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Arkon CM800 GPS Mount
Posté le 26 septembre 2004 à 23:02:49 par gpspassion.

Arkon CM800 - a "Home Base" for Mobile Devices

Updated October 15th
A quick note to say that the replacement unit I received has been working flawlessly, no blown fuse, so that's a good indication that if you don't try to use the RJ-11 port you should be fine...hopefully Arkon will seal it at some point though!

Arkon has been offering car mounts for quite a few years now, and I still have the dual PDA/Phone mount I purchased for my PalmIIIx back in 1999 when I first experimented with a GPS on a mobile platform; fond memories of course although not exactly very practical! While quite a few PDA mounts appear to have some common "blood" these days as they are likely the result of some "shopping around" in Taiwan, the CM-800 Arkon Powered GPS mount is the first mount with a built-in GPS to hit the market as far as I know. On offer is a complete package that includes a cradle with adjustable arms, a rotating mount, a loudspeaker with a jack in, a USB power/data port, a USB power port, an RJ11 serial connection and of course a GPS receiver that flips out and around and uses the high sensitivity SiRFXtrac v2 firmware. Let's see how this package stacks up on the road!

Building on the Multi-Media Mount
In effect, the Powered GPS Mount is last year's Mulitmedia Mount with the addition of a rotating mount, an RJ11 connector and most significantly a SiRF based GPS receiver. I had the opportunity of testing the multimedia mount last year and so did Paul earlier this year and wasn't really convinced as I found the extra bulk got in the way of the additional comfort of use brought by power input, the lo-fi loudspeaker and the USB plug that I had little use for at the time. I prefered to stick with a car charger and a basic mount that I wasn't concerned about leaving in my car while unattended. After a couple of weeks of testing, I'm pretty confident that the addition of the flip out GPS receiver and new found use for the USB power plug make the Powered GPS mount a much more valuable device to me and likely to others. The additional features have not come at the expense of weight or bulk as see on the pictures below. You can use both a PDA and a Phone/Smartphone, and there's no need to worry about packing multiple chargers, a mouse/cf/Bluetooth GPS, and plugging and unplugging the various devices.

The GPS enabled CM800 compared to last year's MultiMedia Mount

A "Home Base" for mobile devices
On the road, the Powered GPS mount becomes a "home base" of sorts for mobile devices, powering/charging them and GPS enabling them. As the picture shows I switched between my test SPVM1000 (aka XDAII, QTEK2020), SPVE200 Smartphone (aka QTEK8080) and iPAQ 3970, using either as my main unit while recharging one of the others with the additional USB socket. I also recharged a Bluetooth GPS using the 3.5mm jack and an optional cable. The adjustable "arms" worked well for the QTEK2020, but not for the E200, however the adjustable "resting feet" held it quite tighty in place and some adhesive could be used to stengthen the contraption even more. Both units have powerful speakers so I didn't feel the need to use the speaker of the mount with the 2.5mm/3.5mm adapter cable, but it worked well enough when I tried it. The good news too is that the CM800 can be the home for your future mobile devices since you'll only need to purchase a new USB cable to be up and running, this flexibility certainly makes up for the inconvenience of using a cable compared with mounts molded specifically to your current unit. I was hoping the RJ11 connector could be used to power units compatible with that type of connection, but it's not the case and Arkon recommends that this RJ11 connector should not be used at all as it could damage the CM800 (see discussion thread for details).

Solid GPS performance
THe mount houses a SiRF based receiver sporting the high sensitivity Xtrac v2 firmware (see the Xtrac v2 "file" for details on this technology) and the antenna flips out and rotates sideways. While I left it extended, I found that it worked when completely folded too. Looking at GPS performance, I didn't put the mount to the "GpsPasSion Sensitivity Test" as I focused on overall use of the Mount, but two weeks of testing show that it's top notch, even holding a fix inside my garage when other Xtrac v2 based receivers couldn't, not that it's of much use inside a garage, but it does show what the "sensitivity margin" is and this will come in handy for use behind a heat reflective windshield as there is no external antenna connection. It's possible that the lack of power constraints compared with a standalone Bluetooth GPS allows for this extra performance. The antenna being out of the line of sight, GPS on the CM800 becomes "fire and forget" really, a bit "sad" for a GPS fan, but something quite welcome for a device that aims for overall convenience!

A few "cons" and issues
Naturally, no device is perfect and the CM800 has a few "cons" in my view. As was hinted before, the overall convenience outweighs (pun intended) the extra bulk of the unit, but it will probably attract even more attention from passers-by some of which may have some "unwelcome plans", so I make sure to remove the mount when I park, unlike my simple mounts. Another possible "con" is that the power cable of the CM800 is non-removable, wich helps not to misplace it but also adds some bulk and could be problematic if the cable goes bad at some point. Finally the CM800's loudspeaker did not take too well to the GSM modules of the E200 and even more so of the QTEK2020, producing quite a lot of annoying RF interference noise that was amplified with the device plugged in via USB, hinting at some shielding issues. This will not be a problem if you turn don't use the speaker and if you don't use a PocketPC Phone or Smartphone of course. A more problematic issue has been a tendency for my test unit to "blow fuses" but this is likely due to my ill-advised testing of the RJ11 port (see paragraph above).

Overall I was quite pleased with the CM800 and have adopted it as my default in-car mount. Its "all and the kitchen sink" concept certainly proves very convenient on the road. All that's missing is a hands-free feature for phone use, but we've seen above that RF interference would probably get in the way of this. In light of its convenience and upgrade potential, the CM800 is certainly attractively priced at $134* at Semsons, less than what you would pay for the separate items (GPS, mount, loudspeaker, triple power) and with the added convenience. The CM800 is certainly a worthwhile purchase if you're a power use looking for convenience and features and if you're new to "mobility" and want an all-in-one package.

If you have questions or comments, you can use this discussion thread in the forums.

(*) This price is valid at the time of writing on 09/26/2004 and factors in the Club GpsPasSion discounts.

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