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Treo Smartphone GPS | Five Treo GPS Solutions Under the Microscope

Following my previous post about “Travelling with a Treo 650 GPS in my Pocket” and based on the number of emails that I’ve received asking me for additional information it looks like a great many Treonauts have been discovering the benefits of having a GPS in their hands.

In order to really do a proper job evaluating the various options I decided to add two more GPS units to my collection so that I have now had the opportunity to test five in total.  These are listed below in no particular order:

  1. TomTom Navigator 5 Bundle ($299.95)
  2. Palm GPS Navigator ($239.95)
  3. TomTom 5 + Bluetooth GPS ($279.95)
  4. EMTAC + Bluetooth GPS ($279.95)
  5. Seidio G2500M TomTom 5 + Bluetooth GPS ($399.95)

As I’ve mentioned previously, a GPS solution consists of a hardware and software component.  In the case of hardware, please note that all of the GPS units above are Bluetooth but there are other wired ones (which I would not recommend).  In the case of software, all except EMTAC’s also include the excellent and critical TomTom 5 Navigator Software (please read my previous post for a more in-depth review of this).

The thing that Treonauts have been specifically asking me most about and which I’ll focus on here are the differences in the ‘overall package’ that each of the available GPS solutions comes with and so this is what I will discuss below.

Basic GPS Bundle Differences
I wish you didn’t need to know this but in order to be able to understand the hardware differences across these GPS units you will need to know a little about GPS chipsets.

There are basically two leading GPS chipset manufacturers – SiRF and Nemerix (think of Intel versus AMD) – and each have different chip models.  SiRF offers a Star II and III chipset while Nemerix offers another.  Based on the number of these GPS solutions with a SiRF chipset I have to assume that it is the leading company.

The main thing to know here is that a SiRF Star III chipset is capable of tracking up to 20 simultaneous satellites providing greater tracking accuracy while a SiRF Star II is limited to 12.  Having said this, I have tested both and it was extremely difficult to tell the difference between the one and the other.  Nemerix’ tracks 16 and therefore sits somewhere in between the previous two.

Please note that all GPS units are in the order of the above comparison chart but excludes the EMTAC unit since this one doesn’t have the TomTom Navigator 5 software in its bundle.

TomTom Navigator 5 Bundle ($299.95)
This is the ‘official’ TomTom bundle which includes both their Navigator 5 software and a GPS SiRF Star III unit designed by them.  There is no doubt that the GPS unit is by far the slickest and most elegant of all the ones that I tested and it also happens to be the slimmest.

From a ‘kit’ perspective however, TomTom’s bundle is the weakest of all as it only includes a vehicle power adapter and will ideally require a separate Vehicle Mount ($19.95) and possibly also a Car Charger ($14.95) for your Treo.

Palm GPS Navigator ($239.95)
There is no doubt that Palm’s package is the most complete of all as it includes not only the TomTom Navigator 5 software but also a full kit of extra accessories such as a windshield mounting bracket and suction cup pad, USB charger and a dual vehicle power adapter which allows you to charge both the GPS unit and your Treo at the same time.

As I mentioned previoiusly, the only drawback (albeit not a major one) is that the GPS unit itself uses a SiRF Star II chipset and arguably the fact that it’s not the prettiest unit to look at.  Having said this, at only $239 this is a hard package to beat.

TomTom 5 + Bluetooth GPS ($279.95)
This particular bundle includes an appealing package consisting of a SiRF Star III GPS unit and the TomTom Navigator 5 software.  The GPS unit itself is solidly and elegantly built with the longest operating time (17 hours).

Although it doesn’t have a full windshield mounting bracket, this package does however include a air vent mounting bracket, a soft leather carrying case (with belt loop) and a dual vehicle charger (cannot charge your Treo though).

EMTAC + Bluetooth GPS ($279.95)
Although EMTAC’s is a solid GPS unit that I’ve had absolutely no problems using, this package unfortunately lacks the TomTom Navigator 5 software and I have thus chosen to skip my review of it.  In the future the Treonauts Shop may stock another bundle that will include a full SiRF Star III unit as well as TomTom’s Navigator software and I will take another look at it then.

Seidio G2500M TomTom 5 + Bluetooth GPS ($399.95)
Like Palm’s, Seidio’s accessories package is extremely complete and includes a Nemerix chipset GPS unit.  However, I was extremely disappointed with the cradle mount which includes a speakerphone whose volume I found extremely low and also poor sound.  I quickly dismissed this package because of its price and the issue of the speakerphone even though the GPS unit itself and the bundled TomTom Navigator 5 software are evidently good.

At the end of this rather long post I’m sure that you’d like to know what GPS bundle I would recommend.

Firstly, one thing that I’ve made clear is that I would not choose one that didn’t have the TomTom Navigator 5 software included so this currently leaves out the EMTAC from my list.  Secondly, I guess that it boils down to a question of aesthetics, need and budget.   

On the aesthetics front there is no doubt that the TomTom Navigator 5 Bundle is the best choice (closely followed by the TomTom 5 + Bluetooth GPS) and it also benefits from a SiRF III chipset but is not the cheapest at $299 and will also require a separate Vehicle Mount ($19.95) since this is not included in the package.

On the budget front the clear winner is the Palm GPS Navigator bundle which not only has the largest and most comprehensive accessories package but is also the cheapest at $239.  The GPS unit may only use a SiRF Star II chipset but as I mentioned any drawbacks from this were not immediately noticeable in my tests.

Whatever you decide, I can almost guarantee that once you get started using a GPS solution with your Treo 650 you will not only find it an absolutely amazing experience but will soon also begin to wonder how you managed to drive around without one for so long…

Treonauts rarely get lost anymore

Posted by Andrew on October 28, 2005 at 03:31 PM

Treo Accessories , Treo GPS

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by lee | Jun 2, 2006 12:05:50 PM

Also, in addition to my two questions above, can you get topo trail maps for it?

Thank you!

by Trey | Jun 6, 2006 10:45:53 AM

is there anyway to use a desktop software ona PC to add/plan routes, POI's, etc...for Navigator 5 on a treo 650?

by Andrew | Jun 6, 2006 10:53:42 AM

Trey - a TomTom desktop software is not currently available for the Treo Navigator solution. However, because a desktop software is available for some of TomTom's other products I would hope that we will some day also have one that we can use with the Navigator software.

Cheers, A.

by J Hodder | Jul 24, 2006 5:06:32 PM

I am interested in how this software interacts with the phone. Can you still use the phone while gps'ing it. Also, do you have to use a headset to hear the turn by turn directions. If so can it be a bluetooth headset and how does that interact with the phone.

These are operational questions I would like to know before purchasing the unit.

by GoldJay | Aug 2, 2006 4:57:48 PM

I just bought TomTom for my Treo650. Can anyone help to tell me how to enter addresses to the GPS via Contact (in Treo) w/o retyping. Thanks!

by Hector | Aug 23, 2006 7:19:10 PM

Good stuff

by Robert | Sep 30, 2006 8:18:35 PM

I have the TomTom Navigator. You cannot use a Bluetooth headset while using the bluetooth GPS unit. My experience is that you should turn off your Bluetooth headset and have a wired headset available if your planning to use the GPS functions for an extended period. Your calls will come through and can be answered while using the GPS functions but in order to make a call you have to exit the GPS application, make the call, then turn the GPS app back on, which I do by pressing and holding N (mapped this key to the GPS navigation program)if you have a route planned it will start back up without having to re-enter the info. Just don't do this real close to a turn or freeway change in your route.

by Ken | Nov 5, 2006 9:10:54 PM

Does anyone know how or where to get a replacement power cable to charge the Treo 700 and the Palm GPS unit simultaneously? I had one when I bought that Palm kit (which I love) but the cable is now gone. PLEASE HELP!!!

by Ari | Dec 3, 2006 6:18:33 PM

Hi. First time poster- sorry if I'm missing anything on protocol but could use some advice. I have a treo 650 and am trying to figure out how to use my bluetooth headset while still navigating with gps. As far as I can tell from reading and trying it you can't use two bluetooth devices at once, so I was thinking a wired GPS might make more sense but I can't seem to find one. The Holux GPSlim Receiver SOUNDS like it has a wired option but I can't find anyone mentioning using it with a treo specifically...

I'm quite fond of the TomTom navigator six software I've been trying so something that works with that would be great. Err... speaking of which, does anyone know if I there a way to move the SD card based stuff to a bigger card so I don't need to keep swapping it out every time I want to use the gps? (or is it hardcoded to the card it came with?).

Thanks a lot!

by Iris | Dec 25, 2006 10:04:08 AM

Hi- new poster here!

First off- Merry Christmas!

OK, onto my problem. I have a 700w and every time I go to use active sync it syncs nothing! If I use the wireless sync, it syncs everything except for files that I need to be uploaded, including the voices I select on my tom tom nav 5. Can you help?

Thanks so much!

by miles | Dec 28, 2006 11:30:46 AM

I am very interested in purchasing the GPS unit but have concerns about additional cost. In order to run it does it require a data plan with your provider or a seperate subsciption with tomtom? THese are the only things keeping me from purchasing this great product!

by Andrew | Dec 28, 2006 11:59:23 AM

Miles - TomTom does NOT require you to pay a subscription fee and you also do not need a data plan. All of the required GPS data is included in the TomTom package.

Cheers, A.

by Bill | Jan 1, 2007 8:33:10 PM

At the risk of sounding like a total moron, I'll ask anyway. I'm going to be traveling in Europe and am wondering if my verizon treo650 with TT6 software and gps, will work there? I don't have a global phone, so I'm concerned I will need to 'connect' to my provider, in order to use TT software/gps. If I have the europe maps, is that all I need?

by kevin | Jan 5, 2007 12:35:25 AM

i have tom tom bluetooth receiver hooked to my treo700w. all is well. i also have acivetrace software loaded htat basically tracks all day movements and outputs geocodes to text message or email. what i want to do is take realtime treophotos and have the geocodes tagged to the photos as i take them. i could then just send them up to flicker real time and tagged. is there that will take the photo as it is taken, mash these two inputs on the fly so that i could simply send the pictures and somebody else would automatically see where i was real time. for instance my family skiing all day

by Bubba | Jan 10, 2007 11:08:24 AM

I have been a Treo 600 then 650 user for a while, and for some weird reason JUST found this site! Awesome! I am probably going to go with the Palm GPS navigator package, but want to make sure I understand one thing: The Treo 650 BT only allows one unit to connect at a time, right? ie I can't be on bluetooth headset babbling along with the GPS tracking through the phone as well, correct? Is there a software/firmware update/hack to correct this?
Andrew, thanks for a great site! I give GPS classes and have a variety of Garmin units which I love. If I can help with any GPS general questions, please let me know.
Thanks again!

by anthony | Feb 3, 2007 1:18:28 AM

i see most of the gps stuff is for the 650 treo , anything in the works for the 680 treo and why doesnt it work on both ,,, thanks for your time

by Brian McGregor | May 5, 2007 8:03:08 AM

Can anyone tell me what GPS kits for TREO offer marine navigation charts (if any) - like the Garmin Blue Water Charts? Thanks.

by Brian McGregor | May 5, 2007 8:03:39 AM

Can anyone tell me what GPS kits for TREO offer marine navigation charts (if any) - like the Garmin Blue Water Charts? Thanks.

by Mike Willett | May 17, 2007 1:58:53 PM

Bought the Tom Tom Navigator for Palm about two weeks ago and absolutely love it on my 650. One comment, the instructions are almost non existant, and the "tour" doesn't help much. Many questions remain unanswered, so be prepared for trial and error. Read all you can here, that will help, but honestly, isn't it time to go back to descent instruction books? I would even be willing to download it and print it myself. Trying to walk through the "tour", remember what to do, then do it, is difficult, and besides, the amount of information is seriously lacking. Other than that, it's wonderful.

by jazmaan | Jun 3, 2007 9:17:07 PM

Having the luxury of being able to compare TomTom's software to the BMW proprietary navigation software, I have to say that while the TomTom is much easier to use and has many more features, it is nowhere near as ACCURATE as it should be. It will tell you that the next turn is 400 yards ahead when it is really closer to 400 FEET ahead. It seems to have only a vague idea of where your vehicle is, and until your car is actually moving down the road, it doesn't even know which way your car is pointed. And if you drive off the road into a parking lot - forgetaboutit. Compare that to the BMW navigation which always seems to know EXACTLY where your car is and how its oriented, even when its off the road, and which guides you accurately from lane to lane. The BMW software will tell you "Bear left and continue down the road for 1.5 miles" - while the TomTom software in the same situation will just say "left turn ahead" making you think a left turn is imminent. The TomTom software won't even give you directions in miles or fractions of a mile. Instead it says "400 yards", "800 yards" or "1000 yards". I could get used to that if the measurements were accurate but they're not! I absolutely trust the BMW software, but I always take the TomTom advice with a healthy degree of skepticism.

by AJ | Nov 20, 2007 7:09:31 PM

I cant receive a signal on palm gps navigator! it keeps saying searching signal! the person who sold me the kit said it needs an antenna connection! is that correct!!

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