Magellan Explorist 600 review
I purchased my Explorist 600 through eBay from a guy in northern WA. Out of the box it comes with a USB cable and a 240 volt charger. I also purchased a bike mount for my Mountain Bike, a car mount and a 12v cigarette lighter car charger. The device comes with base maps for Australia which includes the major roads and waterways. To get the real power of this device however you need to purchase the detail maps of Australia that come as the DiscoverAus PC Software. I had a few problems setting up the USB serial connector which was largely driven by my lack of understanding of what the Explorist would and would not do. Details of these learnings are covered in the FAQ under Is the Explorist compatible with DiscoverAus? and Can the Explorist 600 communicate to a PC in real time via NMEA? I also had some problems when transferring files between DiscoverAus and the Explorist, particularly when I changed the file transfer options on the Explorist. ie I set the Explorist to transfer from the internal memory, then later changed it to tranfer from the SD card. When doing this my Explorist always freezes, and I have to remove the battery. I have since found a work around to removing the battery which is covered in FAQ How can I reboot my Explorist without taking out the battery?
The Explorist is well made with a ruggedised exterior that is waterproof and will float. I regularly take it with me on my Mountain Bike and it has shared a few falls with me with no problems. I have found that the text on the rubber keys on the device wears away over time, however this has mainly occured with the enter/joystick – it hasn’t really caused me too many problems.
The electronic compass is supposed to operate on 3 axises. I have found that the compass only seems to work when you are moving, which wouldn’t be so good if you were hanging from a vertical cliff abseiling somewhere. I have also found the themometer to be unreliable. Given these are 2 of the main features you get with the 600 over and above the Explorist 500, you would have to be sure you want to spend the extra cash. Having said that I have found a useful way to view the maps without moving is to change the set up option so the map tracks to CompassHeadingUp Menu\Map Setup\Orientation\CompassHDGUp. When this opion is selected, the map on the screen automatically reorients itself when ever you rotate the device, effectively giving you a North direction from the N indicator on the screen. For normal useage I have found the TrackUp option to the be best. The barometric pressure altimeter is very useful and provides capability of producing a historical vertical profile of your tracks.
The Explorist allows you to set Routes which are pre-determined paths that you will take on your journey. There is a maximum of 30 waypoints that can be put into a route, however you can create as many routes as you want. Depending on the settings on your GPS, you can get the Explorist to beep at you just before your reach one of the route waypoints, so you can check the map and see which way to go. Personally I found the routing tool to be cumbersome and labour intensive, hence no real benefit for every day use. It is for this reason that you really need 2 GPS devices with a dedicated unit for routing tasks such as this.
DiscoverAus PC Software
|DiscoverAus is the Australian version of Mapsend for the Magellan Series of GPS devices. It doesn’t ship with the Explorist but has to be purchased separately. At first glances this software seems a bit amateurish, particularly when you compare the quality of the maps on the PC screen with the quality of the maps that are on the Navman iCN 510 screen. But once you get over that, you will find that this is quite a useful and handy piece of software. It has very good zoom capabilities allowing you to zoom in on any of your tracks and waypoints to see where you have been. DiscoverAus is the Australian version of Mapsend for the Magellan Series of GPS devices. It doesn’t ship with the Explorist but has to be purchased separately.|
At first glances this software seems a bit amateurish, particularly when you compare the quality of the maps on the PC screen with the quality of the maps that are on the Navman iCN 510 screen. But once you get over that, you will find that this is quite a useful and handy piece of software. It has very good zoom capabilities allowing you to zoom in on any of your tracks and waypoints to see where you have been.
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Loading detail maps to your GPS
Unfortunately loading maps is not as easy as it could be, particularly on the Explorist range. There is a file size limit of 16MB on the map sections you can create in DiscoverAus. I have tried a few different approaches and find the one detailed below the best. This will allow you to load all the Maps of Australia on one 256MB SD card. I have seen other approaches at the GPS OZ Website that you may like to consider. What I like about my approach is that the 16MB map have labels that are descriptive enough so you know which one to select when you are travelling.
My approach to loading maps
First you will need a copy of my defined regions of Australia by downloading regions.zip.
Unzip files in the Magellan\Docs folder
In DiscoverAus, select Regions\Load from file. Select all of the files at once and then click open.
In the panel on the right, put a check mark against all maps.
Select Regions\Upload to GPS\Store on Hard Drive, then click next
Make sure you have the serial number of your GPS entered, then click next, then finish.
It could take an hour or so to build all the map regions so you may want to leave it running and come back later. You will need all the regions at some stage, so it makes sense to build them all up front to save you time later.
Now you can either transfer the image files from \Magellan\DiscoverAus\Export\Images to your Explorist SD card through a SD card reader (fastest) or via the Explorist USB cable.
As an alternative to uploading the 18 maps directly to the GPS, you can combine the map portions for each state into a separate file, meaning you will end up with 7 files in all. To do this you should:
Mark all the map regions for 1 state only
Connect your GPS via the USB cable (or use a SD card reader – fastest)
In DiscoverAus, go to Regions\Upload to GPS\Upload to SD Card Programmer
Transfer the file to the SD card. By default the file name is detail00.img and it will be placed in the root folder
Once the transfer is complete, go into Windows Explorer and find your attached SD card. Rename the detail00.img file to be the name of the state you just transfered ie NSW.imi Make sure you change the extension to be *.imi, not *.img
Finally move the file to the Detail Maps folder
Now repeat the process for all other states.
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Creating 2D maps of your track
One of the cool things you can do with your Explorist and DiscoverAus is create a 2D map of your tracks. To do this you should follow the following instructions. It is possible to colour the map based on your relative speed by selecting this in the options menu at anytime.
- Save your active track in your Explorist. Menu\Track Log\Active Track\Save. I normally save my tracklogs on the SD card rather than the Internal Memory as acess to the tracklogs seems to slow down considerably once there are a few tracklogs saved in the internal memory. Now is a good time to clear your Active Track Menu\Track Log\Active Track\Clear Track\Yes.
- Transfer your tracklogs to your PC using Magellan Conversion Manager.
- Start up DiscoverAus and load the track. Tracks\Load from file\(select track from list).
- To see the track on the map, select Tracks\Show\(select track from list).
- Take a print screen of your map, then paste it into an image editing software package. Crop the picture to remove the menus etc.
2D Map of Manly Dam MTB track in Sydney
You may like to load any waypoints you have taken during your journey too. To do this, follow the same process with the waypoints as you did with the track.
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Creating a vertical profile of your track
A vertical profile is interesting in that you can see how your track varies throughout the journey. It is particularly interesting to use the DiscoverAus control centre to move around the track while watching both the track and the vertical profile chart. To do this, you should:
Load a track into DiscoverAus by following the process in Creating 2D maps of your tracks
Once the track is loaded, select Tracks\Control Centre from the DiscoverAus menu
Click on the vertical profile and drag your mouse left and right. You will see a marker move around your track at the same time as you move across the vertical profile, effectively showing you where the peaks and valleys are in your track.
You can add waypoints to your track at the peaks and valleys for future reference if you like. You can also widen the vertical profile screen and take a print screen image to turn into a map (also as described in Creating 2D maps of your tracks.
You can see an example of this above. It is not possible to see the waypoints on the vertical profile chart, so I like to pen them in and saving them with the map.
Vertical profile map of Manly Dam MTB track in Sydney
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Problems I have had with DiscoverAus
I find that the zoom capability lacks some polish and consistency at different levels of magnifications. ie at a zoom level more detailed than state level but less detailed than town level, you would expect to see all the towns in an area. Unfortunately this is not the case and I have found that some towns are shown yet others for what ever reason are not. This makes it very difficult to zoom in and find a town you are browsing for.
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Loading and following Track Files
The Explorist allows you to save and re-use you track files later so you can follow the same track. You can also share your track files with other people so they can find there way around. To do this, it is best to load the track file into DiscoverAus and edit out the bits that you don’t need. Once you have the track file as you want it, save it and then load it back onto the Explorist. I normally save the files to the SD card as saving them to the internal memory can slow down access to the track menu system. The on your Explorist, go to menu\tracks and find the track file, then select follow track. You will get a message saying that track logging is now switched off. I have found that you can then go back into the tracks menu and switch logging back on, and it will successfully follow the track AND log your ride.
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