GlobalSat are a new name in the European GPS
arena but they have an established product line including RS-232, PS/2, USB and
Bluetooth receivers, OEM modules, antennas and AVL systems.
We have already reviewed the BT-308 Bluetooth
receiver and recently received the BR-305 Serial Mouse and BC-307 CF GPS
receivers. Having recently taken delivery of a Tablet PC which has a built-in
CF slot it was an excellent opportunity to test the CF GPS in this product line.
BC-307 is a CF Type I card based on the SiRF Star II/LP low power chip.
There is very little to say about its design, it’s
a small rectangular plastic box, it’s slightly wider than a CF memory card, 8cm
long and 12mm thick.
It’s less bulky than some and aside from a small
ridged ‘rainbow’ motif has no other external markings.
In common with other CF receivers the CF connector
portion it is slightly longer than a standard CF memory card to ensure it clears
the case in the wide range of PPC’s or PC’s that it could be used with. It
looked a little odd when fitted in the CF Jacket of my iPAQ but was a snug fit
in the Tablet PC.
As options GlobalSat offer a PCMCIA adapter and an external
magnetic antenna (the BC-307 has an external antenna socket) for those situations
where reception is poor.
What’s in the box?
Very little really! Aside from the CF GPS all
you’ll find inside is a 7cm CD. On the CD is a manual in Adobe PDF format, a
small Pocket PC applet to test connectivity and compact flash to PCMCIA drivers
for use in Win98, Win2K and WinXP PC’s. No other software is supplied and none
is needed. New users may be a little thrown by this but setup is
straightforward and there is very little to go wrong.
First off I plugged it into my Compaq TC1000
Tablet PC’s CF slot (above), loaded the supplied drivers and fired up InfoMap’s excellent
Navigator App (A review of this is under way). On the side of the receiver is a
small LED, the supplied manual suggests that a flashing LED means it’s searching
for a signal, a constantly lit LED means position fixed and OFF means….well you can work that
one out for yourself! However all I got was OFF and when correctly connected ON regardless
of whether a position fix had been acquired. A minor point but a novice may be
confused by this. From a cold start TTFF was approx 60 secs.
PC App I recorded 5-7 sats with a clear view of the sky so to make things a
little harder I tested the unit indoors. Sitting about 6ft from the garden
window reception dropped to 4 sats but maintained a lock, by way of comparison
I have never succeeded in getting a fix in this location using my Emtac GPS
Jacket or Navman 3000.
In-car with my wife holding the Tablet on her lap
reception was a consistent 4-6 sats, plugging in the external antenna which had
been affixed to the roof instantly boosted reception to 8+ with 10 seen on
couple of occasions, a first for any GPS I have used!
I should add that the external antenna
comes with approximately 6m of cable which allows plenty of scope for a tidy
install. I placed mine at the rear of my car roof and there was enough
cable to run it under the rear window seal, into the boot and along the door
sills to the front passenger seat with about 1m to spare!
TTFF on warm starts was never more than 20 seconds
and this made it a dream to use as I could place the
into suspend knowing that I could acquire a fix quickly when I needed it.
Also when travelling through tunnels or underpasses where satellite lock was
lost it would re-acquire within seconds of emerging.
Installing the BC-307 in my CF Jacket I ran up the
TomTom GPS Driver, set it to NMEA 4800 and chose the correct port. With a good
field of view I received a solid 6 Sat fix in approx 20 seconds.
Compact Flash type I
Messages NMEA0183 protocol, and supports command:
GGA, GSA, GSV, RMC, GLL, VTG
I was very impressed, until now I had never liked
the idea of CF receivers but I am a convert. The BC-307 was simple to install,
locked on quickly and re-acquired even faster. It’s built to withstand knocks
and like the ad says "it does what it says on the tin". UK
Retail price for the BC-307 is £145+VAT but you should be able to purchase it
for less than this.
One thing to be aware of when ordering is to check
to see if the antenna comes with the Compact Flash Card or not. The
official response from GlobalSat is "Some distributors have provided the
external antenna in the package of BC-307, some distributors do not".
However, the UK distributor does say that all BC-307's they order to the UK will
come with the antenna included. So whether you're in the UK, Europe, North
America, or in some other corner of the world, before you purchase, phone the
retailer up and check to see if the antenna is included!