Magellan Explorist 510 Handheld GPS

By Randy Wakeman

Magellan Explorist 510 Handheld GPS?
Illustration courtesy of MiTAC International Corp.

I'll open with the general list of Magellan eXplorist 510 touted features, then touch on how well it works and why the hiker or hunter would want this unit. The primary features include:


    Preloaded World Edition maps with a detailed road network, land areas, transportation points and water features for more than 200 countries. The 2,000 waypoints guide you toward useful and interesting destinations while geocaching.


    A 3" backlit transreflective color touch-screen display, with a WQVGA (240 x 400) resolution allows for easy viewing while you're outdoors. Also features a navigational dashboard, OneTouch favorites menu, main menu and contextual options menu.


    Supports paperless geocaching with up to 10,000 geocaches, 200 track logs, 10,000 track points, 200 routes and 500 legs per route.


    Built-in 3.2MP digital camera for capturing still images.


    2 AA batteries (included) provide up to 15-16 hours of use.


    SiRFstar III GPS technology, along with Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) for locking onto and maintaining your position quickly and accurately in most environments and receiving directions in moments.


    High-sensitivity, WAAS-enabled GPS receiver enhances performance in heavy cloud cover, wooded areas and canyons, so you don't have to worry about losing the satellite link.


    Ultracompact design GPS fits easily into a pocket for convenient portability.


    Water-resistant design repels moisture to withstand the elements.


    MicroSD card slot: insert a removable media card (not included) containing additional map data or regional maps to expand your navigational ability.


The Magellan Magellan eXplorist 510 is about a 7 ounce unit in a 5" by x 2-5/8" x 1-1/2" thick platform. As soon as you start to experiment with it you'll quickly notice that it has a very beefy, sturdy feel to it. It boots up very briskly, compared to various starter units, and the display is a big improvement from earlier black and white displays, or the usual low-resolution color displays.


It is a big, clear LCD with far more detail than you might expect from a handheld GPS. The claimed battery life from two AA lithium batteries is 16 hours. I'm more than a bit skeptical about that. The caveat to the big, bright screen is battery drain. Cold weather does batteries no favors, either. You can maximize the battery life by dimming the screen down to the lowest comfortably visible level. If you take a lot of pictures or video, you can expect it to lessen your battery life. There is a somewhat confusing "hibernate" mode, called either "suspend mode" or "active suspend mode." It is confusing to me, perhaps because you can hardly actively hibernate or frenetically suspend much of anything. The suspend mode on this unit does not track your movement, as claimed in some places. It does keep GPS lock and gives you an instant-on type of feature, rather than rebooting the unit, but no more than that.


The 510 takes video and still images and you can annotate your journey with voice memos. All three of these features can be attached to a waypoint for future reference. It is very quick and easy to do this, but don't get the impression that you are going to get beautiful 8x10 prints out of your images. It is a pinhole camera, horrible in low-light and adequate for documenting landmarks, various points of interest or value, but this is not comparable to even an average point and shoot camera in capture quality. I wouldn't expect it to be, but if you are, note that this unit does not displace even an average compact digital still camera in imaging ability.


The quick-start manual is minimal and the PDF you can download isn't much better. Magellan could certainly include a reasonable paper manual in the box and I think there is little excuse not to. You can add a MicroSD card to this unit, but one isn't included. This again rates as a niggle, for a 2GB MicroSD card costs about five dollars at the moment, a few dollars more for an 8GB card. It should be included with the unit. You'll need more memory with extensive picture-taking, a very small amount of video and Magellan does offer several optional maps that will require more memory than is available in the unit as supplied.


The hunting usefulness is almost self-explanatory. You use the 510 when scouting and it will come in handy when going out to a stand or blind in the dark, or returning to camp in complete darkness. The 3" touchscreen is far easier to use than the dinky 2-1/4" versions. This unit also has an electronic compass, altimeter and an alarm. The screen can be viewed in both 2D and 3D perspectives.


The 510 is primarily touchscreen controlled. You have an on/off button at the top of the unit, with dedicated waypoint marking and camera buttons on the side, but that's it. It is accurate and it tells you how accurate it is. Right now, as I type this, it is within 14 feet and the satellite reception is "Excellent," even indoors. It gives you a graphic showing the number of satellites it is reading from and the relative strength of the signal from each one. In my case, that is eleven different satellites.


It also has screen capture, sunrise/sunset info, a hunting/fishing calendar and can calculate the area for you if you walk the perimeter. The few things I've mentioned that should be improved are not catastrophic. You're on your own for a microSD card that will set you back a few dollars. The poor included manual is something Magellan really does need to attend to. The consolation as that the eXplorist 510 is very easy to use and needs little additional information to fully enjoy it.

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Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.