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GPS Review - Magellan Meridian Color

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver April, 2004
by: J. Chartwell

Introduction:

The Magellan Meridian Color is the top of the Meridian line of GPS receivers. It features the industry’s first outdoor-viewable 16 color LCD screen in a handheld GPS. The Meridian Color comes preprogrammed with a 16 MB map including highways, major roads, parks, waterways, airports, cities and more.

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Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver package

What You Get:

  • Meridian Color GPS receiver
  • User manual, English
  • User manual, French
  • 2 AA batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • PC cable

Optional accessories:

  • Carrying case
  • Swivel mounting bracket
  • Vehicle mounting bracket
  • Bike mounting bracket
  • External power/data cable w/bare wires
  • External power/data cable
  • External power cable with cigarette lighter adapter
  • MapSend Streets Europe CD
  • MapSend Streets & Destinations in the U. S. CD
  • MapSend Streets & Destinations Canada CD
  • MapSend BlueNav CD Europe
  • MapSend Topo CD United States
  • MapSend BlueNav CD North America
  • MapSend Worldwide Basemap CD
  • Secure Digital (SD) memory cards

What It Does:

The Meridian Color has nine navigation screens: Map, Compass, Large Data, Road, Data, Speedometer, two Position screens, and a Satellite Status screen.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver map page

The Map screen has two modes, position or cursor. In the position mode, your present position is indicated by the large arrow icon in the center of the display. If you are moving, the arrow will point in the direction that you are heading. At the bottom of the screen is the scale for the map displayed and two data fields that can be customized, or turned off. In the Cursor mode, you are provided with a cursor that can be moved on the map. At the bottom of the display is the information for the position of the cursor relative to your present position.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver compass screen

The Compass screen is customizable to display the information that is useful to you. The lower portion of the Compass screen not only displays your heading in a graphical manner, but also displays the relationship of the sun, moon and your destination to your heading.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver large data screen

The Large Data screen is similar to the Compass screen but here the compass has been removed to allow for large display of the navigation data. This is ideal for when you need to use the receiver mounted on the dash of your car or boat. The display can be seen from a distance.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver position screen 1

The Position screens 1 and 2 display your present position using the coordinate systems that you select. These screens show all of the basic position, time and satellite information. They also show the current navigation information at the bottom of the screen.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver road screen

The Road screen presents your route as if you were traveling on a road. When you need to make a turn, the road will graphically display the turn and the direction. Waypoint and destination icons will be displayed relative to your position as they come into view. Above the road is a compass that displays your heading and above that are four customizable data fields.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver data screen

The Data screen provides you with six data fields and an active compass that is the same as the one used on the road screen. You have the option of customizing this screen by selecting what data is displayed in the upper six fields.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver speedometer screen

The Speedometer screen displays your speed in a familiar graphical format. There are four additional data fields at the top of the display that can be customized to display the data that you need. The bottom of the screen contains a trip odometer that will record the distance traveled since the last time the odometer was reset.

Magellan Meridian Color GPS receiver satellite status screen

The Satellite Status screen provides you with a graphical display of the satellites in view and which ones are being used to compute the navigation data. The bar graph shows you the relative signal strength being received for each satellite. At the bottom of the display is an indication of the battery life remaining.

When marking waypoints you can select its icon, name, and add a message. With the ‘Goto’ feature you select a waypoint that was saved and the receiver guides you to that point. ‘Backtrack’ allows you to retrace your steps back to your starting point.


Specifications:

Physical:

Case: Weatherproof construction, wraparound rubber armor - waterproof to one meter for 30 minutes
Size: 6.5” x 2.9” x 1.2” (16.5 x 7.4 x 3.05 cm)
Weight: 6.4 oz.(181g) without batteries, 8.0 oz. (227g) with batteries
Display: 2.2” x 1.75” (5.59 x 4.44 cm) backlit color LCD
Display Resolution: 160 x 120 pixels
Antenna: Quadrifilar Helix
Temperature Range: 14F to 140F (-10C to 60C)

Performance:

Receiver: 12 Parallel Channel, WAAS Enabled
Acquisition time: Cold – appr. 60 seconds
Warm - appr. 15 seconds
Update Rate: 1 second continuous
Position Accuracy: less than 7 meters, horizontal
less than 3 meters, horizontal w/ WAAS

Navigation:

Waypoints: 500
Map datums: 76
Routes: 20

Power:

Input: 2 AA alkaline batteries or 9-35 VDC with power cable
Battery Life: Up to 14 hours

Price:

Suggested Retail: $549.99
Mean Price Available on Internet: $380.00 USD


Practical Use:

The Magellan Meridian Color is a fairly large-sized receiver but relatively light for its size. The nine buttons on the face of the unit are larger than those of many other GPS receivers and therefore easy to use. It is rather broad to accommodate the batteries (which are situated horizontally), large screen, and Quadrifilar Helix antenna. As with most devices that have a great variety of options, navigating through all the menus takes some getting used to.

The sides and most of the back are covered in rubber to give it a good grip both in your hand and on the console or dash of your car. The battery cover is quite secure, but still allows easy access to the batteries. A minor inconvenience is attaching the PC cable. It requires tedious manipulation to align the screw to its threaded port and then you have to twist a small "D" ring few times (plus the wrist strap must be removed first, as it uses the same port as the PC cable retainer).

TTFF for cold starts were about 32 seconds. At walking speed, the estimated position error was usually about 40 - 60 feet unless it was receiving WAAS. According to the specs, WAAS accuracy is less than 3 meters (10 feet). Marking and naming waypoints was relatively simple and the Meridian Color offers 42 different icons to represent waypoints. I found the compass jumps around at speeds under 6-10 MPH and is slow to respond to changes in heading.

The “Goto” feature is fundamental to a GPS receiver. After reaching the most distant point of my walk, and enabling “Goto,” the screen displayed the direction I needed to go to reach my starting point. As I followed the indicated direction, the time to arrival and distance is also displayed. The distance is shown in miles down to one-tenth of a mile, then switches to feet. Upon arriving at my starting point, the distance remaining was off by about 45 feet.

Enabling the "Backtrack" feature allows you to retrace your steps. Just choose "Backtrack" from the menu and the unit will point you in the direction of a series of backtrack points, counting down the distance to each successive point. These points are set by the receiver automatically along the route you are traveling.

In order to use the "Route" feature, I plotted a route with Magellan’s MapSend CD and uploaded the route to the Meridian Color. I then activated the route and followed the Road screen. The Road screen displays a representation of a road, including upcoming turns. Provided I marked a waypoint at each turn, the distance counted down to that turn. I found that these distances were fairly accurate, helping to guide me in the right direction at the right time. The unit maintained a good signal on the console of my car (not up on the dashboard).

Testing under conditions of moderate foliage cover and next to 60-foot sheer cliffs showed that the Meridian Color held its signal quite well, with a lock on more than enough satellites with at least medium signal strength.


Cons and Pros:

Cons:

  • PC cable is difficult to attach.
  • Display is somewhat dim without backlight on.
  • Compass unsteady at speeds under 6-10 MPH.

Pros:

  • Holds fix well under heavy foliage and in vehicles.
  • Large screen
  • Display is color!
  • Expandable memory slot

Conclusion:

The Meridian Color GPS receiver is one of the few handhelds with a color display. It has an SD slot allowing for expandable memory. A slight drawback is having to remove the batteries to access the SD slot. With its larger buttons, many will find it easier to use. If your activities can accommodate a little more room for its larger size, you can benefit from its larger screen, quadrifilar helix antenna, and many other features. It lacks a barometric altimeter, which would have been nice. Magellan also offers the Meridian Color with the Marine Value Pack and the Traveler Value Pack, both of which are good deals. Additionally, Magellan's technical support is available by either email or toll-free phone number and I have found them to be very courteous and helpful.

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