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Review - Fortuna Clip-On
Posté le 22 novembre 2003 à 10:43:59 par gpspassion.

Fortuna Bluetooth Clip-On (IIe and Xtrac)

The Clip-On Bluetooth GPS is brought to us by Fortuna who have launched several ground-breaking GPS receivers since the beginnig of the year. First came the GPSmart, the first Bluetooth GPS outfitted with an LCD screen for standalone use - review, recently followed by the PocketXtrack CF GPS, the first "dual mode" GPS offering standard and enhanced sensitivity - see review. The Clip-On is the Bluetooth version of the PocketXtrac and breaks some new ground by using a standard replaceable Li-Polymer battery. It will be included in the next revision of the "Bluetooth GPS Shoot-Out", but comes under "GpsPasSion Scrutiny" here!

A "pendant" GPS
The top part of the Clip-On is outfitted with a blue/grey metal finish while the bottom part is wrapped in black anti-slip rubber. It makes for a unit that is pleasant to the touch and doesn't have the "prototype" feel of some other units. The Clip-On feels surprisingly compact and its thickness double to that of some of its competitors is quickly forgotten in light of its diminutive length and width (74x41x30 or 92cc for 95gr). Fortuna have also included a lanyard that would normally fit around your wrist but that I enjoyed wearing around my neck, turning the Clip-On into some kind of hi-tech pendant! The anchor point of the lanyard is on the side so its not ideal for stability, but it's still quite comfortable.

In terms of connections, the Clip-On has:
- Bluetooth Connection ;-) (PIN code: 0000)
- Antenna Connector (MCX format)
- DC connector (standard "iPAQ 36xx" format)

A solid GPS and Bluetooth "frame"
The Clip-On clearly benefits from Fortuna's experience and appears as some kind of "summary" of the brand's previous models. At the heart of the system, we find the now standard SiRF IIe/LP chipset, offering the current best in terms of sensitivity, power usage and advanced configuration (SBAS, Trickle), see here for more details. The Clip-On also has the PocketXtrack's "dual mode" sensitivity, with a standard IIe/LP mode (ST) and a high sensitivity Xtrac based mode (XT), more on that later. The same "high range" (60+ meters) Bluetooth module previously found on the GPSmart is back for the ride and it passes the "Back-Pack Test" (see here for details) with flying colors for maximum flexibility.

"Unlimited" Battery Life
The Clip-On breaks new ground with its power source. Up to now, Bluetooth receivers used non removable Lithium-Ion batteries or AAA rechargeable batteries (see the "Battery" page of the "Bluetooth GPS Shoot-Out"). The size and weight advantage of the Li-Ion batteries coming at the price of limited autonomy (recharging required between uses) and most importantly an uncertain battery life expectancy (replacement of the battery difficult and costly). The Clip-On makes things easy by using a powerful and standard (Nokia type series 8xxx phones *) removable Li-Polymer battery of 1,200mAh, easily replaceable for optional increased autonomy (using several batteries) and/or easy replacement when the original battery no longer holds the charge. In continuous use, the Clip-On has a battery life of about 8 hours, which is slightly less than I expected given the rating of the battery (could be due to lower efficiency of Li-Polymer batteries compared to Li-Ion batteries at the same rating) but still better than most existing Bluetooth GPSr's. What we get here is compactness, potentially unlimited battery life (with multiple batteries) and no life expectancy problems to worry about!

"Dual Mode" sensitivity - ST/XT

As mentioned above, the Clip-On benefits from Fortuna's "Dual Mode" operation introduced on the PocketXtrack, the "ST" mode for a standard IIe/LP experience and an "XT" mode for an Xtrac style experience. While the pros of the "XT" mode are easy to envision (Xtrac is capable of maintaining a fix indoorsfor example), its cons are harder to grasp without experiencing them first hand. The "Dual Mode" parapgraph of the PocketXtrack review gives more insight on this, but to simplify, the "XT" mode can be particulary "hurtful" while driving in an urban environment, while it will shine for pedestrian use in a "GPS hostile" environment (a hike under heavy tree cover for instance). In fact, the "ST" privides for more "universal" GPS use, but the presence of an optional "XT" mode is certainly a nice bonus!

Like the GPSmart (see here), in "ST" mode, the Clip-On comes in slighly behind its competitors in terms of sensitivity. In standard use, this will normally not be a problem, and the "XT" is available to take over.

To be complete on this topic, here's a picture (click to enlarge) that explains how to switch from the "ST" to the "XT" mode. While this operation may seem slightly difficult at first, it is justified by the requirement to perform the switch when the receiver if off to avoid damaging internal circuits, according to Fortuna.

If you've reached this point, you will have gathered that a year after the arrival of the first Bluetooth GPS and less than two years after the arrival of the first PocketPC GPS, the Clip-On is close to being the "perfect" GPS that possibly only lacks a "smarter" Bluetooth based power management (sleep mode when the BT connection is stopped and waking up on a new connection) and a mini-LCD screen that would provide "vital" information such as the position or speed. Sometimes, ground breaking products are offered at a premium, not so with Fortuna though, since the Clip-On is available for less than most other Bluetooth GPS receivers on the market. See "Where to Buy" below for more details.

If you have any questions not covered here, use this discussion thread in the forums.

Where to Buy
Available at:
- USA: buyGPSnow - $226
- Europe: GlobalPostionningSystems UK - GBP 175 (or about 250 euros)

Via GpsPasSion Club Offers:
- USA: Semsons - $204
- Europe: Tsgps - Euros 206

* From what I've found up to now, it appears only Li-Ion batteries are officially available from Nokia, with a maximum capacity of 900mAh, expectedly lower than that of Li-Polymer batteries. It would be interesting to see the impact on battery life, if any, given the observations made above. One can find 1,200mAh Li-Polymer and even Li-Ion (!) batteries on auction sites...but caution is advised!

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