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GlobalSat BT-359 Bluetooth GPS receiver review Date 3rd August 2006

Review by Mike Barrett

 

When we visited the GlobalSat booth at Las Vegas CES they had a number of new devices on display. Among these were a number of mockup GPS receivers. Some of these have seen production others have fallen by the wayside. Two of these designs have now been developed and are now available for purchase.

 

The BT-359W and the BT-359S are the next generation in the GlobalSat range of Bluetooth GPS devices. Sharing the same technology they differ only in the design of the casing.

 

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

Quick Navigation

Overview

Compatibility

Review

Conclusion

Resources

Overview

GlobalSat have been amongst the frontrunners in the manufacture of Bluetooth GPS receivers from the day they launched the legendary BT-308. The second generation GlobalSat BT-338 Bluetooth GPS set the standard by which other bluetooth GPS devices are measured.

 

Previous GlobalSat GPS receivers worked wonderfully but were not exactly pleasing on the eye. This changed with the award winning BR-355 and now the new BT-359W and BT-359S Bluetooth receivers have had some thought put into the design of the outer casing as well as the internal electronics...

 

How do the GlobalSat BT–359W and BT-359S GPS receivers shape up? Read on and find out...

Manufacturers Specifications

The following specifications are from the GlobalSat website:

 

GPS standard SiRF StarIII
GPS Antenna Built-in ceramic patch antenna
Bluetooth standard Bluetooth V2.0
Operation range 10 meters (33 feet)
Bluetooth Default PIN 0000
Operation time Up to 11 hrs
Charge time 4~5 hrs
Automatically enters Turn-Off When there is no active Bluetooth connection 10 minutes
Charge Connector Mini USB
OFF to ON Press the ON-OFF button for approximately 1s causes the unit to turn ON
ON to OFF Press the ON-OFF button for approximately 1s causes the unit to turn OFF
Perform reset Press the ON-OFF button for approximately 5s causes the unit to Perform reset
GPS status Blinking – GPS position is fixed
GPS status Steady light– GPS position is not fixed
Power status Solid Red – Battery Low
Power status Solid Amber – Battery is charging
Bluetooth status Blinking(Slowly) – Not connected to any Bluetooth device
Operating -10°C ~ 60°C
Storage -20°C ~ 70°C
Humidity Operational up to 95% non-condensing
DC supplies 4.5V~5.5V / 0.5A
Battery Cell Type Lithium –ion Rechargeable Battery
Dimension 82.0 mm x 41.0 mm x 13.4 mm

GPS Specification
GPS Chipset SiRF Star III
Frequency L1, 1575.42 MHz
C/A Code 1.023 MHz chip rate
Channels 20 channel all-in-view tracking

Accuracy
Position Horizontal10 meters, 2D RMS 1-5 meters 2D RMS, WAAS corrected
Velocity 0.1m/sec
Time1 micro-second synchronized to GPS time

Datum
DatumDefault: WGS-84

Acquisition Rate
Hot start 1 sec., average
Warm start 38 sec., average
Cold start 42 sec., average
Reacquisition 0.1 sec. average

Protocol
GPS Protocol Default: NMEA 0183 (Secondary: SiRF binary)
GPS Output formatGGA(1sec), GSA(1sec), GSV(5sec), RMC(1sec), GLL, VTG is optional

Dynamic Condition
Acceleration Limit Less than 4g
Altitude Limit18,000 meters (60,000 feet) max.
Velocity Limit 515 meters/sec. (1,000 knots) max.
Jerk Limit 20 m/sec**3

Bluetooth Specifications:
Bluetooth Chipset CSR BC4
Frequency 2402MHz to 2480MHz
Standard Bluetooth V2.0
Bluetooth Profile SPP (Serial Port Profile)
Operation Range 10 meters (33 feet)
Output Power 0 dBm (class II)

 

Compatibility

The GlobalSat BT-359 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-358 Bluetooth GPS Review

As mentioned above the BT-359 is the third generation of Bluetooth GPS receivers from the GlobalSat stable. There are two models available the GlobalSat BT-359W and the BT-359S. There is no difference between these receivers other than exterior styling. The "W" stands for wave (the GPS receiver reviewed here) and the "S" is for the solar design. My preference is the wave styling.

 

It is interesting to compare the size of the GlobalSat BT-359 with it's predecessor the BT-338. You can see from these images to the right that the BT-359 is about a quarter of an inch longer than the BT-338. Both of the devices are the same width, but the BT-359 is almost half the depth of the BT-338.

 

This difference in depth makes the new GlobalSat much more suitable for slipping in a pocket, without unsightly bulges. It will slip right into your shirt pocket and you wont realise that it is there.

 

I don't have any accurate scales to weigh the GPS receivers, but certainly in the hand the BT-359 feels considerably lighter.

 

The main new feature of the GlobalSat BT-539 is the design of the receiver. As mentioned above there are two designs for the casing, which move the GPS receivers from the realms of Techno Devices to fashionable electronics with street cred... This is the type of device that youngsters would like to have to complement their trendy mobile phones.

 

The wave design is on multi levels giving the graphics a slightly blurred or shadow effect. It looks good in real life but is quite difficult to photograph.

 

The underside of the BT-359 has a removable battery cover which is surrounded by a non-slip rubber ring.

 

On one edge of the GlobalSat BT-359 there is an attachment for a lanyard (not supplied) and the power connector.

 

The power connector is very conveniently a mini USB connector. This seems to be an emerging standard for GPS receivers now. It is certainly very convenient as all modern PCs have USB ports and I suppose that it also represents an overall cost saving for the manufacturers as they no longer provide a mains power supply.

 

What is supplied in the box is a car charger with a USB socket, and a USB cable. This setup makes for a flexible powering solution. Plug the cable into your PC and you can charge the GPS directly from the PC. Note that the cable does not provide data signals so the GPS cannot be used as a wired GPS. If you should need to charge the receiver whilst away from a PC on the road then you can plug in the car adapter and the USB cable fits into the socket on there.

 

There is no indication if the car adapter is 12 volt or 12-24 volt. Therefore it may not be possible to use it in a lorry. I must confess that I have not had a requirement to use any in-car charging as the battery life of the GPS is more than adequate for the traveling I do.

 

Staying on the subject of power but moving to the battery. The BT-359 comes with a removable 1300mAh battery which GlobalSat claim gives 11 hours of continuous operation. Looking at the images to the right you can see that most of the GPS receiver is not electronic wizardry, but is actually the battery. In fact is is quite amazing how little space there is for the GPS and Bluetooth components in the receiver.

 

GlobalSat have incorporated a feature to save battery drainage from people like me who leave the GPS switched on after you arrive at your destination. If the receiver does not detect a connection then it will automatically power itself off after 10 minutes of inactivity.

 

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

 

One of the features that a lot of people ask for is a receiver that will remain powered and active when installed permanently in a car. There is never quite the ideal solution to this, but GlobalSat have moved closer to it. If you install the BT-359 with a permanent USB power connection then it will not automatically switch off after 10 minutes of non-activity. However you will have to connect it to an always on power source. Most cars switch the power to the cigar lighter off when the ignition is off.

 

A PocketGPSworld.com review would not be complete without a sneak look inside the case at the componentry. As usual the casing just happened to (erm) accidentally fall open in my hands. Unfortunately the circuit board was affixed rather firmly to the upper case and as I didn't want to damage the receiver I could not open it fully.

 

However I was able to prise the edges up and take peek at the internals. This receiver uses the tried and trusted ceramic patch antenna which is located directly under the metal shielding. The shielding, I assume, protects the GPS and Bluetooth chipsets from outside interference.

 

The GlobalSat BT-539 in use

We have reviewed many SiRFStarIII Bluetooth GPS devices, and I am still amazed by the way they perform. This is still true with the new GlobalSat BT-539 devices. GlobalSat have made a stylish, well designed GPS receiver, which is still packed full of features.

 

Pairing the GPS to my PDA is simple, following the wizard and entering "0000" as the passkey gets you up and running. Once paired it is simply a matter of selecting the correct serial port in your navigation application and you will be ready to navigate.

 

I have found the bluetooth range to be in excess of 3 metres making it ideal for just about any application. Indeed if you have a coated windscreen you will need to position the GPS in the rear window to obtain satellite reception. The Bluetooth range is perfect for that.

 

I balanced the GPS on my dash to take this photo and forgot to reposition it in the corner of the screen where it normally sits. Of course the first bend I went round resulted in the GPS taking a very abrupt excursion to the floor. Not only did it end up right in the passenger footwell, but it managed to flip over and the antenna is facing down.

 

Amazingly this didn't affect the performance of the GlobalSat BT-359 too much. As can be seen from the TomTom Navigator GPS Status screen to the right. Even in this position the GPS receiver was still able to pull in signals from 7 satellites and provide more than adequate positioning data to navigate by.

 

I have successfully used the BT-359 with a variety of hardware including SmartPhones, PDAs and my Laptop. It is also compatible with all of the GPS software that I have tried.

 

The only issue I found (which is a common SiRFStarIII problem) was extended fix times when the GPS is switched on underground in a carpark. It obviously will not get a fix in the carpark, but on emerging into the open sometimes it can take 5 minutes or more to get a fix.

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

I am fortunate in that I live in an area where the buildings rarely rise above 2 stories, which is not a good place to test urban canyons. Recently I visited New York, an excellent place for challenging GPS reception.

 

I was also testing a number of other GPS devices so I had a short trip that I recorded on each device from my hotel to the Tourist Bus stop. The picture to the right shows the results of the SiRFIII BT-359 (green) compared to the SiRFII BT-328 (cyan). The route walked was exactly the same, but the BT-359 was somewhat more accurate I was walking up the left side of the street. Half way up the image there is a green zigzag. this is where we went into a coffee shop. The GPS retained the fix inside the store.

 

GlobalSat BT-359 bluetooth gps receiver

Interestingly both devices show errors towards the top where I turned left. This is because there is a huge skyscraper there and the GPS was trying to decipher lots of "multi-path" data. The BT-359 handled this better than the BT-328 as you would expect.

 

And finally the battery life. GlobalSat quote it as 11 hours continuous usage. It is somewhat unusual for a manufacturer to be conservative with these sort of figures, but my testing proved to get over 15 hours from a charge. In fact the standard charge/discharge tests we run I had an average of 15 hours 13 minutes. This is a shade less than the low power GlobalSat BT-328.

 

Conclusions

GlobalSat have done it again with the new generation Bluetooth GPS receivers, more functionality, smaller size, and now they look good too... With the introduction of the TomTom Mk2 GPS and the Leadtek 9553 the market was starting to change and the receivers were becoming smaller, more practical and stylish. GlobalSat has responded with a receiver that in my opinion is better than the BT-338 in all aspects with the exception of battery power, but who needs more than 15 hours anyway?

 

With street pricing of less than £70 it represents good value for money and gives an excellent price/performance balance.

 

Pros

  • SiRFStarIII sensitivity and accuracy
  • New stylish design
  • Good overall shape
  • Great price point

Cons

  • None

 

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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