Forum: Misc. GPS Equipment Information
Topic: Magellan Meridian Gold Review.
started by: Quinn

Posted by Quinn on Feb. 18 2002,2:23 pm

The following review and product evaluation is based on the unit being used for Geocaching purposes foremost with additional outdoors use considered secondly.

Magellan factory Specifications Provided by Magellan:

Operational Characteristics
Position Update Rate:  1 per second
Time to First Fix:  
when it is Cold - <2 minutes
when it is Warm - <1 minute
when it is Hot - 15 seconds
Maximum Velocity:  951 mph (1530.5km/h)

Physical Characteristics
Unit Size:  6.5"H x 2.9"W x 1.3"D
Weight:  8 oz. (236.5 cubic cm)
Display Size:  1.75"W x2.2"H (44.4mm x 55.9mm)
Display Resolution:  120 x 160 pixels, grayscale
Antenna:  Quadrifiler helix
Backlit Display:  Yes
Backlit Keypad:  Yes
Construction:  Rugged extensive rubber armoring

Electrical Characteristics

Batteries:  2AA
Battery Life:  14 hours
Receiver:  12 parallel channel, WAAS enabled
Uploadable Memory:  Optional SD cards (8, 16, 32, or 64MB)
User Data Backup:  Indefinate - stored in non-volatile flash memory. No backup battery required.

Environmental Characteristics

Waterproof:  IEC-529 IPX7, floats
Operating Temp:  14°F to 140°F / -10°C to 60°C
Altitude (operating):  Up to 60,000 ft.

Software Characteristics

Waypoints:  500
Routes:  20
Trackpoints:  2000
Grids:  Lat/Lon, UTM, OSGB, MGRS, Swiss, Irish, Finnish, German, Swedish, French
Datums:  76 Datums plus 1 user-defined
Data In/Out:  RTCM 104 (in) / NMEA 0183 V1.5 & 2.1 (out) DGPS ready
Languages:  English, French, German, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch

The Magellan Meridian Gold is a full featured Global Positioning System Receiver with excellent mapping capability's included. I found this to be one of the better units that I have had the privilege of using the past several days to enjoy on a couple outdoors adventures of Geocaching and several field tests. I will cover each of the things I liked about this unit along with a few that I thought needed some work or minor corrections in order to make this a true Geocachers tool. Lets start with what this unit can be bought for at the time of this review. In looking around the web as well as making some local phone calls, the average price I was able to come up with to make this unit personal property was 299.99 US. Mind you that this price does not include sales tax as well as any shipping costs that you may run into if ordering from the web.

This unit comes brand new with a tutorial Cd that provides several times more information than you will find with the enclosed instructional booklet. It also comes with 16 megs of base memory with an upgrade add-on of up to 64 megs of flash memory.

Mapping that comes with the unit includes U.S. Cities, all major roadways,national parks, highways,worldwide boundaries, railways and waterways. With several different sized flash memory chips being manufactured by Magellan as well as other after market companies, you can pick and choose just how much more memory you want in case you decide to add on detailed street mapping or topo maps from the tow cd's that Magellan offers (NEW Mapsend Streets or Topo) both these CD's can be found pretty much anywhere that Magellan product is sold but does not come with the unit itself.

We have included pictures along with this review to give you a general idea of just what the Magellan Gold looks and feels like, but for better words the only way I can describe it would be to call it a "Bumper Car" GPSR. The unit comes with a nicely protective rubber ring that wraps around the body to help absorb any shock or stress from rough use. The eight buttons and center large toggle are well laid out for single hand use just below the large view screen. When turning this unit on you must push "Enter" within 15 seconds of doing so or the unit will turn itself back off. This is a safety feature to help save on battery life in case of an accidental power up that the owner may not have been aware of.

To me as well as many other Geocachers the most important thing about any GPSR is the type and quality of the antenna system provided. The Meridian Gold comes with a Quadrifilar antenna which when tested side by side with several other top shelf GPSR units I found to be a very nice addition. Not once while outdoors in medium rainfilled tree cover did I lose satellite contact. While in the open and on level ground I was able to pull up 9 sats and hold 2 WAAS for the entire 30 minutes I left the unit sitting. I also decided to see if I could get any locks while indoors so I turned the unit on inside my home on the first floor (closest window was 10 feet away), doing this I was able to pull up three sats and lock two within 2 minutes of being turned on. This is pretty good for my area as none of the other higher priced GPSR's I have tested like this would lock any at all let alone se them.

Some of the things I found and took a liking to in the Meridian Gold that I was not able to find in other GPSR's of the same price range would be the option to turn on and off certain features such as tracks, waypoints, points of interest,adjustable tracklog and topographical mapping lines. To avoid a constant flipping through the 8 view and information screens of the Gold you have the option to turn any of these to "off" making it less of a hassle to get to the ones you use more often. The Gold also comes with a very nice 3 level back light which came in very handy while testing this unit in the dark. With no other artificial lighting being used I was able to navigate through all of the screens and view each option with no problem using only the back light provided. The large view screen of this unit will spoil the user if used to smaller screens such as found in it's cousin the Map 330X.

Based on information provided via Magellan's website as well as personal information gained during testing and comparison of the Meridian Gold, I found the differences between this unit and the other Meridians to be memory that came included with each unit type (Meridian Green 2MB, Gold 16MB and Platinum 16 MB all for basemaps contained in the units) Two things lacking in the Gold that the Platinum has would be the Compass and barometer. The marine unit in the Meridian line also comes with some built in navigational aids and some very nice coastline mapping. This is also a 16MB unit.

I found that the meridian gold  works very well with my MAH 1700 1.2 volt NIMH rechargeable batteries giving me a continuous usage of about 10 hours on these bats. I also found however that there is no setting to change from different types of batteries so the level indicator for battery life is not always accurate. While using regular Alkaline batteries I was then able to get a correct reading for battery life and also was able to pull 13 hours out of a brand new set of Alks in continuous usage. Based on cost of new Alkaline batteries compared to the lifespan and use received from rechargeable bats, I decided to stick with my 1700 Mah's. This will save me quite a bit of money in the long run.

In the time I have used the Meridian Gold I have come to the conclusion that Magellan must have been watching many of the Geocaching forums and newsgroups. This unit seems to be just what a geocacher would have ordered if asked. The unit has a nice hefty and strong feel to it with a design that is rugged . Even when shaking the unit and giving it light taps on the counter I was not able to get it to shut down due to battery contact loss like is found in some of the older product lines put out by Magellan and Garmin.

The battery compartment is lined with a rubber gasket to ensure that it maintains it's water tight status, and though I was too scared to test this, the Gold as well as the others in the Meridian line are all waterproof as well as floaters! The additional flash memory is plugged into the same compartment where the batteries are held, and releases/ installs with a push of the thumb. I found this unit to be just as if not more receptive than it's cousin the 330X, and would also go as far as saying it is one of the best satellite receivers I have used to date. Owning both the 330X and the Meridian gold was nice being able to use the same data cable on both units without having to swap out each time I wanted to load information in one or the other. About the only things I would have liked to of seen this unit carry would have been an external antenna port like what is found on some of the Garmin line, but having the antenna that it does, this feature is not a major mishap. I would also have liked to of seen a Gecaching icon within it's menu base but this is a downloadable fix which with luck Magellan will place in it's next file. On a scale of 1 - 10 I would rate this overall as a 8.5 for Geocaching use, and would highly recommend the meridian Gold as a GPSR to own.

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