September 24, 2005

GPS Lodge GPS Review: Magellan eXplorist 600

The Magellan eXplorist 600is a high end handheld that is packed with features and allows you to navigate the world with ease and comfort of the amenities that you'd come to expect or dream of in an advanced handheld GPS. In this review of the Magellan eXplorist 600, the GPS Lodge will take a look at the features and usefulness of the eXplorist 600, we'll sum it up and give you a couple of other units to compare it to if you are thinking of buying one.

The main reason to consider the Magellan eXplorist 600 (and Magellan eXplorist 500 too) is for the color screen, a smallish 16-color screen that does fairly well in sunlight. The backlight can be adjusted for brightness and maximum visibility in the sun. The eXplorist series is a nice handheld series, in a pocketable sized GPS that allows you to go where you want without the burden of a huge GPS to lug around. Of course the downside of this is that they don't easily make themselves useful for using while driving for instance.

Additional Features
The Magellan eXplorist 600 takes a step up from the Magellan eXplorist 500 with a few nice additional features like the 3 axis compass, barometric pressure and a thermometer. The compass is a nice added feature if you are Geocaching, where you are sometimes required to head in a more precise direction from one spot to another along a heading. If you have a destination, then there will be a small graphic that will point to the destinations location. This helps to keep you going on the right direction. I think that the thermometer is a nice additional feature too, and would like to see it on more outdoor focused units in the handheld range. Sure there can be downsides like false readings while the GPS is sitting in the sun, but I'd take it anyways. With the combination of the thermometer and barometer, you can get to the eXplorist weather screen which can give you a quick snapshot of the current conditions.

Re-chargeable Battery
The eXplorist 600 comes with a rechargeable Lithium ion battery pack. Magellan rates this for up to 17 hours in use, although that has to be without the backlight and the compass. In regular usage, we've seen it last in the 8-14 hours range depending on amount of backlight (big energy draw) and compass use (small energy draw). You need to think about how you are going to use the GPS. We regularly go out for more than a day to use our GPS units, without the ability to re-charge. It's nice to be able to not use a bucket full of batteries in a year, but for us, recharging is not an option. Magellan does offer the eXplorist cigarette lighter power adapter which is one way around this issue if you are out in the car for a few days.

Maps and More
One big advantage that Magellan has over rival Garmin is that Magellan has embraced the idea of storage cards for their handheld line. At this writing, Garmin has not addressed this need in their popular eTrex line, which is a huge shortcoming. Magellan eXplorist 600 comes with 16MB of on board memory (half taken up by the basemap), and an SD card slot for as much space as you can afford. The SD card is installed behind the rechargeable battery in the rear compartment.

The eXplorist 600 comes with a pretty basic basemap. If you want more detailed maps of your area; everyone probably will, you will need to buy additional software. The Magellan MapSend DirectRoute NorthAmerica or the MapSend 3D Topo North America would be two popular titles. They retail for a little over $100 each. Both products allow you to download detailed maps and points of interest onto the GPS, and use the information to navigate. When connecting the eXplorist 600 to the computer, the device comes up like a virtual hard drive, and contains several folders to dump data into. If you are adding detailed maps that you bought separately, you can drop these into a specific folder, which is easy to navigate as it is set up like any computer folder structure. When planning for using these maps, you should know that these maps can chew up a pretty big chunk of memory, so plan on some big SD cards to keep from visiting the computer every time you want to wander off in a different area. There has been some issue with the unit freezing due to large maps and corrupt files. Do a search on the internet for more info on freeze ups for the eXplorist 600.

USB Connection
The eXplorist 600 comes with a USB connection that speeds downloads to the device (card or internal memory). There is a bulletin out on how to connect the device to the USB adapter (see it here on the Magellan website).


Like most handheld GPS units, the eXplorist 600 is water resistant to IPX-7 specifications, which means that is can go for a brief dip in a shallow stream or hang out in the rain without any major issues.

DirectRoute
The eXplorist 600 has the ability to autoroute you from your current location to your desired location via roads, if you have the DirectRoute detailed maps loaded. It gives you turn by turn capability with an audible alarm and a turn graphic as a turn approaches. The capability is reasonable, and you can access directions by entering an address or using POI's. A word of caution though these handhelds with autorouting are not as finely tuned as the automotive targeted devices, like the Magellan RoadMate, Garmin StreetPilot or the TomTom Go series. So, entering addresses can be a bit more tedious, and there are not as many advanced features in this unit that you might find in a $1,000 automotive unit.


Geocache Manager

The Magellan eXplorist 600 has the ability to manage gpx files for use when Geocaching. When adding these files, they become special POI’s and contain some limited data (hint fields) that can help you when out looking for geocaches. Gone are the days of copying down hint info on paper, and hand entering the Lat/Lon data of the cache. These gpx files are available when you become a member of Geocaching.com.

Mounting
A popular mount for the car is the suction cup mount for the windshield. Not too expensive and not too permanent. The issue I have with lots of these mounts is that they are not all that good if you are out off-roading and really bumping around. The Magellan swivel mount is an option, but make sure your dash is big enough for the base.

Comparisons
The main comparison to make is the Magellan eXplorist 600 vs. the Garmin eTrex Vista C. Both have a color screen, with autorouting capabilities, barometers and USB connections. Garmin has no expandable memory for extra map capacity, but has 24MB of onboard memory to hold a decent but not expansive set of detailed maps. The Vista C uses plain old "AA" batteries, which is a plus for me, because I need longer time away from charging possibilities, but maybe not for you. The eXplorist 600 adds the thermometer and a weather screen as an added feature. While both are friendly for Geocaching, the Magellan takes the extra step of adding support for gpx files that are common for Geocaching.

If you don't need or want to use the compass or pressure features, consider moving down the line. When you move down, you'll need to compare the Magellan eXplorist 500 vs. the Garmin eTrex Legend C . Neither have the compass or the barometer, but both have color screens and the ability to add detailed maps. The Magellan eXplorist 500 has the SD card expandability, where the Garmin Legend C only has the 24MB of internal memory. Both work on USB connectivity.

Want to read more?

See our article covering the review in Wired magazine where they rated the Magellan eXplorist 600 the best handheld.

See our article covering Money magazine's review of the Magellan eXplorist 600.

Read More in: GPS News | GPS Reviews | Magellan GPS Reviews

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Posted by Scott Martin at September 24, 2005 3:06 PM

Recent Comments

Magellan is not servicing eXplorist model anymore because they have NEW model call the TITAN
and if you have an eXplorist under warranty that need repair and they will give you a new TITAN. If NOT under warranty you are out of luck they will not fix the unit found out because i have two explorist 300 and 500LE Bad Customer Service I don't need Magellan Explorist or other models?


Posted by: Richard at May 15, 2008 1:22 PM

Whilst in File Transfer mode accidently pulled usb cable partially out of pc socket. Could no longer upload or download info as pc will not recognize unit. Today I learned that gps unit comms port is not working. Quoted Australian $475 to repair!!! Have seen several posts on sites for same symptoms - "not recognized" - wish them better luck. Be very wary when operating in file transfer mode.


Posted by: Spoggy at May 7, 2008 9:00 AM

I bought an Magellan eXplorist 600 thinking it was comparible with my garmin 60cs...Man was I wrong. As soon as I opened the package and turned it on, "BOOM" it came broken. I called their service number and they treated me like an idiot, telling me I'm doing everything wrong and that the unit isn't working right because of what I was doing. I finally got thier service order number after an hour on the phone, sent the unit to their service department then 6 weeks later recieved the unit back but this time it wouldn't even turn on...was in worse condition and still broken. I then emailed them to get a second service order number and so far its been a month and no response. Customer service is the worst, the unit isn't that durability is amazingly bad. I do not recommend this unit. The Garmins are 100% better.


Posted by: unknown at March 3, 2007 2:37 AM

I previously owned an Garmin (blue) Etrex. It was stolen and i recieved a Magellan eXplorist 200 for christmas. The Magellan 200 does not have many capabilities of the similar priced Garmin model. i.e. Etrex is able to load maps, Magellan is not. Garmin keeps track of ALOT more intersting statistics that the Magellan simply does not during a "trip". Overall I would say the Magellan eXplorist 200 is inferior to the Garmin Etrex.


Posted by: Sean P. at January 23, 2007 6:11 PM

The explorist 600 looks great, but the rechargable lithium battery is stretched to get the rated 13 hours. I bought one in November 2005 and have had to send it in for repair twice in the first five months of use (aprox. 100hrs of use). If you aren't concerned with customer service the Magellan products are for you, but if you may want to call for help or ask for technical assistance, good luck, it took three months (no exageration) to finally get a response from Magellan/Thales after numerous phone calls and emails. It looks great, has lots of features, but if I had it to do over agian I would comprimise some of the nice features for even a little customer service. It is absolutelly the most difficult company that I have ever had to try to deal with.


Posted by: JAR at March 29, 2006 9:59 PM
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