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Dimensions: 1.73" x 2.28" x 0.67"
Weight: 2.4oz (69g)
MSRP: $199.99 w/o HR monitor strap, $279.99 w/HR monitor strap
A GPS sport watch is the “toy” to have if you dabble in endurance sports or even outdoor activities like hiking. Simply wear a watch, press start, then run, walk, hike, bike, or even swim away! Once you’re done, press stop and then upload data to an online site that will tell you where, how far, and how fast you went. Use it with a heart rate monitor strap, bike power meter, and/or speed and cadence sensor, and you have even more data to quantify your efforts.
Magellan is a major player in the consumer GPS market, so it makes sense that they would offer a GPS sport watch.
I’m quite familiar with some of their competitor’s units, so when I got my hands on a Switch to try, I couldn’t wait.
I will say now that GPS units like this have A LOT of features. And due to time constraints and time of year (such as no open water for me to swim in here in Colorado in the late fall/winter) I didn’t test them all. But I got enough of the features to get a good feel of the unit.
Here is a quick summary of what I found. Further down you will find more details on my testing of the unit.
Comfort: The watch is fairly slim in width, and has a nice rubber strap that will fit a wrist of any size. I have small wrists and it didn’t slip at all. It is a bit “thick” but most GPS watch units are.
Display: The display size is 0.82" x 0.96", which I found is a bit on the small side. Having more than two metrics displayed on the screen makes it a little hard to see if you are glancing quickly. The screen is also reverse-monochromatic, meaning white text on a dark background.
Ease of Use: As with most watches of this nature, there is a definite learning curve. Having the user guide handy when setting it up is recommended because there are so many features. But once you know what buttons to push, you’ll be golden. However, the buttons are a little small and are a bit stiff. They might be a challenge to easily push with gloved fingers.
Customizability: Regardless of your activity you should be able to set up the Magellan Switch to your liking and have the feedback you want.
Compatibility: This unit is ANT+ compatible, which means it can pick up data from other ANT+ enabled devices, such as heart rate straps, power meters, and speed and cadence sensors. I tested the unit with my own heart rate strap and also a PowerTap power meter. Both were picked up very quickly.
Data Transfer: Data transfer is NOT wireless, but this is a plus as I’ve had some frustrations with ANT+ stick wireless transfers. Once you plug it into your computer with the USB cable, your computer will view it as a disk drive. This makes uploading the data to where ever you want a piece of cake.
Online Data: While I won’t go into too much detail about the online site, once I bookmarked active.magellangps.com (not easy to find from the main Magellan website), you can easily upload your activity data, view it in an easy to read graph, and quickly share it on the social media platform of choice.
Now for the more detailed review:
First thing I did was take it out of the box:
It came with the watch unit, a USB cable that works as the charger and data transfer cable, and a converter to use the cable in a wall outlet. Next step was to charge the unit, and through my laptop’s USB port, it took a couple hours.
So in the meantime I set up an account at active.magellangps.com where you can upload your data. The data is in *.FIT format so that you can upload your data into any fitness tracking site that is compatible with that format, such as TrainingPeaks.com.
Once it was charged, I went in to configure it. Right after I turned it on, it had some easy set-up questions so it knew I was female, etc, for some the user-specific metrics that it can calculate, like calories burned. You can even store emergency contact information in the unit.
There are ten different sport presets.
I’m not sure all these presets are needed, as in most people only run a marathon a few times a year. Multi-sport is of course useful for duathletes and triathletes and the sports in multisport are customizable. The unit does, however, allow you to hide presets from your main list, so if you only hike and bike, you can hide the rest. You can also copy settings from one activity profile to another.
Each of these presets can have display screens (up to 5 screens) that are completely configurable. You can choose from pretty much any of the data the unit collects, which is a big list (heart rate, pace, distance, time, lap, grade, elevation, calories, cadence, power, etc.) You can also configure screens with 1 to 4 different pieces of data. There are also several variations of each unit you can show, such as instant, average, lap average, maximum.
Let’s take speed/pace as an example. Not only can you choose from a pace (min/mile) format or speed (mph or kph), you can choose to see current pace, average pace, max pace, lap average pace, lap max pace, previous lap average pace, and previous lap max pace.
But due to the display size, if there is data you want to view quickly and easily, don’t have more than two on a screen. Otherwise it’s hard to see (and my near vision is still good!) Setting up the screens was straightforward, though I do recommend having the online user guide handy for easier navigation.
Once you have the basics configured you are ready to go! I suggest giving yourself an hour after the unit is charged to get things set up. You may not need that much time, but if you are configuring multiple activity screens, then you might want it.
My first test of the unit was a bike-run-bike. I rode my mountain bike on the road for about 4 miles, did about a 5k trail run, and then rode my bike home. To compare data, I also wore my Garmin 910XT and did my best hitting the start buttons at the same time. I also wore my ANT+ heart rate strap, and the Switch quickly picked up the signal.
What I found was that the bike distances were relatively close, but the run had me going “faster” than my Garmin. Both units were set to “autolap” every mile and the Magellan hit each miles about 0.1 miles before the Garmin. So my 3.03 miles run on the Garmin was a 3.28 mile run on the Switch. If you want a side by side comparison of the data files, the links are below:
Magellan Data- Bike, Run, Bike
Garmin Data- Bike, Run, Bike
Here’s a quick screenshot once I had the data uploaded to the active.magellangps.com site:
Because the trail run was in a wooded area, and trees can sometimes inhibit satellite signal, I did another run with both units, but this time on the road. The Magellan Switch had me at 3.87 miles in 38:35 and my Garmin 910XT had me at 3.63 in 38:36. So there was consistent discrepancy between the units.
My next test was on my road bike, indoors, with my power meter. It picked it up my ANT+ PowerTap data quickly. I wore my heart rate monitor strap as well. The heart rate data read the same. The power data was slightly different, but only by a few watts, and that is likely due to slight differences in the data sampling algorithms. Overall I was impressed on how easy it was to detect the power meter.
My final test was in a different location completely! I took a trip to Los Angeles and went for a run. I started in a canyon but the unit had no trouble picking up satellite signals (much quicker than the Garmin I had along for comparison.) You can view the data for this run here: http://active.magellangps.com/activity/6005
Once again, the mileage was longer with the Switch (5.63 vs. 5.17) and the satellite signal may have dropped out a couple times, as there are two significant but brief elevation drops, causing the total elevation gain for the run to be off quite a bit.
Summary: Overall this is a very robust GPS watch with tons of features at an affordable price-point.