ColorTrak GPS>  User's Comments Unedited 

Richard W. Wilding's comments
As per Joe's request, here is my two cents worth on the ColorTRAK.

As myself, I am sure that a lot of people are looking for information on the Magellan ColorTRAK but for what ever reason this newsgroup did not give it the publicity that it deserves.

As with all products the ColorTRAK as its pros and cons, I think that the biggest drawback against it, is the lack of information / data on it.  It seems that every time you need answers from Magellan Service support it is like pulling teeth, even if their support is lacking, I still think that they have a good product.
  I bought one a the first few ColorTRAK that have been put out by Magellan, the early production units have a defect with the POWER / DATA connector.  The first time you insert the cable connector in the back of the GPS, you will hear a popping sound, that is the male connector falling inside the unit.  Magellan recognize this manufacturing defect and will replace any unit that suffers this problem.  For those who have not plug your data connector, I would advise you try it ASAP and find out if you have bad unit. My GPS had a S/N in the 0005xx or so,  the replacement unit is in the 00087xx range and you can see that Magellan redesigned the keyboard as well as fixing the connector problem.  No more keys sticking in the keypad.

The first machines came with a firmware rev of 1.01, the current level of firmware is 2.01.  This new code fixed some problems and brought in new functionality like a redesigned  "Road Screen".  Just like Garmin you can flash the EPROM with new versions of firmware.

You will need your GPS ColorTRAK receiver, PC interface cable, Fresh AA alkaline batteries and a PC meeting the requirements below:
 Required PC hardware
   IBM - Compatible PC
·    Either DOS 3.3 or higher, or Windows 95
·    Serial data port configured as a standard COM port
·    3.5" disk drive
·    Hard drive with a least 6 megabytes of free disk space
·    8 megabytes of RAM memory

All of this is done using a program called CPUPLOAD. I personally did not have any problems replacing the firmware but I have heard of some people who had to send their machine back to Magellan because the transfer did not successfully complete.

TO ATTEMPT AN UPDATE AT YOUR OWN RISK. If you feel that you need to upgrade your firmware you should contact Magellan at  or call Tech Support @ 800 669 4477 and ask for the latest code. Magellan web site is :

In order to be able to upload the code you need to put your ColorTRAK in receiving mode, to do so follow these steps :

-  To set the GPS ColorTRAK to receive new software press MENU, then right arrow,    left arrow, right arrow on your keypad.  00 will be displayed on the screen.
-   Using the arrow keys, enter the number 99, Press ENTER.
-   Press any key on the PC, as instructed by the PC.
-  The program will then upload your new GPS ColorTRAK software.
-  When software upload is complete, the GPS ColorTRAK receiver will automatically power off.
-  Power on you GPS ColorTRAK receiver, press any key on the PC.

Through trial and error I have discovered that if you follow the same sequence as above but you hit ENTER after the 00, you will see the GPS firmware revision level.   To run diagnostics key in 10 then hit ENTER.  This will test; the display, keyboard,  data interface etc.

For those who would like to build their own POWER / DATA cable here is the pin out.

*** Use at your own RISK...Verify your connection to make sure you do not blow up  your machine.

ColorTRAK/Tracker Cable :
Power:  Red ( 9-35 vdc )
              Black ( ground )

DBR:     Yellow  ( Data + )
              Black   ( Data - )

ALARM:  White ( Alarm trigger )
               Note :  Alarm must have its own power input.

Serial interface:           Orange ( pin 2 )
DB9 connector          Yellow   ( pin 3 )
                                 Black    ( pin 5 )

In the back of your GPS the 5 pin connector should look like this :

                         W                                           W=
                      Y     O                                Y=Yellow
                      R     B                                 R=Red


I have tried this GPS with different waypoints transfer program and I found OziExplorer to be the best.  Compare to Garmin the selection of software is limited and most of the one I have tried failed to be able to consistently transfer data between the GPS and the PC.  OziExplorer worked every time I used it.

I just came back from 2 fishing trips and really tested my ColorTRAK,  the 30 hres battery life they claim is really true.  If you are in trouble, you can even run on two batteries instead of four.  I had enough supply and I did not have to worry about that.

The color is nice but not a must, only on some instances did I have problems reading the display.  I found the unit to be a bit bulky and heavy compared to some other machines that I have worked with.

Where I was in the Northern part of Quebec the reception was excellent and the locking time was fast.  I think that Magellan still needs to work on the keyboard, it does not give a good positive feedback when you hit a key. The other issue I whish they could address in the next firmware revision is the managing of the waypoints, there is no find function and when you have a lot of them it takes a while to page through all the panels.  I guess that meanwhile waypoints should be kept to a minimum.

I have compare my ColorTRAK with a Garmin 12XL and functionally the units are quite similar it is as if Magellan picked some of the good points from Garmin and added some of their own.   Overall I do not regret my purchase, when I picked, price and functions were an issue and I think that Magellan delivered both.  They still have to work on their after sale support and their marketing.  It is as if they have a good thing going but they are NOT telling anyone.  Will we have another BETA  vs VHS fight, I hope not because right now I have a BETA !

If you have found any errors or would like to add comments or additional information please feel free to let me know.

Many thanks,

Richard W. Wilding

Dale's ColorTrak Comments Dale DePriest
Updated: June 15, 1998

I haven't seen a response to your request so I'll take a stab at it.  I don't own a Tracker but I have seen one in the store.  Last night I attempted to check one out in a Fry's store but they were out of the tracker so you'll have to settle for a quick look at the ColorTrak.  I believe these two units are very similar. There are actually 5 differences. The colortrack has a color display, external alarm support, a pressure sensor to improve altitude readings, a back-lit keypad and a carrying case.

First of all you may want to get my comparison article on the G12 vs the Magellan 4000XL.  This discussion assumes that level of knowledge.  The article is available on deja news or The article focuses on the user interface and the differences between Garmin and Magellan in that respect.

The Tracker and the ColorTrak have a new keyboard layout and keys.  They look like:

     CLR ENT              Clear and Enter keys
   NAV    ^  GO             Navigation, up arrow, goto
   MRK <  > MNU            Mark, left arrow, right arrow, Menu
   LGT     v  PWR            Light, down arrow, power on/off

The general impression of the keyboard, from the floor model, is the keys are not as solid (positive) as they used to be or as reliable.  I found that the PWR key was depressed a bit (to prevent hitting it by accident I presume) and the keycap would catch on the underside of the case and remain depressed.  I had to use a finger nail to work with it to get it to release.  The clr/ent key is a rocker switch that wouldn't always take unless it depressed it crisply.

The unit itself looks very rugged.  The battery compartment is actually two independent halves that you must unscrew to remove the batteries.  They seem to be two parallel sets so the unit must run on 3 volts and in a pinch it could be operated with only two batteries.  The interface looks like a Garmin connector except that it has 5 pins.

Someone prior to me had messed with the contrast and I had a hard time getting the display back on the unit.  This should not be a problem for a normal user but I was beginning to think I wasn't going to get it to work. There is a simulator mode on the system menu.  It has two settings, one automatic for training and one user mode that you can specify the speed and bearing.  You can only change these be returning to this menu which is deep in the menu system.  But this is still better than the old 2000XL/3000XL/4000XL that has only a training simulation mode.  The Garmin simulator is more useful here.  From the time in the store I wasn't able to determine exactly what you can do in the user simulation mode.  Now on to the screens.

All screens are now in the NAV rotation and many of them look a lot more like the Garmin screens.  The Status screen and compass screens are very similar to Garmin with a whole circle for the compass.  There is a speed screen with a half circle speedometer showing average speed with text speed and odometer data.  Many screens now have additional data and match their Garmin counterparts instead of the older single function screens. The plot screen still looks and works like the older units except that it now has icons, a long track log and the ability to show a single distance circle similar to the 3 Garmin circles.  There doesn't seem to be an active route screen in the rotation and I wasn't able to determine how to review route data very well from my brief encounter.  The screen is definitely taller than a Garmin screen.

Both the local and main menu appear when you depress the menu button.  There is a line separating the two on the menu screen.  Enter is used to select an item from the menu but will no longer bring up a menu.  The main menus have been restructured somewhat and units is now set universally instead of separately for speed, distance, altitude, etc. as was done in the older machines. The Mark key is a nice enhancement that follows the Garmin lead.  Otherwise it seems to work pretty much like the Magellan 4000XL and I had no trouble figuring out how to do most things.

I would expect that its performance is about the same as other 12 channel units and in particular other Magellan 12 channel units.  The antenna on the ColorTrak looks like an integrated patch antenna but it is not.  It can be rotated to a vertical position and even removed revealing a connector that can be used for an external antenna.

Other notable features are a graphic indication of the position of the sun and moon so that you can use the unit as a crude compass while standing still, automatic position averaging (as compared to Garmin's manually initiated pinning feature), and a battery gauge that seems to do something more than just measure voltage.  One feature that the 4000XL had that seems to be missing from the new units is the ability to set a waypoint by measuring inches or centimeters on a map.

Hope this helps, Dale 

Terje's ColorTrak comments:
Updated 7/23/98

I have had my unit for a few weeks and have used it primarily for hiking in the mountains. I choose the ColorTrak over the GPS II+ because of  alarms, built in altimeter, longer battery life and larger display. The Garmin advantages seems to be size,weight and software base. The unit is slightly bigger than I thought, but has a nice and rubbery finish, and is so far waterproof (at least in heavy rain). It tracks very well both driving a car and walking. I have it in the top lid of my rucksack when walking and there have been no 'Poor coverage' alarms yet.

Inputting landmarks and routes is a slow and tedious process by hand, but of course much easier from a PC. As I haven't used other units, I don't know how this compares to others. The backtrack feature is nice - it will take the automatically collected trackpoints and make a route of up to 31 legs spreading the landmarks in an intelligent way. After reversing the route, you have a good, compressed representation og the route you have walked.

The first weekend I tried it, I was amazed about the accuracy of the altitude reading. None of them were more than 20-25 meters off. Later readings have not been so good, so I suspect SA could have been turned off.

When it comes to the color display, I don't think it adds much. It is only red, green and blue anyway.

Battery life has not really lived up to the touted 30 hours. Under ideal conditions (stable temperature over 20 degrees celcius), I think a battery set will last for 30 hours, but in temperatures around 10 degrees celcius, this is considerably less - possibly under 20 hours, but this effect is probably not unique for the ColorTrak. I am wondering how well it will work for crosscountry skiing in temperatures well below zero.

I bought the unit together with the PC kit, consiting of two software applications and a PC cable. I had an initial problems with the transfer of data, and both Magellan and the software company (Stellanav) replied promptly through email. The problem turned out to be something as obscure as the decimal point separator in the international setting (I'm in Norway) was set to ',' instead of '.'. After this had been sorted out, the data transfer works fine, but the Stellanav application still gives me some problems when georeferencing a map and overlaying routes - I think that it again could have something to do with my unfortunate geographic location. The other application (Precision Mapping 3.0) is useless for Europeans, but it looks solid - I wish there were maps like that of Europe. All in all, the PC kit is not too good value for anyone living outside the US

To sum up, I am very happy with the unit - it does everything I wanted (and a lot more !), but you should keep in mind that I haven't tried any other units.


P.S. If you have any questions not of general interest, please Email Terje.