Ranger NDS GPS System Review

Discussion in 'Official GBAtemp Reviews' started by Minox, Dec 24, 2009.

Dec 24, 2009

Ranger NDS GPS System Review by Minox at 12:04 AM (12,013 Views / 0 Likes) 0 replies

  1. Minox

    Supervisor Minox Spytech Employee

    Aug 27, 2007
    <font color="red">GBAtemp.net review of the...</font>

    <img src="http://gbatemp.net/news/gpsrangerlogo.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" />

    Manufactured in part by the <a href="http://m3adapter.com/" target="_blank">M3 Team</a>.
    Review written by <a href='http://gbatemp.net/member.php?name=Another World' target=_blank>Another World</a> – 11/15/09

    <b>Review Contents & Index:</b><ul><li> <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#a">Introduction</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#a1">- Official Feature List</a>
    </li><li> <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#b">Packaging and Contents</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#b1">- Box Contents</a>
    </li><li> <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#c">Unit Design</a>
    </li><li> <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#d">Setting Up & Using</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#d1">- Setup</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#d2">- Software</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#d3">- Software Usage</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#d4">- Software Usage</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#d5">- Performance</a></li><li> <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#e">Conclusion</a>
    <a style="text-decoration: none;" href="#e1">- Final Thoughts</a></li></ul><div class="reviewbreak"><a name="a"></a>Introduction</div>
    The Ranger NDS GPS System aims to provide users with a means to find their way through the use of a NDS add-on device and Google Maps. The unit breaks GPS down to its simplest roots; displaying the user’s current location on a pre-generated map. The review unit is a generation 1 model designed for Slot-2 insertion and relies on a separately attached GPS antenna.

    <a href="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/DSL%20-%20open.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/DSL%20-%20open,%20small.png" border="0" class="linked-image" /></a>

    <a name="a1"></a><b>Official Feature List:</b><ul><li>u-Blox 5 Modules</li><li>Frequency 1575.42 MHz (L1, C/A)</li><li>50-channel uBlox 5 engine with over 1 million effective correlations</li><li>.160 dBm tracking sensitivity</li><li>Supports AssistNow Online and AssistNow Offline A-GPS services</li><li>Supports SBAS (WASS, EGNOS, MSAS, GAGAN)</li><li>Antenna short and open circuit detection and protection for external Antennas</li><li>Homebrew Operations System for most NDS Flashcard</li><li>On-board SDRAM 32MB (256 Mbit)</li><li>USB to Serial Interface for Microsoft Windows 2000/2003/XP/Vista</li><li>RoHS compliant (lead-free)</li><li>Built-in low noise amplifier with 27 dB gain and 1.5 dB nose figure</li><li>8cm standard portable cable and 3m extension coaxial cable</li><li>Magnetic base suitable for mounting on car roof</li><li>Wide range of supply voltage: 27 to 6 V</li><li>CE Approval</li></ul><div class="reviewbreak"><a name="b"></a>Packaging and Contents</div>
    The Ranger GPS ships in a flimsy cardboard package, not unlike most Flash Linkers these days. The box provides minimal support but is thick enough to protect the system itself. The review sample box arrived with some dings and blunt edges, yet the contents remain safe.

    <a href="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Box, inlet.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Box, inlet, small.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" /></a> <a href="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Inlet.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Inlet, small.png" border="0" class="linked-image" /></a>

    The box is decorated with simple graphics which do not explain what is inside of the package. Users unfamiliar with what the package is might find themselves confused by the acronyms found on the back. A catch phrase such as “mobile GPS on the NDS” could have been added.

    <a name="b1"></a><b>Box Contents</b><ul><li>1x 10 foot extension cable</li><li>1x usage warning card with English</li><li>1x GPS Ranger</li><li>1x GPS Antenna</li></ul>Opening the box reveals a common plastic insert shaped for the Ranger itself. The insert holds the unit securely in place. The unit actually “clicks” into the plastic and should not be floating freely when it arrives at your door. Located under the plastic insert is an extension cable which measure approximately 10 feet long. Also included in the package is a warning card written in both Chinese and English.

    <div class="reviewbreak"><a name="c"></a>Unit Design</div>
    The generation 1 unit is designed to fit into the Slot-2 of an NDS Lite or NDS Phat. The unit is manufactured in a flat white that closely matches my NDS Lite. The Slot-2 unit measures approximately 2 and ¼ inches across, 2 inches deep, and ½ inches at its widest spot. The left side of the unit has a mini-USB which can be used to connect the unit to a u-Blox enabled computer, thus turning your laptop into a GPS equipped device. The mini-USB is not required for NDS functionality. The right side of the unit contains a plug for the GPS antenna. The Ranger's area of insertion is just shy of the size of my 3in1. However, the bulk of the circuit board extends a full inch outside of the NDS. Once inserted into the NDS the antenna can be safely docked onto the Ranger itself.

    <a href="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Unit.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Unit, small.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" /></a> <a href="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Antenna.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Antenna, small.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" /></a> <a href="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Cable.jpg" target="_blank"><img src="http://moniox.gbatemp.net/gpsr/Cable, small.jpg" border="0" class="linked-image" /></a>

    The GPS antenna measures 1 and ¼ inches square. There are approximately 4 and ½ inches of cable sticking out of the left side. When the antenna is inserted into the Slot-2 unit the entire package extends a full 2 and ½ inches from the NDS.

    Both the Slot-2 unit and the GPS antenna feel very solid. They are made out of sturdy plastic and feel as though they could survive a small drop or rigorous daily use. The Slot-2 unit slides smoothly into the NDS without any friction or problems. The GPS antenna slides into the Slot-2 unit, again, without any friction or problems. The extension cable clicks firmly into place and will not fall out, even while dangling the unit around. The cable is a miniature coaxial design and will “click” into each extension completely, securely, and does accept moderate abuse. Each of the cable ends and the insertion points are “gold” tipped, the metal is smooth and shows no sign of degeneration. The gold coaxial which connects to the antenna did come off while taking the final images for this review. As of right now I can not get it to go back on correctly, so the unit is useless. It would have been nice to see a more "bonded" design where the end cap could not be pulled off. Finally, the antenna has a magnetic back which comes in handy when you want to place it outside of your vehicle.

    <div class="reviewbreak"><a name="d"></a>Setting Up & Using</div>
    The kit itself has 1 major short coming which is that it relies on a PSP PC-side homebrew application. The Ranger software reads Google Maps as they are collected and saved by the Global Map Download Tool. In the past various updates to Google Maps have required updates to GMDT. As long as GMDT is an active project the Ranger has nothing to worry about. But this is something to keep in mind.

    This review is of the Ranger and how it works. I will not be writing a comprehensive explanation on how to use GMDT. For more information please view the link below. The guide was written for the PSP but the map making parts remain the same for the NDS. Follow the instructions and you should be able to create a map that the Ranger can access.

    <img src="http://gbatemp.net/style_images/1/folder_post_icons/icon11.gif" border="0" class="linked-image" /> <a href="http://www.dcemu.co.uk/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=60230" target="_blank">GMDT Guide</a>

    <a name="d1"></a><b>Setup</b>
    The Caelitis GPS software has corrupted 3 of my microSD cards at unsuspecting times and on more than one occasion. I recommend that you pick up a cheap 1 GB for this device and format it using the Panasonic Formatter.

    <a href="http://www.ds-gps.com/download.htm" target="_blank">Download the software</a>, extract the archived file and place the “Caelitis” directory and “Caelitis.nds” into the ROOT of your microSD card.
    Place the MAP you made using GMDT into the Caelitis/Maps directory.

    <a name="d2"></a><b>Software</b>
    The current version of the Caelitis software is v1.0.000. The software is available for the R4 (original not clones), M3i Zero, M3DS Real, AK2 and AK2i. I was not able to test all versions as I do not have access to all of those kits, also the Acekard software links are down. Before posting this review I attempted to contact the development team to receive the Acekard software but received no reply. The BETA software supported the EZ5 and SC-DS1 linkers as well. Perhaps final versions for those linkers can be expected but again the company failed to respond to my inquiries.

    <a name="d3"></a><b>Software usage</b>
    Once everything is correctly set up the software can be booted, the software will load in about 5-10 seconds and connect to the Slot2 antenna. The software itself is very impressive and maintains a commercial quality look. The GUI is simple to understand and easy to navigate through. The menu options scroll smoothly from the left to the right. Under each “heading” icon are various other options which scroll up and down. Within each up and down option further settings can be found which scroll right and left. “A” is the confirmation button which selects options and moves the menu to the next available level. “LEFT” will take you back one level. The whole menu setup is intuitive and easy to follow, which is wonderful due to the lack of information on this product.

    The following is the break down of the different options which are available to the user. Not all of these will be discussed and they are simply listed here to help you understand how the software functions and what options it includes.

    …Safe Shutdown
    …Soft Reset (grayed out, used for M3 products)
    …System Setting
    ……System Language
    ……Custom Skin
    ……DS Lite Backlight (1-4)
    ……Stylus Speed (1-9)
    ……Double Click Sensitivity (1-40)
    ……Hibernacle LCD (0s-3600s)
    ……Hibernacle Sound (Off/On)
    ……UTC Time Sync

    …Map Setting
    ……GPSFS POSFIX.POS (grayed out)
    ……GPSFS thumb (Read only, Smart RW, Force RW, Off)
    ……GPSFS inverse color (On, Auto, Off)
    ……GPSFS use sky (On, Off)
    ……GPSFS use clouds (On, Off)
    …Speed Limit (On, Off)
    ……Speed Limit at (30-220 in 10 KPH increments)
    ……UTC TimeZone (000- -12)
    ……Daylight Saving Time (On, Off)
    …Navigation Setting (grayed out)

    GPS Reset
    …Cold start 45s
    …Warm start 35s
    …Hot start 0.1s

    Satellites (“sky” view)

    …Map List
    …File List
    …Music List

    …Road Information (grayed out)
    …Road Navigation (grayed out)


    …Enable GPS Window
    …Enable RAW Window
    …Disable Clock
    …Enable About

    <a name="d4"></a><b>Features</b>
    Now I will talk about a few of the features and how they work. I can not go into depth on some features as they are grayed out for both the BETA software and the current build.

    The safe shutdown feature will end the execution of the GPS unit and minimize corruption of your microSD. I recommend that it is used each time that you want to stop using the unit. However, even when using this feature I still saw corruption of every microSD I tried. I had one card refuse to allow me to delete anything and other cards would not execute certain homebrews due to corrupt files. The system settings are pretty straight forward, although I wish they could have correctly used the world “Hibernate.” UTC Time Sync should sync to the global time clock (just as a cell phone does), yet it simply resets the clock in the software back to 00:00:00 and then the clock proceeds to count up. The Speed setting is nice as it adds a “speeding” alarm for when you are traveling. By far this is the most useful feature of the device. It allows the user to simply drive, and I’ve found that the speed setting is pretty accurate, but there is no MPH setting. If your vehicle does not display KPH and/or you do not know how to convert on the fly this setting may be of little use to you.

    The Satellite view will display a “Sky view” and allow you to track the satellites that the GPS unit is pulling data from. It’s a neat little application which can help the user to see the “signal strength.”

    In the Files menu the user can select saved maps to load. I have loaded more than 20 different maps with no problems. The File List option allows you to browse the contents of the microSD in Slot-1. You can only browse, it does not allow me to launch or access any of the files. The Music List option will play back audio files. I tested .mp3, .raw, and .wav files. The .mp3 I tested was encoded using the lame codec at 44.1 Joint-Stereo VBR and the .wav file was a 44.1 16bit Stereo audio file. None of my test files show up in the list as valid formats. The only file that I could get to play correctly was the “Startup.mp3” included with the software. This file is 80kbit 22050Hz Stereo. After re-encoding one of my .mp3 files, it did play back. So you will need to re-encode all of your audio to these standards if you wish to have audio while you navigate.

    <a name="d5"></a><b>Performance</b>
    I did my best to test with the new software but it kept throwing errors at me. Some of the maps would error out to a blue screen of death. The R4 original software will not engage the GPS and the Acekard software download link is inactive. I do not own any of the other supported linkers nor do I have access to them. I waited to write this review after the updated software was released. I wanted to give the company and the software developers the benefit of the doubt that they would produce a working product that was worth spending money on. At this time I am being forced to write the review using the BETA v.099 software build.

    I have tested the application with an AK2.1 black and green pcb linker, and an original R4. I have tested the GPS device using u-Blox software on my computer. I made use of 1 and 2 GB Japanese Kingston microSD cards and an 8 GB Transcend Class6 microSD card.

    The SDHC card failed to function at all with the software, and each time the software managed to corrupt the MSD card.

    At times the device fails to locate any satellites. When this happened I would unplug the device and hook it up to my computer. The u-Blox software was able to find satellites when the Caelitis software could not. When it did find satellites I made use of the “satellite view” and the other options to verify that the unit was connected to satellites.

    Selecting a map I headed out to test the functionality of the software and the reliability of the GPS. For 5 separate maps of the surrounding area for which I tested, the Ranger GPS was never able to pinpoint my location. It always showed me further off than where I actually was. The software has the ability to “set” the user’s location but each time I set it something went wrong. Either the map would stop tracking me or something would error.

    When I did not set a location and simply let the GPS work the unit was never able to correct my position. My location was always 2 or so miles off from where I actually was. I tried to reboot the software as well as giving the software ample time to correct my position. Bottom line, it is not accurate at all and this appears to be a software issue. At times the GPS would track me as being between streets which were a mile or more away. However, the u-Blox software running on a friend’s laptop was able to correctly display my location as well as longitude and latitude.

    The speed controls functioned correctly. They accurately gauged my speed and the alarm worked perfectly.

    <a name="e"></a><div class="reviewbreak"><a name="e"></a>Conclusion</div>
    The software only supports the mapping of a user’s current location on a pre-generated Google map. There is no active point-to-point navigation. The options were grayed out in the software menu and I was told by the development team that a BETA of this feature had been developed. However, they mentioned that the software would not function without custom maps, something for which they did not have the funds to produce.

    There is no active way to update a map while on the go. So assuming the GPS is tracking accurately you must pre-plan your destinations and keep an eye on the map as you go.

    As the device can only show the user where they are the user must know their surrounding to get any real use out of the device. It is very difficult and unsafe to attempt to read a map on the tiny NDS screen while driving. Different button combinations are required to scroll around the map, so you would need to pull over to find out where you are. It would probably be easier just to bring an old fashioned paper map with you.

    Without point-to-point navigation this device really has nothing to offer NDS users. The device does not function correctly and relies completely on a homebrew map grabbing utility. The only Caelitis software I could get working correctly was the BETA software. The BETA build lacks features and functionality which have been added into the public release. This is a really cool gimmick for the NDS and one which could be of use if the team could iron out the software issues. At this point I can not recommend this device at all. It simply is not worth paying a single cent for as it does not do what it should in regards to the NDS. The u-Blox software was able to correctly grab data using this device, so perhaps if you are looking for an inexpensive u-Blox enabled device for your computer you might consider picking this up.

    <b><font color="green">Pros:</font></b>
    <b><font color="green">+</font></b> Speed is accurately gauged
    <b><font color="green">+</font></b> Speed alarm works
    <b><font color="green">+</font></b> Can multitask by playing music as you find your way
    <b><font color="green">+</font></b> Loads different forms of saved maps
    <b><font color="green">+</font></b> High build quality of the unit itself

    <b><font color="red">Cons:</font></b>
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> MSD corruption
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> Poor support, no reliable way to contact the development team
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> Little to no information, guides, or help
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> Software does not function correctly
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> Can not accurately “target” your location
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> GPS is inaccurate by up to 2 miles
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> Currently relies completely on a 3rd party homebrew map grabbing application
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> No way to update maps on the go (WIFI, etc)
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> No point-to-point navigation
    <b><font color="red">-</font></b> Coaxial plugs are not bonded and can mistakenly be pulled out damaging the wire underneath.

    <a name="e1"></a><b>Final thoughts</b>
    I would be happy to revisit this review when the software is ironed out and working, assuming I can get the coaxial plug correctly reinserted over the copper wires. I want more than anything for this device to work, but being honest is the best advice to the GBATemp users. At this point save your money, this device is not yet worth owning.

    If you do pick it up spend time regularly checking the Ranger homepage for updates and software fixes. Finally make sure you purchase it from a site which allows returns. I have a feeling that more than a few users will pull out the coaxial end by mistake. To me this is not user error but poor design without any warning of this hazard on the included information or on the box.

    <a href="http://www.ds-gps.com/" target="_blank">Ranger Homepage</a>
    <a href="http://www.ds-gps.com/download.htm" target="_blank">Caelitis Software Download</a>
    <a href="http://www.dcemu.co.uk/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=60230" target="_blank">GMDT Software Guide</a>

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