Regular readers of MoDaCo may know that, prior to working full time on MoDaCo, I worked as a technical lead for a large UK company on a huge Telematics project. For this reason, my interest, nay enthusiasm, nay OBSESSION with GPS goes back a fair few years.
I remember how we discussed GPS and how, in a few years time, it would become a true consumer technology with commoditised hardware.
Well, I think you'll agree that time is now here. With the rise and rise of PND (Portable Navigation Devices), the huge availability of Bluetooth GPS units and the trend towards integration of GPS into mobile devices (which we are just starting to see), GPS will become more and more a part of people's everyday lives.
Selecting a GPS solution to partner your mobile device isn't the easiest task in the world, simply due to the huge amount of devices available with a wide range of prices. Today, i'm reviewing the BT-Q810 GPS from a new player in the market, Q-Starz... and I will be following this review over the coming weeks and months with similar evaluations of hardware from other suppliers.
Buying the Q-Starz BT-Q810
In the UK, the appointed reseller for the device is TechGlobe, however the device is yet to be listed on their site.
In the USA, the Q-Starz BT-Q810 is resold by Semsonsas the i-Blue 737, retailing at $89.99 at time of writing including a free vent mount - more details. Semsons ship worldwide, and come highly recommended.
Unboxing the Q-Starz BT-Q810
The GPS unit ships in a smart, compact box proudly displaying the device through a clear window, and emblazoned with the various features of the unit
Included in the box you will find...
- the GPS unit itself
- a wall charger
- a car charger
- a 1000mAh lithium ion battery
- a warranty card
- a quick installation guide sheet (PDF version)
Although no software is included in the box, PC and Pocket PC test applications are available from the Q-Starz download page.
Let's talk about the exterior of the device first.
The device has a predominantly grey exterior finish, with the exception of the black branded panel on the top. The device is made from a smooth almost metallic looking plastic, and feels extremely light. Even with the battery in place, our tests showed the device weighed in at a paltry 66g.
Below the black panel on the top of the GPS sit 3 LEDs. The top LED is coloured Orange, and is used to indicate the current fix status. The left LED indicates bluetooth status, and the right LED indicates charging / battery status. Sadly, the LEDs are somewhat bright and flash when in use - not great when using the device in a car at night for example - i'd love to see a way to disable the LEDs altogether, or at the very least stop them from flashing!
The left of the device holds the power switch, and the right of the device the miniUSB socket. Owners of Pocket PCs / Smartphones that also use miniUSB should take particular note here - the BT-Q810 charges just fine from my Pocket PC charger and my sync and charge cable, effectively negating the need for additional cables. In fact, i've just left the wall / car chargers for the GPS in the box. Excellent!
The bottom of the device has an anti-slip pad, which is perfect for putting the GPS on your dashboard. There's nothing worse than seeing your GPS fly out the window as you round a corner with the windows down
The base is also home to the battery cover, behind which sits the 1000mAh battery - an impressive capacity, that no doubt contributes to the (claimed) 25 hour battery life. We'll find out if that's a reasonable figure later!
The brief specifications of the device are as follows, you can read the full details at the Q-Starz Site:
- MTK chipset with high sensitivity (to -158dBm)
- Up to 25hrs operating time for GPS navigation
- 32-Channel all-in-view tracking for fast acquisition and reacquisition
- Fast Position Fix - Cold start 39s, Warm start 37s, Hot start<3s
- WAAS / EGNOS compatability
- Smart power control - Auto On-Off function
- Bluetooth SPP compatible with 10m range
- 1000mAh Lithium Ion battery
- 72.2mm (L) X 46.5mm (W) X 20mm (H)
Which leads us on nicely to the 'in use' section.
For my test of the unit, I first of all gave it a thorough charge, and then powered it up and placed it on the office window sill. At this point I expected it to take a while to get a fix (as is customary in a 'cold start' scenario), but immediately, the BT-Q810 started to shine. The device actually found a good quality fix before my SiRF III unit had, which astounded me - I was up and running in around 30 seconds.
Pairing the GPS with my device was painless, as you would expect - just search for bluetooth devices, select the 'iBT-GPS' device, and enter the '0000' PIN. I seleceted the 'Serial Port' service, and I was done.
For the general testing, I used MoDaCo CamerAware, TomTom and iGo. All three applications ran just fine with the unit. Over a couple of days testing, I found the BT-Q810 to have excellent sensitivity, at least on par and sometimes better than that of my SiRF III GPS - a very unexpected result!
I then conducted a number of 'torture tests' to determine how long the battery would last, and whether it could hit the claimed 25 hours. In honesty, in each of my tests the low battery LED would illuminate at around 15 hours, with it then lasting a further 3 hours at best before expiring. A fair way off the claimed 25 hour battery life, but impressive nonetheless. 18 hours of continuous GPS is not to be sniffed at.
There's one more feature that i'd like to tell you about that also contributes to prolonging the battery life, and that's the 'Auto on-off'. Basically, the BT-Q810 will only power up the GPS chipset when it detects an active connection via Bluetooth. At all other times, it will only keep the Bluetooth side of the device running, waiting for connections. This is a great idea as GPS is the major power drain on the device. I have owned a GPS with this feature before, and it was invaluable for times when I would leave the GPS somewhere and forget to turn it off
In conclusion, I found the BT-Q810 to be a very impressive and very capable GPS receiver. Something of a dark horse, performing much better than I expected, particularly given the very reasonable $89.99 price point.
If you are in the market for a GPS receiver, then it comes highly recommended... and i'll leave you with my positives and negatives!
- Excellent sensitivity
- Competitive price
- Great battery life
- Auto power on / off of GPS element
- Good looking
- Anti slip base
- Wall and car chargers included
- Flashing LEDs