Okay, let’s get this out of the way up front. Yes, your smartphone has a GPS in it, and yes, you can get lots of maps and navigation apps for just a couple bucks, and yeah, you can get a rugged case for said smartphone. The problem is that your smartphone has quite a few drawbacks that can’t easily be overcome. The Magellan eXplorist, however, is designed from the ground up to be used in harsh climates and rugged terrain.
First of all, your smartphone isn’t designed to be used in rugged conditions. Secondly, the eXplorist 710 can be powered for up to 16 hours by a simple pair of lithium AA batteries that have a 5-year shelf life, cheap alkaline AA batteries or even rechargeable Ni–MH AA batteries. All of these can be purchased in just about any store in every country in the world. Try leaving your GPS mapping app running on your smartphone, and you will probably only get a couple hours of use if you’re lucky. Thirdly, smartphones typically have an ambient operational temperature range of roughly 32°F to 95°F. The eXplorist, on the other hand, can operate from 14°F to 140°F and has a Rugged and waterproof (IPX-7) rating. In my testing, it easily survived a 3-foot drop test onto concrete and use in heavy rain. Another feature that the eXplorist provides that you will not find in a smartphone is a barometric altimeter. This gives the eXplorist the ability to determine altitude without a GPS signal as well as measure barometric pressure over time to track changing weather conditions.
The eXplorist 710 isn’t just for hiking, like most any other handheld GPS in its class. This GPS also provides turn-by-turn voice directions for driving, cycling, and walking. The most powerful feature of this GPS is the maps that are built in. The USA City Series map gives you turn-by-turn navigation through US city streets to a wide variety of destinations using a built-in database of points of interest. The USA Summit Series map consists of a highly detailed topographic map based on 1:24,000 scale sources. The map includes contour lines, land use areas, trails, waterways, and points of interest. You can easily locate the nearest trailhead, or search for the nearest bike shops, fuel stations, or potable water source. The World Edition map includes a complete road network in United States, Canada, Western Europe, and Australia. Water features, urban and rural land use, and a realistic shaded relief background throughout the rest of the world are also included. These built-in maps and the firmware can be updated by plugging this GPS into your computer via the mini USB cable. Additional maps can be installed on the 3GB of available internal storage or via the micro SD memory card expansion slot. One fun feature the eXplorist sports is a built-in database of geocaches as well as the ability to download more from your computer for you and your friends to hunt down on your next adventure.
A feature I was surprised to see included in this GPS is a camera. It seems a bit odd to include a camera in a GPS what with nearly every cellphone and tablet on the planet having a built-in camera (not to mention all the point-and-shoot cameras, and action cameras on the market). I can’t speak for everyone, but all my friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances carry smartphones that have cameras. Okay, maybe some people won’t want to bring their smartphones or point-and-shoot cameras on a rugged adventure, but they likely will want to bring an action camera such as a GoPro, Contour, or Drift camera. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of having a camera built into a GPS that’s made for adventures so I don’t have to risk damaging my iPhone. My main complaint is the lack of performance in this camera. At only 3.2 mega-pixels, its less resolution than most inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras. Considering the price of this GPS, I would have expected much more from the included camera.
Camera aside, the eXplorist 710 is worth every penny to ensure you have a reliable GPS that can survive harsh terrain and climates during remote adventures. I highly recommend it for any avid explorer.
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