F-Tech's Solar 7 GPS device is unique, since it combines the strengths of the SiRF III chipset with a solar charger circuit built-in. According to F-Tech's website, there are two versions, one with SiRF III (tested) and one with Xemics (not tested). The Xemics version with power from a Solar panel, allows for up to 30 hours working, while the SiRF III manages up to 15 hours (+3hours). While we expected more power juice from a solar panel, we are not complaining about the extra working time. While it's not exactly clear, the device is battery based with power assistance from the solar panel.
Despite the fact that the Solar 7 is reputed for its solar panel, F-Tech suggests that:
"....Since the Solar Bluetooth GPS Receiver got high performance rechargeable lithium-ion battery, we are strongly recommend you not to place it under the sunshine for a long time..."
That means, if you put your Solar 7 on the dashboard under a hot, searing sun for a long time, it may fail. The fact that it is black doesn't help although it also comes in silver which may be more suitable, especially for locations with intense sun. Of course, the device can also be powered with artificial light, which sounds safer.
On the bright side, the embedded SiRF III shows its strength providing very good reception strength, as was expected, while the use of an external antenna will further improve reception.What may annoy power users, is the fact that the device cannot switch to SiRF mode and therefore doesn't offer numerous advanced features. The price for the Solar 7 is around US$100 which is cheaper than Globalsat's BT-338.
- SiRF III chipset
- Good retail package
- Car charger is included
- Very good performance
- Easy installation
- External antenna can be connected (optional cable)
- Device turns off after 15mins of inactivity
- Solar panel improves overall battery performance
- Device can be powered by artificial light
- Doesn't support any automatic power on mode
- Manufacturer suggests avoiding excessive exposure to sun
- Big size will trouble users who wish to carry it along
- Somewhat lower performance, compared with the Globalsat BT-338
- Device cannot switch to SiRF mode for advanced functions