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Appeared on: Thursday, February 23, 2006
i-Blue PS3200


1. Introduction

While various manufacturers mostly use the SiRF chipsets, ITerNet introduced onto the market a product based on a different chipset manufacturer. The device promises very good reception, combined with low battery consumption and a patented auto on/off bluetooth function. The device is the I-blue PS3200, which we test against the BT-338 from Globalsat, a well known SiRF III enabled GPS device. Firstly, lets get some background information on ITerNet the company.

- ITerNet background

ITerNet was founded by Macstek and Acon Inc., with its international headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan. So far, ITerNet has developed the myPower Series with Tekkeon, and handle all markets apart from the United States. ITerNet products are available through major distributors and retailers worldwide, providing not only do own-brand name products, but also OEM/ODM as well.

- i-Blue PS3200

The i-Blue PS3200 is a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver with a wireless Bluetooth interface. i-Blue is well suited to system integration with PDAs, smart phones, Tablet PCs and Notebook PCs. It can satisfy a wide variety of applications such as PDA and smart phone navigation, automotive vehicle tracking, personal positioning and sporting. With dimensions of 69.6mm (L) x 47.3mm (W) x 19.2mm (H) and weighing only 72g (with battery), the i-Blue is an ideal carry everywhere solution.

The low-power design has extended the operating time up to 30 hours, making it not only convenient but also the longest lasting device of its kind. With the lead-free production process (starting Jan. 1, 2006), i-Blue is the most environmentally friendly wireless GPS receiver on the market.

According to ITerNet, i-Blue PS-3200 has a couple of distinguishing features which other devices don't have. The first feature is that the i-Blue PS-3200 can take advantage of Bluetooth's connecting status to determine its own operation mode. The i-Blue PS-3200 can automatically enter sleeping mode after Bluetooth connectivity is turned off, thus saving 25% in power consumption and extending the operation time up to 30 hours. This is the i-Blue PS-3200's Smart Power Save Mechanism. The second feature is that when re-connecting with a Bluetooth device, the i-Blue PS-3200 will wake up automatically. This is i-Blue PS-3200's Fuzzy Auto On/Off feature.

- Used chipset

The i-Blue PS3200 uses the NemeriX NJ1006A which is coupled to the NJ1030A base band processor, with a total power consumption of less than 25mW. The full specs can be found below:

Category Parameter Description
General GPS technology NEMERIX GPS Module
Frequency L1, 1575.42 MHz
C/A Code 1.023 MHz chip rate
Channels 16 channels all in view tracking
Sensitivity -155dBm
Receiver Accuracy Position 1.2 meters Static CEP 50,
3.0 meters Static CEP 95;
1.3 meters Static Altitude 50,
3.8 meters Static Altitude 95
Velocity 0.1 m/sec, without SA
Time + 100ns synchronized to GPS time
Datum Datum WGS-84
Acquisition Time Hot start 5 sec, average
Warm start 34 sec, average
Cold start 46 sec, average
Reacquisition <3sec
Protocol GPS Output Data NMEA 0183 (V3.01) - GGA, GSA, GSV, RMC(default); VTG, GLL (optional)
Baud rate 115200 bps,
Data bit: 8, Stop bit: 1 (Default)
Limitations Acceleration Limit <2G
Altitude Limit <18,000 meters
Velocity Limit <515 meters/sec.
Jerk Limit 20 m/sec.
Power Battery Built-in rechargeable 1050mAh Lithium battery
Operation Current 25mA@3.7V(w/o Bluetooth)
32mA@3.7V(w/ Bluetooth)
Operation Time Up to 30 hrs, after fully charged.
Charging Time 3hrs. (Typical)
Standby Time 3More than 360 hrs, after fully charged.
More than 48 hrs. (when low power LED starts blinking)
Charger Protection Built-in Over Temperature / Over Voltage protection
Physical Characteristics Dimension 69.6mm x 47.3mm x 19.2mm
Weight 72g
Temperature Operating -10 C~ 60 C
Storage -20 C ~ 85 C
Humidity 5% to 95% non-condensing

Comparing both chipsets, we can see that:

1. NemeriX doesn't support WAAS/Egnos, at least this is what ITerNet told us

2. NemeriX has less channels in view compared with the SiRF III (16 vs 20)

3. NemeriX has lower sensitivity (-155dBm) than the SiRF III (-159dBm)

4. NemeriX has higher acquisition times than the SiRF III

Judging from the specs, it appears that the NemeriX chipset's performance is not as good as the SiRF III, but we will have to wait for our real life tests to see if this is indeed the case.


2. Features

- Features

  1. 16 Channels "All-In-View" Tracking
  2. Cold/Warm/Hot Start Time: 46/34/5 Seconds
  3. Reacquisition Time: <3 seconds
  4. Support Standard NMEA 0183 (V3.01)
  5. Support Power Saving Mode
  6. Compatible with Bluetooth devices with Serial Port Profile (SPP)
  7. Ultra small, sleek and lightweight design, easily fits in your hand
  8. Li-polymer battery lasts for more than 32 hours with Smart Power Control

For our testing purposes, ITerNet sent us the retail package that includes:

The current price for the product is around US$105.00, as found around the net.

The retail package is certainly one of the best looking and most complete packages we have received, after testing many GPS devices.

The contents of the retail package are shown below.

Looking at the device, we can see on the top surface the 3D logo and the on/off slider switch on the side at left. On the top, there are also three LEDs which indicate the various activities of the device.

Below are listed the various conditions and their respective meanings for each of the three LEDs.

On the left hand side, there is also the external antenna jack, while on the right is the mini USB connection port. Something to note, is that underneath, there are no anti-slide rubber feet, which means that unless you use the included rubber mat (see images further down), your GPS device is going to slide around on your dashboard.

The included Li-Ion battery is rated at 3.7V with 1050mAh capacity.

Removing the battery, we can see some product details for the i-Blue PS3200, including the serial number.

The battery can be easily removed and installed.

The package includes two chargers, one for AC electrical wall socket and one for the car. Since the device is USB compatible, it can be powered by a PC USB port as well! The included USB cable has very smart design cabling:

As we mentioned earlier, due to the fact that the device does not have and rubber feet or pads, so that it doesn't slide around on your dashboard or any other slippery surface, included is a mat.

You can use the mat in your car to keep the PS3200 in its place, usually your car's dashboard. However, from our tests, at least with the Audi A4, the device showed better stability without the included mat. It probably depends on where you plan to keep the BT device and the type of surface it will sit on.


3. Installation

To begin using the device, you must first fully charge it. From our tests, it took around 3 hours to fully charge the batteries. You have to press the right slider and then perform several simple steps on your PDA device, which in our case was a Dell Axim x50V with Windows Mobile 2003 SE. Start by accessing the bluetooth manager and tap New->Connect.

The PS3200 will show up with and ID of i-Blue.

Press Next->Select GPS OUTPUT-> Next

Done!

After accessing the BT Manager, right click->Connect

Our i-Blue was finally connected to our Dell Axim x50V PDA and ready to use! The device can be found on COM7 set to 4800 communications speed. Press the "Scan GPS" and if all goes well, you will see a lot of numbers scrolling down the screen. Unfortunately, all currently available drivers don't support the NemeriX chipsets, therefore we couldn't see the device's firmware version and other interesting info, as happens with the SiRF powered devices.


4. The Tests

- Tests Day One

We tested the i-Blue PS3200 with a Dell Axim X50v. We recorded all produced data for a pre-selected route with VisualGPSce (free edition) and later analyzed it with GPSLog. We couldn't measure the TTFF tests ("Time to First Fix" which is the time it takes for a GPS to determine its current position), since GPSInfo "Cold Start" function doesn't work with NemeriX chipsets. All tests ran continuously, under the same environmental conditions (night, clear sky, 2.5° C ) and all installed in an Audi, model A4 2004.

Globalsat BT-338 i-Blue PS3200
Time to First Fix (TTFF) Secs 38 sec ?
Fix Invalid 0 0
2D 0 12.5

3D

100 87.5
Satellites Average (in view) 8 8
Average (in use) 5.19 4.59
Average Signal Level (in dB) Maximum per Satellite 47.33 47.60
Average per Satellite 38.43 39.98

The i-Blue PS3200 showed mixed behaviour. First of all, the device didn't have a 100% 3D fix. That means, it couldn't "easily" track all available satellites. It reached a maximum of 8 satellites (in view), however only used 4.59 (average). Looking at the Signal Levels, we saw that NemeriX chipset reached higher max/average per satellite figures compared to the BT-338.

- Tests Day Two (Pedestrian use)

We tested the device with a Dell Axim X50v. We recorded all produced data for a pre-selected route with VisualGPSce (free edition) and later analyzed it with GPSLog. All tests ran continuously, under the same environmental conditions (day time, clear sky, 20° C ). We carried the device with us, walking. For this test, we enabled the "Static Navigation" on the GlobalSat BT-338. There is no such function available on the i-Blue PS-3200.

  Globalsat BT-338 i-Blue PS3200
Fix Invalid 0 0
2D 0 10.9

3D

100 89.1
Satellites Average (in view) 9 8.46
Average (in use) 7.07 5.52
Average Signal Level (in dB) Maximum per Satellite 43.50 43.60
Average per Satellite 35.53 37.40

It seems, the PS3200 can be used for pedestrian use. Again, we saw better reception levels than the BT-338 with, however, higher TTFT times and loss of 3D fix.

- Tests Day Three (External Antenna)

We tested the device with a Dell Axim X50v. We recorded all produced data for a pre-selected route with VisualGPSce (free edition) and later analyzed it with GPSLog. All tests ran continuously, under the same environmental conditions (night, clear sky, 2.5° C) and all installed in an Audi, model A4 2004. This time, we had installed an external antenna to the i-Blue PS3200 to see if it would make any difference, compared with the antenna-less version.

  i-Blue PS3200 i-Blue PS3200 +antenna
Fix Invalid 0 0
2D 10.9 5.2

3D

89.1 94.8
Satellites Average (in view) 8.46 11
Average (in use) 5.52 5.72
Average Signal Level (in dB) Maximum per Satellite 43.60 47.86
Average per Satellite 37.40 38.91

The external antenna did make a difference in the performance of the PS3200. The 3D fix times were lower, there were more satellites in view, and the Average Signal Levels (max/average) per satellite were better.

- Tests Day Four ( Indoor Sensitivity)

We placed both receivers inside a house, close to a big window and observed their performance. The Globalsat BT-338 had much quicker fix times (2D), almost 15 secs after power up, and even got a 3D fix after 1min of operation time. On the other hand, the i-Blue PS-3200, gave rather disappointing results since it didn't manage to find any satellites.

- Overall impressions

The i-Blue PS3200 performed well in most cases. Its most obvious weakness is that it doesn't offer a quick fix and most of the time, it looses its 3D fix, resulting in lower accuracy. On the other hand, the reception levels were very good, surpassing even the BT-338. Using an external antenna will further boost reception levels.

- Power Management Info

The PS-3200 is advertised as being capable of auto power on/off and being able to perform for up to 30 hours of continual operation or about 350 hours in sleep mode. If you make some quick calculations, using the device 2 hours per day and leaving it in sleep mode for the rest, it comes to around to a week of operation!

Before being able to use the internal power management functions, it is advised to pair the device (password four zero).When the device loses BT connectivity, it will turn itself off after 3mins (blue LED blinks every 3 secs). When the device finds BT near by (and assuming its has been paired with that device) it will turn itself on. If a BT device is found but is not paired, the i-Blue will not wake up, as is supposed to happen. The following diagram shows the logic behind the power management functions of the PS-3200.


5. Conclusion

The i-Blue PS3200 is an alternative proposal to the more common SiRF III chipset powered GPS devices. The device has a very attractive design and a good retail package, and can be connect an external antenna to further boost its reception. The auto on/off power management function can increase operating time to 32hours (waiting), despite the fact that the included battery is only rated at 1050mAh. The retail price is around US$105, making it a good alternative to the Globalsat BT-338 (US$120).

The Positive

The Negative



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