Magellan Switch GPS Watch

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Manufacturer Description

Switch is a crossover GPS watch designed primarily for running but expandable to cycling, swimming and other outdoor activities.

Features

  • High-sensitivity GPS receiver
  • 1.26 inch monochrome high resolution display with black background and white characters
  • 50 Meter Water-Resistance
  • Embedded ANT+ technology receives data from Magellan and any third-party ANT+ sensor, including heart rate monitors, foot pods, bike speed/cadence sensors and power meters.
  • Activity Pacer
  • Multisport Mode
  • 60 Hours Activity History
  • 9 Activity Profiles
  • Configurable display with up to 9 data screens and up to 6 fields of data per screen.
  • Set alerts based on current or cumulative training metrics, including time, distance, speed/pace, calories, heart rate, cadence and power.
  • Auto Lap by distance, time or location, Auto Pause and Auto Power Off.
  • Mark locations, save locations or navigate back to the starting point with the basic navigation capabilities
  • Accurate calorie calculation based on the following measurements — time, speed, distance, heart rate and power and personal information — age, gender, height, weight, resting heart rate and max heart rate.
  • USB Charging/Data Transfer
  • Upload data to Magellan Active or directly to other leading fitness websites
  • Size – 45 mm Wide x 58 mm Tall x 17 mm Deep (1.7 in x 2.3 in x 0.7 in)
  • Measured weight – 70 g (2.5 oz)
  • Retail – $229-$279 (with or without HR Strap)

YMMV Review

Magellan has been in the GPS market for some time. They have focused on portable GPS units. The company started in 1986 and now has over 200 key patents in GPS technology.  Up until recently, their focus was  on units for car navigation and the outdoors.  I personally knew about Magellan, but had not tried any of their products. Recently, Magellan announced they were going to get into the fitness market. That immediately caught my attention as that is where I most often use GPS devices. Taking their experience from other units they set out to build a set of fitness units to meet the needs of all athletes. After several demos of the new units, I was finally able to set up a review of the Switch Watch.

On my Wrist
On my Wrist – Click to See Larger

Testing

The Switch can  have different profiles for many different activities. With this in mind I tried to use them as I could. I tested the Switch running, hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.

Design ★★★½☆

Appearance (10%) ★★★½☆

Construction (40%) ★★★★☆

Features (20%) ★★★★☆

Sustainability (10%) ★★½☆☆

Weight (20%) ★★½☆☆

The Magellan Switch is one of two fitness instruments launched at the same time. The Switch is the watch version while the other is the Switch Up. The difference between the two is that the Switch Up is a unit that can be clipped into different mounts like a watch band or bike adapter. This review is for the Switch,  the full time watch version that is a bit less expensive and still has all the same features. Magellan was definitely not the first to this game as Garmin, Polar, Suunto, and Timex have been doing the fitness watch thing for some time. Magellan has, however, been a leader in GPS Units for many years so it only made sense for them to move into this space. By not trying to be the first in the market, they have been able to take their time and learn from some of the positive and negative of their competition, which I really think has helped towards the creation of the Switch Watch.

Heart Rate Strap - Click to See Larger
Heart Rate Strap – Click to See Larger

The Switch is like any other sports watch in that it has a sweat resistant adjustable band with a sturdy buckle. The watch face area has a rectangular shape that is not as wide as many other watches but similar in height. The Switch does have a bit of stack height that I found to be slightly taller than some of the competitions. This is likely due to the fact that it is not as wide. According to Magellan, the Switch is made to be a running watch that can crossover to cycling, swimming and other activities. The Switch has 50 meter water-resistance for all your water activities. It uses a precise GPS that has a high sensitivity to record time, distance, speed/pace, elevation, and much more. Magellan states the GPS can get down to 3-5 meter accuracy. The Switch is also able to connect via Ant+ technology to receive data from Magellan and other third-party ANT+ sensors.  This includes heart-rate monitors, foot pods, bike speed/cadence sensors and power meters.

Charger Dock - Click to See Larger
Charger Dock – Click to See Larger

The Switch allows you to create up to nine activity profiles for different sports. Whether it is different sports or even different uses within the same activity.  Within each of these profiles, you are able to set the data fields, settings, and alerts that you are looking to see.  With up to nine configurable screens and up to six fields of data per screen, you can see just about anything you would like to. You can create alerts on current or cumulative training metrics, including time, distance, speed/pace, calories, heart rate, cadence and power. The Switch also has a multisport mode where you can record activities as one workout and even log transition time between the activities. This is a great feature for the triathlon crowd.

On the Charger - Click to See Larger
On the Charger – Click to See Larger

The Switch can record up to 60 hours of activity with one-second  recording.  Of course, you can use Magellan Active or any one of your favorite tracking websites as the data is compatible with them all.  The Switch has a rechargeable battery that can record up to 8 hours of training before needing to be recharged. They give you an included charger to charge the device.  This charger is pretty cool; it connects magnetically to the bottom of the watch and is nearly fool proof. As a feature to save battery life, the Switch has auto controls such as auto pause and even auto shut off.  These controls empower you to also create auto laps by distance, time, or even location. Speaking of location, the watch can  mark locations for navigational purposes later. The one last feature that I will mention here is the Activity Pacer. You can set your desired distance, time, and speed/pace, and the Activity Pacer will not only show if you’re on target throughout your workout, but it will also instruct you with specific targets to attain your original goal. A pretty cool feature for some scenarios.

As with all other electronics and fitness watches, it is hard for them to be truly sustainable. Most of the materials are not conducive to that. Fortunately, the Switch is rechargeable, which eliminates the need for batteries which I can appreciate.  Magellan as a company is a bit harder to find anything out about. If I do I will update this.

Fit ★★★☆☆

Adjustability (35%) ★★★☆☆

Size (20%) ★★½☆☆

Strap Comfort (45%) ★★★☆☆

There is never too much to say about the fit of a watch. Like most watches, the Switch comes with an adjustable band with plenty of room for larger or smaller wrists. I have a small to medium-sized  wrist and found that there was plenty of room each direction to accommodate most people.  The strap is fairly wide, which distributes the pressure well. I never felt like the watch was uncomfortable when wearing it. With runs up to three hours I did not have any comfort issues.  The watch is fairly large, as are all other GPS watches, but so big that it annoyed me. I have come to the realization that if I want all the data features in my watch, it is going to have to be on the bigger side. The stack height of the watch does seem slightly larger than some of the competitors, and I think that is partly due to the watch being thinner in width. I guess you pick your poison as, a shorter height would be a larger overall shape.

Buckle - Click to See Larger
Buckle – Click to See Larger

I also tested the Heart-Rate Monitor Strap that can be purchased if wanted. The strap is one of the new generation of straps with more fabric and less plastic. This makes it more comfortable compared to the older models. I only use heart rate on some of my runs. I always find that heart rate straps like to slide down as I go until I get really sweaty, and then they tend to finally stay in place. On some runs, I am willing to put up with it for the knowledge, but most of the time I would rather run on feel. While I did like the strap, it does slide down similar to others I have used. I wish they would put some gripper on the inside of the strap all the way around; I think that would help.

Performance ★★★½☆

Accuracy (20%) ★★★☆☆

Battery Life (15%) ★★★★☆

Connectivity (10%) ★★½☆☆

Data Presentation (10%) ★★★★★

Ease of Use (20%) ★★★★☆

Software (10%) ★★★☆☆

Here is where the Magellan Switch really shines. With 9 different profiles and being able to adjust the screens for each one, the Switch is the most adjustable watch I have ever used. Whatever data you want to see, you can have it on the main screen and at your fingertips. I really liked being able to change the profile depending upon the type of workout I was doing as the type of data I want to see changes as the workouts do.  There is several setting that I found to be pretty cool but did not necessarily use them much. The Activity Pacer comes to mind right off the bat. If I was training to qualify for a bigger race, I can see where I would use it more, but on the majority of my workouts, it did not make sense.  I also did not use the location and tracking settings on the watch as I have some other watches that I like to use for hikes and climbs. That does not mean that being able to set a location does not have a place, it just depends on what you want to do with the watch. The Switch has so many options that it can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, the interface is pretty easy to navigate. Easier than many other watches I have used.

Side View - Click to See Larger
Side View – Click to See Larger

The data on the Switch has been easy to read, which is good. Depending on how many values you want to show up on the screen, this will change the size. I usually just need three for most of my workouts, and with this set up it worked great.  Data seemed to be pretty accurate compared to other watches I have used. The GPS connected in 20-40 seconds on most occasions. If I was far away from the last connection or happened to have to update software it would take a bit longer. Generally, about 1-2 minutes in those rare cases. I do notice that the GPS does drop the signal on occasion in wide open spaces. Not very often, I would estimate it at about every 4-5 runs. Most of the times it would pick up the signal again within a couple of seconds, but this would cause some interesting data in the Magellan Active website. This is not counting times I lost a signal running through a tunnel or something like that. That does occur as well, but it is also to be expected. I have done some runs with more tree cover and those have tended to be more troublesome for connectivity. Often going for 20 minutes before reconnecting. This is annoying and I was really suprised to see happen.

I have read some other comments on the Switch that complain about the GPS not being very accurate. I can say that I have used the Switch upwards of 30 times, and I found it to be fairly close to my other watches used: Garmin 101 & 305, Timex Run Trainer GPS, and even my iPhone Apps. I have a run that I did twice a week all year long so I had lots of data to compare. For the most part, I found that run to be around 5.09 miles on average. The Magellan Switch came in at 5.06 most of the time. While close it is not exactly the same. The only reason I assume there could be differences is in how often the watch collects data. Some do it every second while others do it every couple seconds, this can by itself make the results differ, especially if you turn at all during your run. According to Magellan, the Switch should be using one-second  recordings.

Battery Life seems to be pretty good on the watch. Magellan states that it should have about eight hours of life, and I think it got close to that. I really like how the watch can  show you the percentage of battery life left. This really helps me keep track of how often I need to charge the battery. In between uses, I make sure to turn off the watch to get the maximum amount of battery life. I do notice that when I use it without the heart rate strap, and it is still trying to find one; the watch will use more battery life. I just turn on and off that compatibility as needed.

Like I said earlier, I primarily used the watch on activities such as running or xc skiing where I was essentially on foot. What is cool about this watch is that it is able to be used as a cycling computer if you wish. In order to attach it to your handlebars you do need to get an adapter that the watch can be strapped to. Once attached you can set the activity profile to cycling and get all the numbers you would want to see. I only used it a couple of times as I have normal bike computers already on my bikes.

Notice the Stack - Click to See Larger
Notice the Stack – Click to See Larger

Magellan has created their own fitness tracking site in conjunction with the launch of the Switch series. It is called Magellan Active and is free to use. It is similar to other options out there as it will download your workouts and present them with data and maps. It is clear and easy to use but may be lacking a little in data if you truly like to dig in the weeds.  What is nice is that since all the workouts are .fit files you can upload them to your tracking software of choice. My current flavor of the month is Strava so most of my workouts are living on both. One thing that I have noticed with the Switch and Magellan Active site is that it is by far the fastest of any I have tried when it comes to downloading data off the watch. The speed has been really impressive.

Overall ★★★☆☆

Overall for a first iteration into the fitness category, Magellan has done a good job. The Switch has tons of data and with different activity profiles, it really does a great job being able to accommodate whatever your workout may be. The Switch is plenty comfortable to wear and when compared to similar watches the volume is about the same. The Switch is a bit narrower than most and makes up for that by having a bit more stack height. I am pretty used to large GPS watches by now so it does not bother me. If you want all the data, then you have to expect a larger watch. Connectivity of the Switch was good in open areas except for a couple of random losses of signal. These are few and far between and normally only last for a second or two. Not really a big deal. If you do run in a more wooded environment, you may have some connectivity issues. In those cases I may look elsewhere. If you are looking for a solid GPS watch that can work for a variety of activities, the Magellan Switch is a pretty solid option. While not inexpensive at $229 for just the Switch watch, it is fairly priced, in my opinion. As always, your mileage may vary.

Pros [field name=iFrame]

  • 9 Activity Profiles with customizable screens
  • Connect to GPS quickly
  • Able to download workouts to virtually any software
  • Clear screen
  • Easy to navigate software

Cons

  • Some complain of accuracy, I had no such issues
  • Does lose signal occasionally
  • Heart Rate Strap slips down on me, like all others, it may be me

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About the Author

I am an avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, hiker, climber, skier and many other activities that would make this list too long. I started Your Mileage May Vary Reviews in Early 2011 to combine two of my passions: sports and gear.

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