Magellan’s Switch GPS fitness watch comes to a highly-competitive market that’s dominated by Garmin. Does it have enough staying power to be a player among the bevy of watches currently available?
Magellan Switch Features:
- Fitness Data: Record time, distance, speed/pace, elevation, calories and more.
- Display: 1.26″ monochrome, high-resolution
- Water Resistance: Up to 50 m
- Includes 9 activity profiles
- Backlight for low light conditions
- Compatible with other ANT+ devices (heart rate, cadence, power, etc.)
- Calorie calcuations
- MSRP: $229.99 ($279.99 with heart rate belt)
Magellan Switch GPS Watch Review
It’s been awhile since I last tested an all-in-one GPS watch. The majority of GPS watches I’ve tested weren’t integrated units, but instead featured a GPS pod that transmitted to the watch (like the Polar FT60 and Suunto M5). The new Magellan Switch is an all-in-one unit that’s built to compete with the venerable Garmin Forerunner line.
Looking it over, the Switch appears bulky. Yes, it’s quite a rectangular block, but its light weight and comfortable strap mitigate some of the bulkiness. it reminds me of wearing my first Suunto Vector — looks big and bulky but feels lightweight and comfortable on your wrist while running.
I’ve used the Switch for trail running, mountain biking and road biking. On the bike, I’d much prefer a handlebar mount as it becomes difficult to track progress mid-ride. While running, it’s much easier to check performance on-the-fly. The built-in activity profiles cover every activity I do and provides relevant information to each activity. Since I didn’t have an ANT+ capable heart rate belt, I did have a bit of a gap in data capturing and some blank screens.
Wearing the Switch is comfortable while running. It is bulky and does interfere with jacket cuffs, etc., but that’s to be expected with a watch of this size. There’s no way around it, all-in-one GPS watches are bulky, but some are more bulky than others. I’d put the Switch on the bulkier side of the bunch. It is a bit like having a large matchbox on your wrist, but at least it has rounded corners.
Startup can sometimes be a mixed bag. Because it takes at least 30 seconds to acquire a GPS lock, I’d suggest turning this unit on well before your activity begins. Don’t worry about saving batteries as this thing seems to sip batteries. You’ll be grateful to have the Switch ready to go when you are.
Speaking of that, if you do happen to start your activity without kicking off the watch, it beeps and prompts you to start the activity. That feature is fantastic and is one that I wish other GPS watches had. While it prompts you to start the activity tracking, it also goes into pause mode automatically should you stop for any length of time.
It comes pre-built with 9 different activities — each with their own relevant metrics. For example, the MTB and road cycling modes have a more detailed climbing dashboard with percent grade, total ascent and current elevation. And, while in running mode, you get a mile chime and relevant running info such as elapsed time, current pace, average pace, etc. While these profiles are nice, switching between them is a bit more cumbersome than I think it should be as you have to navigate through a sea of menus and sub-menus to do it. Luckily, the navigation menus on the watch are intuitive (I’ve yet to read the manual).
Tracking seems very accurate. I compared it head-to-head against my Strava iPhone app and found minimal variance between the two. I know that Magellan and other GPS providers have their own Web-based tracking tools, but I much prefer using Strava and found it very easy to upload activities to Strava with the Switch. It connects to my Mac without batting an eye.
- Sips on batteries
- Reverse black display is easy-to-read
- Intuitive interface (haven’t read the manual yet)
- Navigation option gets you back to the start
- Supports several pre-loaded profiles for running, cycling, etc.
- Can connect to various ANT+ devices (not tested)
- Works great with Strava
- Fairly bulky to wear
- Gotta pay extra to get the removable unit (Switch Up)
- Could be easier to swtich between profiles (Running, Biking, etc.)
- Can take several minutes to acquire satellites
Bottom Line: Magellan Switch GPS Watch
Yes, it is large — no way around that — but, the Magellan Switch wears easy and functions well. I’ve enjoyed the intuitive navigation and functional display for mid-workout analysis.
Buy Now: Visit REI.com
Thanks for the great review. I thought I’d pass along a couple tips:
– Quickly change your Activity Profile by pressing the UP and DOWN buttons at the same time. This shortcut will open an window allowing you to change the active profile.
– Activity Profile screens and settings are preconfigured to get you up and running out of the box, but you can customized the screens to show any of the 80 data fields available. If you don’t have a Heart Rate Monitor, you can delete that screen.
– Activity Pacer is virtual pacer that will guide you to your training and race goals. For example, if you want to run a 4 hour marathon, Activity Pacer will dynamically update during the race and tell you if you are on or off target. There’s a detailed blog post if you want to learn more about about Activity Pacer: http://goo.gl/G3t35
Thanks Mike! Great to get the expert chiming in. I like that I was able to do 90% of the watch’s function without reading the manual. Now it seems I should read the manual to squeeze that last 10% out.
Jason, anyway for you to compare the Switch against a Garmin 910XT?
It’s possible though Garmin has not been able to send me a device as of yet. I’ll keep trying as that is one I would like to review.