Review by PocketGPSWorld user Simon Catlin
Globalsat BT-338 GPS Receiver
I was fortunate to win my new BT-338 in a competition on this website from www.BuyGPSNow.com and with that in mind; I offered to write a review from a users, rather than technical, perspective. That said there will be one or two technical comments of my own.
What’s in the box
- One Charger, European, with all the adapters you will ever need (American, Australian and UK).
- Cigarette Charger, which ends in a “Y” piece. This socket end is the exact size of my IPAQ charger, and using the IPAQ charging port adapter, allows you to charge the IPAQ. They do also provide you with an extra lead, so it is possible to charge both IPAQ and GPS at the same time.
- CD Rom – which has the manual on it (as always I read this last!), a Pocket PC and Windows PC program for monitoring the satellites’ statuses (or stati?).
- One leather pouch
- One BT-338!
Thanks to Fed-Ex, my box had come slightly bashed, but everything was in working order.
I tested the GPS on the following Windows hardware of my desktop, my laptop and my pocket PC.
On the desktop front, I tested connectivity using a Belkin Bluetooth adapter I have had for about 3 years and it worked without any issues. My Microsoft Bluetooth adapter on my laptop, would not work, but the Belkin adapter did, which was interesting and not for this review. The Pocket PC used the internal Bluetooth radio and the standard PPC Bluetooth Manager associated with the IPAQ hx4700 WM 2003SE.
Software utilised to display confirmation that the GPS was working correctly included a whole host from Microsoft Autoroute and the Globalsat free software on the PCs to GPSGate, GPSInfo, TomTom 3.07, Mapopolis, GPSDash, Trafcam and VisualGPSce.
I also tested the BT-338 on my Nokia 6630 using Bluesky. It worked, but I have still to test this in any detail as I have only just acquired that software.
What can I add to the already excellent reviews here? Well, my personal experience, which is one of shock. After using the Pretec CF, which I found only to provide good results with an external aerial, shoved between the inside of the windscreen and dashboard, the BT-338 is a revelation.
This, of course is down to 4 years of development and the emergence of GPS as a mainstream tool. This development has led to the technical bit, which I profess I know nothing about, but Sirf III is like moving from a 14” portable television at the end of a 20’ living room, to a 42” wide screen plasma. That’s how drastic it is.
The Pretec used to take anything up to 5 minutes to find 3 satellites on a bad day. On a good one, I’d have waited a minute. The longest I have had to wait on the BT-338 has been 30 seconds for 3 sats. I say three, because here is another huge difference. It acquires more sats than it needs to for route planning software.
It works in short tunnels. It works in the glove box, door pocket, arm rest and even hidden under the dash board. All these different hiding places are tested and the pictures tell the tale. They were tested in my Audi A3, with a minimum of six “locked” satellites at ay one time. Urban Canyons? It eats them for breakfast!
The pictures below show the location in my car and the signal strength.
On the roof
In the Glove Box
In the Arm Rest
Under the Dash
In the Door Pocket
I deliberately picked a bad day to test. As you can see only six satellites were available, but even in the glove box - which like the arm rest was shut when tested - you can make out only a small degradation.
However, one word of caution about putting your pride and joy away in the glove box or hidden in the back of the seat is that you will never know how much battery life you have left. Even if you have got it in the pouch, and on the dash, you will not have a clue when you are about to have your GPS application stop working as the unit shuts down due to a lack of go-go juice.
I have read a few comments about over run. This is where the GPS gives a slightly wrong latitude and longitude. Provided you have routing software that “snaps” to a road, you’ll never know. Geocaches will, of course, throw their hands up in despair, but compared to the GPS of yesterday, those people complaining must be either purists or theoretical physicists. Personally, never saw it or noticed it.
I have tested this at speed in an aircraft on take off and it clocked speeds in excess of over 220 mph before realising that was faster than most small aircraft and cars will ever travel at. At that point I turned it off.
Day to Day
My routing software of choice in the UK is TomTom Navigator 3. I also have the European maps and used the unit successfully in the South of France. To avoid any issues over the Bluetooth stack, I installed a fresh version of TTN3.07, along with GPSGate to run all the other GPS tools and software a lunatic on the road could ever want.
So what do I do in the morning as I set off to Wales or Norfolk or Worthing? Take the GPS out of the concealed location, open the pouch (more on this later I promise), press the power button and close the pouch flap. Place the GPS back into the concealed location and then turn on the IPAQ, start GPSGate, start TomTom 3 with TrafCam, enter my desired destination and place the hx4700 IPAQ into the holder and apply power. Start the car and put on my seat belt (sometimes I might do that the other way around) and lo and behold the system has already told me which way to go at the end of my road. It really is that quick.
When I get to my desired location, I usually setup my next destination and once the route has been planned, turn off the IPAQ and place it in my jacket pocket. I leave the GPS turned on, and walk away. There are two reasons for this. One, it hides the fact that there is a GPS in the car as I never bring it out when I park up and secondly this BT-338 has auto shut off. Ten minutes after it last detected the Bluetooth link, it turns off. When I come back from my meeting, I turn on the GPS, turn on the IPAQ and away I go again. I am in favour of the Auto Power Off as it saves battery life, but some believe that if it is hardwired it should stay on all the time. Some say toma-toe, others say tom-atoo.
On my unit, the battery life was not as good as claimed. Twice I fully charged it up, turned it on and left it on my windowsill. 16 hrs 35 minutes was the best, 15 hrs 20 minutes the worst. This may have improved if it had a clear sky.
In this situation of low battery, the “Y” cigarette charger cable can come into its own while you are on the move. If I feel the GPS is about to run out, I can charge both my IPAQ and GPS. This is smart thinking on behalf of Globalsat.
In real terms, mine gets charged once a week on the mains adapter, put back in the car and then run for the week (and I do about ten hours a driving a week). It suits my needs, but as an ex-CF user, I have to remember to charge it. The battery inside is huge compared to the size of whole unit and comprises of about 2/3s of the weight of the unit.
It is small, with one button, 3 lights (see other reviews on the suitability of the light patterns), and one charging port and that is it. The plastic film to stop the logo scratching came off in about 3 days. It is small, so small; I moved it from one location to another in my car and could not find it as it was under a tissue in the door pocket! Unusually the colour of the unit is Silver, which does not comply with the standard black and gives it a contemporary feel. The pouch however, is black.
Personally, it was a waste of time. The programs are better left alone and the manual, while informative is not the best. If you know anything about GPS and/or Bluetooth, it’s not worth it.
I have to say, this pouch is great for GPS unit, but only if you turn the unit through 180 degrees and insert it the wrong way around! The charging port hole is in the wrong place and you have to take the unit out of the pouch to turn it on.
With the unit turned around, you can turn it on by opening the pouch by pulling the “hook and eye fastening” and simply pressing the power button, which is exposed from under the flap.
||The GPS is squarely inserted. Notice the hole in the leather is misaligned to the charging cover
||If you do charge it while in the leather pouch and replace the charging cover, you cannot get it through the hole in the leather. This means that you cannot then take out the GPS from the pouch as the charging cover get caught.
||Turn the GPS through 180 degrees and you can get to both the charging point and the power button easily.
In summary, if I had not won a Globalsat BT-338 GPS, I would have bought one or similar Sirf III GPS anyway. This particular GPS is incredibly small, incredibly accurate, incredible battery life and above all better than what came before. I cannot recommend one of these enough.