Magellan, manufacturer of portable navigation devices, gets into the wrist-wear business with the Switch series. These wristwatch-shaped activity monitors aren't very good at telling the time, but they are great for monitoring a host of parameters related to running, biking, hiking, walking, and swimming, thanks to built-in GPS location technology. They're rugged, waterproof, and compatible with an array of ANT+ fitness monitors.
The Magellan Switch
Magellan's Switch Series of GPS activity monitors starts with, of course, the Switch. This small device uses a wristwatch design with a 1.26-inch screen to display information about your current activity -- for example, a run.
It gathers this information from its internal SirfSTAR IV GPS receiver, which reports positioning data with accuracy of 3-5 meters. Out of the box, it can monitor your latitude, longitude, and altitude. More importantly, it can use that data to calculate total distance traveled, pace, total activity time, and lap averages for all of those values. The unit can also calculate caloric burn based on your age, height, weight, and observed heart rate when paired with an optional ANT+ device (more on this later).
There are nine available activity profiles accessible via the Switch's menu system including road running, trail running, marathon running, road biking, mountain biking, criterium biking, swimming, walking, and hiking, and a tenth multisport setting for tracking triathlons, for example. Each of the activity profiles features customizable displays, activity goals, recording preferences, training alerts, pace keepers, and other preferences.
The Switch is shockproof and waterproof with a maximum submersion depth of 50 meters, making it useful for tracking swimming activities, running and cycling in the rain, and dealing with sweat. Flanking the Switch's monochrome LCD are five rubberized buttons, most of which have multiple functions. To the left are the buttons for manual lap marking and activity start/stop, which double as confirm and back buttons when in the unit's menu, and serve the third functions of saving the current GPS location and resetting the current activity when held. To the right of the screen are the status and menu buttons, which double as up and down selectors when navigating a menu screen. Finally, there's the power button (also on the right side of the unit), which simply powers the device on and off.
An 8-hour battery life from a full charge and the fact that the current date and time (automatically set by GPS) are hidden under a menu somewhat limits the Switch's usefulness as a wristwatch when you're not actually running, swimming, or biking, but I won't hold that against this device. When it's time to charge the Switch, simply attach the included USB cradle to the back of the unit's body. While connected to a PC or Mac, users can log onto Magellan's Web site to upload their activity data (saved in a FIT format) for analysis, comparing, and sharing.
The Switch Up
The Switch Up is the step-up model in the Switch line and is largely identical to the Switch. It can do everything that the standard Switch can do and more.
The wrist-worn Switch Up is thicker than the Switch, but that's because the unit can be separated from its wrist strap and attached to an included bike mount that attaches to almost any bike tube in seconds with a pair of rubber straps (also included). The Switch Up's design means that you'll also have to remove it from the wrist strap or bike mount to attach it to the USB charger.
Internally, the Switch Up adds a vibration motor, which allows users to feel notifications for pace, time, laps, etc., in situations where they may not be able to hear the audible beep -- running while wearing headphones, for example.