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Seidio G4850 GPS Car Kit

Mon Nov 21, 2005 - 5:41 PM EST - By James Hromadka

Overview

GPS devices have generally been nothing more than a toy for me. I've reviewed several over the years, but none had a good combination of GPS technology and navigational software. There are several options now available for the Treo 650 that I will be reviewing. First up is the Seidio G4850M Car Kit, an excellent car kit that provides stellar GPS usability and passable speakerphone capabilites.


The Cradle


When I first started using GPS devices, they were almost unusable inside a car. That problem seems to be a thing of the past. The G4850M has an integrated SiRF Star III GPS chipset in the cradle that is very sensitive (-159dBm) and acquires a GPS satellite lock within seconds of plugging the Treo into the cradle. The speaker on the G4850M is quite loud and unlike the G2500M is on the front of the cradle so audio is directed towards you. The left side of the cradle has mic and audio out jacks, while the right side of the cradle has DC OUT and power connections. Seidio has done a much better job of designing the cradle. It is contoured and curves around the speaker, so you are less likely to hit it with your hand when turning the steering wheel.

The car kit includes an 8" adjustable windshield mount and an air vent pedestal. Slide the cradle onto the swivel plate first so you can adjust the cradle's angle better, then secure it to either the windshield mount or the air vent pedestal. An optional mounting solutions kit ($14.95) offers other means of securing the cradle. For my car ('97 Toyota Celica), it was better for me to use the optional 14" windshield mount.

Once secured, the G4850M stayed firmly in place for the duration of my testing. The Treo slides into place in the G4850M with a mild click; you have to hold the cradle firmly when removing the Treo, which I liked because I was less worried about the Treo falling out of the cradle when hitting a pothole. The Treo of course charges while in the cradle.


GPS Usability


I was very impressed with the SiRF Star III GPS chipset in the G4850. After sliding the Treo into the cradle, a satellite lock takes anywhere from 5-30 seconds to get a full satellite lock. You can either use your own GPS navigational software or purchase the G4850M with Tom Tom Navigator 5. I highly recommend this software. While it has an annoying product activation sequence the first time you use it, its maps were very accurate, and the software adjusts its directions on the fly while driving. The 3D map view made navigating the streets and highways of Houston a breeze, and there is a plethora of options in the program. I'm not going to go into too much detail on Tom Tom for this review, but I will say that it has all the features you would expect in a navigational program, like trip planning and finding alternative routes, as well as optional extras like traffic and weather information. Its desktop conduit works with both Macs and PCs.

The coolest feature of Tom Tom is its voice prompts for directions. You can get voice instructions in over 30 languages in both male and female voices. I really have a thing for women with British accents, so my voice is Jane (English UK). The voice commands tell you when to turn and aren't overused, so they don't become annoying. Voice commands were strong and clearly heard over my radio's volume. You can adjust the volume using the volume dial on the G4850M and also in Tom Tom Navigator by tapping in the bottom-left of the screen.

Maps are stored on the Treo's SD card. The map I needed included Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana and was a little over 140MB in size, so I recommend buying at least a 512MB SD memory card. I found the maps to be very accurate, and the 3D view made it easy to compare the maps with the freeway overpasses and streets that I drove past. I found that the maps were spot-on with the exception of a few areas that had recent construction. Updates to the program are available from Tom Tom's website.


Speakerphone


The GPS capabilities of the G4850M gets most people's attention, but the cradle can also serves as a speakerphone. The external mic cable can be hooked onto your car's visor and provided mixed results. I left a few voicemails on my answering machine and found that my voice was clearly heard but engine noise was loud as well, so the mic does not seem to cancel noise very well. The speaker provided clear output of the other caller, but it was necessary to turn up the volume of the cradle in order to hear the other caller.

I'm a big fan of Bluetooth headsets, so I was really bummed that you cannot use a Bluetooth headset while the Treo is in the G4850M cradle if you are a GSM user (T-Mobile or Cingular). This issue does not affect Sprint and Verizon Treo owners. If you want to use a Bluetooth headset instead of the G4850M's speakerphone, you will want something like the G2350S car kit that has GPS abilities but no speaker.

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