 AM

hermdog, on Apr 21 2005, 09:35 AM, said:

On the eXp 500 is there anyway to set the default storage location to be the SD card always?

No, not really. But the way the file system is designed, there's not much need. When connecting the GPS to your computer, this is the screen you get:

Posted Image

So you can't connect the GPS without selecting one or the other.

When saving tracks or waypoints, the GPS goes to your active track or waypoint folder or file. Switching between folders and even switching between internal and SD memory is simple, requiring only a few button presses. In addition, individual waypoints and other files can be copied and moved easily, if you save it to the wrong place or change your mind later.

Jamie

#44 User is offline   vagabond 

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Posted 21 April 2005 - 12:22 PM

robertlipe, on Apr 21 2005, 07:30 AM, said:

Because the 60 series doesn't have bugs and annoyances?

rotflmao

No just a few less

#45 User is offline   Hard Oiler 

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 05:46 AM

embra, on Apr 20 2005, 11:43 PM, said:

Stunod, on Apr 20 2005, 10:53 PM, said:

As for the USB power...as far as I can tell, the unit will only RECHARGE the battery if the GPS is turned off, otherwise it is just running on external power.

Oh, drat. I think you're right. Well, that will probably work well enough for a day's worth of use, although I may have to succomb to the 12-v Magellan adapter eventually.

As you point out, Jamie, it's nice to have a dedicated cable you can just leave in the car. I figured if I ruin the data cable that I'd just buy another; it somehow seems unlikely but who knows?

We'll have to figure something out on that lanyard deal. Maybe carving the tab down a little, making a loop with some dental floss through the lanyard hole, I don't know. Creative minds will find a way, as seems to have happened with that RAM/Magellan mount marriage. Nice work, Jamie.

It is true that with the USB connector in the normal down position it runs on External Power and doesn't charge the battery unless the GPS is turned off. However if you reverse the connection to the up position it does charge the battery even with the GPS on. After an afternoon of caching and the battery down a quarter it was back to full charge within half-an-hour with the GPS left on.

Unfortunately, with the mounts, the power cord that comes with the GPS only fits in the down position so won't charge unless the GPS is off. Makes me wonder if the 12v adaptor that they sell is wired differently so it will charge with the GPS on.

Does anyone have one and could check this out?

BTW - I have the swivel mount and with a lanyard (from a digital camera) attached to the battery compartment screw loop the GPS sits in the cradle quite happily. Makes it very easy to connect to the PC - you just have to slip the GPS into the cradle and it's connected. Now I'll have to buy another mount for the car, especially if the 12V connector is wired to charge with the GPS on.

#46 User is offline   Jamie Z 

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Posted 22 April 2005 - 06:13 AM

Hard Oiler, on Apr 22 2005, 07:46 AM, said:

Unfortunately, with the mounts, the power cord that comes with the GPS only fits in the down position so won't charge unless the GPS is off. Makes me wonder if the 12v adaptor that they sell is wired differently so it will charge with the GPS on.

Connecting the supplied cable in the down position, and attaching the supplied 120v AC cord, the GPS indicates "Charging" while turned on.

With the cable still in the down position, connected to only USB, the GPS indicates "External Power."

Ideally, I'd think that a 12v cable would have a switch on it to change from charging the battery to external power. I wouldn't want to be charging the battery the whole time during a six- or eight-hour drive.

Since the cradle allows for only attaching the cable in the down position, it should have both functions available.

Jamie

#47 User is offline   Catlon 

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 10:24 AM

Listed are some of my learnings from using the Explorist 500:

It appears that you are only able to upload a maximum of 200 cache points using the Geocaching Manager software, even though more are displayed on the Geocaching Manager screen. The options are: 1) All Geocaches, or 2) only those selected. No matter which one I choose, it will only upload the first 200, based on Cache ID (alphabetically). So, that means that if you want to upload more than 200 at a time, then the newest caches will be left off, since they are farther down the list alphabetically.

However, there is a way around this - just create another cache file to hold another 200, and so on. This is true, whether you are saving to the Internal Memory, or to an SD card. And nowhere is this litle detail mentioned.


I also have an issue with the only 2 choices for using the GOTO button, which are "Nearest" or "Alphabetically". Alpha means just what it says - it sorts it alphabetically, and you have to go thru the list one at a time to get to a cache starting with the letter M, for example. There is no fast way that I know of to scroll down the list, even though there is a slide bar on the side of the screen.


Another issue - The default naming convention is "the cache name". I, however, like to use the cache ID for all my caching - however there is no option for this on the unit. I did find a workaround solution to this, though. However, it won't fit everybody's needs, based on the tools they have at their disposal.

Here is what I do based on my geocaching tools. I pull my Geocaching.com Pocket Query into GSAK (Geocaching Swiss Army Knife). Then when I'm ready, I Export the file into a LOC file (instead of GPX). Before hitting the generate button, I enter the following into the "Cache Description Format" box: "%Drop2 %Name (%Dif/%Ter)" (without the quotation marks).

Then I generate/save the file and load it into the Geocache Manager transfer program, and send it to my Expl 500. Now each waypoint in my GPSr looks like this (I'll use one of mine for example): "MWKX Green's Half Ac", instead of "Green's Half Acre (2".


Also another quirk I found is that when hitting the transfer button on Geocache Manager, then clicking OK, I always get an error notice that "No Unit Was Detected". However, I immediately do it a 2nd time and it finds it easily and transfers the data.


That's all for now!

#48 User is offline   JohnnyVegas 

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Posted 26 April 2005 - 11:03 AM

Quote

Another issue - The default naming convention is "the cache name". I, however, like to use the cache ID for all my caching - however there is no option for this on the unit. I did find a workaround solution to this, though. However, it won't fit everybody's needs, based on the tools they have at their disposal.

I never use the cache ID, that is one of the reason I use GSAK, for me the cache name is the way to go

Quote

I also have an issue with the only 2 choices for using the GOTO button, which are "Nearest" or "Alphabetically". Alpha means just what it says - it sorts it alphabetically, and you have to go thru the list one at a time to get to a cache starting with the letter M, for example. There is no fast way that I know of to scroll down the list, even though there is a slide bar on the side of the screen.

I just leave my 500 on nearest, I use my Meridan gold to get to the are of the cache, then when I use the goto on the 500, the caches in question in on the top of the list.

#49 User is offline   baze 

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Posted 02 May 2005 - 02:41 AM

Jamie Z, on Apr 14 2005, 11:39 AM, said:

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



Hi,
is the "120v AC power cable" intended to use only in US, or can it be used in europe too? ( most European countries use 220v AC)

Are there printed power specification in the charger? If there are then does it say "120v AC" or "120v - 240v AC". If it says "120v - 240v AC" then it can be used all over the world with basic(=cheap) power adapter. If it supports only "120v AC" than I think I have to order another charger for european use.

#50 User is offline   embra 

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Posted 02 May 2005 - 04:32 AM

baze, on May 2 2005, 05:41 AM, said:

Are there printed power specification in the charger? If there are then does it say "120v AC" or "120v - 240v AC". If it says "120v - 240v AC" then it can be used all over the world with basic(=cheap) power adapter. If it supports only "120v AC" than I think I have to order another charger for european use.

The label on the transformer plug says "Input: 100-240v." Looks like you're good.

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