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Old 07-28-2007, 01:42 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Review: Freedom Mini GPS

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I received my Freedom Mini GPS receiver from Freedom Input today. First, let me say that this is not a *technical* review. I am not a GPS expert. This is more of a layman's "how it works for me" review. That being said, overall, I'm quite imprressed. For it's size it boasts the following Specs:

Bluetooth Specs
Bluetooth CSR BC04 Bluetooth V2.0, Class II
10 Meters Range
SPP Serial Port Profile

GPS Specs
Chipset: SiRFstar III
20 Channels "All-In-View"-Tracking
Protocol: NMEA 0183/GGA, GSA, GSV,RMC, VTG, GLL
Baud: 57,600
Freq: LQ, 1,575.42 Mhz
Tracking Sensitivity: -159dBM
Position devidation: 10 meters 90% 2D RMS 1-5 Meters
Velocity: 0.1 M/sec
Cold/Warm/Hot Start 42/35/1 sec
Rechargeable 420mAh
Lithiup Polymer Akku
Working Temp: -20C - +60C
Internal Ceramic Patch antenna
Size in mm: 39L x 33B x 19H
Weight: 28g
Battery life: 10 hours working time.


Below is the retail packaging:





-------------------------------------------------------

The Freedom Mini GPS came with the following items:

GPS Reciever:
Key ring
USB cable
Car charger
Instructions

I was surprised to see that no AC charger was included with this package. The unit can be charged in any USB port with the mini USB cable (same as the BB.)





-------------------------------------------------


IMO, the main feature of this GPS compared to others such as the BT-359 is it's size. It's made of rubberized plastic and hangs on a key ring. It's 2 inches tall, 1 1/4 inches wide and 5/8 inches thick at it's thickest and weighs in at only 1.06oz. It's somewhat teardrop shaped in thickness. It includes an on/off switch on the side and one multicolored LED on the front. At the top is a hole for a keyring. At the bottom is the mini USB charging port with a rubber plug for covering when not in use.













----------------------------------------------------

I've had a GlobalSat BT-359 for quite some time and consider it to be a pretty small GPS unit. However, when when compared to the BT-359, the Freedom GPS, while slightly thicker, is quite a bit smaller than the BT-359.






So far I have tried this with Google Maps, BB Maps, and TeleNav and they all work well. One thing to mention regarding TeleNav. I first paired the Freedom Mini with TeleNav v5.1.0.29 on my Pearl. There is a known issue with Bluetooth Pucks (other than the BT-359) that prevent them from working with v5.1.0.29. I was able to pair the Freedom and use it with Telenav v 5.1.0.29 but only after changing the GPS preferences from Bluetooth to Internal, saving, then changing back to bluetooth again. Then the Freedom GPS worked until TeleNav was closed and reopened again. Once reopened I needed to change to internal and back again. Again, this is a known issue with TeleNav 5.1.0.29.

However, after upgrading TeleNav to 5.1.0.54 all issues with the Freedom Mini were gone and it paired and worked normally with TeleNav.

This GPS tracks and keeps up quite nicely using Google, BBmaps and TeleNav.

The LED is my only complaint with this unit. It has a red, blue and orange led under one lens. The instructions included state the following:

LED Status:
1. Bluetooth LED (Blue)
The blue LED blinks 1 time/sec = The device is switched on
The blue LED blinks 2 times/sec = Bluetooth connecting
The blue LED stays illuminated = Bluetooth connection established.

2. GPS LED (Orange)
The orange LED shines permanently = Satellite signal searching.
The orange LED blinks 1 time/sec = Satellite signal received.

3. Battery LED (Red)
The red LED shines permanently = Battery is charing
The red LED goes out = Battery fully charged


However, When paired, connected and receiving a Satellite my LED blinkes blue, purple, orange, blue and repeats. It appears that blue LED comes on indicating connection established however, the blue LED doesn't stay illuminated. It turns off momentarily. And additionally, the orange LED comes on at the same time as the blue (briefly) turning the LED a purple color (purple is not any color that the instructions list). If I understand the instructions correctly I should have a steady blue light with an orange flash every second.

However, regardless of what the LED's do the GPS functions correctly. I still have the issue where occasionally I have to restart the GPS unit in order to get it to work in Google Maps. Sometimes it will show connected and not disconnect and sometimes it just won't connect at all. I've had this issue with the BT-359 in Google, BBMaps and TeleNav so I don't believe it's anything specific to the Freedom Mini GPS.


Overall, I give this GPS unit 4.5 out of 5 stars. The only reason it didn't get 5 from me is that the LED flashing doesn't quite match the instructions received. This is a great unit that is small and compact and easier to carry around than my BT-359. I will probably shelve my BT-359 in lieu of the Freedom due to the convenience of its small size.


Freedom Mini GPS

Freedom Input Ltd - Home

Last edited by John Clark : 07-28-2007 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 07-28-2007, 04:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Excellent review, John! My Freedom Mini is currently winging it's way across the Atlantic even as I type. I should have it soon. I am having a problem loading v.54 of TeleNav to my 8300...actually switching service from my previous 8800 to the 8300 to be exact...so I might have to talk to tech support on Monday.

But...from what you wrote, I am really looking forward to once again having GPS functionality on my BlackBerry. Plus, the keyring-friendly size is great too.

-Terry
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Old 07-28-2007, 08:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I wonder how it will compare with Garmin Mobile for BlackBerry with GPS 10x #010-00623-00. I was looking to own something that will assist me before my trip to SF, but my Garmin isn't arriving until next week

JC, I might need you to do a side-by-side comparison once I get mine
 
Old 08-06-2007, 04:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Bump:

Added observed battery life to the OP.
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Old 08-10-2007, 12:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Having had the opportunity to test the Freedom Mini GPS for a period of time now, I can honestly concur with John Clark almost all of his opinions and observations.

I will add that IMHO, the BlackBerry 8300 works amazingly well with the Freedom Mini GPS because of the Curve's speakerphone which is exceptionslly loud and clear. That translates to a great navigational experience when using a voice-navigation service like TeleNav. I have made an equipment change recently from the BlackBerry to the Apple iPhone...but until Apple makes some very necessary changes in the output of their speakerphone in an upcoming software update...I will continue to be disappointed in that facet of the performance of the FM/iPhone pairing. But, using Google Maps on both the BlackBerry and the Apple products was amazing.

I too was amazed at the lack of an AC charger, but again...I have gotten used to the current trend towards USB charging and it is not an issue with me.

I have not had the problems with the unit "dropping" a signal, or having to restart the unit when using Google Maps. It performs beautifully from start to stop...

Overall, I will give the Freedom Mini GPS a 4.5-out-of-5-star rating. The only thing that keeps it from being a solid "5" is the lack of AC charger...which is simply more convenient and common if I am on the road and not close to a computer. But, I have found that a Motorola or BlackBerry charger that uses a mini-USB connector works great...so my problem is not a big one.

My vacation is coming up...and I can't wait to really put this unit through the paces!!!
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Old 08-25-2007, 09:16 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8300/4.2.2 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102)

I have loved the unit while using it in LA. I flew into JFK last night,tried the unit thru a 20 mile taxi ride thru open skies to my destinatin.all software says a"signal too weak for a reading"I'm even on a roof of a high rise right now.same thing. Anyone have any thoughts on this. I'm mystfied. Nav,google,bb maps all get weak signal.
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Old 08-25-2007, 10:42 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Not sure. Occassionally I've seen that message in Google Maps but performance hasn't been affected.
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Old 08-26-2007, 04:54 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8300/4.2.2 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102)

Ithink it has something to do with my bt setting defaulting back to encrypted and not trusted every time I shut down the gps unit. Also does not play well with another bt device paired.
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Old 08-29-2007, 03:44 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lilitiki View Post
Wirelessly posted (BlackBerry8300/4.2.2 Profile/MIDP-2.0 Configuration/CLDC-1.1 VendorID/102)

Ithink it has something to do with my bt setting defaulting back to encrypted and not trusted every time I shut down the gps unit. Also does not play well with another bt device paired.
Yes, I've had that same issue. Disabling the encryption in BT settings and saving it fixed the issue.

Last edited by amelnik : 08-29-2007 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 08-30-2007, 09:49 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Back from NY and had a terrible time with gps mini over there... took 20 minutes to find my position. I would shut it off after a drive using navigation (with Telenav) turn it off at destination, turn it on for the drive home and couldn't get it going again..., and had to repair bt to get it going again. this happened on GMapss too... couldn't use bt phone with it, that was a big no no.... all around pain in the ass...

Now back in LA, the gps mini works in an instant, never lets me down... I love it.

Can there be that big a difference in satellite coverage in these two states?What gives, I wonder?
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:12 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Satellite coverage should be the same....were you downtown NY?
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:31 PM   #12 (permalink)
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My question as well. Heavily wooded area's (New England and NY State backroads) and city locations, especially NYC and Boston (where I travel quite a bit) tend to pose a challenge for even the nicest nav puck. Even built in auto nav will tend to get confused in a city where you are surrounded by tightly knit tall buildings.
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Old 08-30-2007, 10:45 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Thanks! Not as small as I thought it was.
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What OS are you using on the smartphone? Please vote! http://www.howardforums.com/showthread.php?t=1437055
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Old 09-01-2007, 02:17 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Clark View Post
Satellite coverage should be the same....were you downtown NY?
I was in queens and long island... as well as JFK airport. Big sky views... really stunned by the lack of gps location/connection ability - not a software thing... once it locked in I could get directions via telenav to my destination, but once completed... it could be an hour before it could find me again.

Back here in los angeles, I still have the bt repair issue - but can obtain my position very quickly once I get the bt worked out...

Nothing is perfect, I guess...
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Old 09-01-2007, 02:22 PM   #15 (permalink)
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As to why it had trouble picking up satellites in NY area, I couldn't tell you. I have found more info on the bluetooth connection issue, though. This post by 7100simpleisbetter explained it really well. It is definitely a RIM OS issue and not a Telenav/puck issue. Pay particular attention to the second paragraph of his post.

bbTracker - a simple GPS tracking software
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Old 09-03-2007, 10:25 AM   #16 (permalink)
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"On that note, I have found that in older version 4.2.0 of the Pearl OS, it had no problems with continuously finding bluetooth GPS but 4.2.1 changed the stack and now for whatever reason it runs into problems with accessing bluetooth gps from a normal GPS call. The only way to fix it is to reboot. It is a pain but that is the issue. Roll back to 4.2.0 and you will see what I am saying. It is an RIM OS issue not a bbTracker issue.

The GPSTrack method actually bypasses the paired devices and just goes out to search for BT devices when you initialize bluetooth. I have had GPSTrack working without my Holux paired so it is not even looking for paired devices but any GPS bluetooth device within range."

Is this what you were referring to? If so, is RIM aware? Or AT&T? if it is an issue keeping customers away from their 9.99 per month telenav service, seems they'd want to fix it.

I'm on the Curve, 4.2.2.114
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Old 09-03-2007, 01:13 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Yep, that's the post I was referring to. I don't know if RIM is aware of it or not. Honestly, I haven't been real impressed with RIM's 4.2.1 for the Pearl. They left a lot of bugs in it that never got worked out. I doubt we will see fixes for the multitap issues in 4.2.1 or the Bluetooth stack. I bet we have to wait for 4.3. RIM has come out with some buggy devices lately and, IMO, have lowered their standards for quality control. I don't know what's going on over there but it's not the rock solid OS that they used to put out.

/rant
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Old 09-06-2007, 08:55 AM   #18 (permalink)
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The Freedom GPS has been working fine for me with one exception. I can't seem to get Berry411 to work. Can anyone confirm for me that has this GPS if they can or can't get Berry411 to work with it?

It's working fine with Google maps and Telenav.

Thanks
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Old 09-14-2007, 02:36 AM   #19 (permalink)
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First; excellent review, just what I was looking for

Next; several sites list a feature of mmxc external antenna connection, have you found this, if so, can you post a picture

Finally; to answer a previous user's question: The reason a GPS can take a long time to aquire is that it stores a large amount of information about where the satellites should be. If this information is wrong for the area you are in or is out of date the GPS will download this before aquiring a location sometimes taking up to 20 minutes. Short answer: Be patient.

Thanks, GP
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Old 09-14-2007, 08:12 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I have been using GPS units for a long time and never had one take 20 minutes to aquire a fix. My take would be it's either a bug in the unit if it takes that long or your not in an open enough area (read around tall buildings, trees, etc). 20 minutes to me = send it back and get it replaced.

If you turn the unit off and go to a new location distant from where you were when you turned it off, I can see it taking a little longer to find the sats but not 20 minutes. Maybe an extra minute or so... It would be a useless device if you had to wait 20 minutes to drive your car...

Quote:
Originally Posted by gpend View Post
First; excellent review, just what I was looking for

Next; several sites list a feature of mmxc external antenna connection, have you found this, if so, can you post a picture

Finally; to answer a previous user's question: The reason a GPS can take a long time to aquire is that it stores a large amount of information about where the satellites should be. If this information is wrong for the area you are in or is out of date the GPS will download this before aquiring a location sometimes taking up to 20 minutes. Short answer: Be patient.

Thanks, GP

Last edited by cme4oil : 09-14-2007 at 08:15 AM.
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