Wednesday, December 20, 2006
i.Trek M5 & Odyssey V4
Posted by Steve Sharp in "HARDWARE" @ 09:00 AM
Figure 3: The i.Trek M5 GPS receiver brings big performance to a small package.
Let’s Get Going
Looking at the i.Trek M5 GPS receiver, there are several features that are obvious. The dimensions of the GPS receiver are 2.75” x 1.86” x .75”, so the receiver is very small. It has only an on/off switch, three LEDs (red for low battery, blue to indicate the status of the Bluetooth connection, and orange to indicate a satellite lock) a jack for an external antenna, and a mini USB jack.
The first obvious thing to do with this lap full of stuff was to attempt to pair my O2 XDA II with the i.Trek M5 receiver. Initially, I could not get the XDA II to pair with the receiver. I checked with the GPS receiver and discovered that there seems to be an issue with the receiver’s Bluetooth communicating with the XDA II unless the Bluetooth stack on the XDA II is the most current version v1.18. So, I upgraded the radio stack and got the i.Trek to pair with my XDA II, but I was never able to establish data flow between the devices. In defense of the M5 receiver, I’ve done some investigating, and it seems that the XDA II has some Bluetooth issues with other devices (such as the Jabra Freespeak wireless headset).
So, I resorted to using an iPAQ 6315 for this review, and it worked perfectly with the i.Trek M5, however, powered cradles are not available for many iPAQ devices, including the 6315 that I used. I asked a representative from Semsons about this, and he said that the bundles are being targeted primarily for the European market, currently, so there is more support for HTC products and less for HP products. He said, however, that greater support for more models of Pocket PC will be forthcoming.
Like many small GPS receivers these days, the i.Trek M5 is Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) enabled and National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) 0183 compliant. The manufacturer of the M5 advertises 30 hours of use and 160 hours of standby on a fully charged battery. I found that I got closer to 25 hours of usage from the receiver before needing to recharge. The receiver has a “sleep mode” that powers the unit off after 5 minutes of inactivity (i.e. no Bluetooth connection).
As is true with nearly all GPS receivers, the initial time to get a satellite lock took several minutes, however, it acquired satellites very quickly after the first time. My driveway is 50 feet long, and if I power the unit on in the garage, I generally acquire at least 5 satellites by the time I reach the end of my driveway, and pick up a couple more within a few minutes. Accessing between 5 and 9 satellites seemed to be the norm, but obviously, environmental and topographic factors came into play. Incredibly, even during an electrical storm accompanied by a torrential downpour the M5 maintained a lock on at least 5 satellites. The M5’s ability to acquire and retain a lock on satellites impressed me, as did the refresh speed and accuracy of the receiver’s data.
One annoyance that I encountered in using this system (but which was not the fault of the M5 receiver or the Odyssey software) was the fact that the backlight on my Pocket PC kept timing out and turning off which made the maps impossible to see. Duh! So, I wound up having to set my backlight to stay on in order to use this system without having to keep tapping the screen to turn it back on. This isn’t a big deal, except that if you’re going to then take the Pocket PC from the cradle and keep it with you when you arrive at your destination, you’ll need to go back and change the backlight time out period again, lest it remains on perpetually and drain the battery.