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ATV Product REVIEW: Magellan eXplorist 500 LE GPS

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Magellan eXplorist 500 LE

Even though this is not an actual ATV accessory many of us use these on our ATV's. We felt a responsibility to report what we found out about this particular unit.

We had purchased the Magellan 500 LE GPS for use on a few of our exploration trips into the wild trails of Southern W.V.. It was a nice compact unit that fit very well in the palm of the hand with button navigation that was easy to use as well as ergonomic. The eXplorist 500 features a 16 color 1.4" X 1.7" display and weighed in at 5.4 ounces. One of the main attractions to this particular unit was the fact that it offered practically unlimited storage space of detailed topographic and street maps, waypoints and track logs from the optional Magellan MapSend software by the use of the SD memory card.

Here are some key feature from Magellan's website:

TrueFix Technology - Accurate & Reliable - takes advantage of 14 parallel channels, supported by WAAS and EGNOS Satellite-Based augmentation Systems for fast signal acquisition, minimal signal loss and reliable accuracy to within 3 meters.

Geocache Manager - This unique feature makes managing coordinates even easier with a PC-style file system.

Track Logging - Store up to 5 track log files, each with 2000 track-points to the internal memory and store an unlimited amount of track log files to optional SD cards, to easily find your way to your favorite spot again and again.

Built-in mapping - With 8 MB of built-in North American or European maps it’s easy to navigate around roads, parks, waterways and to find airports and other points of interest.

During our initial testing we found that the eXplorists' receiver was very good. Not once were we in an area that we were unable to receive satellites. Even when initially testing this unit indoors we found it was tracking enough satellites to get a position fix. One major nuance was the compass screen. It seemed complicated at first for several of us to determine the direction. We agreed it should have had and actual pointing arrow rather than a color coded line.

Once the unit would begin tracking mode I was always crossing my fingers when loading the base map screen hoping the unit would not lock up resulting in me having to remove the battery and re-boot it. It seemed that it took a long time to process the base map info I had loaded to the SD card.

The eXplorist Li-Ion battery was actually very impressive allowing it to run practically all day. Magellan claims 17 hours but I have yet to be able to obtain this much even with the low power consumption settings activated. One complaint in the lines of power is the fact that Magellan does not offer any way to hard wire this to a 12-volt power source and the only way to charge the battery on the 500 is by plugging a power supply into the included USB cable in a pig-tail configuration.

User friendliness of the menu was another major complaint. I was always struggling trying to find the menu I needed to either recall or save a waypoint or track log. The original computer I had when loading the MapSource software would not even recognized the unit when plugged in. This required me to go through a crazy scenario of converting files to different formats then uploading them to the SD card. This was so tedious of an operation that I now leave the base map loaded and have decided to never mess with it again for fear of losing the information due to the fact that Magellan Technical Support was of no help. Another complaint was when we upgraded computers to Windows Vista we found out the USB drivers or the MapSend software was not supported by Magellan. Magellan's technical answer to this it to go back to an older operating system. We found this unacceptable especially for as long as the operating system has been on the market.

All in all this unit does what it is supposed to do but is one of the hardest units to learn to operate. Poor customer service and poor technical support would prevent me from purchasing another Magellan product ever again. For someone who possesses the technical skill and patience and is on a budget, this unit would do but we believe there are other units out there that are as capable at close to the same price. We felt it was only fair to grade packaging, fit and finish high because these were high points of the unit which do make it appealing. You need to have confidence in the tools you use and we did not have this feeling at any time using this device.

Here is our ATVTORTURE scorecard.

* Customer Service / Technical Service: 2
* Price competitiveness: 8
* Packaging: 10
* Ease of installation: 6
* Fit: 10
* Finish: 10
* Performance: 6

Total ATVTORTURE score: 63 out of 100. We do not endorse this product.
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