Clip-On GPS

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Global Positioning System add-ons for smart phones and PDAs are nothing new. But a GPS clip-on?

That's the idea behind Garmin's $200 Mobile 10, a compact GPS receiver that transmits location information via Bluetooth to Garmin Mobile XT mapping software that you install on a supported smart phone, PDA, or notebook. The GPS receiver locates your current position, which is displayed on the mapping software. The software calculates a route to your desired destination(s). You can receive turn-by-turn directions via voice prompts, delivered using your device's speaker. And you can visually follow your route on the mapping software. Recently, I tested the Mobile 10 with my Palm Treo 650 and I recommend it--with caveats.

Convenient to Carry

The Garmin Mobile 10 weighs 2.12 ounces and measures 0.697 by 1.65 by 3.04 inches. It's so small you can take it anywhere. You could also lose it anywhere, but c'est la vie. To see a photo of the GPS receiver next to a Treo 650, visit my blog, Traveler 2.0.

The aforementioned clip, which is removable, is a nice touch. You can clip the receiver onto your belt and receive directions while walking. Or you could clip the GPS to your car's sun visor while you're driving. Either way, the Garmin Mobile 10 is delightfully easy to take with you. And because it works with a device I already carry everywhere--my Treo 650--the Garmin Mobile 10 is the most convenient portable GPS receiver I've seen.

Generally Good Directions

I tested the Garmin Mobile 10 in San Francisco, where I live, over several weeks. In most cases, the directions I received were good, but not always the most practical.

For example, in my San Francisco neighborhood I avoid using 24th Street, as it is often congested with cell-phone-talking pedestrians dawdling on their way to digressing, double-parked delivery trucks, surly teenagers on skateboards, and the occasional Segway. But in many cases, the Garmin Mobile 10 directions had me going by way of 24th Street.

A Nice Price

The Garmin Mobile 10 is attractively priced. I've found it for about $160 online. By comparison, Hewlett-Packard's iPAQ Travel Companion rx5900, an all-in-one portable GPS system (with more features than the Mobile 10), lists for $599 and recently sold for as little as $414 online.

Keep in mind that a growing number of smart phones have built-in GPS capability. But in many cases, you must pay a monthly fee (about $10) for navigation services.

A Few Caveats

The Garmin Mobile 10 sometimes takes several minutes to acquire a satellite signal, particularly when used in a new location. So if you hope to jump into a rental car at the airport, turn on the Mobile 10 and instantly get driving directions, you'll be disappointed.

When you're following a route the Mobile 10 has devised, you'll get voice prompts on your smart phone, PDA, or laptop. But the prompts are not as detailed as those you'd get in higher-end GPS devices. For instance, a Garmin Nuvi will tell you to "turn right on Market Street," but the Garmin Mobile 10 only tells you to "turn right."

Who's It For?

If you travel frequently, often need directions, are on a budget, and already carry a Treo or other Bluetooth-enabled device, the Garmin Mobile 10 is an ideal GPS option. It's small, inexpensive, and works well for the most part. But don't expect directions as practical as those you'd get from a local.

Reader Survey

Do we need a universal airline passenger code of conduct?

A recent New York Times article about crowded airlines contained a bit of a shocker at the end. According to the article, a female airline passenger, occupying a window seat, became unnerved when the man next to her started watching hard-core porn on his laptop. The plane was full, so the woman had little chance of moving to another seat. She got up and asked a flight attendant what could be done. The attendant's reply: nothing. "Typically, there isn't much you can do that won't come back to haunt you later with some lawsuit or trouble," was the response of a former airline attendant, quoted in the article. And so the woman sat uncomfortably in her seat until the man's laptop battery finally died, ending his X-rated film festival.

My questions for you are: What would you have recommended the woman do in this situation? Should an airline attendant have intervened on her behalf? Should there be some kind of universal airline passenger code of conduct? And what's the most outrageous thing you've seen someone do on an airplane, either with an electronic device or not? Please reply to me and include your name and location. I'll share your answers in an upcoming Mobile Computing.

Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips

Don't Remove Your Laptop Battery: A PC World reader recently asked if you should leave the lithium ion battery in a notebook or remove it until it's needed. Senior Editor Kalpana Ettenson's response: Your laptop battery will function better and last longer if you keep it in the machine.

Stylish Convertible From Toshiba: Toshiba's Portege R400-S4931 is a fashionable-looking convertible tablet PC with good speed for its class and a full selection of wireless connectivity options, says PC World reviewer Carla Thornton. But the tablet is expensive ($3499 as of April 11), has a number of design inconveniences, and input can be a challenge.

New Portable GPS Systems: PC World writer Tracey Capen recently took two new handheld GPS units for a spin. Tracey found that the Navigon Pocket Loox ($499) is cute, compact, and serves as a functional portable photo and video viewer--but its navigation is about average. DeLorme's rugged Earthmate PN-20 ($370) may appeal to kayakers, hikers, and other outdoors enthusiasts. But the Find button didn't always locate well-known spots such as Yosemite, and downloading satellite images is more cumbersome than it should be.

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