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Magellan eXplorist 310 Review

Pros

  • Waterproof and rugged
  • All the main hiking GPS functions
  • Very competitively priced

Cons

  • Only 512MB memory
  • No Micro SD slot
  • Small screen

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £145.00
  • Waterproof to IPX-7 standard
  • Maps of major world roads
  • Detailed European and North American maps
  • Points of Interest and Geocaches
  • 512MB free memory

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A pundit of digital technology recently argued that it is now no longer possible to make a movie like the Blair Witch Project, because GPS-enabled smartphones have rendered it nearly impossible to get lost, even in a deep forest. But, in reality, if you are exploring the wilderness, a smartphone is not your ideal companion, not least because it won’t take it kindly if you drop it on a rock. A dedicated hiking GPS makes much more sense, but these have remained costly, for example Magellan’s flagship eXplorist 710 comes in at just shy of £400. With the eXplorist 310, however, Magellan hopes to bring the base level down, whilst not compromising too much on features.

At first glance, the eXplorist 310 doesn’t seem to be particularly cut down. It’s ruggedly constructed, and meets the criteria of the IPX-7 standard. This means it can withstand up to 30 minutes submerged in up to a metre of water, so being dropped in a shallow river or a rainstorm won’t be a problem at all. It achieves this feat with a rear cover that’s held in place by a screw-locking key, and a rubber cover over the USB port. The latter requires a bit of a knack to replace securely, but didn’t cause any problems in our water testing.

However, although the unit comes with a decent world map covering Western European and North American roads in detail, and major routes for the rest of the globe, if you want to add a more detailed upgrade then you will be disappointed to discover that no Micro SD slot is available for simply slotting in a map set. Instead, you will need to load these onto internal memory over the USB link, and there’s a fairly modest 512MB available for this. It’s also worth noting that extra maps, such as Magellan’s own Summit Series range, can be pretty pricey, although this is mostly due to the cost of licensing terrain data from the likes of Ordnance Survey. For example, the OS Landranger map for Great Britain at 50k resolution costs the same as the eXplorist 310 itself.

Another area where costs have been cut is in the lack of a touchscreen. Instead, the interface is operated via a joystick and four rubberised buttons, leaving room for a rather small 2.2in display. Some might not consider this much of a loss, however, as although the buttons need to be pressed firmly, you will be able to operate this device whilst wearing gloves. The two buttons at the bottom simply zoom the map screen in and out. The menu and back buttons provide access to two overlapping sets of functions, starting from the default map screen which appears when you first turn the device on.

The menu button essentially calls up a quick list of options. You can add your current location as a waypoint, for example to store the whereabouts of your vehicle or base camp before heading out. It’s also possible to record your movements as a track, so you can then backtrack and retrace your steps – always handy when paths are not shown on the map or clearly defined. You can save tracks, too, with storage for 50 tracks with up to 5,000 points each, to make a collection of your favourite walking routes.
Magellan eXplorist 310
The map screen can be customised. The two informational panels at the bottom, which by default show the distance to the end of your journey and bearing, can also be configured to display all manner of alternative information. Heading, current speed, elevation, coordinate readouts, ETA and even current satellite accuracy are all available, amongst many others. It’s also possible to include from one to four fields, although having three or four fields does obscure quite a bit of the map, which is already pretty small.

The sense of screen clutter is further accentuated by the option to superimpose the compass over the map. However, we rather like this feature. Although the dashboard display includes a partial or complete compass, being able to see both compass and map simultaneously means you can glean a lot of information at a glance, without having to flick through screens, which does require a few menu clicks. But it should also be noted that the compass is a digital, GPS-powered version, so it requires a satellite lock to function. In other words, it won’t work indoors or where very heavy tree cover obscures the sky too much. You can also choose between viewing the map in 2D top-down mode or 3D perspective, although you can’t use the onscreen compass with the latter.

From the map screen, the back button takes you to an iconographic menu, whch gives you access to the eXplorist 310’s full range of features. Although you can use the Search Nearby function to access these, here you can browse your stored waypoints and tracks. There are also built-in Points of Interest (POI) and Geocache databases. The POIs only include things like parks, water features and town centres, not the restaurants and amenities found with in-car sat-navs, although there is a listing of public transportation hubs. The Geocache listing includes a popular selection, allowing you to get started with this increasingly popular hobby, but you can download more from the Geocaching.com website and install these over the eXplorist 310’s USB link.

Buried amongst the tools is a handy listing of optimal hunting and fishing times, depending on the current date, although you can check these for any date you like, and plan your trip accordingly.

Magellan eXplorist 310

In use, the eXplorist 310 acquits itself well. It has a SiRFstarIII GPS receiver, a recent chipset, so locks pretty quickly (usually in under a minute during our testing). The device also copes reasonably well with intermittent line-of-sight, sometimes getting a lock when indoors near a window or through a thin roof. The quoted battery life of 18 hours with a pair of lithium AA cells is also pretty decent. There’s a track on the back for securing the eXplorist 310 to a mounting system or lanyard, although a large plastic loop at the top of the device is also available for attaching the device to your backpack or clothing with a cord, reducing your chance of losing it.

Verdict

Magellan’s eXplorist 310 includes the core features to get you started with GPS-powered hiking. The lack of Micro SD will be a hindrance to installing extra maps. But, otherwise, only premium features have been left out. Coming in at under £150, it undercuts equivalent devices from other manufacturers, such as Garmin’s Dakota 20 or Dakota 10. So it may not be your dream hiking companion, but if the price has always prohibited your outdoor pursuits entering the digital age, the eXplorist 310 could be the device which finally makes this affordable.

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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Battery Life 9
  • Value 10
  • Features 8
  • Performance 9
  • Design 9
  • Usability 8

Features

Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 2.2in
Display Type Color
General Features 512MB built-in memory free
Hands Free No

Physical Specifications

Live Services No
Battery life (Hour) 18hr
Height (Millimeter) 111mm
Width (Millimeter) 56mm
Depth (Millimeter) 36mm
Weight (Gram) 147g

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