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Dual (USB/Bluetooth) GPS Receivers
Marvin Hlavac

Unsure whether to buy a USB or a Bluetooth GPS receiver? Why not get one that can do both, USB and Bluetooth!

The following three GPS receivers offer you the option to use them wirelessly via Bluetooth, or via USB cable connection:


i.Trek M7 is shown on the above picture along with my new HP tx2000 series convertible TabletPC. I don't yet have a suitable vehicle mount for the computer, that's the reason for the picture being taken in my house.

Note that i.Trek M7 doesn't require any special cable to connect to a laptop PC. It uses the common cable used for most digital cameras - the regular (large) USB plug on one end, and the mini USB plug on the other end of the cable. The included USB cable, as shown on the above photo, is about 2 feet long. If you need a longer one, you may already have one at home, or your friendly local computer, office supplies, or photo store will most certainly have them in stock.

When i.Trek M7, or any other dual (USB/Bluetooth) GPS receiver, is used as a USB GPS receiver, it doesn't require an external power source, because it uses the power from your laptop PC via the USB cable (included in package). When used as a Bluetooth GPS receiver, it can use the included car charger (shown on the above picture), or it can use its internal battery. The battery is rated for 15 hours (I got over 17 hours of continuous use on one charge).

An interesting feature of i.Trek M7 is that it allows users to set the refresh rate of the GPS receiver. It can be set to 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5Hz (refreshes per one second). As of today (May 2008) I'm not aware of a consumer mapping software that would actually refresh its map more frequently just because a GPS receiver is able to provide location info more frequently. Nevertheless, I have come across people who were interested to buy a GPS unit capable of higher refresh rate, so I think this unique feature may prompt more people to be interested in this unit. (I did a quick test, and I didn't observe any difference when iNav iGuidance 4 was using 1Hz or 5Hz GPS receiver.)

A very practical feature of this unit is auto on/off. It may prevent the internal rechargeable battery from accidentally being discharged, when we forget to to turn the unit off. i.Trek M7 will turn itself into stand-by mode if there is no Bluetooth activity. I tested this feature, and it worked for me flawlessly.

Holux GPSlim 236 was one of the very first GPS receivers based on the SiRFstarIII chip (in 2005). I used it for over a year, and I was very happy with it. An early batch of these units was affected by an issue which caused the Bluetooth module to stop functioning. But this must have been fixed a long ago, as I haven't come across any discussion of this problem in a very long time.

An interesting feature of Holux GPSlim 236 is that it allows USB and Bluetooth connections simultaneously. This may not be a feature many users would take advantage of, but if you, for some reason, need to use one GPS receiver with two laptops (or a laptop and a PDA, etc), both at the same time, this GPS unit will let you do it.

Holux GPSlim 236 allows an external antenna to be plugged in. Again, since the receiver has a very good sensitivity, most users will not bother with an external antenna. But if you drive a lot in difficult environments, or if you just simply like to have the best possible signal, then you may order the optional external antenna.

Note that Holux GPSlim 236 is being sold as a Bluetooth GPS receiver. To use it as a USB GPS receiver, order also the optional special USB cable. An ordinary USB extension will only charge the unit's internal battery, so one really needs to buy the special USB cable to feed GPS signal to a computer.

Wintec G-Rays I (WBT-300)is another GPS receiver with dual USB and Bluetooth interface. I haven't tested this one, but a quick look at the specifications reveals it is equally excellent product like the above two. Interestingly, it is user configurable up to 10Hz(!).

******

Semsons.com gives away free Franson GPS Gate software with the purchase of most GPS receivers (as of the time of this writing). Franson GPS Gate is a very popular program that allows users to share one GPS among several applications, use Garmin USB GPS receivers with standard GPS applications, GPS simulation and logging, more stable GPS connection (in particular to Bluetooth GPS receivers), share a GPS over a network (ActiveSync, Bluetooth or HTTP), connect a GPS to Google Earth, connect Garmin nRoute to a normal GPS, multiplex and split NMEA streams, and more...

Questions? / Comments?
davidwood304
Marvin,
I just ordered a Lenovo T61 laptop w wireless USB 3 as well as Bluetooth.

USB 3 is said to be considerably faster than corded USB 2.0, and will also power/recharge devices. !?!

USB 3 should outperform Bluetooth, as Bluetooth is becoming an extra-cost option. Bluetooth used to be standard equipment. Do you know of any USB 3 receivers coming onto the market soon?

Lenovo is known for poor speakers. Broken Toshiba was great sound quality and LOUD. (My Taurus has loud wind and tire noise on the highway.) Fill-in Acer is quiet and too muddled to hear well.

Can you advise a good Bluetooth or USB 3 linkage to stock Ford (2005 Taurus) sound system? Or small stand-alone speakers?
Marvin Hlavac
Hi davidwood304,

Welcome to Laptop GPS World.

That's nice! There is always something newer and faster around the corner. I haven't even heard yet of the new USB 3. Make sure you let us know how you like your new laptop, when it arrives!

But I think there is really no need for more speed when it comes to just GPS receivers. They work fine with the current technology.

Regarding your question about the sound system linkage and/or speakers, it's best perhaps to start a new topic here in the hardware forum.
bassist
Hi Marvin,
I ordered the iTrek M7 from Semsons last week.
Nice unit save for the USB-Nav-Off switch which doesn't seem able to lock into the proper position.I have to end up fiddling with the switch to get the correct position.
I 'm curious to know if you had the same experience, as I'm concerned that this may be an issue down the road.
Thanks for your thoughts on the subject.

Bassist
Marvin Hlavac

Bassist, I just took a quick photo of the switch, so others can see it, too. Now that you mention it, I have to agree. When I first used it, I also noticed I had to be gentle to stop the switch in the middle. The middle "NAV" position is the Bluetooth mode. It is easy to turn the GPS receiver OFF, or to switch into the USB mode. But it may take a bit of practice to stop the switch in the "NAV" (Bluetooth) position.

I don't forsee any issue with the switch down the road, I think this may be just a bit of a nuisance for some users (especially those with larger fingers).
Holodoc
Hi GPSers. I have now received my new i.trek M7 from Semsons, and my Garmin Mobile PC quick start DVD also from Semsons at the great discounted price of 120 bucks for the two. I have so far been unsuccessful with the install. I cannot get the i.trek to shake hands with my Fujitzu U810 on the Nav setting. The blue light blinks, but no signal is detected by the mapping program. I am not sure if this is a problem with the i.trek, the mapping program or my computer. I am getting an error message when the mapping program starts up that tells me it has failed due to a corrupt file (TosBtAPI.dll). I also was not able to locate the bluetooth manager on the Fujitzu U810. The mapping program does recognize a signal when the i.trek is connected via USB, but does not seem to operate properly. All in all, quite frustrating so far. I hope you all have so advice or tomorrow I am going to have to go to the dreaded tech support route. Thanks, holodoc
Ducati
Quote:
Originally Posted by Holodoc
Hi GPSers. I have now received my new i.trek M7 from Semsons, and my Garmin Mobile PC quick start DVD also from Semsons at the great discounted price of 120 bucks for the two. I have so far been unsuccessful with the install. I cannot get the i.trek to shake hands with my Fujitzu U810 on the Nav setting. The blue light blinks, but no signal is detected by the mapping program. I am not sure if this is a problem with the i.trek, the mapping program or my computer. I am getting an error message when the mapping program starts up that tells me it has failed due to a corrupt file (TosBtAPI.dll). I also was not able to locate the bluetooth manager on the Fujitzu U810. The mapping program does recognize a signal when the i.trek is connected via USB, but does not seem to operate properly. All in all, quite frustrating so far. I hope you all have so advice or tomorrow I am going to have to go to the dreaded tech support route. Thanks, holodoc
Not sure if this is the fix but there is an "update" for Garmin :
https://buy.garmin.com/shop/store/downloadsUpdates.jsp?product=010-00685-00&cID=139&pID=13484
tcassidy
I just had a similar problem with my ASUS r2h UMPC (also using the Toshiba Bluetooth stack) and Mobile PC giving a missing TosBTapi.dll message. You probably need to reinstall your Bluetooth drivers. The latest version is available here:

http://aps.toshiba-tro.de/bluetooth/?page=download

One problem I had with the reinstall is the installer could not find my internal Bluetooth hardware. A restart of the computer let Windows identify the hardware and install it likely using drivers from the partial Toshiba install. Then the Toshiba Bluetooth install went fine.

Beware! It takes a long time - Probably over 20 minutes.If you try this, make sure the unit is powered and let it finish.

Terry
mccd7618
Is there any advantages using the iTrek M7 v/s the BU-353 on the Garmin Mobile PC software version only.
tcassidy
The only experience I have is with the Garmin GPS20x (USB) and the Garmin GPS10x (Bluetooth). I had problems with the 20x as Mobile PC would not find it if I restarted the computer (UMPC) from sleep mode with Mobile PC already running. It would find the Bluetooth unit within 20 seconds in the same situation. I think it is related to the USB port being powered down in sleep mode.

Your results may be different.

Terry
Marvin Hlavac
Interesting, Terry, and I was just going to tell mccd7618 to just keep it simple by avoiding Bluetooth, and going with USB - if he doesn't mind the cable.

YMMW, but I've been using BU-353 with Garmin Mobile PC without a single glitch for the past about a week (but I don't use hibernation). Earlier on I used i.Treck M7 in USB mode for several days with no problem. Before that I used Garmin USB GPS20x - also no issues.

IMHO, if you don't mind cable, use cable. If you don't want cable, then use Bluetooth .
mccd7618
I don't mind cables I perfer USB, but I am not sure which receiver to purchase the iTrek M7 or the BU-353 I would like to use the best receiver.
Marvin Hlavac
If you don't anticipate to ever need Bluetooth connection, I'd just go with the less expensive BU-353. But Terry is right - some users occasionally report issues coming out of sleep mode while using USB GPS receivers. So if you do use sleep mode, and if you think this issue could affect you, consider Terry's above experience.

I think the actual sensitivity of both receivers is identical - I could try to test them side by side, if needed, but I think they both advertise -159dBm tracking sensitivity.
tcassidy
Sorry mccd7618,
I misunderstood your question and interrupted with no valuable information for you. I've got Bluetooth on the brain these days.

Marvin can probably direct you. I would say go for whichever is cheaper as most GPS receivers are excellent these days.

Terry
mccd7618
Thanks Marvin and Terry, I will just purchase the BU 353 since is least expensive and has no less advantages over the itrek M7 except in price. Thanks yal Jeff
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