Accessory GPS for iPads plus: Dual XGPS150 vs Bad Elf
Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed testing two of the very few Apple-certified devices that can supply GPS to a WiFi-only iPad, as well as the iPod Touch. They are the Bad Elf, which is available at Amazon for $99, and the Dual XGPS 150, similarly available at Amazon for $100. The news is all good; both worked fine with every charting and mapping app I tried, which were many (a few here), and I think both validate the premise discussed when the Elf was first announced, that it’s unnecessary to buy a 3G iPad just to get the GPS. I must say, though, that the Bad Elf might have better prospects if the Dual hadn’t come along so soon…
The refresh rate of a GPS is another important factor and while I can’t find specs for either the Elf or the Dual, I can tell you that both can keep up pretty well with my truck at around-town speeds (too early for on water testing around here). The Bad Elf system does include a utility app that easily updates it with firmware and/or the A-GPS info which purportedly helps it to get a fix quicker. In fact, I was amazed to see it acquire a location when I was 50 feet inside a mid-town Manhattan street level garage, but I didn’t have the Dual then and up here can see little difference between their start-up times. Both are decent, and both units seem to hold their fixes inside buildings and vehicles about as well as what I’ve seen from fairly current handhelds and high-end phones (like my Droid Incredible).
I’ve never been able to use the i-Blue with my Touch or iPad and apparently never will because now that Apple finally supports Bluetooth GPS it apparently does so in its own damn way. Which is why the Dual XGPS150 has that little switch you can see in the diagram below. But the switch works and I didn’t have any trouble pairing the Dual with a netbook running Coastal Explorer Express or Polar View. And it was only on the netbook that I could see all the GPS info the Dual has to share and, maybe more important, only there did I get serious alarming if I turned the Dual off. I digress, but all of you using iThing charting apps ought to check into just what notification you get when the fix is lost or the GPS fails completely.
At any rate, my personal first choice is the Dual XGPS, because I like the wireless trade-offs, but the Bad Elf ain’t bad. And easiest of all is just to get a 3G iPad, and I must note that they’re making the data plans so flexible that folks who think they’ll never use one just might. By the way, the third iThing GPS accessory I know of is the GNS 5870 MFI GPS BT, which comes from Germany but is also available at Amazon for about $100. And finally there’s the interesting but tentative news that those with iPhone mobile hotspot capabilities can stream GPS along with Internet to WiFi-only iPads.