Create a GPS navigator from your laptop

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    The modern world in which we live, our descendants, perhaps, will be called the dawn of the IT era. Today almost every family has a computer, laptop or netbook, almost anyone has a tablet or smartphone. Thanks to these gadgets, we can easily achieve absolutely any goal: students use them for learning and writing scientific works, programmers write with their help a variety of programs, gamers conquer the game worlds, housewives, without departing from the plate, learn news that happened in another part of the Earth.

    Just 20 years ago, no one thought that for travel to unfamiliar cities and dense forests it will not be necessary to stockpile a pile of maps, road atlases and a compass, but it will be enough to have a GPS-navigator that will determine your current satellite coordinates and lay the right route to anywhere in the world. But is it worth to buy this separate device, which, by the way, is not cheap, when we already have a device with most of the functionality and capabilities? Today we will look at a laptop / netbook / tablet / smartphone (hereinafter simply a laptop) and an acquired GPS receiver (receiver) to make a full-fledged GPS navigator that is not inferior to finished analogues.

    Pros and cons when using a laptop

    Before proceeding to the actual survey of the receivers, it is necessary to understand – is it worth the ovchinka vydelenki? Why reinvent the wheel when it’s easier to go and buy a ready navigator? Not everything is so simple and unequivocal in this matter, there are both positive and negative sides. Consider the advantages:

    • First of all, this is an obvious saving . Roughly speaking, if the navigator is a combination of processor, RAM, hard drive, motherboard and monitor, then in the laptop all this “stuffing” is already present, and it’s more productive and powerful. So you only need to buy a receiver, which is much cheaper than a single navigator.
    • Secondly, the receiver contributes to a better and better signal from the satellites, since an external antenna is used, as a rule, more powerful than the built-in one of the usual navigator.
    • Absolute freedom in the choice of software: download and install any maps and programs for your taste and color.
    • In addition, GPS receivers are not too common among buyers. Weak market competition leads to a rare release of new models, and as a consequence, previously released copies clearly fall in price. So in our review will be presented not so much new items as sales leaders.


    There is only one fly in this jug of honey: the main minus is some cumbersomeness of the resulting device. If the receiver to search for satellite signals without problems is attached to the windshield or the torpedo, then it is almost impossible to fix the laptop so that the screen is visible to the driver. Even if it succeeds, it will be a little uncomfortable to travel. But this moment is not at all important if your GPS receiver is connected to your phone, or the device is next to, in the front seat, from the passenger who acts as the navigator.

    What should be a laptop so that it can become a GPS navigator?

    This paragraph hides another big plus. In principle, your laptop can be almost anything. In the navigator mode, even old models and less productive netbooks, used everywhere by tablets and smartphones, are pulled. To work, you need at least one live USB input to power the navigator and connect the charging to the cigarette lighter. Not necessarily, but it is also desirable to have access to the Internet, for example, for the timely updating of maps, obtaining online information about traffic jams and repair work on the roads.

    TOP-3 GPS-receivers

    GlobalSat BU-353-S4 USB GPS Receiver

    GlobalSat BU-353-S4 USB GPS Receiver
    The first thing that catches your eye at the sight of this model is restraint and strict design: before us is a compact “tablet” with a diameter of 5.3 centimeters, which can easily be fixed on the windshield with the help of a sucker.

    The kit includes a 1.5-meter USB cable, the length of which is quite enough to reach your laptop or any other device that supports Open-to-Go technology located in the front seat. If the length is not enough, then without problems you can buy an extension cord, which is now sold almost everywhere and costs a penny.

    With regard to the filling necessary for the GPS receiver to work, with this, too, everything is fine. The receiver starts badly at a “cold start” (when the device was only connected to power, the necessary software was switched on and the data on the position and orbits of the satellites was downloaded) – 45 seconds, and only 8 seconds with “hot start” (the receiver turned off for a short time , and all data on satellites are still relevant). This is quite an acceptable indicator if you are on the road, and when you start the car you can take one minute and wait. The speed of this receiver will obviously not be surprising – the working range indicator is declared up to 515 m / s. Obviously, if it is possible to reach this speed and to refute the result – the company will return the money spent for the purchase.

    It should be noted and indicators of working height – up to 18000 meters. This factor is extremely important for residents of large cities, when you are surrounded by some high-rises, the so-called “urban canyon”, you are artificially at the bottom, where the usual signal is lost. But this is not an obstacle for the highly sensitive GlobalSat BU-353-S4 antenna. We will not describe the operating ranges of humidity, temperature and permissible vibration, since if you do not arrange an extreme crash test, the device will definitely cope.

    When buying this device, you should pay special attention to compatibility with your laptop. There are cases of incorrect work with some models of netbooks (Asus Eee PC and eMachines). This is due to the fact that manufacturers put cheap ports that do not provide the power required by the USB standard for the module to work. This device is recommended to anyone who is aimed at buying a USB-receiver, the quality of performance and the price around $ 30-35 are excellent indicators when choosing.

    Globalsat ND-105C Micro USB GPS Receiver


    Another representative of GlobalSat, the market leader in GPS devices, both in terms of quality and quantity of products. This device can be characterized by the phrase “small yes remote”, the receiver corresponds to it on all 100%.

    Indeed, as far as size is concerned, it is a very compact and practically weightless box with a length of 33 millimeters and weighing only 5 grams. The device is connected via microUSB interface, but the adapter is included in the package, so there are no difficulties on this score.

    The small size is best revealed when working with Android devices, since all gadgets with this OS (from version 3.2) are compatible with the ND-105C. We plug in, set up everything, put the receiver in your pocket or rucksack and go for a walk on an unfamiliar terrain or camping trip. When used in the car, it does not work so that the signal is not confused and the direction is determined correctly, it is necessary to sit in the front seat.

    Technical characteristics are some of the best in our TOP. “Cold start” – 35 seconds, “hot” – 1 second, speed up to 515 m / s, height to 18000 meters, “city canyons”, about 66 channels. With all this, the energy consumption is only 40mA, which is extremely small, considering that the device can be powered from almost anything and takes care of battery consumption very carefully.

    For powerful performance, versatility and quality, the receiver has more than an affordable price (about $ 33). Coupled with a lot of positive feedback from customers, it appears that if the minus in the form of attachment to the front seat car is not principled, then this is the best choice.

    Garmin GLO Portable GPS and GLONASS Receiver with Vehicle Power Cable


    This device is a representative, connected via Bluetooth. Wireless mode has both advantages and some disadvantages.

    The positive factors include freedom of movement. If the car abruptly jerks or stops, you get out of the car, nothing terrible will happen: the signal will still be transmitted, and the device will work, as it worked. Another plus is the expansion of the circle of interacting gadgets, now these are devices on Android and iOS. Anyone who has ever tried to use GPS on a mobile phone knows how quickly this process plants a battery. With Garmin GLO Portable, energy will be spent on maintaining connectivity. The receiver’s own power is also a great moment: I turned on the device, put it in my pocket and went for a walk.

    The disadvantages include the need to recharge the battery. When using the receiver in the car, this item is not basic, as the bundle contains a cable for car charging. It is also believed that the connection over Bluetooth is slower than over USB, but in fact you are unlikely to notice appreciable delays and loss of communication quality.

    In addition to expanding the interaction with compatible OS, the device works not only in the GPS range, but also in the GLONASS network. These two systems of navigation satellites belong to America and Russia, so be sure, you will not lose a signal on one of the territories of these superpowers. The battery capacity of 1100 mAh is enough for 12 hours of operation.

    Garmin GLO Portable has its own signal amplifier, which is enough for a trip around a large megalopolis, as well as in dense thick forests. The manufacturer assures that when amplifying the signal of a device that has its own antenna, the reception level increases by 20%, and the frequency of updating the coordinates of the location reaches 10 times per second. The device is able to connect simultaneously to 24 satellites, so you can forget about the signal loss due to the fact that the satellite is inaccessible due to weather conditions.

    Positive feedback about this receiver, compatibility with almost all popular operating systems, excellent signal, long battery life and car cigarette lighter cable are worthy of quality and performance. The cost of the device is from $ 90.

    Programs for working GPS on your laptop

    When your laptop interacts with a GPS receiver, you can easily determine your coordinates and route the required route. But to process all the data received and bring them into a user-friendly user, that is, you, the view, you will need to install the software. As mentioned in the beginning of the review, the choice of the program is limited only by your wishes, preferences and capabilities (not all programs are free). On the Internet, there are many ready-made solutions, but I would like to draw attention to several programs, according to users who are the most popular and convenient to use.

    OziExplorer is a classic navigation software and one of the best representatives of software for working with GPS-receivers. To advantages it is possible to carry simplicity and ease of management, after small trial and understanding of bases, the interface becomes very clear. Also in the network there is a huge number of additional programs for the development of functionality OziExplorer. In addition to road maps, there is a large selection of trails for walking routes. The disadvantages of the program is the lack of good quality pictures.

    SAS.Planeta – an excellent program for working with satellite images and maps, and will be available maps of Google services, Yandex, Yahoo, WikiMapia, NASA and others. In addition to the usual maps of the landscape and terrain, there are still political, combined and even maps of the Moon and Mars. So the program is suitable not only for travelers, but also for those who work with maps.

    Navitel Navigator is a program that is rapidly gaining popularity in the navigation systems market. There is a large number of maps for absolutely any terrain. In view of the fact that the project is commercial and is still in active development, the maps are constantly updated and promptly taken into account the appearance of new or missing old buildings.


    In this review, we examined the three most popular GPS receiver models in today’s domestic market. All of them have different types of connections, their own peculiarities and shortcomings, and each of you can choose the option that he will have to taste. So buy, customize and forward travel.

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