Garmin and Magellan are probably two of the first brands that automatically come to mind whenever you think of GPS. These brands have both managed to cross bridges that mobile navigation tools just could not achieve. But in a battle of Magellan vs Garmin, who reigns supreme? Here’s our honest opinion…
A tale of two brands – Magellan vs Garmin
Before we dive into anything serious, let’s first take a look at these two industry leaders and why they got to where they are today.
For a long time, consumers out there tend to look at this age-old debate in the same way they view the iOS vs Android problem. If your first GPS was a Garmin, it’ll take quite some time to get used to Magellan devices and vice versa.
However Magellan lost a lot of ground to Garmin and have pretty much abandoned the market to Garmin these days.
A few other manufacturers like Suunto and some smart devices like FitBit have entered the market to some degree, but in reality, Garmin is now the undisputed leader.
In the following sections we will look at the two brands and pick out a few notable models
Founded by Gary Burrell and Min Kao in 1989, Garmin was born three years after Magellan. The brand offers a wide range of handheld and automotive GPS units as well as wearable GPS tech for recreational use including hiking, sporting, and dog training and tracking.
These days they find themselves as pretty much the only game in town for handheld GPS devices, although there is fierce competition in the wearable devices and GPS watches arena
Here are a few of our picks for the best Garmin GPS devices
Garmin eTrex 20x – Garmin’s entry-level GPS
The eTrex 20x is Garmin’s entry-level handheld GPS that offers great value for money while keeping things as simple as possible. With water-resistant construction, 25 hours of battery life, and 3.7GB internal memory (and room for a microSD), the only downside is the small 2.2-inch screen. Oh and then there’s the fact that it’s not a touch-screen either.
But to make up for what it lacks in terms of screen capabilities, the eTrex 20 offers great accuracy. This device uses the Wide Angle Augmentation System (WAAS), GLONASS support, and HotFix satellite prediction for the best possible positioning.
Garmin in Reach Explorer+
I really like this device. Along with the usual GPS staples the Explorer+ adds preloaded DeLorme TOPO maps with onscreen GPS routing plus a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter, and accelerometer.
It is also pretty tough and comes with an IPX7 water rating so it will survive out on the trail with you. It has a pretty good rechargeable internal lithium-ion battery, but this does mean it will need charging rather than a pocket full of AAAs to keep it running
However, the reason I like this device so much, is that it also comes with 100 percent global Iridium satellite coverage. This gives you two-way text messaging from anywhere (assuming you remembered to pay your subscription!)
On the safety side, this means you can trigger an SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center – which could literally be a lifesaver!
However this also means you can share your progress with family and friends as you can send a message to any text or email and all this in a device that weighs 0.5 lbs!
Garmin Rino 755tIf you just want the best handheld GPS device, this is the one to go for.
From a practical standpoint it will run for about 14 hours on a full charge, but can also run on AA batteries. While the 3” Sunlight-readable touchscreen works in both landscape or portrait orientation while being well waterproofed and tough.
It also features high-sensitivity GPS and GLONASS satellite reception gives more accurate data in more challenging environments than GPS alone.
However, if you are in a team, the features allowing you to use it as a walkie talkie and share location info really stand out.
Magellan, also known as MiTAC Digital Corporation, was founded in 1986 and brought us the first commercial handheld GPS receiver, the Magellan NAV 1000 that hit the shelves in 1989. Today this American company has a wide variety of consumer navigation tools and automotive GPS devices on offer.
More recently they seem to have moved away from the handheld devices market and now focus only on auto and truck GPS systems.
Some of their devices still make very good second hand or end of line purchases, but don’t expect them to be updated frequently!
Magellan eXplorist 310
The Magellan eXplorist 310 is an entry-level GPS device that boasts an 18-hour battery life, the World Edition base map and 2GB memory for storing topo maps, waypoints, tracks, and geocaches. The device’s summary page includes basics like distance traveled, descent, and average speed.
Even though the screen is on the small side (2.2 inches), it’s still high-res, colored, and trans-reflective so you can see well even in direct sunlight. Fitted with SiRFstarIII, this device is accurate up to 9 feet of your actual location, so
What we really appreciate though is the IPX-7 waterproof rating in the eXplorist 310, which makes it ideal for outdoor use.
Magellan vs Garmin – Final thoughts
Magellan and Garmin are very comparable in terms of expandable memory, waterproofing, durability, speed, and interface. Some say that Garmin is more durable while Magellan is a cheaper option for budget-conscious buyers.
At the end of the day, it’s worth looking into the limitations and strengths of each brand, doing proper research, and testing each one (if you have the opportunity to do so) to see if it works for you.
What works for one hiker might be a total fail for another. None of us has the same budget or expectations, so in this battle of the brands, there really isn’t a loser or a winner.
Matt Green, is an avid hiker and lover of the great outdoors. He is always planning his next big trip or hitting the trails for a solo hike.
He’s traveled extensively to many remote regions and has plenty of experience exploring various terrains, and stories to tell.