Short Take: Arkon’s DM500 Series Mount with GPS

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INTRODUCTION


You’ve read about their new mounting cradles. You have probably even read about their navigation software. And now, we are going to take a closer look at Arkon’s DM500 series
Docking Mount with integrated GPS. A simple looking solution, but how does it rank with the
rest of the GPS solutions available today? Read on for the review!

READY
TO GO


At first glance,
the DM500 Series looks just like the new non-GPS docking cradles. Same connectors,
same ports, same mounting hardware. The only difference is the attached GPS
receiver, which looks fairly innocuous closed against the cradle (Figure
1
). Frankly, I didn’t expect too much out of the unit, but was pleasantly
surprised.

My biggest complaint
with this new form factor (especially coming from their previous model): there
are no USB charging ports. Not even one. A sad thing as I used the second
port on a regular basis to charge a plethora of devices that had USB charging
capabilities. It is something that I’ve slowly gotten used to, but I’ve also
needed to keep additional equipment in the vehicle to make up for it.

(all images link to higher resolution)


Figure 1:
The back of the mount with GPS closed.

GPS specifications
are as follows:

(all images link to higher resolution)


Figure 1:
The back of the mount with GPS closed.

GPS specifications
are as follows:

  • Integrated GPS
    Receiver: 12-channel, all-in-view tracking
  • Startup Times:
    Cold – 45 seconds, Warm – 38 seconds, Hot – 8 seconds
  • Reacquisition
    Time: 0.1 second
  • Com Port / Baud
    Rate: 1 / 19200
  • Working Temperature:
    -2 – 70 C
  • Storage Temperature:
    -40 – 85 C
  • Working Humidity:
    20% – 90% R.H.

FLIP
AND TWIST


While you certainly can use the GPS without
extending the antenna, you aren’t going to get quite the signal strength.
Two tabs help one to flip the antenna out without having to swivel the mount
at all (Figure 2). Personally, I’ve found it’s easier just to leave
the antenna extended in most cases, rather than reach around the unit at all.


Figure 2:
The GPS receiver has two small tabs to help pop the unit out.

The receiver is built as solidly as the rest
of the unit and is firmly connected to the cradle (Figure 3). If
you look closely here,
you can see the covered port where the GPS actually attaches. Once powered
on, the GPS really blew me away as to how fast I had a full 3D lock. If you
leave the power connected to the device, then you are only waiting on your
PDA to power up, not for the GPS (as it is ready and waiting with a full lock,
more often than not). Using Bluetooth, I had occasionally found myself waiting
for the unit to lock before leaving the area, just to make sure I didn’t take
a wrong turn. With the Arkon DM500 series, the wait was for me to launch the
software.


Figure 3:A
closer look at how the GPS attaches to the mount.

The GPS can swivel
to the left and right if needed (I never found a case where I did). Note the
small LED port on the GPS itself (Figure 4). This small blinking
green light is the GPS status indicator, but once again, I never really used
it (as the GPS was almost always ready).


Figure 4:
You can swivel the GPS to the left or right to maximize signal strength.

To the outside world
view, this new cradle style is very sleek looking, but also quite mysterious.
The GPS receiver is so plain an unobtrusive, I doubt that a random smash-and-grab
thief would ever think that this had any value at all (Figure 5),
even with the blinking green light. Whereas with a Bluetooth GPS, I would
always need to make sure it was out of sight when away from my vehicle in
a public area.


Figure 5:From
the world view, the look is sleek but mysterious.

PURCHASING


You can purchase
the Arkon DM520 here for $119.95 USD. You can also buy the entire GPS kit for $229.95. Note that this cradle model is available for almost all Pocket PCs.


PROS

  • Fast
    connectivity
  • Adjustable
    antenna
  • Stylish
    design

CONS

  • No USB charging ports
  • Battery not included
  • No
    external antenna port


OVERALL
IMPRESSION


Personally, I
have found this GPS solution to be more convenient than any other (as far
as vehicle navigation is concerned). No extra cables needed (although an extra
USB charging port would have been nice), and a very fast startup makes this
an even better solution. Price wise, it falls into the suggested retail range
of most new GPS units. But even with the optional battery, I couldn’t see
myself carrying the entire cradle with me. For that, I’ll stick with Bluetooth.
But this unit has definitely taken its place as my default vehicle GPS. Taking
all this into account we give the Arkon DM500 Series Docking GPS Mount the
following score:

FLIP
AND TWIST


While you certainly can use the GPS without
extending the antenna, you aren’t going to get quite the signal strength.
Two tabs help one to flip the antenna out without having to swivel the mount
at all (Figure 2). Personally, I’ve found it’s easier just to leave
the antenna extended in most cases, rather than reach around the unit at all.


Figure 2:
The GPS receiver has two small tabs to help pop the unit out.

The receiver is built as solidly as the rest
of the unit and is firmly connected to the cradle (Figure 3). If
you look closely here,
you can see the covered port where the GPS actually attaches. Once powered
on, the GPS really blew me away as to how fast I had a full 3D lock. If you
leave the power connected to the device, then you are only waiting on your
PDA to power up, not for the GPS (as it is ready and waiting with a full lock,
more often than not). Using Bluetooth, I had occasionally found myself waiting
for the unit to lock before leaving the area, just to make sure I didn’t take
a wrong turn. With the Arkon DM500 series, the wait was for me to launch the
software.


Figure 3:A
closer look at how the GPS attaches to the mount.

The GPS can swivel
to the left and right if needed (I never found a case where I did). Note the
small LED port on the GPS itself (Figure 4). This small blinking
green light is the GPS status indicator, but once again, I never really used
it (as the GPS was almost always ready).


Figure 4:
You can swivel the GPS to the left or right to maximize signal strength.

To the outside world
view, this new cradle style is very sleek looking, but also quite mysterious.
The GPS receiver is so plain an unobtrusive, I doubt that a random smash-and-grab
thief would ever think that this had any value at all (Figure 5),
even with the blinking green light. Whereas with a Bluetooth GPS, I would
always need to make sure it was out of sight when away from my vehicle in
a public area.


Figure 5:From
the world view, the look is sleek but mysterious.

PURCHASING


You can purchase
the Arkon DM520 here for $119.95 USD. You can also buy the entire GPS kit for $229.95. Note that this cradle model is available for almost all Pocket PCs.


PROS

  • Fast
    connectivity
  • Adjustable
    antenna
  • Stylish
    design

CONS

  • No USB charging ports
  • Battery not included
  • No
    external antenna port


OVERALL
IMPRESSION


Personally, I
have found this GPS solution to be more convenient than any other (as far
as vehicle navigation is concerned). No extra cables needed (although an extra
USB charging port would have been nice), and a very fast startup makes this
an even better solution. Price wise, it falls into the suggested retail range
of most new GPS units. But even with the optional battery, I couldn’t see
myself carrying the entire cradle with me. For that, I’ll stick with Bluetooth.
But this unit has definitely taken its place as my default vehicle GPS. Taking
all this into account we give the Arkon DM500 Series Docking GPS Mount the
following score:

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About The Author
DickieAdams