Satmap Active 10 Review

by Richard on January 22, 2012

Satmap Active 10 Review


I’ve owned my Satmap Active 10 since March 2009 and having used it frequently for mountain biking, walking and the occasional run, I thought it would be useful to write a review of my experiences with the Active 10.

When I purchased the device, it cost £300 without any SD card maps.  Right now, for the same price, Amazon is selling the Satmap Active 10 Plus with FULL GB 1:50K Mapping, which represents fantastic value for money. This bundle also includes the rechargeable power pack which is essential if you are a regular user of the device.

I’ve tried not to get too technical with specifications, instead choosing to describe the features and benefits of the Active 10.  I’m sure, if you’re like me, you just want to know: “does it work?” and “does it work well?”. The answer to both of these questions is a resounding YES…

First Impressions of the Active 10

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover”.  However, if you look at the box the Active 10 comes in, you can’t help but think that the device is going to be impressive, especially if as much thought, design and innovation has gone into it as has gone into the packaging.  The box truly is a work of art!

Satmap Active 10 Box 1
A fairly standard looking box…
Satmap Active 10 Box 2
…until you pull out the right hand
drawer, making the left hand drawer
emerge simultaneously…

Satmap Active 10 Box 3
…to reveal the Satmap Active 10
device, carry case, landyard, usb
cable, batteries and documentation.

Rugged Design

The thing that immediately strikes you about the Active 10 is how reassuringly solid it feels – it has definately been built to last.  The fact that my Active 10 is still going strong after almost three years of bumps and scrapes is testament to this.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been over the bars on my mountain bike or accidentally swung the Active 10 into rocks when it’s hanging from the lanyard around my neck. It keeps coming back for more abuse, time after time though!

Satmap Active 10 Device

 1. Map SD Card Slot
2. Multi-Function Buttons
3. Joystick
4. USB and Headphone Ports
5. On/Off Button
6. Backlight Boost Button 

The Active 10 is operated using several large multi-function buttons and a joystick, rather than the touchscreens which seem to be popular at the moment. This is not a bad thing though, and the Active 10 is certainly no worse off because of this. You’ll be thankful that you can use the device with gloves on, when the weather turns cold and wet. When it is wet, there’s no need to panic, as the Active 10 is waterproof, with secure rubber covers sealing the USB and SD card slots and the replaceable screen cover stopping water getting in.  I’ve used the device many times in heavy rain, without any problems.

Using the Active 10

After switching on the Active 10, it usually takes under a minute to get a first fix on the satellites.  I tend to switch it on while getting myself ready for a walk or bike ride, and it is always ready to use once I’ve sorted myself out.

The large (3.5 in) colour screen is easy to read, with the backlit display giving a bright output which can be given a temporary boost by pressing the back light button on the right hand side of the unit. The different screens are very easy to navigate around and, in the main, self explanatory.  You only really need to dig the manual out when delving deeper into the menus and settings.

Battery life is very good when using good quality batteries, easily lasting for a full day out walking or biking.  Satmap recommends using Energizer Advanced batteries for optimum results.  If you think you will be a regular user of the Active 10, it is well worth investing in an Energizer 1 Hour Battery Charger or the excellent Satmap Power Pack, which contains a rechargeable battery, wall charger with UK/USA/EUR/AU adapters, car charger and spare USB cable.

Menus and Features

The following images show the screens that I most commonly use on the Satmap Active 10.

Satmap Menu - Map Inserted Satmap Main Menu
Screen showing which SD map card is inserted in the Active 10. Main menu from where you can access points of interest, routes and device settings.
Satmap Compass Satmap Pointer
The electronic compass is very useful and works just like a normal compass. If you are unsure of how to use a compass properly, you can switch to the pointer mode, which shows the direction of the next waypoint on your route.
Satmap GPS Status Satmap Trip Log
The GPS status screen shows which satellites the Active 10 can see (yellow bars) and which it is locked to (orange bars). The trip log provides a wide range of useful data, including total distance, total time, average/maximum speeds, elevation profile and much more.
Satmap Routes Menu Satmap Internal Routes
The routes menu allows you to access any routes you have stored. These can be stored either on the Active 10 device’s internal storage, or on one of your SD card maps. This is an example of the routes held in the internal storage of my own Active 10.
Satmap Route Map Satmap Route Plan
Once you select a route, you can see a map of the route. You can also view an elevation profile, which includes some basic data about the distance, altitudes, ascents/descents and estimated time. 
Satmap Route Card Satmap Create Route
The route card shows a list of waypoints for your chosen route, with the distances and bearings between each one. The Active 10 allows you to easily create your own routes directly on the device, without you needing to have access to a PC or separate route planning software. 
Satmap GPS Map Satmap Planning Screen
The GPS map shows your current location shown as a blue dot in a circle, if you have a satellite lock. When moving, a pointer appears on the blue circle to show your current direction of travel. A snail trail of red dots show the path you have taken. The planning screen allows you to move around the loaded map, using the device’s joystick. You can also zoom in/out and start plotting waypoints to create your own route.
Satmap Settings Menu
The settings menu contains a vast range of options – too many to go into here. Satmap have an excellent full user guide though, which provides comprehensive instructions on all the settings.

Maps Available for the Satmap Active 10

The range of maps available for the Active 10 is very comprehensive, and is expanding all the time.  Maps are supplied on SD cards which you insert directly into the Active 10 device. Great Britain is predominantly covered by Ordnance Survey mapping, which is arguably the best mapping in the world. A wide variety of mapping options and scales are covered, including:

  • Regions at 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k, e.g. Central England, Wales, Central Scotland
  • Counties at 1:10k and 1:25k, e.g. Northumberland, Nottinghamshire
  • National Parks at 1:25k and 1:50k, e.g. Cairngorms, Peak District
  • National Trails at 1:25k and 1:50k, e.g. Pennine Way, South West Coast Path
  • Whole of Great Britain at 1:50k, or sections of this (North, Central and South)
  • Custom mapping at 1:25k and 1:50k, e.g. site centred or irregular shaped areas of your choice

Satmap SD Card MapPeak District National Park SD Card

More specialist mapping for Great Britain, is also available including:

  • HARVEY mapping at 1:25k and 1:40k for Dartmoor, Yorkshire Dales and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs
  • NATS UK air charts
  • A-Z maps for selected towns and cities

In recent years Satmap have introduced topographical mapping for a range of different countries, which makes the Active 10 even more versatile, especially if you like to go on walking holidays abroad.  The current list of countries is as follows, with each having specific regions covered:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Isle of Man
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Sweden
  • United States of America

Route Planning Options

When I purchased my Active 10 back in 2009, Satmap released their web-based route planner shortly afterwards.  As an existing customer, Satmap offered a route planner account free of charge. Satmap now charge £60 to set you up with a route planner account, when bought as a stand-alone product. Personally, I’ve used the Satmap route planner to successfully create and save routes, then export them for use on the Active 10.  I’ve also managed to import and edit routes, before exporting them again. However, the route planner can be temperamental depending on which browser you are using.  The amount of map visible on screen is also very small, meaning you have to scroll around a lot when plotting a route at 1:25k scale, which is far from ideal. A full screen map would be much more preferable.

Satmap Route PlannerSatmap Online Route Planner

At a free tool, I’ve found Satmap’s route planner adequate for my needs, if a little frustrating to use at times. I wouldn’t pay to use the route planner though, which is a shame because it could give a negative impression of the otherwise excellent Active 10 device. You shouldn’t let the route planner put you off the Active 10 though, as another free online route planner is available at www.walkhighlands.co.uk/maps. Don’t be misled by the ‘Highlands’ name, because a free registration to the website gives you access to 1:25k Ordnance Survey mapping for the whole of England, Scotland and Wales.

The Walkhighlands route planner allows you to create routes and export them as .GPX files which can be imported directly onto the Active 10. You can also import .GPX files and edit these if you need to, before exporting them again as a .GPX file. The 1:25k OS mapping is displayed at full screen size, and is very clear, making the plotting of routes much easier than with the Satmap route planner. The Walkhighlands route planner is very easy to use, loads the maps quickly when scrolling around and works perfectly on all the browsers I’ve tried it on. As a free tool, I can’t fault it for the basic task of creating, editing, importing and exporting of routes.

Walkhighlands Route PlannerWalkhighlands Online Route Planner

On 30th November 2011, I received an email from Satmap announcing the imminent release of their new Xpedition route planner. Satmap claim this will include:

  • International topographical mapping
  • Full screen map display
  • The option to work with two windows and map types side by side and on different zoom levels
  • Practical snap to road function easily plans road navigation for cyclists and motorists, automatically adjusting the position of waypoints to follow the road network

Satmap say that standard and premium versions of Xpedition will be available and that all current route planner users will get the first year of premium subscription to Xpedition completely free. If this is the case, I look forward to trying out the new version and seeing whether the improvements and new features are worth paying for in the future.

Satmap Xpedition Route PlannerPreview of the new Satmap Xpedition Online Route Planner

SatSYNC Software

SatSYNC is a free software application from Satmap that enables you to connect the Active 10 device to your PC or Mac. SatSYNC allows you to import and export routes to and from the Active 10. Routes can either be stored directly onto the device’s internal memory, or onto the SD map cards.

SatSYNC and the Active 10 are compatible with the .GPX file format (GPS eXchange Format) which is a very common format, with many free routes available to download from various websites on the internet. You can also import and export Google Earth .KML and .KMZ files, and geocaching files in .LOC and .GPX formats, including text and image hints and tips.

Once SatSYNC has detected your device, the import and export of routes is very simple and quick to carry out.

Satmap SatSYNC SoftwareSatmap’s SatSYNC Software

Bike Mount Accessory

As a keen mountain biker, there’s one accessory for my Satmap Active 10 that has been an absolute essential for me – the Satmap Active 10 Bike Mount. This simple mount attaches tightly to your handlebars, and comes supplied with a dedicated rear cover for the Active 10 device, allowing it to be fixed securely in place on the mount.

Satmap Bike Mount Mounted Active 10
Satmap bike mount attached to the handlebars. Active 10 device securely mounted.

Once locked in place, the Active 10 is rock solid – I’ve fallen off several times and both the device and mount have remained firmly in place.

The biggest benefit of using the Active 10 in conjunction with the bike mount is time you save while out riding a route.  In the past, when trying out a new route, I was forever stopping to get out a map and check that I was on the correct path before continuing. This would continue throughout the ride, interrupting my flow. Now I just take a quick glance at the Active 10, while riding along, to confirm I am taking the correct route which allows me to complete it much quicker or even extend the distance covered. It’s no exaggeration to say that having the Active 10 mounted to my bike has improved my riding experience considerably.

Safety Benefits of the Active 10

On one occasion, the Active 10 proved invaluable in getting myself and my family out of a potentially dangerous situation.

During a family holiday to Cornwall in August 2010, we decided to go for a walk on Bodmin Moor, taking in the high points of Rough Tor and Brown Willy as part of a 7 mile loop. When we checked the weather forecast prior to embarking on our walk, it suggested that we should expect sunny spells interspersed with some heavy showers. Not being people to be put off by a bit of rain, we set off with enthusiasm for the walk ahead, kitted out in our waterproofs.

A short distance into the walk, a light drizzle turned to driving rain during the ascent of Rough Tor. Undeterred, we persevered until we reached the summit. The rain abated so we took a while to explore the rock formations, which our 8 year old daughter found particularly exciting.

However, a thick fog quickly descended, shrouding the summit, and making visibility very poor indeed. Without the Active 10, this would have put us is a very precarious situation. With visibility restricted to a maximum of 20 feet, it was extremely difficult to distinguish between a safe exit path and potentially hazardous drops. It was impossible to pick out any landmarks or features on the landscape using our paper map. The Active 10 enabled us to accurately pinpoint our location and lead us safely in the correct direction.

Top Of Rough TorOn the top of Rough Tor in Thick Fog

Rather than call off our walk, and retrace our footsteps back to the car, the Active 10 allowed us to continue with confidence and reach the summit of Brown Willy – the highest point in Cornwall. The fog was easing by this time and our persistence was eventually rewarded, after a short wait at the summit, with fantastic panoramic views. A walk that could have ended in disappointment, or worse, ended up being an enjoyable experience thanks to the Active 10, despite everything Mother Nature threw at us!

Summit Of Brown WillyOn the Summit of Brown Willy

Despite the reliability and ruggedness of the Active 10, and its ability to get you out of trouble, it goes without saying that you should always carry a paper map and compass as a backup, and know how to use these. As with all electronic devices, you just never know when something might malfunction or when the batteries might run out on the day you forgot to pack spares.

Satmap’s Customer Support

I’ve only had to contact Satmap for support on one occasion, but it was a very positive experience. I’d somehow managed to corrupt my North Yorkshire SD card map while transferring some routes, in preparation for a family holiday the following week.

I called Satmap and they patiently talked me through a number of steps to try and resolve the issue. This including testing other SD cards, to determine that it was not a problem with the Active 10 device, as well as inserting the corrupt SD card into a card reader on my PC to check any read/write issues.

When none of these steps worked, I was asked to post the corrupt card directly to Satmap for them to have a look at. Satmap were very quick to return a working SD card, free of charge, in time to take on holiday.

This positive experience gives me great confidence that any future problems I may have will be dealt with in an efficient and professional  manner.

Verdict

As a keen mountain biker and walker, the Satmap Active 10 has positively transformed my experience of both activities. For the past three years, the device has been completely reliable, despite some rough handling at times. The rugged design, ease of use and comprehensive range of features make the Active 10 a joy to use.

The wide range of available maps, which are predominantly in the fantastic Ordnance Survey format, will appeal to people who would traditionally use paper maps. With an ever expanding range of international maps also available, the more intrepid explorer is also covered.

Satmap’s Active 10 has been around since 2007 now, and the fact that the design of the device is unchanged since then shows that they are onto a winning formula. Satmap are not complacent though. Regular updates for both the device, and the SatSYNC connectivity software, are released on Satmap’s website in response to customer feedback and requests, so that your experience of the device is constantly improved.

If you’re in the market for a handheld GPS device, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Satmap Active 10. You won’t be disappointed with this fantastic device which is backed up by excellent customer service.

Rating 5

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam Bernard April 9, 2013 at 8:47 am

Thanks for the extremely detailed review Richard. By way of a quick update I managed to get hold of one of the Satmap Active 10 Plus with full GB Maps for just £299.99 at Above and Beyond:
http://www.aboveandbeyond.co.uk/.satmap-active-10-plus-gps-unit-with-full-gb-mapping-1-50-000_5060164270003.htm. I don’t think there is a better offer out there at the moment. Really enjoying using the device, wish it would warm up a bit though so I am more motivated to get out.

Reply

Richard April 13, 2013 at 6:41 am

Thanks for the update Adam – that’s a great price. I’ve been using my Satmap a lot over the last week. I think spring might finally be here!

Reply

Luke May 23, 2013 at 8:57 am

Brilliant, thanks for the thorough insight. I have been researching a nav system for mtb and looking at the Garmin 810 edge. I wanted something as idiot proof as pos and was concerned that the 810 had a myriad of complications I didn’t need. Your review makes the Satmap seem more likely to fit my requirements and the detail you give crosses some i’s and dots some t’s for me, much appreciated. I am today awaiting delivery from Wiggle of their off-road pack at £360, thanks again for taking the trouble to write.

Reply

Richard May 23, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Thanks Luke – glad you found the review useful. Hope you enjoy using your new Satmap!

Reply

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