Magellan SporTrak Color

Magellan has been a leader in the hand-held GPS market since the company introduced the world's first commercial, hand-held GPS receiver in 1989. The firm's latest unit is the new SporTrak Color which, as the name might suggest,

The neat little package offers the full range of functions people have come to expect from GPS units, plus other useful features others don't. The clear, easy to read, colour screen is, however, a real bonus and a major plus point. The text is easy to read, even at arm's length, and the maps are

The SporTrak Color comes with a comprehensive 86-page manual but another handy feature is the brief 'Read Me First' pamphlet which tells you how to

Once on, the unit needs a short time to 'warm up' and find its satellites, which are displayed on the Satellite Status screen. There are nine navigational screens in total the others being the Map screen, Compass screen, large Data screen, two Position screens, a Road screen, Data screen

Of most use to hillwalkers are the Compass, Position and Data screens. The SporTrak Color has UK mapping (full colour) stored in it but this is

The Compass screen is handy to have at your fingertips while navigating and is customisable. The Data screen offers six fields of info, including your bearing and heading, plus distance walked and speed, while the Position screens tell you where you presently are in the form of OS grid references (although you can set it up for longitude and latitude) and your height above sea level is also displayed. We found the grid references to be accurate but the altitude was rarely spot on.

The SporTrak can be programmed with single or multi-leg routes and this is easily done using the unit. Entered waypoint can also have short messages attached to them, a handy feature. You can also let the unit chart your progress, creating a 'backtrack' route allowing you to retrace steps. Another possibility is to create routes using Anquet Maps PC software and then transferring the data via the cable included with the Magellan package

Unfortunately CD-Rom products targeted at GPS units currently tend to concentrate on the US. One product, MapSend Topo, offers 3D topography and very detailed mapping which can be loaded into the SporTrak, but this only covers America. Hopefully in the near future we'll get some software of this

Other useful features on the SporTrak includes a barometer and temperature gauge.

The SporTrak runs on two AA batteries and we got about a day and a half of average use out of it before replacements were needed (Magellan say 14 hours which is accurate enough). A warning message flashes up when power is low and at this point accuracy becomes very erratic. Changing batteries is quick and easy and the memory will store your data safely in the interim.

The unit weighs 204g (with batteries installed), making it slightly heavier than the Garmin Etrex GPS receiver our tester regularly uses. However, the SporTrak offers more features and has a much better screen and clearer read-out. The buttons are of a good size with clear symbols and are easy to use even with gloves on.

The SporTrak contains many more features than the hill walker needs but that's due to the fact it is designed for use across a range of activities, whether on land or at sea. It is a handheld unit for the most demanding of GPS user.

We had a couple of small niggles; the unit was inclined to turn itself off when stowed in a pocket or rucksack and each time you switch it on you have

As with all GPS units we've tested over the years, we'd like to see the manufacturers adopt the type of re-chargeable lithium batteries used in mobile telephones. This would be more convenient and would drastically

In addition to the GPS receiver, the SporTrak package includes PC cable, a detailed and easy to read user manual (available in English and French), two AA batteries and a wrist strap. Useful accessories available include an external power cable and car cigarette lighter adaptor.

The RRP is £379.90 (including VAT), although, checking prices, we found it available at £295.