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MacFixer, the iPhone, iPod, and iPad specialists

GlobalSat BC-307 Compact Flash GPS Card

24th July 2003

 Review by Darren Griffin

   

Introduction

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.

 

The 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.

 

In Use

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. 

 

Using Memory-Map’s 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 Tablet 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.

 

Technical Specifications

 

Interface                            Compact Flash type I

Output Messages              NMEA0183 protocol, and supports command:
                                       GGA, GSA, GSV, RMC, GLL, VTG

Datum                                  WGS84

Hot Start                             8 sec.average

Cold Start                           48 sec.average


 

Summary

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!

 

 
Conclusion  
Manufacturers Website http://www.globalsat.com.tw
UK Distributors http://www.adtechdistribution.com
Pocket GPS Reviewer Darren Griffin
Pocket GPS Reviewer Website n/a
   
Rating  
Sensitivity
Connectivity
Reliability
Robustness
   
Overall Rating 87.5%
How did we achieve these ratings ? Review Ratings
 

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