Magellan Switch Up review: Magellan Switch Up

Additionally, the Switch Up features a barometer, for more accurate monitoring of elevation changes, and a thermometer, for monitoring ambient temperature.

Magellan Heart rate monitor and ANT+ monitors
Both the Switch and the Switch Up are compatible with ANT+ monitoring devices, including heart rate monitors, foot pods, bicycle speed and cadence meters, and power meters. Additionally, Magellan offers both Switch devices as part of bundles that include a Magellan-branded heart rate monitor.

After strapping the heart monitor around my chest, just below the breastplate of my rib cage and directly on the skin, the Switch and Switch Up were able to automatically recognize and record my current heart rate, peak heart rate, and activity average heart rate, as well as calculated caloric burn for the activity profile based on the data gathered from my ticker.

Magellan ANT+ HRM
Magellan's ANT+ heart rate monitor is available as part of a Switch bundle or as a separate accessory purchase. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Performance and Magellan Active Web site
After charging the Switch Up to 100 percent battery, I strapped it onto my wrist, wrapped the ANT+ heart monitor on, and headed outdoors. Magellan recommends that you power the device on outside for fastest GPS reception. The ANT+ device was recognized almost immediately, but initial satellite reception took about 5 minutes, which wasn't too bad for a fresh-out-of-the-box device.

I hit start and went for a brisk walk around downtown San Francisco. The road-running program (I neglected to change the program from run to walk) defaults to auto-laps in one-mile increments, so every now and then I'd feel my wrist buzzing. When I was done with my walk (about 40 minutes) I was puzzled to see that the Switch Up was reporting a low battery. Puzzled, I powered the device off and put it away.

Later, I plugged the device into my Mac and attempted to upload the recorded activity to http://active.magellanGPS.com but was puzzled to find that there was no saved activity. Digging through the instructions again, I noticed that the Switch series devices don't automatically save their data at the end of a session. With a bit of fiddling, I found the reset and save function (accessed by holding the activity start/stop button for a bit) and was able to successfully upload my data to Magellan's site.

Magellan Active
The Magellan Active Web site allows Switch users to compare and share their results with other users, or just keep their monitoring private. Screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Once there, I was able to view my walk on a Google Map, track my pace, elevation, and heart rate on colorful chart, check calories burned, and access a host of other data recorded by the Switch Up. Activities can be set as public or private and shared with other Magellan Active users. Additionally, fitness and GPS geeks can download their activity data in a number of formats including FIT, CSV, KML, and GPX.

In sum
The Magellan Switch devices are rugged, easy to use, and can be extremely useful for monitoring a number of activities where a fragile smartphone running an app like Runkeeper or Nike+ may not be ideal. Sure there are waterproof cases for iPhones, but I think serious triathletes would require something more robust and less bulky for monitoring their running, cycling, and swimming.

However, the Switch series isn't exactly cheap. While they are competitively priced, the $229.99 entry price for the basic Switch precludes this from being an impulse purchase for those who aren't really serious about fitness. Step up to the Switch Up and you gain a few neat functions (thermometer, barometer, and vibration motor) and a ton of flexibility with ability to be used with an included bike mount, but the buyer is also adding to the price tag when they choose this $299.99 device. Both switch devices are more expensive than, for example, the Nike+ SportWatch by TomTom, but are also a bit more fully featured and compatible with more monitoring options thanks to ANT+ compatibility. Still, I'd rather be seen in public wearing the more svelte and attractive Nike watch, which actually functions better as a timepiece when not in use...then again, I'm no athlete, so take that last opinion with a few pinches of salt.

Additionally, both the Switch and Switch Up can be purchased in bundles that include the ANT+ heart rate monitor for $279.99 and 349.99, respectively.

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