I am typically not one to ask for directions... Maybe it's a guy thing, but I always like to figure it out first. Inevitably, I end up horribly lost, getting more mad by second and driving around in circles. Curious about this thing they call "GPS" and already owning a Bluetooth enabled Pocket PC, I thought I'd look to the range of BT GPS receivers as a means of navigation. The SiRF III chip is among the latest in commercially available satellite navigation technology, and can be found within the relatively inexpensive BT-359 Bluetooth GPS Receiver. The BT-359 is the successor to the BT-338, allegedly improving navigation and battery life, among other things. Does this device offer an improved navigation solution? Read on as the BT-359 is put to the test.
Compared to the older BT-338, the BT-359 is nice and compact. The device ships in two flavors: BT-359W & BT-359S, W & S stand for Wave and Solar designs respectively, there's no difference in actual hardware. The device used for this review was the W, indicated by the sound wave depiction on the front of the device. The wave, coupled with a sleek black casing, gives the device a contemporary feel; which is actually quite aesthetically pleasing. Regarding actual use, the device is extremely accurate, battery life is exceptional, and fixes are quick.
From the Globalsat website here are the official features:
SiRF Star III high performance and low power consumption chipset.
Communication with Host platform Via Bluetooth Serial Port Profile.
Built-in ceramic patch antenna.
High sensitivity GPS receiver provides faster acquisition times and improves accuracy in urban canyons and under dense foliage.
Battery life up to 11 hours of operation time, in continuous mode.
Features power saving mode (powers down after 10 minutes of inactivity).
Supported by WAAS and EGNOS Satellite-Based Augmentation Systems for more accurate corrected position reports.
Physical dimensions: 82.0 mm x 41.0 mm x 13.4 mm (0.3" x 0.2" x 0.1") .
In layman's terms, here are the features I observed:
Small, lightweight, compact design, including a mini USB charging port.
Quick fix times, during both hot and cold starts.
Outstanding battery life (I made it from D.C. to New York City and back
After putting the MDA in discoverable mode and booting up the BT-359, it was recognized by the MDA in a matter of seconds. Code to pair was the standard "0000", outgoing port defaulted to COM7.
Here are the initial stages of the pairing processes. An outgoing port is required.
COM7 was selected as the default port, users must ensure that "Secure Connection" is unchecked.
Once the hardware is paired, the included GPSInfo utility can be run (ensure Bluetooth is activated on your device first). This utility will start the GPS allowing the user to test the connection. It will also give you information relative to your position. It is only useful for this purpose, it does not provide a mapping solution; 3rd party software is required for this use.
The included GPSInfo utility allows a user to test the connection and receive local information
In the box: BT-359 receiver, CD including GPSInfo utility and operating manuals, wall/car adapters, USB cable. I also received an Arkon vent mount, but this may depend on where the receiver is purchased from.
Here's the obligatory quarter comparison. Note user-removable battery.
Here's a side-by-side comparison. Left to right: T-Mobile MDA, BT-359, 5th gen iPod Video.
To give you an idea of width, from top to bottom: BT-359, T-Mobile MDA, 5th gen iPod Video
Mini USB (standard 5v) is required to charge the BT-359. This is good news: 1 cable does this and my phone.
Here's an action shot of the MDA receiving the GPS signal on a clear day in Arlington, VA. Semper Fi.
The actual Receiver can be located on a dashboard, however, some reflective material on windscreens may prevent transmission. If this is the case, the parcel shelf at the rear of the automobile can also be used.
The device has a slim profile, here's a close-up of the BT-359 on the dashboard.
While sitting on the dash, the receiver does not obstruct the drivers vision or line of sight in any way.
The Arkon mount I received with the BT-359 was not compatible with the louvres on my vehicle. These will work on most standard vents (I was able to install them on a Nissan Altima easily), but may not fit on anything non-standard. Windscreen, cupholder, or lighter mounts are necessary if your vehicle does not have standard vents.
Unfortunately I was unable to use the included mount. The louvres on my Mustang were too wide.
Regarding actual use, the device would acquire a fix within a second or two during hot starts, and under a minute when it searched the skies. It was able to find a signal pretty much anywhere except places where access to open sky was inhibited. New York City was one such example, the taller buildings typically prevented a clear signal. Moving away from buildings/obstructions, I was able to receive a signal.
As this is the first GPS unit I have tested, it has become my baseline; unfortunately, however, I was unable to benchmark it against any other devices, so I could not accurately measure the performance of this unit. I was, however, very impressed with both fix times and accuracy.
Support files are shipped on the included CD. An extensive FAQ is located on the usglobalsat site. A SiRF demo utility is available to switch to the SiRF format from the NMEA protocol, or to reconfigure the device's NMEA data/baud rate.
This device is compatible with the following operating systems: Windows, Mac OSX, Pocket PC & Symbian. Bluetooth is required to connect, and NMEA compliant mapping software is required for navigation.
BUGS AND WISHES
This is an advanced unit; with the improved design, low power consumption chip, and quick fix times, there's not a lot left to desire. I had to "reset" the device on one occasion (removed the battery for about 3hrs) before I was able to fix, I am unsure what caused this. Also, the unit may take a while to fix if it has been on in a covered environment, this is to be expected with most GPS receivers though.
The BT-359 is available from Buygpsnow for USD$120.95. This was about the cheapest price I could find, and it includes the vent mount.
- Small, improved design
- Low power consumption SiRF III chipset
- Quick fix times, during both hot and cold starts
- May require the occasional reset
- Fix could be delayed after exposure from a covered environment
For the price, this is an incredible deal. The technology is cutting edge for a commercial navigation solution, and the overall package is well designed, adding very little in terms of both footprint and bulk. The battery life is exceptional, and fix times were fast. Overall, this is one accessory I would highly recommend. Stand-alone GPS solutions can run up around USD$800.00, however, if you own a Pocket PC, Palm OS, or Symbian phone with Bluetooth capabilities, an extra USD$120.00 for a receiver is well worth it. Sure, NMEA software may cost an extra USD$100.00, but this is still well under the cost of a stand-alone unit. For those who have been considering "taking the plunge" into satellite navigation, the BT-359 won't disappoint.