The Global Positioning System, a.k.a. ‘GPS’ is a modern day success story. Portable, affordable, reliable; it is certainly one technology that has evolved exponentially since its 1978 inception. One specific area that has seen improvement recently is sensitivity. Adding to this continuous improvement is the MTK module. Taking advantage of this new chipset, the Qstarz BT-Q818 delivers a double dose of 32’s in the guise of a small plastic module not much bigger than a matchbox. Does this unit maximize the MTK chipset? How about features? Read on as the BT-Q818 is put to the test.
The BT-Q818 is one small unit. It feels nice to hold with the smooth surfaces and subtle contours. Here’s a small list of features from the Qstarz site:
- 32-Channel All-in-View tracking for fast acquisition and reacquisition
- Lower power consumption up to 32hrs navigation time
- Cold start 39s, Warm start 36s,Hot start 1s
- Personal/Portable Navigation (PDA, Smartphone, PC, etc.)
- WAAS+EGNOS support
- Auto On-Off function for smart power control
This involved the standard Bluetooth pairing process: start the Bluetooth radio on an enabled device and and scan for new devices. Within a few seconds it should recognize this headset as:
. Pairing code is the industry standard "0000." No problems were encountered when establishing a pair with both my device.
The device is nice and small (72.2 (L) X 46.5 (W) X 20 (H) mm), plus feels very light. Externally, the unit features a miniUSB charging port, which is great to see, and a manual on/off switch. There are also three small LEDs to indicate Bluetooth connection, Navigation Status, and Battery/charger status.
Regarding internals, we have the famed MTK GPS Module: sensitivity (tracking) is -158 dBm. Another rather amazing attribute, this little guy features 32 channels. Unsure how much advantage 32 channels adds given that 12-14 channels should normally cover it. Note: the item is called "DOUBLE 32" because of the 32 channel and 32 hour battery life claim.
How was actual operation of the device? From the average of five trials, I achieved a cold start in 32 seconds, warm start 31.6 seconds, hot start ~1 second. Certainly encouraging results, and somewhat faster than a similar sized SiRF III chip I recently tested.
(all images link to higher resolution)
The BT-Q818 ships in a small black box, nice and shiny.
Here’s an un-boxing shot. Included: the BT-Q818 receiver, AC/DC chargers, multi-lingual Manual, Warranty info, bookmark?
Here’s the BT-Q818 compared to a familiar item, giving you an idea of the size.
Here’s a side profile. The button is an on/off switch.
The under-belly of the BT-Q818; here we can see the battery door compartment plus a non-slip pad for dashboard use.
Here’s the port side of the BT-Q818, note the miniUSB charging jack.
User replaceable battery, easily accessible.
I can see where they get there 32 hours from, 1100 mAh is quite a bit of heft.
Sensitivity was astounding with this unit. I was able to receive a signal about 4 feet from the nearest window. Furthermore, I was able to place it in the middle of the back seat of my car whilst moving and still receive a signal, which was a significant increase over the SiRF III chipset device I tested. Some folks claim that the MediaTek module is only 14 channels, and that there was some misunderstanding when the device was released (
32 satellites). Whether or not this is the case, the item was definitely more sensitive in my testing environment than the SiRF III.
Accuracy was also spot on. Driving around with TomTom Nav 6 was a blast. The slightest physical movement of the module would translate to a movement on the receiving device. Although I was unable to scientifically test it, it appeared to have greater accuracy than the SiRF III item, however, this could just have been confirmation bias.
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Support is via Buygpsnow.com, and the item carries a one-year warranty.
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
The only cons: it feels a little cheap and I worry about the unit getting scratched up, given the glossy exterior.
The BT-Q818 retails for approximately USD$75.00 via Buygpsnow.com.
Equipped with the MTK Module
- Tracks 32 Satellites, 32 hour battery life
- Great price
- Glossy exterior may scratch
- Feels a little cheap
This is a great unit at a great price. Bottom line: if you are after a backup GPS module (i.e. one to leave in the glove compartment), or are just looking for a good deal on a GPS module, this is a cheap way to do it. The accuracy and sensitivity will impress, as with the form factor.