Reviews: Other

Globalsat BT-328 Bluetooth GPS

     Globalsat provides an array of GPS solutions that connect to devices by laptops. The Globalsat BT-328 GPS is about the size of a good lighter. Size is extremely important when it comes to a Bluetooth unit, especially in my book. When you are already carrying a device around, you want your accessories to be as small as possible while still being functional. The good thing about a GPS unit is that it is simply an antenna, so, for the most part, smaller will not detract from the usability. The BT-328 is small enough to fit in the small pocket of my jeans. Actually, it fits rather perfectly in that pocket and technically it is possible to use it while in a pocket. The main shell of the BT-328 is white with a plastic black front and rubber black back. The front face of the device includes the power button, a hole for attaching a wrist strap, and on the right side, the three lights for showing the current status of the device. On the top of the device is the power port for recharging the unit. That is really all there is to the BT-328. Like most Bluetooth GPS units, the device it self it simple and to the point.
     When the GPS is turned on, the three LED's show the current status of the device. The top light shows red when the device needs to be charged. The middle light shows green for its connection to the satellites. When the light is solid, the GPS is not connected. When the light is flashing, it has connected so satellites. This seems a little backward to me as usually device lights show solid when they are connected and flash while they are trying to connect. The bottom light is blue for Bluetooth connectivity. When the light is flashing slow it is disconnected. When the light is flashing fast it is connected. This is even more confusing then the GPS light because you have to try and count and see if it is about 3 seconds or 1 second. Being that these lights are the only real user interface of the device, I would have hoped for them to make a little more sense for easy identification of the functionality (though maybe I am the only one confused by the lighting).
     The Globalsat BT-328 GPS is a rather strong Bluetooth GPS unit including specifications that are on par or better then other GPS on the market. The unit supports 12-channels of parallel connections, which is pretty standard but not top of the line. For most people, 12-channels are enough, though more would increase the connectivity of the unit. For those that know about GPS internals, the chipset in the BT-328 is the SiRF GSC2. It supports a tracking sensitivity of -155dBm. This seems kind of low compared to other GPS units I have looked at, but it does really seem to hurt the performance of the unit. I found the BT-328 to have quick boot times after the initial connection and really quick reacquisition timing coming out of tunnels. For being such a small unit, the battery life is amazing. Rated at 1300 mAh and 16 hours, that is what you get. I have used the device for weeks without having to recharge. Only a cigarette lighter power adapter is included, so you can't charge the device in the house, though since most people will probably be using in the car, it makes sense.
     Included with the BT-328 is a piece of software for your Windows PC or Windows Mobile device. The software, GPS Info, does not do mapping, but makes it easy to check connectivity and the status of the GPS unit. You can see everything from the data being received by device to satellite locations and information about the current position including latitude and longitude. While you still need mapping software, especially with the MDA, it is a lot easy to launch GPS Info to check the connectivity of the GPS before running mapping software that may run slowly on the device. Most mapping programs do include something like GPS Info, but GPS Info is simple, quick, to the point, and very helpful.
     While I have noted some quarks, the unit is very useable with its long battery life and strong connectivity. The Globalsat BT-328 is a great low-powered Bluetooth GPS solution with pricing that is affordable. The BT-328 can be found for about $75, well under the $100 price tag that always deterred me from getting a Bluetooth GPS. Combine with the incredible battery life and good performance, I feel the BT-328 is a good GPS for anyone wanting to add active mapping functionality to their device.



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