The other week I mentioned that I was looking for a way to geo-tag my photos and came across the QSTARZ BT-1000X gps data logger. Now that I’ve got my hands on this little GPS unit does it live up to my expectations and deliver a simple geo-tagging solution?
The QSTARZ BT-1000X data logger
What’s in the box?
The QSTARZ BT-1000X data logger gps unit, car charger, USB Sync/Charge cable, leather pouch/belt holder, manual and software CD-ROM.
QSTARZ BT-1000X GPS data logger specification:
- POI button: Record point of interesting by pushing the red button
- 32 channel: Base on MTK chipset solution, can trace signals for 32 satellites simultaneously. The fast position fix, cold start < 36 sec, hot start< 1 sec
- GPS Chip MTK GPS Module
- Frequency L1, 1575.42MHz
- Tracking -158 dBm
- Cold Start: 36 sec, average
- Warm Start: 33 sec, average
- Hot Start: 1 sec, average
- Reacquisition: < 1 sec.
- Bluetooth: V1.2 compliant (SPP profile)
- Class 2 (15 meters in open space)
- Frequency: 2.4~2.4835 GHz
- Power On/Off Slide switch
- Power Charge Mini USB
- NMEA-0183 (V3.01) – GGA, GSA,GSV, RMC(default); VTG, GLL(Optional), Baud rate 115200 bps, Data bit : 8, stop bit : 1(Default)
- 72.2 (L) X 46.5 (W) X 20 (H) mm
- Standard Fully Compliant with USB2.0
- Full – Speed 12Mbps
Looking around the device:
There isn’t a great deal to see to be honest, looking at the top/front there’s a small red button that’s used for marking waypoints or points of interest. Around this button you’ll find 3 LED’s that indicate when the unit is charging or needs charging, is connected via bluetooth and has a GPS signal.
QSTARZ BT-1000X LED display
On the right hand side of the unit there’s a single mini-USB connector that’s used to download/upload data as well as to charge the device.
QSTARZ BT-1000X right side
On the left hand side of the GPS unit is a three-position switch. There’s the obvious off position and then in the middle is the NAV mode. With the switch in this position the unit works like a regular external Bluetooth GPS receiver. Putting the switch in to the LOG position records the GPS position and time in to the units memory at give time intervals.
QSTARZ BT-1000X left side
There isn’t much more to be seen on the unit apart from a removable cover on the bottom which allows you to replace the battery.
- Fast acquisition
- Excellent reception, even indoors
- Long battery life
- Accuracy while moving
- Software badly translated from Chinese to English
- Only PC drivers
- Accuracy while stationary
The QSTARZ BT-1000X comes in a neat and well presented box and has all the cables and software that you need to get up and running and it really doesn’t take long to get started.
First of all the battery has to be installed in the unit, this means simply removing the bottom cover and inserting the battery. According to the manual we’ll have to charge the battery for 16 hours the first time but as we can sync and charge at the same time we can set the unit up at the same time.
All of the software that you need to set up and use the QSTARZ BT-1000X is supplied on an 8cm CD-ROM. This is a bit of a problem for me (and quite a few people these days) as I have a laptop with a slot loading CD/DVD drive that cant take these small disks. So we have to go to another PC to copy the install files to the laptop. No big deal but worth considering.
On the disk we have three main items. First of all we have the software driver so that our PC will recognise the GPS unit, naturally we have to install this first and we need to make sure we complete the driver installation before we connect up the GPS. Once the driver is installed and the GPS connected Windows reports that a new GPS device is connected and working.
Next it’s time to install the software. First we install the Travel Recorder PC utility. This application is used to configure the GPS unit, upload the AGPS data and to download the recorded tracking data. Here we can also change the logging settings so that the unit logs the position every X seconds or based on movement, every X metres.
The first thing I did here was to upload the AGPS data to the GPS unit. This takes just a few seconds and the AGPS data is valid for 5 days. I’m not sure why it’s only 5 days as most other GPS units I have used have AGPS data for 7 days. This cant be changed though.
Turning the unit in to logging mode by moving the switch to log the GPS LED is initially solid orange, this means that the unit is on and looking for a signal. Within about 20 seconds the orange light begins to flash. The flashing orange means that the unit has a GPS fix and is logging data at the previously defined interval. The amount of time the unit takes to get a GPS fix is truly amazing – sitting indoors with the unit on the table and starting it from cold it will generally establish a fix in well under one minute.
The QSTARZ BT-1000X has an amazing reception, the bulk of the unit must be an antenna. Having use the unit for the past few weeks it’s actually more unusual for it not to have a GPS fix, I’ve been using it in the car, on the train, in the office and in each case, despite being either in my pocket or in my laptop bag the unit barely misses a beat. In fact it seems to be quite difficult to block this unit from picking up a GPS fix!
The battery life of this unit is also impressive. Leaving the unit switched on in log mode the battery easily lasts a couple of days. When the battery begins to run low the power LED flashes red but obviously you have to remember to check the unit to see this and because the unit just works and is pretty much trouble-free it’s easy to forget this.
The QSTARZ BT-1000X also has a dedicated NAV mode where it can be used as a ‘normal’ external Bluetooth GPS receiver. In NAV mode the unit pairs easily with your PDA and gives you the benefit of an extremely accurate and sensitive GPS unit. Sure there are plenty of mobile devices with built in GPS but show me one that can get a cold GPS fix in seconds and will work almost anywhere and have a battery life measured in days. Built in GPS units are poor in comparison.
One feature that is undocumented on the QSTARZ BT-1000X is that if you set up a Bluetooth partnership with your mobile then you can connect to the GPS even when it’s in LOG mode so you can use the logging feature and navigation feature at the same time. As I’ve been carrying the QSTARZ BT-1000X in my bag with it switched on all the time I’ve found this feature to be really useful – when I want to use Sat Nav on my mobile I simply turn on TomTom and because the GPS is already on and working and has a position fix I can start using the Sat Nav within seconds rather than waiting for the internal GPS to acquire a signal which in some cases can take several minutes. This is a handy feature but remember to set the Bluetooth partnership up with the unit in NAV mode as it’s not discoverable in LOG mode.
Apart from the device drivers there are two main software titles on the CD-Rom that comes with the unit.
The first is the GPS Travel Recorder Utility. In addition to being used to configure the GPS unit as I’ve already briefly mentioned, the Travel Recorder Utility is where you’ll download your GPS log data. There are a number of ways to use your GPS track data. You can display your tracks on a map thanks to the Google Maps plugin, you can export your track data in a number of formats so that you can use it with other software or you can use it to add geotagging data to your photographs.
It’s the geotagging that I was particularly interested in. Before you go ahead and use the unit and your camera you’ll want to make sure that the date and time is set correctly on your camera. The software uses the time stamp on the image in combination with the GPS track in order to work out where the photo was taken.
In practice the process is really simple – when you get back from taking all your photos you transfer them to a folder on your computer and then open up the Travel Recorder to download the GPS data. Once you have loaded your GPS track you simply point the software at the folder containing all of your photos and it will then go through them all looking at the times from the exif data and then work out where you were when the photo was taken. Having done this is will then show you the positions on the map. You also have the option of writing the GPS position data back to the EXIF of the Image file which is really handy if you are going to be using the photos in another application that supports geotagging such as iPhoto or Flickr.
The software even allows you to create funky webpages with maps and photos.
GPS Travel Recorder Utility
The last piece of software on the CD is called Visual GPS. This is a more simple piece of software that allows you to connect to the GPS and see position data and satellite information in real-time. It show you the raw data being received from the GPS unit as well as your altitude, speed etc.
It’s useful to see what the GPS is up to at any given time and to check that it’s working but I think that it’s use is fairly limited. You cant make any configuration changes in this application although you can capture and save GPS data as an NMEA file if you want.
The QSTARZ BT-1000X is an excellent GPS unit for both data logging and GPS navigation. Definitely the best and most sensitive unit I have ever used. I bought it for geo-tagging photos but ended up using it as an external GPS unit with my HTC Touch Diamond.
I just wish that they unit had drivers for the Mac even if I could just download the data from the units memory.
If you are looking for a way to geo-tag your photos to use with iPhoto, Googlemaps of Flickr then the combination of the QSTARZ BT-1000X and the supplied software really does mean that it’s a piece of cake.
The QSTARZ BT-1000X gets my thumbs up!
Posted by: Matt
[ Post Tags: QSTARZ, BT-Q1000X, GPS, data logger, tracyandmatt.co.uk ]