Globalsat BT-338 Bluetooth GPS Receiver (SiRF Star III) review
Posted on 25-May-2005 23:48 by Peter Torr Smith| Filed under: Reviews
I had the opportunity to look at 3 GPS units from efrontier.co.nz. Intergen was hosting this month’s Windows Mobile User Group in Wellington, and for it had put up some great spot prizes, including the GlobalSat SD-501 GPS receiver. eFrontier also lent me demo units of the Leadtek 9534 Compact Flash GPS receiver and the latest GlobalSat Bluetooth GPS receiver, the BT-338. All three utilise GPS Chipsets from www.sirf.com, though each use a different one.
This little beauty felt right from the start. It only has one button (on/off) and 3 LEDs, one for power, GPS, and Bluetooth status. It can operate for 17 or more hours continuously on each charge, longer when in Trickle mode. It was incredibly easy to get going with the Pocket PC, and I have had no bad Bluetooth experiences with it. It doesn’t care if you disconnect, it just keeps on going. It comes with a belt pouch to keep it safe and out of harms way.
The GlobalSat BT-338 uses the latest generation of GPS chipsets from SiRF, the SiRFStarIII, which is stated to be as sensitive as the SiRFXTrac used in their SD-501 GPS, but without the delay and overshooting issues.
It doesn’t use up your scarce SD or CF slots and can be used with Pocket PCs, Tablet PCs, notebooks, almost any device with Bluetooth. Having your Pocket PC’s Bluetooth radio on consumes approximately 30-50 mA of battery power, meaning it uses less power than would a SDIO or CF type card GPS. However since it has its own battery, it is another thing to remember to keep re-charged, and you have to carry on long trips yet another external charger. It does come with a car charging cable, and I found out that the charger for my HP iPAQ will charge the BT-338 as well.
I took this unit out for an urban road test alongside the Leadtek Compact Flash 9534 to see how they compared. For this I used my HP iPAQ hx4700 and a trial copy of OziMap for Pocket PC (VGA). Without any New Zealand maps, I managed to source a scanned JPEG of a Wellington street map and get it roughly calibrated to work inside OziMap for the road-test.
From the start, a pretty tight fix/track on my movements around hilly suburbia
A slight over-shoot when turning into the urban canyon of The Terrace
But as a whole, a pretty tight track through the CBD even down some narrow back streets (The gaps are where my trial version of Ozimap would stop to say “I’m a trial”!!)
It even picked up the slight detour around the new inner-city bypass roadworks
My walk to work into the urban canyon on The Terrace
The BT-338 tracking very tightly on a trip through peak hour traffic
In the road test, it excelled. It was quick to get a fix in most situations, it tracked very well, and most of the time it handles reflected signals from buildings well, so the fix location does not bounce around much at all.
There is no external antenna connection which was a bit surprising, though it doesn’t appear to need it in most situations.
There are a few features on the SiRFStarIII chip, such as “Static Navigation” and “Track Smoothing”, as well as various power saving “Trickle Modes” that can be configured by sending specific commands to the GPS with client software. These are advance options, but may be of use in specific situations.
It comes with a CD of PDF manuals in multiple languages, a very basic GPS utility called GPSInformation, and, like all the GPS units from eFrontier, comes with a copy of GPSWizard, a reasonably well featured, though at times unstable, non-map GPS information application.
Whilst it is currently the highest price receiver eFrontier sell, for the level of reliability, flexibility, and accuracy it offers, it seems quite fair.
Very sensitive, even indoors.
Does not use up valuable CF or SD card slots.
Does not drain host power, and Bluetooth uses about half the power of a card GPS.
GPS receiver can be up to 10 metres away from consuming device.
Programmable & configurable chip.
Can use the same chargers as many PDAs.
No external antenna connector.
Need to charge separately and carry charger for longer trips.