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Reviews

Short Take: GlobalSat’s BT-328 Bluetooth GPS Receiver

By DickieAdams June 19, 2006, 12:00 am



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INTRODUCTION


It still amazes me how many PDA owners have never thought about getting a GPS for their device. Let’s just settle it right now: if you have a Bluetooth enabled PDA, you should also have a Bluetooth enabled GPS! Picking the best one can be a bit of a task, though. In this episode, we bring you GlobalSat Technology’s BT-328. A SiRF-based chipset wrapped up in a tiny package – but can it run with the big boys? Read on for the review!

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SLEEK YET SPARSE


The BT-328 specs are as follows (verbatim from their website): 

Electrical Characteristics (Receiver)

Chipset SiRF GSC2
Frequency L1, 1575.42 MHz
C/A Code 1.023 MHz chip rate
Channels 12
Tracking Sensitivity -155 dBm

Accuracy

Position Horizontal 10m 2D RMS / 5m 2D RMS
Time 1 micro-second synchronized to GPS time
Velocity 0.1m/sec 95%

Datum

WGS-84

Acquisition Rate

Hot start 8 sec., average (with ephemeris and almanac valid)
Warm start 38 sec., average (with almanac but not ephemeris)
Cold start 42 sec., average (neither almanac nor ephemeris)
Reacquisition 0.1 sec. average (interruption recovery time)

Protocol

GPS Output Data NMEA 0183 protocol, and supports command: GGA, GSA, GSV, RMC, VTG, GLL (VTG and GLL are optional)
GPS transfer rate 38400,N,8,1

Dynamic Condition

Acceleration Limit Less than 4g
Altitude Limit 18,000 meters (60,000 feet) max.
Velocity Limit 515 meters/sec. (1,000 knots) max.
Jerk Limit 20 m/sec**3

Power

Voltage Built-in rechargeable battery (1300 mAh) and 5V DC input charging circuit

Operation Time

16 hr. After fully recharged, in continuous mode

Physical Characteristics

Dimension 67.5mm x 45mm x 17mm
Weight 65g

Temperature

Operating -20°C – 60°C
Humidity Up to 95% non-condensing

Bluetooth Specification

Bluetooth V1.2 Compliant
Supply Voltage: 2.8V ~ 3.3V
Frequency Range: 2.402 ~ 2.480 GHz
Receiver Sensitivity: -80 dBm
Transmit Power: Class 2
Transmitting Range: 10 m
Power Consumption: 45 mA (Typical)

The unit itself, from the front is pretty nondescript. The power button, a lanyard hold, the indicator lights and the logo are all that can be seen (Figure 1). Made of white and gray plastic, the BT-328 is solid and very lightweight.

(all images link to higher resolution)

Figure 1:The front of the BT-328.

The back of the unit has even less to show off, save the light grey rubber ‘foot’ to keep the unit from sliding around when set down (Figure 2). Power is provided through the port on the top end of the unit.

Figure 2: The rubberized back of the unit.

What else is in the box? Not much (Figure 3). Only a car adapter and a CD with documentation (plus GPSInfo, a program we’ve seen before). No AC adapter is included. The nice bit is: all of the Socket power adapters I had fit like a charm. So my Mobile Power Pack had exactly what I needed to power the unit on the go (without a car).

Figure 3: A car adapter and a informational CD is included in the package.

BLINKY


Press and hold the button (arrgh – I still prefer a solid switch), and the lights come on (Figure 4). Blue for Bluetooth connectivity and green for satellite. The power indicator also lights up when the unit is charging (which can take a bit of time, considering the long battery life).

Figure 4: Close-up of the indicator lights.

Size-wise, the unit is quite small. The smallest of any Bluetooth GPS I’ve ever owned, in fact. Which makes a big difference when travelling (Figure 5). Not to mention it has that iPod sleek white look going for it.

Figure 5: The obligatory comparison shot.

ON THE ROAD


Speaking of traveling (Figure 6), let me just say how impressed I have been with the acquisition times. Wow. In the somewhat great-wide-open spaces of Oregon, the BT-328 had an almost instant lock, and even an easy time down in the real valleys where the good waterfalls lie. In the steel canyons of New York, it took a noticeable amount of time to get the initial connection (once I was at an intersection), but as I understand it, very few GPS units have an easy time down there. Battery life too was quite impressive. Plus, with a 10 minute auto-off with no connection – you’re not likely to run out of juice by accident.

Figure 6: On the road with the BT-328.

PURCHASING


You can purchase GlobalSat Technology’s BT-328 Bluetooth GPS here for $74.99 (if sold out, look for the Mac version, which is the same).


PROS

  • Fast, fast, fast
  • Small form factor
  • Great battery life

CONS

  • No included AC adapter

OVERALL
IMPRESSION


Even though the BT-328 had a hard time in the steel canyons of New York City, I’ve been more than mildly impressed with its capabilities. The cold boot lock times are so fast, I sometimes have to look twice before I believe it. Yes, it doesn’t come with a software package, but the unit price is so inexpensive, and it is compatible with just about every title available, that it didn’t make a bit of difference. If you still don’t have a Bluetooth GPS at this point in your PDA life, I would make this a strong recommendation. That said, we give GlobalSat Technology’s BT-328 GPS the following score:

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Figure 2: The rubberized back of the unit.

What else is in the box? Not much (Figure 3). Only a car adapter and a CD with documentation (plus GPSInfo, a program we’ve seen before). No AC adapter is included. The nice bit is: all of the Socket power adapters I had fit like a charm. So my Mobile Power Pack had exactly what I needed to power the unit on the go (without a car).

Figure 3: A car adapter and a informational CD is included in the package.

BLINKY


Press and hold the button (arrgh – I still prefer a solid switch), and the lights come on (Figure 4). Blue for Bluetooth connectivity and green for satellite. The power indicator also lights up when the unit is charging (which can take a bit of time, considering the long battery life).

Figure 4: Close-up of the indicator lights.

Size-wise, the unit is quite small. The smallest of any Bluetooth GPS I’ve ever owned, in fact. Which makes a big difference when travelling (Figure 5). Not to mention it has that iPod sleek white look going for it.

Figure 5: The obligatory comparison shot.

ON THE ROAD


Speaking of traveling (Figure 6), let me just say how impressed I have been with the acquisition times. Wow. In the somewhat great-wide-open spaces of Oregon, the BT-328 had an almost instant lock, and even an easy time down in the real valleys where the good waterfalls lie. In the steel canyons of New York, it took a noticeable amount of time to get the initial connection (once I was at an intersection), but as I understand it, very few GPS units have an easy time down there. Battery life too was quite impressive. Plus, with a 10 minute auto-off with no connection – you’re not likely to run out of juice by accident.

Figure 6: On the road with the BT-328.

PURCHASING


You can purchase GlobalSat Technology’s BT-328 Bluetooth GPS here for $74.99 (if sold out, look for the Mac version, which is the same).


PROS

  • Fast, fast, fast
  • Small form factor
  • Great battery life

CONS

  • No included AC adapter

OVERALL
IMPRESSION


Even though the BT-328 had a hard time in the steel canyons of New York City, I’ve been more than mildly impressed with its capabilities. The cold boot lock times are so fast, I sometimes have to look twice before I believe it. Yes, it doesn’t come with a software package, but the unit price is so inexpensive, and it is compatible with just about every title available, that it didn’t make a bit of difference. If you still don’t have a Bluetooth GPS at this point in your PDA life, I would make this a strong recommendation. That said, we give GlobalSat Technology’s BT-328 GPS the following score:

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