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Haicom 303E Review 06th February 2004

Review by Dave Burrows

 

Introduction

Haicom supply a range of GPS Receivers both Compact Flash and Cabled, but Haicom are the only company so far to create a hybrid GPS Receiver which is both a GPS Mouse and a Compact Flash card, all rolled into one.

 

In Late 2003 we reviewed the Haicom 303MMF which was the first GPS Receiver to come in both Compact Flash and Mouse mode.

 

This review is about the newer Haicom 303E (Evermore model). What we have decided to do with this review is to take the original 303MMF review and modify it to the 303E. The main reason behind this is that the GPS operates nearly identical to the Haicom 303MMF, all of it's characteristics are the same as the 303MMF, so there really isn't much more that we could write about the 303E over the 303MMF.

 

Bridging the Gap

The Haicom 303MMF was the worlds first hybrid GPS Receiver which operated both as a Compact Flash GPS Receiver, but also as a GPS Mouse with a cable. Haicom have now extended their line of 303 models to include both an Evermore chipset (303E) and an XTrac chipset (303S). coincidentally the 303E is the one we are reviewing here.

 

As most who read Pocket GPS World on a regular basis will know I am always a fan of the GPS Mouse for in-car usage, primarily because of the TTFF's, the Receiver once it has power can go away and start acquiring satellites without the need for the PDA, but I also like them for their compactness and charger cables. Compact Flash Receivers are great if you want to go out walking with the GPS Receiver, and lets face it, we all want to do this from time to time. Whether it's going on long walks, hikes or just walking from a multi-story car park to find your clients building across town. You can't do this with a cabled solution, it's just not possible. You could hear the questions being asked at the Haicom's monthly board meetings and the answers being given "Sir, it's just not possible". Then the response comes back "Well, make it possible!". That's what Haicom have done. Simplicity. Design a Compact Flash card that can be folded in half. This will create a receiver like a mouse, add a secondary interface to it (mini firewire) and you can then plug it into a car charger lead with Pocket PC connectivity. Sounds simple right ? Well why haven't other companies attempted this ? I think the answer is quite simple. If you can make two different receivers, market them as two different receivers, you will sell more products because people will purchase both. That doesn't always happen in the real world though, and Haicom have tried to fill a niche here, and they have done it very well! Now you will start to see other GPS companies jumping on the bandwagon shortly.

 

When folded down, it's a mouse (as above) and can sit happily on the dashboard with a supplied cable, unfold the GPS (below) and it then becomes a multi-angled Compact Flash GPS Receiver.

 

 

What I like about this is versatility. To have a receiver that sits on the dashboard of the car, and can not only be taken away with you when you leave the car, but used outside whilst your walking is a real dream. The only way you can achieve this type of setup at the moment really would be via a Bluetooth setup, a lot of people still don't want to go down that route because of cost, and also upgrading their Pocket PC's for Bluetooth support, so the Haicom 303E gives people another avenue to choose from. The other option is to use a regular Compact Flash GPS Receiver and an external antenna, but then you have extra unnecessary cables in-car.

 

In The Box
One thing that I've noticed with Haicom products is that they always give you the little extras. No need to purchase a separate lead, you get one in the box, no need to purchase a case for the 303E they supply a little velcro pouch which can be easily attached to your belt. What more can you ask for ?

 


Performance
Time To First Fix (TTFF) wise the Haicom 303E worked pretty well. It wasn't anywhere near one of the fastest in satellite acquisition from cold, but it was very respectable with the average TTFF time seen to be 54 seconds from cold.

 

The Haicom 303E comes with an LED light on the left hand side of the casing and on the right hand side you'll see two sockets. One is an external antenna socket (antenna not supplied) of MMCX connector type, and also a mini firewire connector. This allows you to plug it into the power cable to use in-car with your Pocket PC. The thing I really like about the Haicom 303E is that when plugged into a HP iPAQ 2210, you can fold the antenna right the way back to double it over and cut the form factor down on the card, which makes it much more desirable when out walking.

 

 

Technical Specifications

Snap Start 2 sec.
Hot Start 8 sec.
Warm Start 38 sec.
Cold Start 48 sec.
Satellite Reacquisition Time Accuracy 100 ms
Channels 12
Position Accuracy 25m CEP without SA
Voltage DC 3.3V + 10 %
Max.Current -
Avg.Current -
Receiver L1,C/A code
Protocol NMEA V2.2, 4800,N,1
Interface Compact Flash Ver 1.4
Maximum Altitude 18,000m
Maximum Velocity 514 m/s
Max. Update Rate 1 Hz
Antenna Type Built in active antenna
External Antennal Interface MMCX
Dimension 43*93*29 mm
Weight without cable <60g
Power Saving Push to Fix,Trickle Power Enabled
Default 30% duty cycle LED
Navigation Update Indication
Operating Temperature 0 to +60
Storage Temperature -10 to +70
Operation Humidity 95%,NO Condensing

 

Haicom Versions Available
As at the time of writing this review, Haicom have just released two further versions of the Haicom 303 and these have been dubbed the Haicom 303S, Haicom 303E, and the Haicom 303 MMF. This brings three 303 models to the table.

 

    

 

The Haicom 303S comes with a new SiRF XTrac firmware giving ultimate sensitivity to help bring in a better GPS signal when under heavy foliage. The Haicom 303E comes with an Evermore chipset, and the 303MMF with the standard SiRF II chipset. You will also notice that Haicom have not only colour coded the labels on the GPS Receiver, but also the button on the left hand side, the 303S comes with an orange button, the 303E a blue button and the 303MMF a red button. The only real differences between each of these is that they utilise a different chipset, which helps in keep the price low, but can also offer a performance offset on the cheaper models.

 

Problems Encountered

The Haicom 303E worked okay under light foliage but not as good as the SiRF version, both in mouse form and Compact Flash form. The only thing really that is missing from this GPS Receiver is a felt bottom which would stop the GPS in mouse mode from slipping around the dashboard. Also perhaps a clip and lock cable connector may have been better for this design knowing full well it's going to start moving. One thing I didn't like about the Haicom 303E is that it's about three times heavier than a normal Compact Flash GPS Receiver, and as it sticks out quite a way from the Pocket PC, it makes it very top heavy. Below you will see two photos, one with the 303MMF angled (the 303E's sister), and one with it folded back against the Pocket PC. I much prefer folding it back giving less overall footprint.

 

 

 

One concern I did have is with the 303MMF folded back, I thought it would lose a lot of signal. If you take a look at the screenshots below, the first screenshot is with the 303MMF folded back, and the second screenshot is with the 303MMF fully extended. You'll see from these screenshots that only 1 satellite lock is lost when the antenna is folded back, which really is quite good.

 

  

 

Summary

Well Haicom really have taken initiative here, and it's good to see a company doing this, it gives great potential! Now [pssst], what I would like to see is a Compact Flash, Mouse and Bluetooth Receiver all rolled into one. I wonder if anyone's listening at Haicom ? The 303E is a good receiver, and even more so if you are looking for an angled GPS Receiver and as it's a hybrid, it really is the first GPS Receiver that isn't Bluetooth that can be used in-car as a mouse and as a Compact Flash card. The Haicom 303E is a good receiver, slightly larger than the rest of the crowd, but being able to fold it in half and use it as a mouse in-car, is really good and well outweighs the size and weight of the card.

 

Review Sample Supplied By

 

 

References

Manufacturers Website http://www.haicom.com.tw
Review supplier Buy GPS Now
Pocket GPS Contributor Dave Burrows
Pocket GPS Contributor Website http://www.daveburrows.com
   
Rating  
Construction
Installation
Usability
Robustness
   
Overall Rating 85%
How did we achieve these ratings ? Review Ratings
   

 

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