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The i-gotU GT-120 is the smallest, simplest GPS data logger I’ve ever used. About the size of a 9V battery, the unit has only one button and two lights. That’s it. In this review I intend to relate my experience using this device over the course of three months of travel which included a 2500 mile road trip across the USA, 1200km of road tripping in North New South Wales, Australia and finally a week spent driving around the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. I feel I’ve given this unit a thorough testing and here’s what I’ve found.
First, the stats.
This unit is very easy to use in the field. With one button, it’s hard to go wrong and it’s very easy for travel companions to use if you want to lend it out. Holding down the button will cause the blue LED to the right of the button to illuminate. Now you’re cooking with gas! Once a signal has been acquired both the blue and red light will flash twice in quick sequence to indicate a satellite lock has been established and a waypoint has been recorded. All the while, the blue light will continue to flash letting you know the unit is on the job. Shutting off the unit is just as easy as turning it on. Holding down the button will cause the red LED to illuminate for a couple of seconds, letting you know the unit is powering off.
In reality, I found signal acquisition to be well within my acceptable limit of two minutes when moved large distances (Philadelphia, USA to Brisbane, Australia). When kept in a relatively stagnant location between power cycles, the unit acquired and started logging within 30 seconds or less. For half of my trips the unit was placed on the dash of a vehicle (minivan, campervan and RV with overhang) where the rubberized cover became very useful to prevent sliding. For the other half of the trip the unit was either in a front shirt pocket or the pockets of my shorts.
From such a small unit I was not expecting much in the way of extreme accuracy while the unit was in my pocket. Frankly, I would have been happy with a location within 100′ of my actual spot on the Earth. What I found was there was little difference between when the unit was out in the open or close up to my body. Nor was the unit greatly affected by the large overhang in the RV. In fact, short of underground garages and the lower holds of BC Ferries, accuracy was within 40′ for more than 90% of the trips. I was impressed with the GT-120’s ability to both acquire and accurately record location in a wide variety of terrain and geographic locations.
My main complaint about the unit’s operation has to do with battery charging. This unit requires a USB connection to charge. While charging times are fairly short (full charge from dead in about an 40 minutes), I often travel to remote locations and leave my laptop at home. The unit can be plugged into a wall unit USB charging device, however, I prefer a unit that can run on standard batteries of some type. That being said, once this limitation is understood adaptations can easily be made. For the trips mentioned, I was not far from a laptop for more than a day. Battery life on the unit was close to nine hours of continuous use. Again, I was pleased with the performance on this statistic as I’d regularly leave the unit on for a full day of travel and photography. Only twice was I left without power, but that was due to my own inability to remember to plug in the unit.
One last note on field use. This unit was regularly nestled between a SPOT Personal Satellite Messenger and a Delorme GPS. Often times when there are multiple GPS devices in close proximately, the signal reception can degrade. I did not notice any such degradation beyond the acceptable parameters mentioned above. In other words, even when surround by unit with more powerful antennas, the SiRF chipset in GT-120 was able to receive enough signal to keep locations within a 40′ radius.
The GT-120 comes with its own software, called @trip PC (sorry, PC only). The software is basic and to the point. When a unit is plugged in the software will automatically start downloading track data. File structure is kept simple; each data set is marked with the time downloaded. I would have liked to see some customization in this feature but after data is downloaded, those file names can be changed. It’s just an extra step.
At this point my process diverges from the way @trip PC handles pictures. For me, I normally take a .gpx file and use other software to geotag images. But @trip PC can handle this all for me and even make a spiffy Google Map when it’s done. This is a great feature if you intend to share your photos with friends and family (it even comes complete with webserver space to handle your images and map). The map is familiar to those who use Google Maps and retains Googles easy of navigation while adding in photos and track data for easy clicking.
Sharing via the @trip server is straight forward, but not highly utilized at this time. Images can also be uploaded to Picasa Web Albums or Flickr, giving the software some true utility. The software can also export saved log files to the more popular GPX file format for use in any number of GPS programs and units.
I enjoyed both the size and simplicity of the i-gotU GT-120 I tested. The unit functioned as advertised and took a lot of beating during the three months it saw thousands of miles and kilometers. While I’d enjoy having a charging source available other than yet another USB cord, it suited my needs while on ‘connected’ road trips.
For more information on where to purchase a GT-120, check out their website.
Disclaimer: The author was provided with a complimentary item for the purpose of this review.