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HAiCOM CF, Mouse and Bluetooth GPS Solutions
  - posted May, 2004 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor

Haicom Electronics Corp. is a small manufacturer of PDA GPS receivers, but they have been in business for over a decade. They offer cabled GPS, CF GPS and Bluetooth GPS solutions using various chipsets. Their serial GPS receivers support a large number of PDA models and their new Bluetooth Slipper GPS combines a foldable CF card receiver and a Bluetooth base that can function as CF GPS and Bluetooth GPS in one package.

CF GPS

CF GPS

In the US, their biggest distributor is BuyGPSNow.com, which offers all three types of HAiCOM receivers as well as your choice of GPS software packages including Destinator, Mapopolis, TomTom Navigator and Routis. The flexible packaging offered by BuyGPSNow.com makes it easier for existing PDA GPS users to upgrade or switch hardware or software and is great for new users who are looking for the best possible combination. In addition to the HAiCOM brand GPS receivers, BuyGPSNow.com also offers other name brands such as Fortuna and RoyalTek in their Bluetooth GPS lineup.

mouse GPS

Mouse GPS

We used the HAiCOM HI-204E mouse GPS, HI-303MMF CF GPS along with the Bluetooth Slipper unit in our test and review; we used the Destinator navigation and mapping software package, though you can choose another navigation package offered by BuyGPSNow.com. You can also purchase the European navigation/map package with HAiCOM receivers.

Bluetooth GPS

Bluetooth Slipper GPS

 

The CF receiver will work with Pocket PCs with a CF slot and the Bluetooth Slipper will work with PDA with Bluetooth. The CF receiver is a type I CF card that works in both type I and II CF slots. The HAiCOM mouse GPS comes with a serial cable, and you’ll need the right connector for your PDA. Luckily, the mouse GPS supports most of the PDAs on the market today including:

Dell Axim X5, X3
IPAQ 36xx through 54xx series
Palm Tungsten T series, Zire 71
Clie T/NR/NX/NZ/SL/SJ series
Treo 180, 270 and 600
XDA and XDA II
Toshiba e330 through e800 series
ViewSonic V37
Asus A620

For the complete support list, visit www.buygpsnow.com.

What’s in the Box?

The HAiCOM 204E mouse GPS package includes the waterproof HI-204E GPS Receiver, PDA Cable and auto-charger, a printed thin User Manual and a mini-CD with USB drivers for using with your laptop and digital version of the printed manual. You will also get BuyGPSNow.com exclusive Destinator 3.0 trial software free for 30 days.

The HAiCOM Bluetooth Slipper GPS Receiver package combines the CF receiver package, which includes the HI-303MMF CF receiver, a PS/II connecting cable, a carrying pouch, a printed manual and mini-CD, with the Bluetooth base unit package that includes the HI-401BT Bluetooth Slipper™, rechargeable 3.7V 1600mAh Li-Polymer battery for the BT base, a cigarette charger, a wall A/C adapter that supports world power outlets, a magnetic car holder, a carrying case for the Bluetooth Slipper, a thin printed manual and a mini CD with drivers for using with your laptop and digital version of the printed manual . You will also get BuyGPSNow.com exclusive Destinator 3.0 trial software free for 30 days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Installation

If you are using the HAiCOM GPS receivers with Destinator, you don’t need to install any additional drivers, you can just use the software that comes with the Destinator. Make sure you install the software before installing the maps in the Map Console.

To install maps, you will need to use the Destinator CDs. The map and POI data comes on 2 CDs. You can install the map data in 11 languages including Hebrew. Once the map application is installed, you can launch the map console to start cutting maps into smaller zones than the ones with pre-cut zones. The North America Map includes 49 US States (not including Alaska) and Canada, and it divides the maps into 9 zones (files). The largest map file is 224MB and the smallest is 3.2MB (Hawaii).

The Destinator Map Console offers a unique feature that allows you to cut parts of these 9 individual maps and only to install the maps that are near your destinations and waypoints. This feature allows users to save space on their Pocket PC by only installing the maps they need. The map cutting process is very easy, just use the Crop map tool and the application will save your new map into a separate file. You can give the new map file a name and short description, and it will show up on the Map Console, ready for download. Once you've selected all the maps you wish to download, you can load the maps onto your Pocket PC's internal memory, memory card or your desktop/laptop computer.

GPS Receivers

The HAiCOM HI-204E mouse receiver is waterproof and has magnetic on the bottom so that you can stick it outside of the car window or sunroof for maximum reception. It has WAAS and EGNOS support. If you want to know what WAAS/EGNOS are, read our GPS FAQ. To star the GPS, you must follow the instructions, otherwise your device might hang and the GPS won’t start!! Here is the sequence you MUST follow exactly: plug in the cigarette charger, plug the serial connector to the PDA device, launch Destinator GPS status screen, set COM port to COM1, Baud Rate to 4800, Protocol to NMEA, hit find GPS, finally plug the male and female PS2 connectors together.

The claimed cold start is 150 seconds, however the test we ran faired much better. The HI-204E took about 30 seconds to get a 3D fix (at least 4 satellites) in a cold start (never started before), and only a few seconds for warm and hot starts. It tracks 5-7 GPS satellites consistently in the Silicon Valley area. The accuracy is very good without turning the WAAS support on. With WAAS turned on, the accuracy should improve even further.

The CF HI-303MMF receiver is built on the SiRF Star IIeLP chipset and can be folded or extended in 90 degrees. When used with the Bluetooth Slipper, plug the CF card into the Slipper’s slot; it will turn the Bluetooth on automatically. The CF receiver is highly versatile not only because it can be used as CF receiver or Bluetooth receiver, but also the mini-1394 Firewire port found on the joint of the receiver and CF card on the HI-303MMF. The Firewire port enables the CF receiver to work with laptops in addition to PDA and other accessories such as solar power panel. Very good design! If you use the Bluetooth Slipper, you can put the CF receiver plugged into the base anywhere in the car that has good access to the ski, pair your Bluetooth enabled PDA with the Slipper, you are ready to get satellite signals.

As the mouse GPS, The HI-303MMF 204E took very short time to start: 30 seconds to get a 3D fix (at least 4 satellites) in a cold start, and a few seconds for warm and hot starts. It tracks 5-7 GPS satellites consistently in the Silicon Valley area. The accuracy is very good without turning the WAAS support on. With WAAS turned on, the accuracy should improve even further.

Navigation

Navigation of your travel routes is done on the Pocket PC. You will need to load at least one map to run the Destinator navigation software. Once you've installed the maps and received GPS satellite signals, you can start navigating your routes. You can input origins and destinations by entering new addresses, selecting Points of Interest from the database, using contacts in your Contacts database, or selecting destinations you've saved to your Favorites and from History list. You can add waypoints and avoid roads in your trip planning, however there is no option to select the types of roads you wish to avoid. You must input either the type of roads (highway, bypass, etc.) or the name of the streets you wish to avoid manually. If you've already mapped out a route and wish to avoid the streets on your route, you can just click on the road/street names to re-route your trip. The trip plans we've created seem on target. You should play with the options of quickest route or shortest rout to find the best routing possibilities.

screen shot

Destinator mapping software

 

The options for viewing routes and directions are extensive. You can view the route map in 2D, 3D or Bird's-eye view and use the stylus to drag the map around. There is a very nice sliding bar on the right side of the map for you to zoom in and out easily, and you can also use the d-pad’s up/down controls to zoom the map. You can change the color skin for daytime and nighttime viewing. In addition, the Destinator software actually allows you to add additional skins and voices. You can download these skins and other files from Destinator's web site.

Guidance

The Turn-by-Turn driving directions view will give you a map view with next turn instructions and the Driving Directions view will give you the entire trip turn instructions in text with turn icons and distance between each turn. There is also a Show Route view that gives you a map view of the entire trip as well as a summary of the trip. If you miss your turns while driving, Destinator will recalculate the route on fly. The recalculation starts very soon after you've missed a turn and it takes only a couple of seconds to give you new route directions.

The voice guidance seems very on target. The turn notifications come on twice before each turn (one at 200 yards to the turn; one at the turn). The voice guidance will also notify you how long you will need to drive on the same road after a turn. There is a nice option where you can turn on or off certain voice alert prompts such as "over the speed limit", "Route Recalculation", etc. as well as the visual notifications of the alerts such as map flashing when an alert comes on. Destinator also offers the ability to save your routes and play them back later.

About the Map Data

Destinator licensed the NAVTECH map data for North America and Western Europe. NAVTECH map data 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 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.

Conclusion

Pro: One of the fastest fix times in both cold start and warm/hot starts. The receivers receives strong signal in the Bay Area and consistently tracks good number of satellites for accurate readings. The accuracy is very good without the WAAS turned on, but having WAAS/EGNOS support will improve the accuracy for the areas that might not get as good of signals as we do here. HAiCOM receivers support most of the PDAs on the market, even if you bought the serial version and changed PDA, you can just get a serial cable to use the same receiver and software. The CF and Bluetooth combined solution is a winning design! The Bluetooth Slipper has a very large battery.

The BuyGPSNow.com bundles give freedom to those who wish to shop GPS hardware and software packages separately.

The Destinator 3.0 has some impressive improvements on guidance systems (both visual and audio) as well as map cutting and compression capabilities.

Con: No full operating manual for a product that requires fairly technical knowledge. You must follow the exact sequence of connecting the serial GPS receiver, or your devices will hang. Destinator’s navigation algorism still needs more fine-tuning because it still occasionally routes trips in an insufficient way.

Price: HI-204E mouse GPS $85.95 on buygpsnow; $119.95 List

HI-401BT Bluetooth plus CF GPS $189.95 on buygpsnow.com; $299.95 List

Web site: www.buygpsnow.com