Latest Dirt: Magellan Switch Up GPS

  • Posted: 11th June 2013

The Magellan Switch range of GPS-enabled ‘fitness devices’ are interesting little units. Designed around multi-sport athletes (as opposed to straight-out cyclists), there are four models in the range. The basic Switch models start from $219 and $279 with a heart rate strap. The Switch Up models ($329 with heart rate) will hold the greatest interest with MBA readers, as they are supplied with a bike mount as well as the regular wristwatch strap. The ‘Up’ models also gain a barometric altimeter to collect more accurate elevation data.

The Switch Up is similar in size to competing GPS units but the screen is small—it’s the first thing you’ll notice. As some recompense, it has the most audible alert beep I have heard in any GPS device and a powerful vibrate alert. Even though it comes with a bike mount it could be worn on the wrist while riding if all you wanted to do is stay in your heart rate zone, as you’ll be able to hear and feel alerts.

The bike-mount attaches to the bar or stem with the supplied rubber O-rings; I found the stem offered a more stable location. The GPS unit snaps into the bar-mount and it’s removed by simply pulling up near its top corners. Well it would have been simple if it wasn’t such a tight fit; removing the unit from the mounting bracket proved a real challenge—I almost lost some fingernails in the process. The unit must be removed from the mount to charge or upload data, so it’s not like you can just leave it in place either. At least it’s unlikely to come off accidentally!

Multi-Sport Special

The manual is simple to follow, and versatility is the Switch Up’s reason for being. You can customise nine unique profiles for the Switch Up, such as road, mountain and criterium for cycling. Each profile can display between one and nine screens, and the user can select up to six fields to be displayed on each of these screens. In total there are 85 possible data fields that the Switch Up can present. To access power or cadence data you would of course need to purchase additional ANT+ compatible sensors. Switching between my road and mountain settings was convenient, as in each situation I wanted different data on hand. For someone participating in running and swimming too, the benefit of multiple profiles would be even more noticeable. Additionally you can use the Switch Up to follow your route in reverse if you get lost, and to record and compare laps.

Selecting fewer fields for each screen results in a larger display space per field. It’s easy to make your first screen a one or two field affair and you can then have deeper or less important data on your subsequent screens. The clarity of the text on the screen is excellent and I never had an issue reading, be it in full sunlight or under tree cover.

The heart rate strap paired with the head unit very quickly after being switched on, although I needed to retighten the strap every few rides. GPS connectivity was fairly consistent throughout the test, although I did have a couple of rides where I simply couldn’t get the Switch Up to locate signal. I also had one ride where I logged roughly double the elevation gain that I should have. These rides were on the road with no obvious cause for the issue.

The Switch Up appears to be quite a robust little device and the buttons are covered with a thick rubber. It takes a deep poke with your finger to execute any action, which was more difficult when wearing full-finger gloves. Throughout the test my dexterity improved but the Switch Up buttons do require more effort to function than other GPS’ I have used.

A special cradle is required for charging and uploading data; it connects via integrated USB chord. If the unit isn’t located just right in the cradle, it won’t charge or transfer data. On more than one occasion I ended up with a non-charged unit after the cradle or unit had been slightly bumped, resulting in the connection between the unit and cradle being lost. I also forgot to charge it a few times and beware, as there is no battery gauge displayed on the screen. The Switch Up offers up to eight hours of use when charged and if you need more, a battery extender is available that adds an additional 16 hours; at $39 it’s reasonably priced too.

Your Swtich Up data can be uploaded to Strava, Training Peaks and Map My Ride as well as Magellan’s ‘Active’ website. As a regular Strava user, I found the Magellan Active maps offered a distinct improvement. The Magellan Active site also displays all the data fields that the Switch Up can record, so it’s a good site to use for logging and reviewing your training—whether it’s riding, running or swimming.

Overall the Switch Up offers the user a highly customisable interface and about as much information as anyone could possibly want. The versatility of the Switch Up is aimed at users that participate in a range of activities including cycling, and it’s probably not the best choice if you are only interested recording your cycling efforts. There are a few quirks with the mounting and digital interface on the Switch Up and the display could be larger, but data hounds can likely overlook these in exchange for the riches of information the Switch Up can offer.

Magellan Australia 1800 644 033 / www.magellangps.com.au