The Magellan eXplorist 500 GPS receiver is a handheld unit (2.1” x 4.6” x 1.3”, 4.6 oz). The shape is contoured and comfortable to hold...no larger than a bar of soap and no sharp edges. The antenna is integrated into the overall shape of the unit and does not protrude as do many of the other units on the market. The button were all rubber coated and sealed against the elements (IEC-529 IPX-7 specs)... unlike our GPS receiver for the car, this unit was built for going out into the wild :-)
The recharging and data port is a nonstandard 6 pin connection on the back of the unit. The advantage of this connection is it will be simple to keep clean... no cavity to clog. However, it also meant another cable we'll have to bring along with us when we travel.
We are not big advocates of proprietary connectors simply because it is a pain to have to carry all the different cables and adapters. The Magellan eXplorist's data/charging cable is made up of two pieces, a USB/GPS connector on one end and a socket for a separate AC adapter on the other. Since the AC adapter is separate from the main cable, this gave us the option of using something like the Tekken MyPowerAll battery pak to power the GPS while in the field.
The eXplorist 500 is powered by a Li-ion battery (3.7V, 1300mAh). The battery is accessible by removing the back plate. Underneath the battery is the SD card slot.
Obviously, this design was not so the user can quickly pop in and out the SD card. We are not sure whether this will be an issue or not. We'll have to use it for a while to see.
The micro joystick is the main user interface controller on the eXplorist. Push the joystick in the different direction to move the cursor. Pushing down on the joystick to confirm or select the current choice on the screen. The "X" button takes you out of the current screen and back to the previous screen.
The eXplorist 500 had all of the standard GPS functions (logging, points-of-interests, satellite info, etc...) one would expect. The eXplorist also had what Magellan calls "TrueFix" technology. We are not sure whether it does things any differently than other GPS receivers, but it did get a quick fix (< 60 seconds from a cold start) on our position.
The 16-color screen's resolution (220x176 pixels) is quite excellent for a unit this size. The display measures 3.6 cm x 4.6 cm and is bright enough for use in full daylight.
We wouldn't even pretend to know how to use all of the features of this unit. We were hoping to read up on the features when we first got our hands on this unit. However, all that came with the installation CD was the "Basics User's Manual". The Basics manual pointed us to the "Reference Manual" for more detailed explanations of the various features, but we had the HARDEST time locating the eXplorist Referenece Manual!
We were not able to find it on the V1.09 Install CD which came with the unit. NOBODY we spoke with at Magellan had any clue what we were talking about. Finally, as with all things, we googled it and found it on Magellan's site :-)
The eXplorist Reference Manual is critical to understanding the actual use of many of the Basic and Advanced Features. We'll be studing the manual quite a bit before we head out with it on our showshoeing adventure in December. Check back after the holidays to see how we did with this GPS. If you see no updates after a few months... send out a search party :-)