MobileTechReview.com PDA, Notebook and Phone Reviews and buyers guide
PDA Phone Notebooks Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Discussion

 


Advertisement

Dell Bluetooth GPS Navigation System

Discuss this product
Where to Buy

Reviewed July 21, 2004 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor and GPS Guru

*For the Dell Axim X30 and X50 models with Bluetooth

After releasing the hot Axim X30 series that pushes Pocket PC speeds to 624MHz on the top model, Dell is now offering some very cool accessories to go with these Axims. One of these accessories is the Dell Bluetooth GPS Navigation System. It combines the Bluetooth technology in the GPS receiver with that of the X30 wireless models. With customizable navigation options and NAVTECH's North America map data with large POI database, it provides both power and flexibility for Axim users. If you are not familiar with GPS solutions, check out our GPS FAQ and our Guide on how to evaluate a GPS solution that will work with your PDA.

What's in the Box?

The Dell Bluetooth GPS package includes a Bluetooth GPS receiver, an in-vehicle power adapter that can charge both the GPS receiver and the Dell PDA at the same time, a dashboard mounting kit with a PDA holder strapped to the mount, two companion CDs with GPS drivers and NAVTEQ maps for US and Canada. There are only short printed guides for the receiver, power adapter and mounting kit. You will find a more extensive user manual on the companion CDs. The US maps include Hawaii but don't include Alaska.

Dell Bluetooth GPS

Installation

The companion CDs contain the navigation software and map data as well as the User's Manual and set up program. If you want to access the manual, select the Explore option instead of the Run option, otherwise the CD will automatically start the installation process. Make sure that your Dell is connected to the PC via ActiveSync. The InstallSheild will install the navigation software which is responsible for route calculations and visual and voice guidance. Once the navigation software is installed, you will see a Dell GPS Navigation System icon in your programs group on your Axim.

After installing the navigation software onto your Axim, you can now start installing maps. To install the maps, insert the first CD and you will find the PrymeNav Map Loader. This map loader makes map installation fast and easy. The map data of US and Canada is divided into States and Provinces. You can select a State map simply by clicking on the map of that State. Once a State/Province is selected, it turns green from yellow. You can choose multiple States/Provinces or deselect the maps at any time. In addition to the graphical mapping installation, there is also a list of the States and Provinces on the right of the map. You can check the States/Provinces you wish to install on your handheld. The map loader also provides you with info on file sizes as you select the maps and available storage space in the target location where you want to store the maps. You can install these maps to the internal memory on your Pocket PC, a storage card or your hard drives on your desktop/laptop computer. The largest map size is 119MB (California) and next size down is 115MB (Texas). Luckily both States have been split into two maps to cut down the overall map size.

desktop maps

Above, the desktop map installation screen.

 

 

 

 

 

Deals and Shopping

 

 

 

 

 

Another nice feature offered by the PrymeNav Map Loader is the City map installation. If you have less than 64MB of storage space, you can choose to install smaller maps by using the City/Radius method. This option allows you to control the map file sizes when you select the maps you wish to install. You can select a City from any region and slide the radius adjustment bar to determine how big an area you wish to include around the city. The map loader will show you the size of the map and the available space on your target location. After you've selected area, hit the Generate Map button and load the maps and POIs to your Pocket PC.

GPS Receiver

The first time you launch the GPS software on your Pocket PC, it will bring up a Bluetooth Console window showing you the BT-GPS with which your Axim will pair. If this process doesn't start automatically, go to Settings, click on the Connections tap to start the Bluetooth Manager manually. The process is fast and simple.

The Dell branded Bluetooth GPS receiver has three LED lights on top indicating Bluetooth connection, satellite status and low-battery warning. There is an A/C port as well as a power on/off switch on the left side of the receiver. There is also an external antenna port on the right side should you choose to get an external receiver to help with signal reception. The 12-channel GPS receiver uses the SiRF II/LP high performance and low power chipset. It comes with a built-in Li-Ion rechargeable battery which can be charged via the in-vehicle adapter. The receiver is WAAS enabled. Dell provides a dashboard/windshield suction cup mount along with a PDA pouch that can hold your PDA in place. The pouch has Velcro straps that can connect to the mount securely. The mount has a flexible arm that allows you to aim the Pocket PC to the best viewing angle.

 

The Dell Bluetooth GPS took under 1 minute to get a 3D fix in a cold start, and only a few seconds in warm and hot starts. It consistently tracks 6-7 GPS satellites with 11 in view. You can check the GPS status anytime by either clicking on the GPS shortcut icon in the map view or by accessing the Menu->Features->GPS Status. The GPS Status screen gives you a quick view of the number of satellites that are being tracked and the signal strength level, location-based information such as Latitude, Longitude, Altitude and moving Speed. This screen also provides you the UTC (Greenwich Mean Time) and your local time. The NMEA window shows you the incoming satellite data which is also shown in the graphics below. The Dell receiver gets very strong signal in the Silicon Valley. I can even get pretty good signal indoors with partial access to the sky.

Navigation

You can access the map, calculate routes and get guidance using the navigation software on your Pocket PC. The navigation software makes it easy to find or enter destinations for calculating routes and viewing them on maps. The navigation software is integrated with your Outlook Contact database, so if you have an address in your Contacts, you can easily look it up and set it as your destination. If it's a new destination, you can enter it as a new address, an intersection or by selecting a POI (Point of Interest) from the map database. If you have entered the destinations before, you can save them into your Favorites for later use, or simply look up one in the Recent destination list. If you have no clue about the street address you are looking for, the navigation software has a very nice feature where it lists all the street names in a City. Once you've set the origin and destination, you can calculate the route. The navigation software also allows you to add waypoints or detours easily to routes you've calculated.

screen shot

The navigation software on the Axim

screen shot

Map view on the Axim

 

The hardest part in route calculation for navigation software is often related to how much users can customize their own routes based on their travel needs and how well the routing and map reflect their customization. The Dell navigation software does well by offering many options to help narrow down to the best routing options possible. You can choose either the Fastest or the Shortest route, Main Roads or Local Roads and you can choose to include or exclude Ferries, Toll Roads and Carpool Roads. The route calculations have proved to be quite accurate in our tests and handled various option combinations well in our route customization.

Guidance

There are several guidance options for you to follow the route to your destinations. The map view, which can be displayed in either 2D or 3D, offers a visual display of your route by highlighting it in bright red color (for daylight mode) and green color (in night time mode). The maps often include some basic topographical indications by marking waters, parks and various types of POI in different colors, as well as marking road types in different colored lines. There are also options for viewing the map in daylight mode or night time mode to suit different levels of light, and if you don't touch these options, the navigation software will automatically turn the appropriate mode on based on what time it is when you are driving. The Maneuver Details view adds turn-by-turn instructions to the map view so that you can see both the route map and text instructions on the same screen. The text instructions are accompanied by estimated time of arrival and the distance to the next turn. You will also see a progress bar appear when near a turn to show you how close you are to the turn. There is also an option where you can choose just to read the turn-by-turn instructions in text.

The voice guidance comes on a few hundred feet before a turn with a small "dong" sound at the turn. The turn warning only comes on once for one turn, in comparison Destinator gives two turn warnings. The volume is quite high and can easily be heard over the driving noise. There is a convenient shortcut below the map for adjusting the voice volume.

The navigation software will recalculate the route if you've missed a turn on fly. The recalculations seem to be slower than other recent GPS solutions we've tested. However the recalculations have been very accurate which means it won't make you take too many turns to get back on the right route. Combine the slow route recalculation and the minimalism in voice warning, it might create some confusions when you drive off of the planned route. Once saving grace is that the route display is very clear on the map, you will see you've gone off the course the minute you've missed the turn. The map re-draw is very smooth on the 624MHz X30 when tracking your position on the map.

In addition to these guidance options, Dell navigation software offers a couple of safety features including Speed Alert and Fog Driving. Speed Alert allows you to set a fix speed limit or give you the best guess of the speed limit based on the class of the roads if you choose the automatic speed limit. When you drive over the speed limit, you will get voice warnings. The Fog Driving is a very nice feature if you live in the fog zone of cities such as San Francisco. The guidance system will give you a special "Dong" warning sound when you approach a four-way intersection, which will be very useful when you can't see it too far ahead of the time in a thick fog. The Dell navigation software also offers the option to record and playback your trips.

For easy and quick access to some major routing and guidance features, you can assign the hardware buttons on your Dell Axim to launch 3D map mode, Detour, Current Position, Enter Destination and more.

About the Map Data

The Dell GPS Navigation System uses the NAVTECH map data which has one of the most detailed map sources and is usually updated in the last 6 months to one year. The North America map bundle includes street-level maps and highway data for the 49 States in the US as well as selected metro areas and highways of Canada. The street-level maps and database from NAVTECH include a large number of POIs (points of interest). They not only get the most up-to-date material collected from all levels of government, planning agencies, police and fire departments and aerial photographs, but they also collect first hand data in real time. NAVTECH has over 100 field offices staffed with over 400 analysts and engineers who drive everyday to collect data and feed it daily to the live database. NAVTECH uses up to 150 data attributes in each road segment that may affect the way you get from one place to another. These road attributes are characteristics of the roads and include road names, address ranges, turn-restrictions, one-way Info, time of day restrictions, speed limits, and more. If you wish to sample the map data, you can use MapQuest.com since it also uses the map data provided by NAVTECH or check out NAVTECH's web site. In the Dell GPS package, you will find a bingo card from NAVTECH. If you mail the card in you will get future map update CDs.

Conclusion

If you have a Bluetooth enabled Dell Axim X30 or X50 and need a GPS, this package is a sound and solid solution.

Pro:

GPS receiver gets great signal strength and is quick to get fixes.
The in-vehicle power adapter can charge both the GPS receiver and the handheld at the same time.
The route calculations are reasonable accurate with good number of options to customize your trips.
Map views and turn-by-turn instructions are easy to see.
The voice guidance has good timing and very good volume.
Some nifty features such as Fog Driving, trip recorder and Almanac are added bonus.

Con:
The PDA holder in the mounting kit isn't very sturdy which means you probably will look for another holder or mounting kit.
The route recalculation needs more tweaking to speed up the process.
It could use more voice guidance than what it offers now.

Price: $229
Web site: www.dell.com