Magellan's Topo 3D USA Ver. 1.00 Maps
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Return to home page * Text by jack yeazel and allory deiss (1 June 2005)
(3 Mar. 2007 -Add additional Information about the copy protection on the new 3D USA maps)

The following Magellan units are capable of uploading these maps: Meridian Color,  Meridian Gold, Meridian Platinum, Meridian Marine,  SporTrak Color, SporTrak Pro, SporTrak Pro Marine, and the 400, 500, and 600 eXplorist models.

We upgraded our Platinum to Ver. 5.35 without incident, but we did have to remove the batteries to turn the unit off -as suggested.  Allory also evaluated the program with his SporTrak Pro.  The fastest upgrade allowable is at 19,200 baud.

As with the Magellan MapSend Topo USA maps, Topo 3D USA maps, about $90, check prices (HERE), allow Magellan GPS units to display a constantly updated view of the contours of surrounding hills and valleys.  The units draw topo contours on-the-fly, adjusted to the zoom level at which you view the map.

However, with these new 3D maps, the resolution is increased threefold over the older topo maps, requiring more CD and GPS memory space.  This map now displays terrain detail approximately equal to Garmin's USA Topo map.  One could dispense with all Magellan's previous USA maps (except the auto-routing ones) with this 3D map.  (The contour lines can be turned off if desired leaving the new NavTeq street maps uncluttered).

Moving the GPS cursor causes the unit to read out the ground elevation at the cursor and its bearing and distance.  A constant readout of the current GPS elevation can be displayed in one of the map data boxes.  The 3D view is available on the PC only. ( Data disk No. 3 must be in the PC in order to run the map program, and a backup disk will not suffice.)

Move throughout the map on your PC and define regions to upload to the SD card or built-in memory of your GPS.  Regions as large as 240 MB can be transferred to an SD card in one shot*.  For example – the entire state of Washington will fit on a 64MB SD card. The uploaded map includes detailed topography, waterways, POIs and NavTeq streets by default or you may customize the level of detail to suit your needs. You can define as many regions as you wish and change the map region in your GPS as you please.  One can choose 115,200 baud when uploading maps via the serial cable.
* It is recommended to use an optional SD card reader/writer for map uploads over 64 MB.

MapSend Topo 3D USA 1.00 (which comes on CD) is licensed for use with one Magellan GPS receiver, although the program allows up to three changes to the original serial number entry.  However, the new Topo 3D USA v1.5 (on DVD) will allow uploading maps to only one receiver: the program requires an unlock code associated with the GPS serial number.  The program and its unlock code can be loaded on multiple computers for use with the same GPS.  However, if you have a SECOND receiver bundled with the new Topo 3D USA requiring a second unlock code, you will need a second PC Computer to install the maps in order to upload them to the second unit--a given computer can apparently handle only a single GPS serial number.

All MapSend Topo products use a grid of equally spaced horizontal points, each point having an elevation value, to model the earth's surface.  This “grid” drives the drawing of contour lines on the screen at various zoom levels and it enables Magellan GPS receivers to perform elevation profiling on roads and tracks.  MapSend Topo 3D USA uses the United States Geological Survey (USGS) National Elevation Data 30 meter elevation grid, the most detailed topo elevation dataset available for the USA.

MapSend Topo 3D USA brings this detailed topo data together into one seamless map for the entire continental U.S. plus Hawaii.  The package also includes extensive, searchable USGS points of interest such as mountain summits, valleys, springs and much more.

When going from the Topo USA to the Topo 3D USA maps, Magellan has switched from TIGER (Census Bureau) street maps to NavTeq street maps which are much more accurate.  You will notice below that there are also more vectors per curve in the new map.  The water detail, however, doesn't appear to be as accurate as with the Garmin topo maps.

Is quite useful for hiking, mountain biking and hunting.  MapSend 3D Topo enables profiling the elevation change along roads, trails, routes and tracks on your GPS receiver or PC.  Put the cursor on a trail or road, Enter, and view the profile.  You can skip the path that's too steep – or go for it, if that's your style.

NOTE: The folowing only applies to the Meridian and Sportrak models.  The eXplorist units show some profiles, but not those described below.

Activating a Vertical Profile in the GPS unit is a little tricky.  Menu, Map Setup, Orientation, must be either Track Up or Magnetic Heading up.  Magnetic Heading Up (on units with a compass) allows one to survey the surrounding topography while standing still.

Menu, Vertical Profile, has three selections: Track History, Path Check, and Route.

Track History shows the profile of the recorded track which you can scroll left and right to display the track's recorded elevations.

Path Check will show a proposed path profile with the following procedure:  Pan and click along the proposed path with GOTO.  Pressing Enter will show the profile which you can scroll left and right to see the elevations.

Route shows the profile of a selected route which you can also scroll left and right to see the elevations.  The easiest way to develop a route is to create it on the PC (which automatically creates the waypoint names) and upload it.

From the map page, press Menu, Select Map Info, then select Horizontal Profile or Terrain Project.  The Horizontal Profile is the terrain left and right, and the Terrain Project is the profile of the path ahead.  The current GPS altitude is displayed in the terrain profile on the bottom of the screen at a small black triangle representing your position on the profile.

On your PC, click the 3D button for a 3D view of the area.  Without the GPS unit connected, by using the arrow keys, you can turn the map left and right, and move forward and back.   Zoom in or out and set the elevation magnifying factor.  See an example below.  To activate real-time tracking, select GPS Log and Start.

Driving with a laptop connected to a Magellan receiver's NMEA serial output creates an amazing (and even eerie!) 3D picture of the terrain ahead.  The map rotates and tilts automatically as you drive along.  The program display appears to keep a constant elevation above the terrain as you move over the map's hills and valleys.

Can be displayed to show different colors depending on speed.

There are three "searches": by Address, Name, or Coordinates.  In searching by Name, one is directed to choose a state.  Then choose Points Of Interest (POI), Cities, Airports, Roads, Waterways, or Parks.  The POI "Category" defaults to (interesting sites including many trailheads.)  The list is very extensive.  One can "scroll down" or type in a "search string" to speed up the process.  If isn't selected, there is a long list of other categories of POI to choose from.

Magellan provides three complete integrated sets of searchable points of interest.

NAVTEQ points of interest include hotels, restaurants, ski areas, marinas and much more. Most NavTeq points of interest include address and phone numbers, so you can call ahead for information and reservations.

U.S. Geological Survey – Locate natural sites like Mount Shasta, Old Faithful, Cumberland Gap and many more.

TRAILS.COM includes over 30,000 outdoor destinations from 1000 well-known guidebooks for activities including hiking, camping, fly fishing, paddling, mountain biking, cross country skiing and more.  Click the link in the POI detail and MapSend will take you to the website, where you will see additional information for each area.

Click on the link to a trailhead point of interest icon (requires scrolling down one item) to get valuable information to help prepare for your hike ahead of time.  For example, find out the mileage of the hike, the degree of difficulty of the hike, about how long it will take, if you need a pass from the Forest Service and any interesting things to look for along the way.

Subscribe to and get even more value.  Download and print the chapters from the guidebooks. Use the Trail Finder to explore other recreation opportunities.  Save your favorite trails, view and print sections of USGS quad maps and more. subscribers can also download guidebook trail chapters.

NOTE:  These databases can also be searched on the unit itself in the areas of the uploaded maps.

Comparison of Magellan DEM Contour Line Renditions with Garmin USA Topo and USAPhotoMaps

Magellan MapSend Topo USA Map Using 90m x 90m Cells

Magellan MapSend  Topo 3-D Map Using 30m x 30m Cells
These maps have considerable more detail than the Topo USA maps.

Magellan's 3-D Display of the Scene Looks Pretty Realistic!

USAPhotoMaps Color Aerial Photo uses 30m x 30m cells from the same database.

Garmin USA Topo Map from the USGS 1:100,000 topo maps

USGS 1:100,000 Topo Map from which the Garmin maps are Derived

Jack Yeazel