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MacFixer, the iPhone, iPod, and iPad specialists

GlobalSat BR305 Serial Mouse GPS Receiver

15th July 2003 

 Review by Mike Barrett

  

 

The GlobalSat BR305 is a serial mouse GPS receiver that can be connected to around 13 different types of PDA as well as standard 9pin Serial and USB devices. The recommended retail price is £151.57 including VAT, but street pricing may be cheaper.

 

GlobalSat are multinational wireless and GPS specialist manufacturer, based in Taiwan with a presence in USA, Europe and China. Having been in business since 2000 they are now an established manufacturer of GPS equipment.

 

GlobalSat provided the BR305 serial mouse GPS receiver for the review, which also used an iPAQ 5450. Software used was TomTom Navigator 2, Destinator 2, OziExplorer, Memory-Map and Fugawi.

 

 

 

What do you get?
The GlobalSat BR305 serial mouse GPS receiver comes with just about everything you will need except PDA and software. There are different packages for the different PDA/PC types supported.

 

The retail package which I reviewed had the following:

  • BR305 Serial Mouse Receiver
  • Car Charger with splitter cable
  • Connector for iPAQ 38xx/39xx/54xx/2210

Interestingly in the package I was sent there were no instructions. This is not necessarily an issue as it is almost impossible to go wrong with this setup.

 

Basically the different PDA connectors are supported by a generic PS2 plug/socket assembly. This provides power to both the PDA and the GPS mouse. This allows GlobalSat to support additional devices through different cable sets rather than having a complete model for each PDA.

 

 

Manufacturers Technical Specifications
Interface BR-305:RS232 interface with PSII connector
Output Message NMEA 0183 V2.2 protocol, and supports command:
GGA, GLL, VTG, RMC, GSA, GSV
Channels 12 parallel channels
Frequency 1575.42MHZ C/A code
Hot Start 8 sec., average.
Warm Start 38 sec., average.
Cold Start 48 sec., average.
Acceleration Limit <4g
Altitude Limit 18,000m
Re-acquisition 100ms
Velocity Limit 515 meters/sec
Horizontal Accuracy 15m 2D RMS Without SA
10m 2D RMS WAAS enabled
1-5m DGPS corrected
Time Accuracy 1us synchronized to GPS time
Dimension BR-305:59mm*47mm*21mm
Power Consumption 90mA
Storage Temperature -30C~85C
Operation Temperature -20C~80C
Humidity Up to 95% non- Condensing


Model Number Descriptions:

BR305-IQ36 for iPAQ 36XX/37XX series
BR305-IQ38 for iPAQ 38XX/39XX series
BR305-HPJ5 for HP Jornada 54 / 56 series
BR305-PAMV for Palm V series
BR305-P500 for Palm 500 series
BR305-C125 for CAsio E-125 / 500 series
BR305-C200 for Casio E-200 series
BR305-SoCT for Sony Clie T series
BR305-Socn for Sony Clie N series
BR305-TREO for HandSpring Treo 180/270
BR305-XDA2 for XDA 2 series
BR305-MMIO for Mitac Mio 528 series
BR305-T740 for Toshiba e-740 series
BR305-LOOX for Siemens Pocket Loox series
BR305-RS232 for connecting BR305-RS232 to Laptop/Notebook P.C. in RS232 interface
BR305-USB for connecting to Laptop/Notebook P.C. in USB interface

 

What does it look like

 

It is actually a small rectangular lump of plastic measuring 2.25 x 1.5 x 0.75 inches for those of us who still work in imperial, or 59x47x21mm for you modern folk. Oh and it has a wire coming out of one end, about 2meters long which terminates in a PS2 connector (keyboard/mouse type).

 

The base of the receiver is magnetised which would help it to stay put if your dash is metal, but not so good on my plastic dashboard.

 

On one side of the receiver is a small red LED which is constantly lit when there is no fix or flashing when the GPS receiver has a fix.

 

I have mine positioned in the far left corner of my dashboard, right up against the windscreen. I get excellent reception from that location.

 

The cable I have tucked in the gaps between the dash and the trim, then feeding behind the moldings in the front footwell, and re-appearing through my ashtray opening for the power connector, and above the Stereo trim for the data connector. This then means that I have just about all the cables hidden perfectly.

 

I use a Brodit Active mount in the car which I thought would be a problem with the GlobalSat connector. Closely examining the base connector I found that the Brodit power cable and the GlobalSat Power/Data connector were identical. I just undid 4 screws, replaced the connector and re screwed the whole lot back together. Now all I have to do when I get in the car is drop the iPAQ into the Brodit and start the routing application.

 

One of my concerns was security, not that you could see lots of cabling or anything outside the car, but a box sitting on the dash looks tempting. I drafted my old friend Herbie the Hedgehog in to solve that problem. Herbie sits on top of the GPS mouse. Now nothing can be seen from outside, but I still have the ability to see the flashing LED to give me confirmation that all is working correctly.

 

 

 

The GlobalSat BR305 in use

OK so those of you who know me know that I am a die hard outdoors guy (albeit with a large paunch) and my GPS emphasis has always been towards mobility, compactness and battery life. So how did I fare with a static non-self powered GPS.

 

I AM A CONVERT!! Converted

 

Well at least partially. What appeals to me about this setup is that you just get in the car, start the engine, then put the PDA in it's cradle. While all this is going on the GPS is getting a Fix, so that by the time you have started your navigation program the GPS is fixed and all ready to go.

 

Now there are the obvious drawbacks of non-portability, but if you only have one car, and you are not interested in using a GPS for outdoor pursuits then you cannot go far wrong with a setup like this. I now use this setup for all road GPS, and will get one for my son's car too soon.

 

But those are just generic comments about the GPS format. What about the GlobalSat?

 

Firstly it all goes together very easily. There was plenty of cable for me to install it anywhere I wanted in the front of the car. I managed to tuck the cables away very well as described above. As this is a serial device there is no software driver required. Just plug and go.

 

The first time I started the GPS it did a factory TTFF I was surprised when it achieved this in about 42 seconds. Cold starts normally take 20-30 seconds. There have been a couple of times when the cold starts have been a lot longer, but you will occasionally get this happening, one day I was having trouble getting a fix with the Emtac as well. Warm starts are pretty fast as well. After starting the car and before I have started my navigation application I have a fix.

 

The signal strength and sensitivity is slightly less than that of the Emtac. Where the Emtac would give a 7-8 satellite fix, the BR305 gives 5-6. This is not a problem as it is more than enough for accurate navigation. I have never lost a fix driving down leafy lanes, so essentially that is all that counts.

 

I recently went on holiday (well they let me out once a year) and thought that this would be a good opportunity to test the mouse GPS. We did about 2,400 miles over 15 days towing a caravan through France, Belgium. Luxemburg, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. An excellent test of all the equipment. I was running a combination of Destinator 2, TomTom Navigator, OziExplorerCE and Fugawi. Throughout the traveling time the only problem I encountered was with Destinator. On a couple of times it locked up and the PDA required a reboot to recover. This was not a fault of the GlobalSat GPS it was Destinator.

 

Now all of you who know of Switzerland think of Chocolate and Cuckoo Clocks. I can assure you that it is also a country of tunnels. When going through the Alps there are literally hundreds of tunnels, but it is not just the alps it is in the towns as well. When we got to Basle the motorway suddenly disappeared underground, Whoops GPS does not work down here. I was given a sharp lesson in not relying on the navigation software when faced with a few underground Y junctions. I had to snap to and MANUALLY navigate. That aside the BT305 sprung back to life as soon as we exited the tunnel.

 

Further up in the mountains there were some interesting tunnels and avalanche protection half tunnels. Once again the GPS re-fixed after a couple of seconds. The toughest test was a series of 8-10 tunnels of 200-500 metres with open gaps of the same length between them. No sooner than we came out of the tunnel the GPS picked up a fix and we were in the next. The only slight delay was when we had exited the Gotthard Tunnel going northbound where the GPS did not re-fix for about 45 seconds. Having said that the Tunnel was over 12 miles and the valley we were in was somewhat deep at that point.

 

Another issue brought to the fore recently has been the performance or failure of GPS equipment at high temperatures. Well whilst in Italy we had 10 days of extreme temperature, at night the ambient temperature dropped to 27, during the day it rose to between 36 and 39 centigrade. Combine these temperatures. with the effects of a glass windscreen and you get some pretty hot untouchable surfaces. At no point did I have any problems with the GPS, it was just the driver and passengers who overheated.

 

All in all I am very happy with the GPS and will continue to use it on a daily basis.

 

 

Where can I get one from?
The UK distributor is Advanced Technology Distribution Ltd Tel: 01243 672800 web www.adtechdistribution.com

 

For users in other parts of the world contact GlobalSat directly they will be able to tell you who their suppliers are in your region.

 

Conclusion
This receiver has certainly changed the way I think about and use in-car GPS. Its retail price is slightly more expensive than comparable products, but the street price I would expect to be similar.

 

If you want a GPS mouse which is reliable and robust then you cannot go far wrong with this model. Having used it for the last 8 weeks or so in thorough test environments the unit did not fail. It survived extreme temperatures, and performed well all this time.

 

The only slight downside was the receiver's sensitivity, but this was never an issue in use. You really only need 4 or 5 satellites fixed to navigate on the roads and this GPS receiver delivers more than that.

 

References

Manufacturers Website

http://www.globalsat.com.tw

UK Distributors

http://www.adtechdistribution.com

Pocket GPS Contributor

Mike Barrett

Pocket GPS Contributor Website

http://www.1st-online-finance.co.uk

   

Rating

 

Construction

Installation

Useability

Robustness

Overall Rating 97.5%

How did we achieve these ratings ?

Review Ratings

   

 

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