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GLO-ing Support For Portable GPS Receiver

REVIEW

GloWellington’s Geof Robinson (GC handle: xBoomstickx) rates his geocaching-related Christmas present.

“Santa was listening this year; I had been a good boy and got my Garmin GLO (US$99/NZ$139) for Christmas.  What a difference an accurate GPSr makes!

While attempting GC3HBHB kjwx in Wonderland recently, I published a log bemoaning my Samsung Galaxy S2 cellphone’s lack of GPS signal under tree cover.  A local player suggested looking at a Garmin Glo to supplement my caching companion of the past year.

The Garmin GLO is a portable GPS receiver that connects via Bluetooth to an iPhone, iPad or Android device. It has no screen, so requires that external device to function usefully.

According to the official Garmin guff:

GLO can receive position information from both the GPS and GLONASS satellite constellations, allowing it to connect to up to 24 more satellites than devices that rely on GPS alone. This allows GLO to lock on to satellites approximately 20 per cent faster and remain connected even at high speed. What’s more, GLO updates its position information at 10x per second – that’s up to 10x more often than the GPS receivers in many mobile devices.

GLONASS is the Russian answer to the American GPS system, and was made available to civilians in 2007.

So far, my experience has been great – with the exception of the initial setup. Since debuting the GLO last July, Garmin has obviously targeted the iMarket, with a plethora of detail available on working with iPhones and iPads. 

The instruction manual only barely mentions that you can use an Android device, and offers no actual advice on how to use or install it.  The Garmin website is not significantly better.  Mr Google and some forums eventually came to the rescue, advising that for an Android you need to install an app called Bluetooth GPS before you’re off and caching.

TreeFIELD TEST

What better way to check performance than with a field test? There is a Greater Wellington Regional Council forest path situated between my own GC3C0XF Last Post hide and GC3GZ5M The Odyssey – Cyclops cache, giving an opportunity to do a little geo-maintenance and walk off some energy for the Robinson whanau.

SC20130112-140817A 10-minute stomp into the forest and we were ready to test. First run was the native GPS on my phone handset. 

An application called GPS Status (recommended by c.geo developers) was running to take the measurements. Signal acquisition took the best part of 30 seconds, and the best measurement achieved had an error of 50 metres.

Next up was the GLO: The setup time – turning on, connecting Bluetooth et cetera – took approximately 20 seconds, and signal acquisition about five seconds, so about the same initiation time, despite a cold start.

DuoHowever, its accuracy was within 2.4m. It also refreshes more often and more accurately than the native GPS, which at times just stops for a wee rest instead of guiding me to my actual goal.

The upshot? As you can see in the satellite image below, the Garmin GLO put us right on the walking track, while the GPS in my Samsung Galaxy was pointing some 33.7m up a ridge!

In geocaching terms, that’s very probably a frustrating DNF, and a few nasty scratches from branches.

garmin glo forestIN SUMMARY: If you are a phone-based geocacher, this is a highly recommended device. It’s easy, accurate and inexpensive. With the Garmin GLO, you can usefully attempt those tricky bush-covered caches with as much chance of success as users of a standard GPS unit.”

SATELLITE RATING:

SatellitesOnly down one because of the lack of instruction on setup.

 

*Check out this GPS Store video on using a Garmin GLO with an iPad:

6 comments

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  1. Rick

    I’ve seen a number of complaints about the power management on the Glo – specifically that it’s easy to turn it on in a bag and that there’s no way to query the battery level. “In the field the unit died immediately” is typical. Have you had any experience with that?

    I’m also wondering how the sensitivity compares to the other Garmin GPSr units available. I’ve got a 62S that’s much more accurate than my iPhone under the heavy tree cover we have in the Pacific Northwest, but wow do I dislike the interface on it.

  2. Geof

    That’s a fair comment. The positioning of the on / off switch does leave it vulnerable to an accidental power up. This being said I’ve never ran out of battery on it, but I am a bit of a compulsive charger, and carry a in car charger for the plethora of devices that life seems to revolve around.

    I am going on a bit of a geo-frenzy today, which will probably span 12 hours, so that will give it a good test, and next weekend a group of us are going on a mission, so we’ll compare notes and post a follow up.

  3. Rick

    Thanks. I’ll be looking forward to the frenzied/mission results. Good luck!

  4. Geof

    So…yesterdays mission ended up being 101 caches throughout rural Wairarapa. Dirt roads, in and out of cell coverage.

    The Glo lasted the mission length of twelve hours, and started indicating low battery an hour and a half after that. I did manage to turn it off in my pocket once, and did have a couple of Bluetooth disconnects, mostly because of an application (On-X) that was running on my handset turning off Bluetooth.

    On the other hand, my Galaxy died after 90 minutes on the job.

    That being said, the accuracy was fantastic.

    Thank goodness for car chargers!

  5. Rick

    That sounds like a geocaching frenzy all right. It’s good to hear that it worked so well. I may need to pick one up. Thanks for the update.

  6. Marty

    What are you using with the GLO? I have it working with Bluetooth GPS but that app seems to lackthe ability to store a waypoint or point of interest.

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