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GlobalSat BT-328 Bluetooth GPS receiver review Date 23rd July 2006

Review by Mike Barrett

 

GlobalSat are a renowned manufacturer of GPS devices pioneering the way with the second generation Bluetooth GPS the BT-338 which is a standard by which other devices are measured. Recently they introduced a low cost companion to the BT-338: the GlobalSat BT-328.

 

The GlobalSat BT-328 is a low power SiRF 2 Bluetooth GPS receiver. With a recommended price of £70 it is half the price of the BT-338.

 

I have been putting the GlobalSat GPS receiver through its paces over the last few months to see how it performs in "real life".

Globalsat bluetooth audio headset

Quick Navigation

Overview

Compatibility

Review

Conclusion

Resources

Overview

GlobalSat have been the market leaders in the field of Bluetooth GPS receivers since the introduction of the BT-308 way back in 2003. Since that time these devices have gone through a rapid evolution with more than double the battery life and increased sensitivity.

 

The SiRF III GlobalSat BT-338 is currently the benchmark by which all Bluetooth GPS receivers are measured. The new GlobalSat BT-328 is a SiRF II device, seemingly a backwards step for the company. However the BT-328 uses the latest SiRF II low power single chipset which results in low cost and superior battery life.

 

So how does this all work out? Is the GPS receiver as good as the well known GlobalSat BT-338 Bluetooth GPS? Read on and find out...

 

GlobalSat BT-328 bluetooth GPS receiver
Manufacturers Specifications

The following specifications are from the GlobalSat website:

 

Chipset SiRF GSC2
Frequency L1, 1575.42 MHz
C/A Code 1.023 MHz chip rate
Channels 12
Tracking Sensitivity -155 dBm
Accuracy
Position Horizontal 10m 2D RMS
Time 1 micro-second synchronized to GPS time
Velocity 0.1m/sec 95%
Datum
Datum WGS-84
Acquisition Rate
Hot start
8 sec., average (with ephemeris and almanac valid)
Warm start 38 sec., average (with almanac but not ephemeris)
Cold start 42 sec., average (neither almanac nor ephemeris)
Reacquisition 0.1 sec. average (interruption recovery time)
Protocol
GPS Output Data NMEA 0183 protocol, and supports command: GGA, GSA, GSV, RMC, VTG, GLL (VTG and GLL are optional)
GPS transfer rate 38400,N,8,1
Dynamic Condition
Acceleration Limit Less than 4g
Altitude Limit 18,000 meters (60,000 feet) max.
Velocity Limit 515 meters/sec. (1,000 knots) max.
Jerk Limit 20 m/sec**3
Power
Voltage Built-in rechargeable battery (1300 mAh) and 5V DC input charging circuit
Operation Time 16 hr. After fully recharged, in continuous mode
Physical Characteristics
Dimension 67.5mm x 45mm x 17mm
Weight 65g
Temperature
Operating -20°~ 60°C
Humidity Up to 95% non-condensing

Bluetooth Specification
● Bluetooth: V1.2 Compliant
● Supply Voltage: 2.8V ~ 3.3V
● Frequency Range: 2.402 ~ 2.480 GHz
● Receiver Sensitivity: -80 dBm
● Transmit Power: Class 2
● Transmitting Range: 10 m
● Power Consumption: 45 mA (Typical)

 


Compatibility

The GlobalSat BT-328 is compatible with any PDA, SmartPhone or Computer that has a Bluetooth interface. I have confirmed that it works with both WM5 and WM2003 Second Edition. I have also tested a wide range of software applications and not found one that failed to use the GPS receiver correctly.


The BT-328 Bluetooth GPS Review

When all other manufacturers are producing Bluetooth GPS receivers with the latest SiRF Star III chipsets GlobalSat have seemingly reverted to older technology and released one using the SiRF Star II GSC2 chipset. This may seem a little strange but according to my sources inside GlobalSat this was done for two reasons. Firstly price, using the older technology brings with it advantages in reduced costs which can then be passed on to the consumer. Secondly despite being SiRF Star II technology it is based on the low power chipset which was not available at the time in SiRF Star III configurations.

 

The end result is a cheap, high performance GPS receiver with exceptional battery life.

 

The GlobalSat BT-328 is about 2.5 x 1.75 by just over 0.5 inches in size. a little smaller than the BT-338.

GlobalSat BT-328 bluetooth GPS receiver

 

It has some pleasing ascetic design elements including ribbed end pieces, a contrasting fascia insert, and a large anti-slip rubber base.

 

In a departure from the normal GlobalSat devices the BT-328 incorporates a non-removable battery. At 1300 milli amp hours it has considerably less capacity than the previous devices, but the low power chipset makes up for that enabling similar or better running times.

 

The power connector is the standard iPAQ style 5 volt socket. There are both mains and car power adapters supplied in the box. This enables you to charge the device pretty much where ever you are. Although with a claimed 16 hour battery life charging on the go is not required.

 

GlobalSat BT-328 bluetooth GPS receiver

The GlobalSat BT-328 also incorporates an auto power off feature. If you disconnect your PDA from the device for more than 10 minutes then the GPS receiver automatically switches itself off to save power. This can be inconvenient if you have it permanently installed in your car, but can be a life saver if you forget to power it off when you arrive at your destination.

 

The BT-328 has a set of 3 status LEDs shown to the right. These provide an indication of Bluetooth connection (blue), Satellite tracking status (green), and battery charging (orange). Unfortunately the BT and Sat indicators flash. I asked the design engineers why they did not make the LEDs stay on permanently. Apparently when they flash they consume a lot less power and extend the battery life considerably.

 

GlobalSat BT-328 bluetooth GPS receiver

The GlobalSat BT-328 in use

Initially I used the GlobalSat BT-328 GPS connected to my iPAQ 4700 running street navigation software in my car. I found the receiver obtained and retained a fix on the GPS satellites reliably. Admittedly where I live the conditions for GPS signal reception are very good.

 

The BT-328 paired quickly and easily with my 4700. The passcode is the standard GlobalSat "0000".

 

My standard GPS receiver test was passed with excellent results. On my desk two metres from the window the GPS locks on to 7 satellites. It performs well in all of my cars and to date has not let me down when needed.

 

Some time ago some of the PocketGPSWorld.com team actually had the opportunity to enjoy themselves in the Lake District. I saw this as a prime excuse to load myself down with gear and test out the BT-328 in the adverse conditions of a British summer. True to form once in the mountains the clouds came over and it poured with rain. I had the PDA securely encased in an otterbox, but the GlobalSat BT-328 was exposed to the wind and the rain. Although not specified as waterproof no moisture entered the device and it is still functioning correctly today.

GlobalSat BT-328 bluetooth GPS receiver

OK so the GPS works correctly (as you would expect) in normal conditions, but what about extreme environments? To test out the performance of the GPS I went to find some urban canyons. Where better than in amongst the skyscrapers of New York?

 

We visited New York in late June. It was hot, humid and raining!!! We were staying in mid-town in amongst some 40 to 50 story buildings. Definitely adverse conditions for tracking satellites.

 

The first task was to get a fix. We were staying on the 42nd floor of our hotel and the GPS managed to lock on to sufficient satellites to get a location within a few seconds. In fact it surprised me how quickly it achieved a fix, as its last known location was a few thousand miles away in the UK.

 

GlobalSat BT-328 bluetooth GPS receiver

Down at street level it was a completely different matter. My wife got fed up hanging around in the rain waiting for me to get a fix. Eventually after about 5 minutes I had a weak fix and off I went.

 

New York is probably the worst place to use GPS in a city. I used the BT-328 and other GPS receivers to plot a walking trail from my hotel to a bus stop. The tracks shown to the left compare the BT-328 (cyan) to a new GlobalSat SiRF III bluetooth GPS. The trail taken was exactly the same, but on different days. You can see from this that the SiRF III is more accurate but the BT-328 is not too bad, and using it with Street Navigation software where the position snaps to a road would be fine.

GlobalSat BT-328 bluetooth GPS receiver

There were some occasions where the GlobalSat BT-328 was completely thrown out and reported a position a few hundred yards away from where I was. Generally though the reported position was accurate enough to use for navigation. This is the toughest test a GPS can be put through and you are unlikely to encounter similar conditions unless you live in a metropolis like this. Normally you would get a strong GPS fix outside the city and drive in, resulting in a better fix within the urban canyons.

 

And finally the battery endurance. Did it make the claimed 16 hours? Well no not quite, but not far off though. Over 3 full discharge cycles it averaged 15 hours 27 minutes.

 

Conclusions

The GlobalSat BT-328 Bluetooth GPS is an excellent budget GPS receiver which under most situations performs equally as well as SiRF III devices. There is little to fault the device, which has performed reliably throughout all my testing.

 

Up until a couple of weeks ago I would have wholeheartedly recommended this device to anyone wanting a cheap GPS as the price/performance was unbeatable. Having said that GlobalSat have just released the new BT-359 SiRF Star III Bluetooth GPS receivers which can be bought for about £5.00 more than the BT-328...

 

Pros

  • Budget price
  • SiRFStarII Low power chipset
  • Long battery life
  • Small size

Cons

  • Reduced accuracy over SiRF III devices
  • Small price differential over BT-338 and BT-359

 

References

Manufacturers Website www.GlobalSat.com.tw
www.GlobalSat.co.uk
Pocket GPS Contributor

Mike Barrett

Pocket GPS Contributor Website

www.Pocketgpsworld.com

   
Resources  

 

 

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