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Delorme Earthmate Blue Logger BT GPS receiver 2nd August 2004

Review by Lutz Bendlin

 

Big name, cool device.

DeLorme were kind enough to send us a review unit of their latest BlueTooth receiver, the Earthmate Blue Logger GPS. It stands out from the crowd of Bluetooth receivers quite a bit.

 

First of all, its yellow. Very yellow, a typical Earthmate trademark. Then its pretty small smaller than the CoPilot receiver. Next it is packed with features Logging, GPS post processing, replaceable battery. Package pricing starting from USD 149.95 plus tax and shipping/handling.

 

In the box

Did I mention it also comes with a host of accessories ?

 

Here we go: In the box are a charging station - both for the unit, and for an additional battery (you can buy them for USD 29.95), a mains charger as well as a cigarette lighter charger, a belt carrying case (very cute) and, of course, the Blue Logger Manager software.

 

You can also purchase an external antenna for its MMCX connector at USD 32.95.

 

"Ah, what about software ?” I hear you ask. Well, you can choose between Street Atlas 2004 (included in the USD 149.95 package) or XMap HH Pro with Topo 5 USA for USD 249.95 .

But lets get back to the receiver, and have a look around it and under the hood.

 

As mentioned before it comes with an external antenna connector of the MMCX kind. The picture shows the difference on top is a CoPilot BT receiver with a MCX jack, and below the Blue Logger with the MMCX. The MCX has a white isolator around the inner connector, the MMCX does not.

 

On the top we have a software On/Off button and two multi function LEDs. The software On/Off button (you have to hold it down longer to switch the unit on or off) is certainly a discussion item, I would have preferred a mechanical switch. With the chosen design the receiver is not suited for permanent in-car installation and powering directly from the car power network, and is pretty fiddly to switch on/off in normal use.

 

One LED is for BlueTooth and (dying) battery, the other is to indicate a GPS fix and the charging state. Sounds pretty confusing but you get used to it quickly.

 

What I cannot get used to is the eternal tendency of the device manufacturers to implement bright blinking LEDs In my simple understanding a blinking LED is showing me that something is not working properly and needs my attention. If everything is ok then I would expect either steady lights or no lights at all. It's not just Bluetooth GPS, Manufacturers that are doing this, it's also cabled GPS Manufacturers too. They all seem to be doing things the wrong way round.

 

On a side note the blue LED is extremely bright. It can easily replace one of these mini torches that are getting popular now. May come in handy when you are lost in the outdoors (why would you get lost when you have a GPS) and it is getting dark. For in-car use I can recommend some black permanent marker or black insulating/electrical tape.

 

The body opens easily and reveals the replaceable Li-Ion battery. It has a capacity of 900 mAh and claims to hold the unit alive for 8 hours. Of course we know these numbers are always exaggerated, so I tested the device over the course of a week under very nasty conditions (I had it sitting behind a coated window with little sky view until it caved). Hmm the unit consistently delivered 9 hours 15 minutes of runtime before the red light went on signaling a low battery. Very well then, a pleasant surprise.

 

A small side note the body is not waterproof, so take care of the device when you use it outdoors. A little plastic bag should do the trick.

 

Two small screws later and we look into the innards (Note: DO NOT try this at home; it will void your warranty!)

 

 

 

  

 

Not much to see here, so lets move on

 

I mentioned the charger station. Its a nice add-on, especially if you have another battery. (Just imagine, 18 hours of operation ). You can charge the unit and the battery independently. The charging station can also be used with the cigarette lighter charger, and you can plug the mains charger directly into the unit.

 

Thankfully it is the standard iPAQ Pocket PC connector (5vDC, plus on the inside-polarity) so you can also use your existing chargers if you have one of those, and there is no need to carry multiple chargers for the Pocket PC and the GPS receiver. Neat.

 

Now that we covered the looks of the receiver, lets focus on the real cool stuff the logging functionality. To benefit from this you have to install the supplied Blue Logger Manager.

 

 

Follow the standard installation, and don't forget to register the product. Bear in mind that although the 1-800 number can be called from overseas it may not be toll free, check with your telco first

 

 

Here it is getting slightly nasty no application should propose to install data into the root directory. Make sure you change that to "My Documents” or a similar location.

 

Now, with the installation complete, lets start the Blue Logger Manager.

 

 

Oh, wait. How do we communicate with the receiver ? It only speaks Bluetooth, so what we need to have is a working Bluetooth receiver on your desktop/notebook. What do you mean, we didn't tell you that before you bought the device ? Thats what this review is for (Somehow). If you don't already have a Bluetooth USB dongle on your PC, then check out this review.

 

So to summarize you can certainly use the receivers standard GPS features without the need to install the Blue Logger Manager, but to use the log, change the logging options, and download the log you do need Bluetooth on your PC!

 

Now that this is said lets assume you have a working BlueTooth stack and have the receiver discovered, bonded (optional, the code is 0000) and connected to a serial port (here COM5).

 

Once connected you will see the GPS fix type (here 2-D), the fill level of the logging buffer and some other data that influences the logging. Not sure why the Time Zone is specified. What happens when you cross Time Zones ? Why not take the time stamp from the UTC satellite time ?

Anyhow, logging can be configured in a multitude of ways, adjusting to your driving style and the level of detail you want to record. I set it to record a log entry every 0.3 miles.

 

Standard data looks like this:-

 

Date, Time ((GMT-06:00) Central Time (DST)), Latitude, Longitude, Elevation (ft), Heading, Speed (mi/hr), GPS Status, Log Type
07/21/2004, 07:51:56, 29.997141, -95.568771, 44.158, 253.04, 46.23, 3, 2
07/21/2004, 07:52:17, 29.996855, -95.573102, 66.359, 272.45, 42.81, 3, 2
07/21/2004, 07:52:39, 29.996878, -95.577392, 71.894, 265.19, 23.80, 5, 2
07/21/2004, 07:53:37, 29.996709, -95.581638, 47.170, 269.40, 38.90, 3, 2
07/21/2004, 09:47:02, 29.993277, -95.580170, 260.151, 166.80, 13.55, 2, 2


 

You can also log up to 50000 data points.

 

Raw data is for the die hard geodesic/geodetic folks that need to define a fixed position to the tenth digit after the period (ok, in the sub-meter range), and it looks like this

 

x >@D* ^W Ō"?- A ɚկ? `_@ ~A{ A^[E:

 

This fills the log memory quickly, and you should equally quickly switch back to standard data mode thats much more useful for our purposes.

 

When the log is full you can decide to stop logging or to overwrite from the beginning, using it as a ring buffer.

 

After you sent the setup details to the device you can clear the log by toggling the "Enable Logging” button. The same can be achieved by switching between the logging methods.

 

  

 

The last tab, the Data download, allows you to specify the output format. Depending on the logging method different output formats will be selectable. The raw file can be fed into DeLormes own GPS PostPro 2.0, the other formats can be used in pretty much any mapping software that has a reasonably decent selection of input formats.

  

 

We did ask DeLorme about a Pocket PC based version of the Blue Logger, and the answer was "the Pocket PC/ PDA version has been planned and is currently not cost-effective to develop” . Maybe our user community can come up with a solution for that

 

Now, what about the pure GPS function of the receiver ? This one is pretty standard, in the positive meaning of the word. Coming from the factory (Set your Pocket PC to NMEA, 38400 as preferred speed) not all of the NMEA protocols are selected to make street navigation optimal.

 

But thats not a problem. Even though DeLorme stated that "We don't actually open the communications stream to reprogramming.” I was successful in changing the NMEA sequences to a more suitable set with the help of Crux_View. I guess any SiRF chipset programming tool will do.

 

I did some side by side TTFF tests with the CoPilot BT receiver. Subjectively the Blue Logger takes a bit longer to acquire a fix, especially after a longer pause. (it has a fix when the green LED starts blinking)

At the same time it also seems to be tracking more sats and seems to be able to hold a fix longer when conditions deteriorate. The Blue Logger also had no problem establishing a DGPS fix (I didn't even know I could get that in Texas), resulting in impressively low DOP numbers (dilution of precision)

 

Conclusion

 

Pro: The Blue Logger is a feature packed BlueTooth receiver at a very competitive price. At the time of writing its logging capacity is superior to any other Bluetooth GPS logger on the market. (remember, 50000 data points!). It comes with an impressive set of accessories, most importantly the replaceable battery, and it makes quite a fashion statement, too.

 

Con: The device is not watertight, and the LEDs are very bright. There is no Pocket PC configuration tool, so you must have a PC with a Bluetooth adapter to configure the logging features.

 

 

References

Manufacturers Website Delorme GPS Receiver
Delorme GPS Accessories
Pocket GPS Contributor Lutz Bendlin
 
Rating  
Design
Accessories
GPS performance
Logging features
   
Overall Rating 90%
How did we achieve these ratings ? Review Ratings
 

 

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