GlobalSat GPS Data Logger DG-100 Review

GlobalSat GPS Data Logger DG-100

“The GlobalSat Data Logger DG-100 is an inexpensive and easy way to log GPS coordinates and enjoy basic geotracking activities.”
  • Affordable GPS tracking; very easy to use; user configurable
  • Slightly ugly software; lacks Bluetooth; Windows only

Summary

Now that GPS and satellite networks are so common and inexpensive to utilize on a consumer level, GPS tracking (a.k.a. geotracking or geocaching) has become a mainstream hobby for millions of geeks and traveling photographers worldwide. There are countless commercial applications for GPS data logging, from tracking truck drivers and cargo to mapping highly accurate traffic patterns, locations of accidents, and more. GlobalSat maintains a vast satellite network to communicate with its GPS tracking devices like the Data Logger DG-100, a $90 USD gadget. We studied the DG-100 and took it on the road (and in the air) to get a good feel for how it performs. Continue reading to see the results of our tests.

Features and Testing

The GlobalSat DG-100 Data Logger device is a simple, relatively un-pretty, palm-sized, puck-like device that holds some pretty high-tech circuitry inside its black and silver plastic housing. The DG-100 is a GPS data logger that, when turned on, pings a satellite network to track and log its location on earth. It logs date, time, latitude, longitude, speed, and can even track and record altitude. A device like this is great for tracking fleet vehicle activities, hiking routes, photo shoot locations, driving routes around town, and even fun things like the course and altitude of hot air balloon rides. Of course, there are countless applications for such a GPS tracking device, which is one of the reasons the DG-100 is so useful.

Setting up the DG-100 Data Logger is very straightforward. Remove the DG-100 from its packaging and install the rechargeable batteries that are included in the box. Plug the DG-100 into any available USB port (even on a USB hub) and it’ll begin to charge itself. It’s best to leave the DG-100 charging for at least a few hours to ensure a good, proper charge. Each charge should give upwards of 16–20 hours of GPS logging use.

Meanwhile, install the Data Logger software by inserting the CD into your computer. A popup window will offer driver installation and program installation. Run both.

Once the DG-100 is charged, turn it on by holding the silver button until the device’s green, blue, and red lights turn on. When the green satellite and red power indicators are illuminated, the DG-100 is ready to track movement with GPS accuracy.

The DG-100 has three generic settings that control how often the DG-100 pings a satellite to record a locale. Walk/jog mode (A) pings every 30 seconds. Bicycle mode (B) pings every 10 seconds, and vehicle mode (C) pings every 5 seconds. These intervals can be customized using the software installed on your computer.

To use the DG-100, make sure it is charged, on, and has a relatively clear view of the sky. It needs to be able to pick up satellite signals, so don’t expect to hide it under the wheel well of a car to surreptitiously record the comings and goings of your kids, spouse, or employees. Of course, the DG-100 has a MMCX port for an extended antenna, so one could make a simple addition to the Data Logger to start geotracking loved ones. (Creepy.)

Once tracking, the DG-100 saves GPS data on a built-in flash memory bank of roughly 24MB (though this spec hasn’t been confirmed). It’ll log about 50,000 to 60,000 GPS data points from its 20-channel SIRFstar III GPS sensor.

As for the Data Logger software, don’t expect anything sexy or sleek. It is bare-bones in every way, looking like it was designed in Microsoft Access. But ugly factor aside, the software does exactly what it’s supposed to, and it does it well.

When switched to GPS Mouse mode via the Data Logger software, the DG-100 can function as USB GPS receiver for a laptop. This is also known as “GPS mouse mode”, but the use of “mouse” has caused untold confusion. GPS mouse mode does not turn the DG-100 into a USB mouse. It means that the DG-100 can be used to track GPS coordinates while actively connected to a laptop or other mobile computer.

Bluetooth connection for data transfer? No, sorry. Not on the DG-100.

Globalsat DG-100
The Globalsat DG-100

Google Maps & Google Earth

The DG-100 can easily convert GPS data logs for use with Google Maps and Google Earth. Google Earth needs to be installed on your computer, whereas Google Maps is integrated into the Data Logger program itself. Both options will allow for some fun and educational geotracking activities. The Data Logger program can export data points in several formats, including KML (Google Earth), CSV (Excel), and TXT.

Real Life Test

In order to test the DG-100 out in several real world scenarios, I took the it on some errands around town, and then I took it on a hot air balloon ride through the Oregon wine country. (Tough job, I know.) With the DG-100 set in walking mode (balloons don’t move very quickly, so 30 second intervals was fine) I went airborne for about 90 minutes. Four hundred photos and about 170 GPS data points later, I touched down in a cornfield, ready to use the Data Logger software to track my flight.

Baloon Ride
Who else do you know that would test a GPS device from a hot air balloon?

Once I plugged the DG-100 into my computer, I had all my GPS data points downloaded and mapped in less than 3 minutes. I was able to select and map individual points (down to the very second) as well as entire segments of my journey with little to no trouble at all.

The only downside to the Google Maps segment of the Data Logger program is the inability to easily export the tagged maps in JPG format. There are ways around that, but it’d be better if it was added as a program function.

Google Map Route
My route using Google maps

Mac Users

At present, the GlobalSat application is Windows-only. If you want to run the app on your Mac, you’ll most likely need to run it under BootCamp with Windows XP. I found that the app was buggy when running under Parallels. Results may vary, so feel free to experiment.

Conclusion 

The GlobalSat Data Logger DG-100 is an inexpensive and easy way to log GPS coordinates and enjoy basic geotracking activities. While the software interface leaves plenty to be desired aesthetically (and hampers the full enjoyment of the DG-100), it does a solid job of tracking, logging, and mapping. For an average of $90 USD, it’s very easy to recommend the DG-100 for GPS tracking.

Pros:

• Affordable GPS tracking
• Very easy to use
• User configurable, if desired
• USB for data transfer and charging
• GPS-Mouse mode

Cons:

• Slightly ugly software
• No Bluetooth
• Windows-only

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