Compact GPS unit with Ordnance Survey mapping capabilities arrives.
Newly arrived is Magellan's compact Explorist 310 GPS unit, the little brother of the larger Explorists in the range which are on a par with the Garmin Oregon series. Anyway, all you really need to know is that it's a little smaller and lighter and as a result, sits more neatly in your hand.
In fact the weight difference, including batteries, is only around 50 grammes - 147g as opposed to 194g - but oddly it feels like more in the hand and is only around 20g more than an iPhone.
Relaunched Last Year...
The Explorist series was relaunched last year as Magellan's answer to the impressive Garmin Oregon/Dakota series and the 310 is the budget, mini-sized option on the menu. It shares a fair few similarities to the larger models in the range like waterproofing to IPX-7 standard, OS mapping compatibilty and a colour screen, but has been streamlined top reduce weight, size and price.
So while there's a bright colour screen, because it's not a touch screen, the interface is by button, which in turn means the screen has to be more compact to accommodate the controls - 2.2" compared to 3". There's also no Micro SD card, just a built in 500MB of internal memory, which means additional mapping - and yes, you can buy Ordnance Survey maps direct from Magellan's on-line store - has to be loaded direct to the unit.
The relatively small, non-expandable memory, means if you want to load several regional maps, you may have to remove one before you can fit another in. Also missing is the built-in digital camera of the other units in the range, but do you really need to take pics with your GPS?
Other than the push-button interface, the 310 feels rather familiar after using the larger Magellan units. As with Garmin's Oregon series, the interface is via a icon-driven menu, but it's still sometimes a little clunky and non-intuitive, though you do get used to it with use - the human brain is pretty adaptable. What's less easy to get used to is the slightly fiddly joystick control, which sometimes goes up or down when you press it to 'select' something, particularly if you've got used to touchscreens.
Talking of screen's, the 310's is bright and easy to read. It's not the biggest however, which may be a problem if you're using OS mapping, but the pay-off is around 2 hours more battery life - it uses 2 AAs - compared to big brother.
Mostly, so far, we've found it pretty straightforward to use. We managed to record and save a track and to find the tripmeter sucessfully though at the moment we can't really tell you much about OS mapping reproduction since we don't have any loaded.
It connects to a Mac or PC via a well-protected USB port and Magellan has free PC software to allow a more sophisticated interface. On a Mac is simply appears as a drive and you can drag and drop files to your heart's content including route and track data.
What we really do like about the 310 is the solid-feeling build quality and the neat weight and size along with the more affordable £180 price tag. Whether the smaller screen and lack of expandability are going to be an issue remains to be seen.
But whereas slightly bulky alternatives like the other Explorist units, Garmin's Oregon and Satmap's excellent Active 10 always give us pause for thought before packing, the 310's lack of weight and bulk make it a no-brainer to chuck it in your pack given that it doesn't weigh that much more than many smartphones.
More information on the Magellan Explorist range at eu.magellangps.com/eu/en-gb/.