Review by Dave Burrows
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.
Question: When is a Compact Flash not a Compact Flash ? When it's a mouse!
Question: When is a mouse, not a mouse ? When it's a compact flash!
Bridging the Gap
Sorry for the cheap humor, but the Haicom 303MMF really doesn't know what it is. This is the worlds first hybrid GPS Receiver. 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 303MMF 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 303MMF they supply a little velcro pouch which can be easily attached to your belt. What more can you ask for ?
Time To First Fix (TTFF) wise the Haicom 303MMF 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 57.6 seconds from cold.
We did receive a couple of extended TTFF's taking up to 1m 18s, but this really isn't anything to worry about, anything less than 2 mins is fine, anything less than 1 minute is definitely respectable.
The Haicom 303MMF 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 303MMF 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.
|Satellite Reacquisition Time Accuracy
|25m CEP without SA
|DC 3.3V + 10 %
|NMEA V2.2, 4800,N,1
|Compact Flash Ver 1.4
|Max. Update Rate
|Built in active antenna
|External Antennal Interface
|Weight without cable
|Push to Fix,Trickle Power Enabled
|Default 30% duty cycle
|Navigation Update Indication
|0 to +60
|-10 to +70
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 and Haicom 303E. 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.
The Haicom 303MMF worked well under light foliage, 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 303 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, 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.
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 303MMF is a good receiver, supports SBAS (WAAS/EGNOS) 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 303MMF 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.