Garmin vs Magellan GPS: Which One Should You Get?

If you say GPS, Garmin and Magellan are automatic brand associations. The fact that dedicated GPS units remain to be relevant in a world of nav-enabled smartphones and tablets is mainly because of how these leading brands managed to meet the limitations of mobile devices as navigation tools. But in a battle of Garmin vs Magellan GPS, which side should you take? Let us show you our personal yet unbiased assessment below.

Background of the Two Brands

Before anything, here’s a little background of two of the industry innovators and leaders of GPS receiver navigation devices.


As you may have already realized, the company is named after the Portuguese explorer who was first to circumnavigate the world, Ferdinand Magellan. A fitting name for a company that offers consumer navigation tools and aftermarket automotive GPS devices.

This American company, also known as MiTAC Digital Corporation, was founded in 1986 and is headquartered in San Dimas, California.

Its first commercial handheld GPS receiver was the Magellan NAV 1000 that debuted in 1989.


Garmin is a company named after its founders Gary Burrell and Min Kao. This US company was built in 1989, some three years after Magellan. It is headquartered in Olathe, Kansas.

Aside from handheld and automotive GPS units, the company also offers wearable GPS technology for outdoor and sports activities as well as dog training and tracking devices.

Garmin vs Magellan GPS: How Do They Fare?

In general, there seems to be a higher number of buyers rooting for Garmin products than Magellan’s. But, of course, you cannot make decisions based merely on popularity. At the same time, it wouldn’t be wise to dismiss the number factor altogether.

The prevailing impression is that Garmin GPS devices are well-performing and well-built devices. Magellan navigation tools, on the other hand, are known for their accuracy and more affordable prices.

Still, it would be wise to look into the different Garmin and Magellan navigation gadgets individually rather than as a whole. After all, these are two of the top innovators in the industry. So, you can expect newer and better technology from their new product releases.

As to which one has a better interface, consumers are split 50-50. Apparently, if your first handheld GPS is a Magellan, then you’d naturally want to update to another Magellan model. And if you’ve been on Garmin for quite some time, then you’d find Magellan a bit difficult to use the first few times. So it’s basically like a Mac-PC war or Toyota-Honda battle.

But one thing you’d want to consider if you haven’t taken on any of the brands yet is the after purchase support. Apparently, Garmin provides better tech support and customer service. Of course, this is something that can change over time and can largely differ from one individual experience to another.

Handheld GPS Recommendations for Each Brand

Garmin eTrex 20x

If you like keeping things simple, then this entry-level GPS device offers you that and a good value for your money. It boasts of a water-resistant construction, 25 hours of battery life, and a 3.7GB internal memory with room for a microSD. Unlike its older version eTrex10, it lets you download maps on the navigation tool through the micro SD, including TOPO 24K and HuntView.

However, you might find its 2.2-inch screen too small, not to mention it isn’t touchscreen. But, if it’s any consolation to you, the display is in 65k-color and is sunlight-readable.

You might also take issue with the fact that it doesn’t carry a barometric altimeter to measure atmospheric pressure. A 3-axis compass is also missing.

As for accuracy, the Garmin eTrex 20x is pretty reliable. It harnesses the power of a proven network of satellites and ground stations called the Wide Angle Augmentation System (WAAS) to correct inaccuracies from overhead satellites. Matched with its high sensitivity, GLONASS support, and HotFix satellite prediction, it offers you accurate information.

Magellan CX0310SGXNA eXplorist 310

Another solid entry-level navigation device is the Magellan CX0310SGXNA eXplorist 310 that has an 18-hour battery life to it with a battery-saving feature that can extend battery life. It comes with a 2GB memory loaded with the World Edition base map as well as a room for storing Summit Series topo maps, geocaches, tracks, and waypoints.
On its summary page, it provides information including distance traveled, average speed, and descent.

But like the Garmin eTrex 20x, it is fitted only with a 2.2-inch screen. Nonetheless, its colored, high-resolution, and trans-reflective screen allows you to read information well under direct sunlight.

The technology for this model, however, is a bit dated. Thus, satellite lock can take a little longer than with Garmin’s eTrex 20x or Magellan’s more expensive and recent models. Still, its SiRFstarIII GPS allows for 3-5 meter accuracy. And with its IPX-7 waterproof rating, this navigation tool is truly made for the outdoors.

Final Thoughts

In the Garmin vs Magellan GPS battle, we would be a little biased towards Garmin, not because they’re more popular or sturdy but because they have a track record for excellent aftermarket care. Customer and product support are especially important with GPS devices for upgrades, bug fixes, and other concerns.

But again, you can get lucky and have an entirely different experience like some Magellan users. The reverse is also true with Garmin. Nothing is set in stone and, like other facets we’re looking into, they can improve, stagnate, or deteriorate.

In other aspects, we’d say Garmin and Magellan GPS are comparable. Interface, software update availability, expandable memory, waterproofing, durability, accuracy, speed, and other points for consideration are somewhat model-dependent.

While some people would argue that Garmin is faster and more durable in general or that Magellan has a greater level of accuracy and is cheaper overall, we’re pretty sure you’d find a model from each brand that will prove you otherwise like the two recommendations we’ve made.

So, our advice? Look into the strengths and limitations of each product, do some research, test it if you have the opportunity to do so, and see if you like it and meets your needs.

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, HikingGpsZone may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI-prices are accurate, and items in stock as of time of publication.