GPSmart - BT
by Fortuna

 - February 2003 -
-last updated 06/03/2003-
 


 



click picture to enlarge
 

Jump to:

Intro and where to buy
Specs and internal pics
Size and appearance
Battery Life and Power Supply
Operation

Settings
Satellite Reception
Compatibility with mapping/routing software
Conclusion


Manual (.pdf)
Revisions

Discuss the contents of this page here

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 and 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:

Chipset

  SiRF Star IIe/LP

Firmware

v2.24uk (download) at 05/01/03 - allows position format and datum selection
v2.23 - fixes 1 degr
ee error lat/long present in v2.21

General:

- Frequency: L1, 1575.42 MHz
- C/A: 1.023 MHz chip rate
- Channels: 12 Channel all-in-view tracking
- DGPS Source:
Default: WAAS

Standalone functions and screens
1. Satellite distribution
2. Position
3. Navigation
4. Map: Max 3,840 marks can be added
5. Route (20 routes, 31,084 route dots, 3,120 waypoints)
6. Go To
7. Database
8. Set Up (includes an interesting "mirror" mode)
9. Bluetooth On/Off toggle
 
Antenna Type

 - Embedded patch antenna

Accuracy:
( DGPS: None)

- Position: 10 meters, 2D, without SA

Acquisition Rate:
(Open Sky and Stationary)

 

- Reacquisition: 0.1 sec., average
- Cold Start: 45 sec. typical
- Warm Start: 38 sec. typical
- Hot Start: 8  sec. typical

Dynamic Conditions:

- Altitude: <18,000 meters
- Velocity: < 515 meter/second
- Acceleration: < 4g

Interface:

- Serial Port: Mini USB form factor
- Bluetooth: Version 1.1
- Default baudrate: 38,400 bps
- GPS Protocol: Default: NMEA-0183 (V2.0) - GGA, GSA, MMC,  RMC
- Programmable: additional NMEA - VTG, GLL / SiRF Binary

Power:

- Consumption:
    - w/o BT or BT not enabled: 82-93mA
    - w/BT (search not yet linked): 145-156mA
    - w/BT (linked) 113-125mA
- Powered by 3 AAA batteries or external power cable

Device and Screen
Size
 - 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
Weight  110 grams

Environmental:

 Operating Temperature: -40C to +70C
 Relative Humidity: 5% to 95%, non-condensing


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.


Operation:

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.

 
 "Slave" Operation

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.

 
 "Standalone" Operation

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.

  1. Satellite distribution:

  2. Position:

  3. Navigation:
  4. Route:
    • This is the mode that lets you record a path to be able to backtrack or follow it again in the future by recalling it. Note that this is fairly basic as you will be following the dots on the screen and won't get any distance to route, distance to go, etc...
    • A total of 20 routes can be saved, using 31,084 "dots" and 3,120 waypoints with 156 max per route.
    • The screen is divided as follows:
      • top 2/3rds show your route being plotted
      • bottom 1/3rd shows the same information as the bottom part of the "Navigation" mode
    • You can save waypoints as you go along by entering the menu
    • You can set the time interval for "dots" and zoom in and out
    • Note that you can't transfer the recorded data via the Bluetooth or USB connections towards another device
       
  5. Go To:
    • In this mode, the GPSmart will guide you to a target and will no doubt be a geocacher's favorite!
    • The screen is divided as follows:
      • top 1/3rd: the name of the target and its lat/long
      • middle 1/3rd: compass showing the heading of the target, no digits though
      • bottom 1/3rd: same information as the bottom part of the "Navigation" mode with the addition of a "distance to" screen
    • The target can be chosen from a list of waypoints and marks and you can also input a lat/long although the latter is a bit time consuming since you have to scroll through digits.
       
  6. Map:
    • In this mode, the GPSmart will display a map with your position, recorded waypoints and marks and a small compass in the top right corner
    • You can record marks (give it a name and an icon base on category), zoom in and out and use the timer.
       
  7. Area Calculate:
    • As the name implies, this will let you calculate an area by walking around the place you are surveying. Can come in handy when you're house hunting (for the garden of course)
    • You can choose Square Km, Square Miles and Acres as units
     
  8. Database:
    • This mode will let you manage your database of routes, waypoints and marks by renaming or deleting them
       
  9. Setup:
    • Set the time zone (GMT, +1, -1, etc...)
    • Switch to mirror display, at which point you'll need a mirror to be able to read the data ;-) I haven't figured in which case this could be handy but it certainly doesn't hurt to have the option!
    • Change from metric to the imperial system
    • Clean the memory
       
  10. Bluetooth On/Off toggle: not much to add ;-)

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.

Settings:

Since the GPSmart uses the SiRF IIe/LP chipset, you can tweak the usual baudrate/protocol/power/DGPS settings offered by the chipset using a program like u-Center (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)

 

Conclusion:

 

Revisions:
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