Ratings: Ease of Use, Performance: 21/25, Look & Feel: 25/25, Features & Software 25/25, How much I enjoy 25/25
The Magellan eXplorist 500LE is the second handheld GPS unit that I have reviewed for Magellan and I am getting the hang of this great piece of electronics. The GPS unit is great for finding your way whether your camping, hiking, hunting or fishing. You can use it to mark your favorite fishing or hunting spot, find your way to specific locations and just general touring around.
The Magellan 500LE has some great features, here they are straight from Magellan:
Color screen – 16-color screen makes it easy to read maps and information in all lighting conditions
Built-in maps – North American or European basemap shows major roads, parks, waterways and many points of interest
SD-card expandability – Add unlimited MapSend topographic maps or turn-by-turn street routing
Simple file system – Save, organize and access all your stored data with ease
USB data port – Manage maps and waypoints and download coordinates from your PC
TrueFix® technology – Reliable accuracy to within 3 meters
Area calculation – Instantly see the distance and area between any geographic points
Vertical profile – View graphical elevation changes for where you’ve been or where you’re going
Geocache Manager – PC application to download and organize coordinates from the Internet
Track logging – Store 5 track files with 2000 points each and an unlimited number on your own SD cards
Four navigation screens – Map, Compass, Locator and Satellite Status deliver easy-to-use information
Advanced power management – Three (3) AAA batteries or optional Li-ion ion battery (not included)
Rugged construction – Encased in rubber armored, impact resistant plastic
Water resistant – Don’t worry about getting it wet
Languages – Choose English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Finnish, Portuguese, Dutch or Norwegian.
No service fees – Ready to use with no activation required
Full Warranty – One-year in North America, Two-year in Europe
I really do like the Magellan eXplorist handheld units like the 500LE with its large capacity for memory in the additional SD memory card. You can download all kinds of maps and points of interest for many different activities. The secure digital card goes into the back of the unit behind the batteries. The batteries are either three “AAA” batteries in the included battery adapter or a Lithium-Ion battery pack that is sold separately.
The eXplorist 500LE comes with the handheld GPS unit, a USB cable for downloading and external power, the “AAA” battery adapter, MapSend software CD and the user manual with a small read me document. The eXplorist 500LE does come with a very good software in the MapSend but I have found an even easier to use and better free program in the GPS Swiss Army Knife. The MapSend software has converters and other programs to help you load points of interest, Geocaching points and maps from Magellan or other software and web sites.
The MapSend software is pretty easy to use but some of the converting and loading whether its from the software or your computer can be a bit hard. Anything you want to load from software or the internet to the GPS needs to be loaded to your hard drive before transferring it the rest of the way. So if you have a map you want to load from the Magellan MapSend Topo 3D (not included) onto your GPS unit you need to first download it to your disc drive then upload it to the GPS unit.
While this only adds one step to the process sometimes conversions also have to be accomplished and this can get to be a hassle. The free program GPS Swiss Army Knife does all the converting and other loading for you in simple steps but it still does take some reading and figuring out. No matter what GPS unit you purchase from whichever manufacturer and software they have there will still be some learning involved with using your GPS unit. They are not exactly plug and play simple and you do need to learn how to use any of the ones on the market. The Magellan units are not the only GPS units that you need to tinker with to get your software and other information loaded and ready to use.
I do like the Magellan units for how easy they are to use when in the field. The map and other quick information such as latitude, longitude, compass and satellite receiving information are all available by clicking through the Nav button. The menus for just about everything on the 500LE is simple and easy to use with menus just like your computer. Finding specific information of folders is simple and logical with easily identifiable names for the menu items.
Setting up your 500LE for its first use is as simple as loading batteries and turning it on. The color screen of the 500LE is very nice with bright and distinct colors whether you use the backlit settings or not. The backlit display comes in three settings for varying brightness and the TFT display comes with 16 colors for a good variety of map symbol color differential. The maps various symbols and features with the good number of colors means you can easily see and read your map and the display has the three brightness settings for various light conditions.
The eXplorist 500LE comes with 16 megabytes of internal memory but you also have the option to add an SD card for even more memory. I have received a Secure Digital card from US Modular to test out in the 500LE and it works very well. The memory module fits into the back of the unit behind the batteries.
Simply unscrew the cover and pull out either your batteries and the battery adapter or the LI-On battery and the card goes into the slot. Push the little bar toward the top of the unit that has PUSH etched on it and the small slide attachment pops out. The card slides in this attachment and you push on the spot that also has push and the top part will snap down over the top of the card.
The batteries need to be removed before you remove the adapter and does fit snugly into the opening due to the rubber seal around the battery compartment. This rubber seal is to keep water out of the internal battery and SD card compartment. I have not had the chance to dunk my GPS unit in a lake and do not have any plans to in the future just to test out the seal to see if it really does keep water out. But it does look like it will do an adequate job with the back cover screwing in and holding down as well as it does when you close up the battery compartment.
The 500LE with the US Modular 2 GB SD card can hold over 2 gigabytes of information which is a lot when we’re talking about what can be loaded onto this GPS. I have a map that is the size of North Dakota loaded into the internal memory along with about thirty Geocaching points of interest and have used 74 percent of the internal memory. I have checked out how much it would take to fill the 2 GB SD card with a map. A detailed map of the entire continental United States takes about 1.5 GB of space on the SD card. So with a one or two GB SD card you should be able to have enough memory storage for just about any trip, hunting or fishing expedition or whatever.
The detailed maps I am talking about are from the MapSend Topo 3D software package from Magellan that is sold separately. These detailed map software packages come in a variety of location versions such as North America, Germany and Mexico. These maps have detailed information as well as topographic features including restaurants, hotels and smaller roads. The maps preloaded onto your version of the 500LE come with larger roads and features like lakes and cities. The 500LE for North America has the basic maps for all of North America including Alaska and Hawaii. Each of these additional map packs can be used on many of the Magellan GPS units as well as the 500LE.
The Magellan eXplorist 500LE is a very easy to use and convenient handheld GPS unit. The unit can hold information like street maps for trips, hunting spots and fishing data like underwater maps. You can preset destinations but they will be as the crow flies and not a turn by turn route unless you use a direction software package such as the DirectRoute. There are plenty of available software packages for just about any outdoor activity from Magellan available so check out their site for more on the software packages available.
Overall the Magellan eXplorist 500LE for North America is a fantastic handheld GPS unit. I have found it easy to use and simple to load information onto. The unit’s memory is expandable using an SD card you need to purchase separately such as the 2 GB SD card I used from US Modular. The unit comes with everything you need to start such fun activities as Geocaching or just hiking in the woods. I highly recommend the Magellan eXplorist 500LE for a simple and easy to use GPS unit.