Housed in a metallic silver-and-black casing with a rubber base, the $300 Belkin Bluetooth GPS is more about performance than style. Three tiny LEDs located on the front bezel indicate Bluetooth connectivity, satellite status, and battery power, while the right side of the unit contains the power switch, the power and external antenna jacks, and a GPS-sensitivity switch that selects between Standard and high-sensitivity XTrac modes. The unit itself weighs a little more than 3 ounces and measures just 2.8 by 1.5 by 1.25 inches, so it fits easily in your pocket. Unfortunately, if you're hiking, you have to hold the receiver in one hand and the handheld in the other, which means both hands are occupied, making it difficult to navigate to your destination. In addition, the lack of a vehicle-mounting device (a vent mount is available for $20) causes the unit to slide around when it is on a dashboard.
Belkin's navigation software is fairly easy to use, and it supports voice and visual turn-by-turn driving directions (note: Palm software must be purchased separately). You can load maps by state or city, rather than drawing a map region on your own. Once you've selected a city, you can choose between five preset radius selections (25 to 125 miles), depending on the amount of memory available on your PDA; for example, the New York tristate region required a hefty 35MB of memory. The software creates driving routes based on the quickest or shortest route available, with a choice between major or local roadways. You can also avoid unnecessary turns and toll roads whenever possible. To navigate to points of interest (POI), including airports, gas stations, restaurants, shopping centers, and more, select the POI menu or simply tap a POI icon on the map. In addition to the GPS receiver and the software, the kit contains both AC and DC (cigarette lighter) power adapters.
We were amazed by the satellite reception obtained on our test device while the receiver was in XTrac mode. It's rare to lock on to even one satellite while indoors, but the Belkin unit managed four strong signals in just 35 seconds. On the streets of Manhattan, we were equally impressed, as the unit maintained a 3D fix in areas where other GPS devices faltered. Our driving experience was exceptional as well. The Belkin GPS tracked our every move accurately, and its driving directions were on the money. The rechargeable lithium-polymer battery provided close to 11 hours of juice (exceeding the rated 10 hours) before the power LED flashed red, signaling that the power was low.
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