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Product Reviews
Pharos PKCAN041 GPS Kit for Dell Axim X3/X3i/X30

Introduction

The Pharos PKCAN041 is a kit designed to turn a Dell Axim X3/X3i/X30 PocketPC into a car GPS navigator. It includes all the necessary hardware and software.

Included Pharos hardware
Fig 1. Included Pharos hardware

Included in the kit is the following:

This product is one of the lowest-cost devices of its type on the market. Can it do the job?

The Hardware

The GPS receiver is a neat little device about 2" square. For the techheads out there like me, the GPS chipset is a SiRFstarIIe/LP. A fairly long cable attaches to it. This cable is terminated on the other end with a PocketPC power/synch connection. In the middle of this cable is a power connector for the cigarette lighter adapter.

In this way, the GPS receiver and the PocketPC are in communication with each other and car power is provided to both the GPS receiver and the PocketPC, keeping it charged and maintaining the screen at full brightness. It's hard to spot in daylight, but the GPS receiver has a blue LED underneath it to indicate it's receiving power.

A very simple PocketPC holder is provided which latches onto the grille of an automobile's air vent. The PocketPC is held in place with Velcro. It's crude but effective - it works well in my vehicle with rectangular air vents (Hyundai Santa Fe) but it did not work in a rental vehicle with circular air vents (Pontiac Grand Am). Note that it does not require any modifications to the vehicle, a real plus.

The receiver must "see" the sky to receive satellite signals. It should be placed on the dashboard with the Pharos label facing up through the windshield. The PocketPC holder is mounted on any air vent visible to the driver. I use the leftmost vent on my vehicle's centre console, which places it just to the right of my right hand. This makes it very close to normal eye position while driving without blocking the view. Here's the completed setup in my vehicle:

Pharos Hardware Mounted in My Car
Fig 2. Pharos Hardware Mounted in My Car

Note that I am using an FM transmitter, the blue and white mouse-shaped device, to play back Ostia's voice prompts through my car radio. This is a necessary piece of equipment as the PocketPC's speaker is far too weak to be audible in a moving vehicle. The advantage of this setup is that you can play MP3s at the same time.

Initially I could not understand what a suction cup was doing attached to the main cable near the GPS end. On my first trip, the receiver promptly flew off the dashboard on the first turn! I had to reposition the receiver several times during that trip. After complaining about it here at ABXZone, moderator Ozzie suggested that the suction cup was for securing the receiver to the underside of the windshield. He was right! However, the suction cup needs moisture to work. The best way to do this is decidedly low-tech - simply lick the suction cup. This works very well but leaves rather revolting circular stains on the underside of the windshield, which can be easily cleaned off!

Generally the hardware has been trouble-free but you have to get used to fully inserting the power/synch cable. It's possible to insert it and have it held in place but without locking into position. It can then lose contact with the PocketPC, which will cause the location to freeze and the screen to dim since the PocketPC is operating off battery power.

I should mention that my first satellite receiver stopped functioning after about one month. Its replacement has lasted five months now. I can't be sure what the problem was, but it occurred just after I took the receiver through an airport X-ray. I no longer do this and haven't had any problems with the new receiver.