GPSmart - BT
- February 2003 -
-last updated 06/03/2003-
Intro and where to buy
click picture to enlarge
Intro and where to buy:
I was first made aware of the GPSmart through email conversations with Sylvia from Fortuna in early December when she mentioned that they were working on a Bluetooth receiver. Possibly because of my enthusiasm, she shared some its features and then a picture and that's when the exclusive GpsPasSion coverage started! Regulars here will remember that I started the site after being amazed by the Emtac Bluetooth receiver, a prototype of which I had bought during the summer of 2002. It was the first Bluetooth receiver and the first SiRF IIe/LP based receiver and really looked like the best thing since sliced bread ;-) The only little regret I had was that it lacked a screen to still provide some position/speed readings while being used alone. That's where the GPSmart comes in!
This is really the second generation of the GPSmart, the first one being a fairly simple tracking device. It will come in at least two versions, one with a Bluetooth connection and one without. We'll focus on the Bluetooth version here which is the one that will be of most interest to mobile users. To get started, you can think of the GPSmart as a non-mapping Garmin eTrex, slightly larger but also lighter and with a wireless connection to other connected units.
To round things up nicely, the GPSmart was brought to us by Semsons (a GpsPasSion Club member offering discounts) at the excellent price of $250 for a pre-order before March 1st. In effect this was the first Fortuna product to become available to end users to the best of my knowledge.
As of 05/01/03, the GPSmart is
available in the US from Semsons
Deluo for $270 (before GpsPasSion Club discounts).
As of 06/01/03, the GPSmart is available in Europe from Tsgps.de for Euros 248 (including GpsPasSion Club discount).
Specs and internal pics:
|SiRF Star IIe/LP|
v2.24uk (download) at 05/01/03 -
allows position format and datum selection
v2.23 - fixes 1 degree error lat/long present in v2.21
Frequency: L1, 1575.42 MHz
|Standalone functions and screens||
1. Satellite distribution
4. Map: Max 3,840 marks can be added
5. Route (20 routes, 31,084 route dots, 3,120 waypoints)
6. Go To
8. Set Up (includes an interesting "mirror" mode)
9. Bluetooth On/Off toggle
- Embedded patch antenna
- Position: 10 meters, 2D, without SA
- Reacquisition: 0.1 sec., average
Port: Mini USB form factor
Device: 58(W) x 119.5(L) x 30(H) mm
- Screen area: 80 x 50 mm
- Screen size: 66 x 33 mm
- Screen resolution: 128 x 64 pixels
Operating Temperature: -40°C to +70°C
You can see the SiRF chip at the heart of the system
Size and Appearance:
You can think of the GPSmart as a slightly larger but lighter eTrex. It feels less sturdy but should be rugged enough for most uses. I'd say it's a functional "no thrills" design that could probably use some curves and rubber to give it a more consumer level appeal. No cause for concern though as it works as intended, with a clever button layout that lets you navigate the menus and select functions with one hand, an added convenience. The screen is larger than an eTrex (see here for details) an with its fairly low resolution of 128x64 and "DOS" type fonts, it's again going to be more functional than "pretty", fear not though the data is here and quite legible, even in the dark thanks to the strong green backlight.
These pictures show various views of the Fortuna GPSmart next to a Garmin eTtrex Venture and the Emtax BT GPS. You can also see the placement of the various control buttons.
Battery Life and Power Supply:
Unlike almost all other current PocketPC GPS solutions it has its own power supply and will not use the one of the PocketPC it is connected to. It can be powered either with 3 AAA batteries or via an optional power cable (a "USB" car adapter and a mini-USB cable). As far as batteries go, Fortuna recommends you use Alkaline batteries, but I found that rechargeable batteries NiMH work fine, probably at the expense of battery life. Fortuna say 3 Alkaline AAA's will provide up to 10 hours of operation without Bluetooth and 6.5 hours with Bluetooth on. My tests with three 700mah NiMH batteries gave me about 4.5 hours with BT on, which is not bad. I missed the presence of an onscreen battery meter to manage battery life. Currently you get a red light warning you that the batteries are running low. Unlike for the Emtac BT GPS where that light comes on at the last minute, the GPSmart gives you a fair warning (probably a good 20 minutes). For prolonged car use, I'd recommend using the optional car adapter.
Since the GPSmart uses the SiRF IIe/LP chipset, I assumed you could also use the trickle mode options offered by the chipset, but the GPSmart responded with a "Trickle Power not supported" message when I tried to activate it, just like the Holux GM-270. Anyway it's probably more trouble than it's worth unless you're in some very specific situation. To access these settings, you have to connect to the GPSmart via the USB connection because they're not accessible via the Bluetooth connection.
On the topic of power supply, it would have been nice to have the Fortuna GPSmart come with the very convenient small round plug that's seen on many electronic devices (iPaq's 36xx, 37xx, Dell, Emtac GPS, etc...). This would have allowed for the use of universal adapters and also of small battery boxes like this one.
The GPSmart belongs to a category of its own
when it comes to dedicated PDA/PC receivers, since it's the first unit that
allows for standalone operation, even while it's feeding the standard NMEA data
over the Bluetooth connection.
I used the GPSmart in Bluetooth mode
connected to my iPaq and Dell via a Socket BT CF card and to my laptop using a
USB Bluetooth adapter. The manual includes a long
list of optional cables for connection to all current PalmOS and PocketPC
(except the Dell or iPaq 1910 PPCs). In the meantime, I also connected to the
GPSmart via USB with my laptop (more on this later).
There really isn't much to say here. Just initiate a BT search from your
PocketPC, connect to it over a virtual COM port and the unit will start feeding
NMEA data to the software you're using.
The nice touch here is that the unit remains fully functional as a standalone unit even while its sending data over BT. This will let you (or rather your passengers...) navigate the menus, check the satellite status, position, speed, etc...while your navigation program on your PocketPC tracks your position on the road. An added bonus is that you can be connected via the USB port at the same time as via BT, so you can also feed data to a laptop or USB enabled PocketPC and a BT unit.
This is new ground for the site, since previous units reviewed could not operate as standalone units. I'm a little hesitant to delve too much into this aspect of things where the gpsinformation guys would do a much better job ;-) Since this is the first review of the GPSmart, I'll take a bit of a plunge and will describe the main functions. I've uploaded the manual in .pdf format, so people interested in getting more details can use it as a reference.
Lets you monitor the
satellite reception with bars for strength, a "compass" and a status icon
This screen will show your:
Type of GPS fix
Local Time (adjustable)
Speed (mph or kmph)
pressing the up and down buttons, you can toggle between metric and
All in all a fairly intuitive set of operations that can be done one-handed. Similarly to the design, nothing fancy here compared with what units like the eTrex do, but it gets the job done. The "Go To" mode is a good example of this, very easy to set up and effective. I wish it were possible to transfer the recorded data (routes, waypoints, marks) via the Bluetooth or USB connections towards other devices.
GPSmart uses the SiRF IIe/LP chipset, you can tweak the usual
baudrate/protocol/power/DGPS settings offered by the chipset using a program
(the one I used) or probably
SiRFdemo, but this is
unfortunately not possible over the Bluetooth connection so it will require a
laptop connected via USB (using a the special Fortuna cable), unless it's possible with the optional PocketPC
connection cables. Via USB, you can switch to SiRF and activate WAAS but not go
into trickle mode. The changes you make via USB are reflected in the data output
via Bluetooth as well.
Satellite Reception and Time to acquire a fix
See this page for detailed timings and comparisons (excluding GPSmart, see below)
In general, I found the Fortuna GPSmart to have sensitivity on par with the best SiRF IIe/LP based receivers like the Emtac Bluetooth or the Holux GM-270 with very fast TTFF and reacquisition after driving under a tunnel for instance. Again, due to the lack of control options over the Bluetooth connection, it's difficult to measure Cold/Warm/Hot resets like in the dedicated page linked above. Thanks to the screen and in this case the satellite screen you can also get a better feel for what kind of satellite signal you're getting as opposed to the number of satellites in view shown on your PocketPC screen (if you're lucky ;-))
The Fortuna GPSmart does not have a connection for an external antenna like most other GPS receivers. I did not find this to be problematic as I never use one with any of my receivers and even if you have an "unGPSfriendly" windshield, you can always put the GPSmart in a spot where it can get a good view of the skies thanks to the Bluetooth connection.
Compatibility with mapping/routing software:
In my limited testing, I've found
the Fortuna GPSmart to be compatible with all non-GPS specific programs/utilities
Here's a list of programs and utilities, those that worked have a "+" sign the others a "- ":
+ BusinessMobileNavigator by Navigon
+ Destinator by Powerloc
+ Navigator by Mapopolis
+ Navigator by PocketMap
+ TomTom GPS plug-in (used by par CityMaps, TomTom Online etTomTom Navigator).
+ VisualGPSCe by VisualGPS
+ OziCE by Oziexplorer
+ Leadtek CE Monitor (no controls)
+ Holux GPS Viewer(no controls)
Unique dual concept and operation - simultaneous standalone and "slave" receiver (Bluetooth and USB)
Wireless operation via Bluetooth
Low price compared with competition (Emtac BT GPS and future Navman 4400)
Excellent performance on par with other SiRF IIe/LP receivers
Uses cheap AAA batteries
Can't control settings (protocol, baudrate, WAAS, etc..) over Bluetooth connection
Build could be more "consumer-friendly"
Lacks antenna connector, standard power input, screen battery meter, trickle mode setting
Can't download recorded
information (waypoints, routes, etc..) to an external device
03/05/03 - In Settings: clarified that changes made via USB are made to BT output too
- Added the "Area Calculation" standalone function
- Uploaded GPSmart manual in .pdf format and added link
03/31/03 - In Settings: added info about program used to change settings
04/02/03 - Added error in position display
04/03/03 - Added pictures of mini USB connector and power supply
- Added "internal pics"
- Updated to v 2.23 to fix 1 degree display error
05/01/03 - Added v2.24 firmware and availability from Deluo
- Added requirement for proprietary USB cable
06/03/03 - Added European Availability