A number of Bluetooth GPS receivers based on the MTK chipset have been coming to market. The i.Trek M7 is one of them, claiming long battery life and fast signal acquisition times. How does it stack up to its claims? Read on to find out!
Here are the key features of the M7:
51 channel MTK chipset
Dual Bluetooth/USB interface
User configurable update rates
Auto on/off capability
The i.Trek M7 GPS comes with a USB cable, car charger, manual, software CD, battery and a mounting pad.
Setup is straight-forward. The GPS should be plugged into a USB port or car power adapter for charging. Though the battery had some initial charge out of the box, it reached a full charge in a couple hours. The battery indicator light on the top of the unit glows green during charging and begins to flash when fully charged.
The software CD can be used to install a Windows USB driver for communicating with the GPS and a GPSview application for configuring the device. You will need to use the Windows Device Manager to determine which serial port has been assigned to the GPS before using the GPSview software.
Setup on a phone or PDA will vary depending on the device, but should follow the typical procedure used for configuring any Bluetooth device. The M7 is identified as "iBT-GPS" and uses the usual '0000' Bluetooth passkey.
The i.Trek M7 does not install navigation or tracking software, so you will need to purchase that separately or use one of the free software applications available on the internet, such as Google Maps for Mobile or Windows Live Search, or a premium solution like OnCourse Navigator.
The i.Trek M7 is roughly the size of a small cell phone making it convenient to carry in a pocket or purse.
Three LEDs on the top of the M7 indicate signal fix (yellow), Bluetooth status (blue), and battery status (green).
A USB port on the right side of the device is used for charging the Li-ion battery. A 3-position slide switch on the left side turns the device on and off. The USB position is used when connected to a PC to communicate with the GPSview software.
The GPSview software does not provide any useful information for tracking or navigation purposes, but it will allow you to see detailed satellite information or raw NMEA data.
On a PC, the information found in GPSview would probably be most useful if you were having trouble acquiring a GPS signal or suspected there were problems with the GPS unit. If you were having trouble, you could at least confirm the GPS was working and narrow down problems to a Bluetooth connection or other problems with navigation or tracking software.
A sticky mounting pad makes it convenient to place the GPS in a car windshield without needing to worry about it sliding around the vehicle.
The most important aspects of any mobile GPS device are probably its battery life, accuracy and time to acquire a signal. Battery life for the M7 was very good. i.Trek advertises 15-hour battery life between charges, but during testing, I actually had the battery last 16 to 18 hours at times. Assuming you will leave home with the device in the morning and return in the evening, you should have plenty of battery life to last the day and recharge at night. If you only need the GPS for car navigation, you can make use of the car charger and simply leave the M7 turned on. The auto on/off feature will automatically turn off the device when it loses its Bluetooth connection and turn it back on when the Bluetooth connection returns. In this situation, battery life becomes a non-issue, but there's plenty of life available for occasionally removing the GPS from your vehicle.
Because the i.Trek M7 is WAAS-enabled, it is able to make use of additional ground-level GPS signaling to improve accuracy (at least in the US). Signal accuracy is more than sufficient for automobile navigation and should be fine for geocaching as well.
As for signal acquisition, the M7 really performs well in this area. Signal acquisition always takes longer when the GPS is started in a new location or after being turned off for an extended period of time (cold-start) versus being turned off and back on in the same location (hot-start). Typical acquisition time for a cold-start signal fix is advertised as 36 seconds and I found this to be accurate, averaging right at 38 seconds. Hot-start signal acquisition takes less than a second. Comparing cold-start of the M7 with my handheld Garmin GPSMAP-60Cx, the Garmin device can take more than two minutes for signal fix. (The Garmin uses the Sirf Star III chipset instead of the MTK chipset.)
I was very pleased with the i.Trek's battery life, accuracy and signal acquisition time. It should meet or exceed these aspects of any comparable products and the auto on/off feature is a welcome addition.
i.Trek does offer e-mail support for its GPS devices and places its manuals online. Some resellers may also offer support for the M7. For example, Semsons & Co. provides a support page with e-mail contacts as well as links to GPS forums and free GPS software.
The i.Trek M7 can be used with any Bluetooth-capable cell phone, laptop or other device. You will need additional tracking or navigation software to actually use the device. Fortunately, you can use free software, such as Google Maps for Mobile or Windows Live Search, on Windows Mobile devices. Configuration of the M7 requires a USB connection to a desktop or laptop PC.
BUGS AND WISHES
Configuring the M7 requires a USB connection to a PC. I'd like to be able to configure the device over my phone's Bluetooth connection as well, eliminating the need for a PC connection altogether.
The only software included with the i.Trek is the configuration program. This software does allow you to see signal information, etc. but it would be nice to have some additional navigation or tracking software included. (Some i.Trek resellers will offer a GPS/navigation software bundle, but if that's what you're wanting, you'll need to make sure you're purchasing a bundle package and not just the GPS.)
The included mounting pad is a very nice addition for placement of the device in a vehicle. Though the device conveniently fits in a pants pocket, it would be nice to have a belt clip option as well for use of the device apart from driving.
The i.Trek M7 is available from the Semsons.com store for $59.99, which is a discount of 33% from the usual price. For an additional 10% off, use coupon code "pocketnow."
- Very fast signal acquisition
- Great battery life
- Convenient, pocket-friendly size
- Grip pad for vehicle placement
- Auto on/off when used with a car charger
- Lacks belt clip
- Requires additional software for tracking or navigation
- Lacks data logging features of more advanced devices
The i.Trek M7 is an easy to use Bluetooth GPS. It provides strong battery life and fast signal acquisition which are key features for any Bluetooth GPS device. The M7 won't provide the additional data logging features of a more expensive unit and doesn't include tracking or navigation software, but it is a very reliable GPS and worth considering if you're in the market for a GPS device.