Accessory Review: Freedom Keychain GPS 2000

By Tom Able-Green on 6 Feb 2008 10:24 am EST
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Freedom Keychain GPS

Are you looking for a GPS replacement? Do you go for the “stand-alone?” Do you use a Bluetooth GPS Puck? Or do you opt for the Freedom Keychain GPS?

Manufactured by Freedom Input , I have listened to and read some glowing reviews on this remarkably small device. In fact, I'd recomment checking out the Podcast Review of the the Freedom Mini GPS Keychain done back in October by Leo Laporte on the Daily Giz Whiz show. Leo actually picked up his Freedom Keychain from the ShopCrackBerry.com store (his favorite BlackBerry store by the way!). CrackBerry.com's sibling site, TreoCentral.com, also posted an informative review of this device that's worth a read.

While the Freedom Keychain Puck has a great reputation, I'm still the kind of guy who holds an opinion until getting some hands-on experience, so I waited for the puck to arrive with anticipation.

[ Editor's Note: There are now two versions of the Freedom Keychain - the GPS Original , and the newer Freedom Keychain GPS 2000. In this review, Tom's images/opinions are of the Original GPS. However, stock photo and store linkage is to the newer GPS 2000 which is what we now carry in the ShopCrackBerry.com store (same price). The GPS 2000 is essentially the same - just slightly sleeker, different LED layout, and even better ]

First Impressions
On arrival, I was intrigued by the size. But appearances can be deceptive -- the Freedom Keychain comes across like something from a James Bond movie. One of the biggest selling points for this unit is the fact that its incredibly small and light -- weighing in at a mere 30grs or 1.06oz and only 49 x 32 x 19 mm. With those dimensions you wonder how the performance may be affected. But with its simple black rubber coating, the GPS Puck feels solid and, more importantly, secure. It can hang from my key ring without being removed and the key chain part of the puck is secure and despite my tugging to see how fragile it might be – I can’t shift the puck. I am confident I am not going to lose it.

Freedom Mini GPS
In The Box

Freeom Keychain GPS
Out of the Box

Specifications

I'm not sure what all the GPS tech specs mean, but it sure seems like a lot of punch is packed into this tiny Smartphone addition:

  • GPS Specification: Chipset – MTK. 51 Channels “All-In-View” tracking. Protocol: NMEA 0183/GGA, GSA, GSV, RMC.
  • Baud Rate: 115.200bps. Frequency L1, 1,575.42 Mhz. Tracking Sensitivity: 158 dBm. WASS/EGNOS/MSAS Enabled, Position deviation*: 10 meters 90%. 2D RMS 1-5 meters.
  • Velocity: 0.1 m/sec.
  • Effective temperatures: Storage: -40°C +70°C. Working: -20°C +60°C. Air humidity: 5 – 90%· Cold/Warm/Hot start: 36/33/1 sec.
  • Bluetooth Specification: Connection to PDAs, SmartPhones, Blackberrys and all suitable Bluetooth enabled devices (UMPCs etc.) via Bluetooth Version 2.0 Class II. (CSR BC04.)
    • 10 Meter range, using Serial Port Profile (SPP).
    • NOTE Pairing Code is (1234
  • Size: 1.81 x 1.26 x 0.58 ins
  • Weight: 0.77 ozs.
Freedom Keychain GPS
Small!

Setup and Function
According to Freedom Input the Freedom Keychain GPS is currently the world’s most compact GPS receiver. The unit is aimed directly at users of SmartPhones and BlackBerrys and the 85 percent of devices that don’t have built in GPS.

After leaving the puck to charge overnight using the mini-USB charger, which is on the bottom of the puck protected by a rubber covering, I paired the GPS puck with my Curve. The process was relatively easy and took only a few seconds.

I liked the side-mounted sliding On/Off switch as I know I have definitely turned off the device. Once on, I initially found the LED lights a little confusing. Depending on what is happening, the LEDs flash a number of colors despite being Bluetooth connected. For example, to let the user know there is satellite connection the LED will flash Orange, which on most Bluetooth devices means the unit needs recharging. However, you should quickly get used to the various light indicators.

Freedom Keychain GPS - Slide Button
Power On/Off

Freedom Keychain GPS - LED
The LED is BRIGHT
(maybe too bright)

Freedom Keychain in Use
One important factor to be addressed is which software to use. The company, Freedom Input, says this product can work with the following: The AA, Active Pilot, BlackBerry Maps, CoPilot Live 6, Destinator 6, Gate 5, Google Maps, Mapquest, Memory Map, Navigation Mobile, Navman, Nokia/Smart2Go, Navicor, Route 66, Spot, TeleNav, and Wayfinder. I can’t test all of the above because of my location in the UK, but having used Google Maps before, I felt comfortable with that option.

Once connected, the puck handles a secure link and, even when driving in areas where I know some other units might drop out, the Freedom Puck keeps the connection and that really is good news. Living where I do can sometimes cause connection problems, and even some of the “high quality” stand-a-lone units fail miserably in this department. The initial searching of satellites took a little time, but after repeatedly testing the connection, it does speed up on start up.

Freedm Keychain GPS
About 10 Hours of Battery Life and Standard Mini-USB charging!

Using the puck in the car certainly works well although I noticed one problem. I was not able to use my hands-free Bluetooth headset while the GPS was running. Ideally I'd like to be able to use my Bluetooth headset at the same time as the Freedom Keychain, so I can talk handsfree while driving and looking at directions. Without that ability, using GPS Maps in the car makes the phone itself unusable as a talking device (since you'll want to look at the maps and not have the phone up against your ear).

Conclusion
With such great price tag, it’s very hard to find many faults with this unit. Currently, the unit is available in the store at $89.95. There are dislikes, but if I am honest, they are more personal than actual faults and it would be unfair for me to judge this unit because there are things that I would have differently. However, Freedom could really be on a winning streak with this GPS Puck. Figures show that over 150 million BlackBerrys and Smartphones are likely to be sold by the end of this year, and people will be looking for a solution may find this a good compromise. While is unfair to compare it to a “stand-alone” Satellite Navigation unit, the Freedom unit will get you out of a pickle.  Once you understand the way the mapping works with the various softwares, then you’ll find the powerful yet tiny package certainly packs a punch.

Freedom Keychain GPS Review Summary:
Freedom Keychain GPS 2000
Ratings

Pros:

  • Great Performance in a SMALL form factor
  • @ $89.95 a Great Price
  • Simple (one moving button) and Durable
  • No Software required - works immediately with dozens of software programs

Cons:

  • LED light colors don't quite correspond to those us BlackBerry addicts are used to
  • LED is BRIGHT
  • Wasn't able to operate Bluetooth headset and Freedom Keychain at the same time
Buy Now:
Purchase the Freedom Keychain GPS 2000 from ShopCrackBerry.com

Reader comments

Accessory Review: Freedom Keychain GPS 2000

24 Comments

can you, or anyone else for that matter, elaborate on

"I was not able to connect my hands-free Bluetooth headset and operate both devices, which does defeat the object of not "talking and driving." "

Also, does my old Samsung phone had a rubber cover for it's charging port, and that came off in like a week. Does this unit's rubber plug seem like one that will rip off with the greatest of ease?

I did my job as editor and fixed up that sentence to clarify it's meaning. Basically, in the car you want to go handsfree (use a Bluetooth headset) for talking while driving. But while the Freedom Keychain was running maps, the author couldn't use his Bluetooth headset to talk and it would defeat the purpose of the mapping if you hold the phone to your ear to talk (since you now can't see the maps).

a) how often does one talk and map at the same time as driving...i think that is dangerous even WITH bluetooth headsets

b) couldn't you just pop on the speakerphone to see the screen?

i don't disagree with you there. that's why it rated so well i'd say. it's a limitation of the device, but not really a bad limitation in the sense that it's probably safer.

and true that on the speakerphone!

I couldn't help but notice that the item tested by the author if this column did not look like the same product pictured at the top of the column. Why is that?

Editor's Note: There are now two versions of the Freedom Keychain - the GPS Original , and the newer Freedom Keychain GPS 2000. In this review, Tom's images/opinions are of the Original GPS. However, stock photo and store linkage is to the newer GPS 2000 which is what we now carry in the ShopCrackBerry.com store (same price). The GPS 2000 is essentially the same - just slightly sleeker, different LED layout, and even better than the original which is already pretty darn good.

Did you leave the keychain/puck hanging from your ignition and still get a good satelitte signal? Did it improve when the puck was up on the dash?

Does anyone have a clue as to how much battery life the keychain GPS gets? I would think that would be a very important part of any review of a gadget... just saying

Glad you liked the GPS puck :) Only just seen this review so wanted to just answer a couple of the questions that have come up. Hope you guys a crackberry.com don't mind the long comment and I will try not to give to biased an answer :).

The GPS unit shown in the review is our original unit. As Kevin has said the new unit (pictured at the top of the page) is our new unit (the Keychain GPS 2000).

The Original Keychain GPS uses SiRF StarIII and the GPS 2000 uses MTK. In terms of performance the GPS 2000 has a slightly quicker coldstart time and in some cases can track low signal satellites better then the original. In practical terms if you put the two side by side they are going to give you the same co0ordinates and tracking accuracy.

The biggest difference is in the looks. The GPS 2000 is slightly smaller and has separate LEDS which can make it easier to see what it is doing (especially for people that are colour blind or partially sighted).

In my personal opinion I think the GPS 2000 looks a lot "sexier" (the LEDs are hidden until you turn it on and then they shine through the case and show the appropriate symbols which I think is very cool).

Lights off:
http://freedominput.com/site/images/stories/gps200/black%20sample%20%28a...

Lights on:
http://freedominput.com/site/images/stories/gps200/black%20sample%20%28a...

With regards to the questions:

Using the GPS unit with handsfree kit:
Depending on the devices (handfree kit and GPS unit) and the phone it can be possible to use both at the same time. In theory the majority of phones currently on the market can only have 1 active bluetooth connection at a time so you can not use a GPS unit and handsfree kit.

In practice you will find that some combinations of phones/handsfree kits/GPS units will allow both devices to connect at the same time. It's a bit hit and miss though and there is no way to know if a particular combination will work or not.

With regards to the battery life:
Both units have an operating time of 9-10 hours which is extended much longer when on standby.

Using from the keychain:
99% of the time yes you can just use it from the keychain and it will work perfectly. If you are in a very (very, very) low GPS signal area you may have to start the GPs unit up outside the car for the coldstart (first 30seconds-1minute) while it gets the initial satellite lock then once it has a lock you can use it in the car.

The reason for this is that all GPS units require a reasonable signal strength to complete the coldstart process (during which time it downloads data from the GPS satellites on what satellites are in view and their locations). Once it has done this our GPS units can then use the weakest of GPS signals to get your location.

I have used mine from the ignition of my car load of times (and from the bottom of a backpack while on a bike or walking). One customer actually dropped his under his seat in the car and it still tracked him for his whole trip :)

This unit works well in just about all conditions and will connect with Google Maps even in your pocket. Though it has has trouble in the past connecting with Blackberry Maps, its ability to pinpoint your location on the move coupled with the powerful search engine with Google Maps makes it a must have. Using the unit will gain you the ability to further pinpoint your position, not precise but alot better than without, while giving you a strong ability to use it on the go.

I have a 8300 Curve and bought it because I didnt want to pay for the 8310 costs of having turn by turn. Ive had mine for the past month or so and really find it useful. I stay in Atlanta so being as close as possible is a must and this GPS, is nothin but that. 5 stars across the board.

thanks for the review it was great and it sold me on this product one question can i set it up so my family or friends can go to a website and see where i am at. no my wife does not have me on a short leash i am a cop and it would give my family peace of mind i think.

It would give any enemies an easy target.

I don't think I'd broadcast my exact position, especially if I were a cop.

I have recently purchased the Freedom Keychain GPS 2000 within the last month. I am extremely happy with it. I use it with google maps and it works great. It pin points the position more accurately than with out. The unit I received is slightly different than the one picture. The on /off switch is on the side, and the charger port is on same side. As for the LED lights, they are small and I don't notice them being to bright,even at night. I believe the makers have listened to other owners and have made improvements. I would recommend this product to anyone that is looking for this type of product.
Overall it is small, easy to use, connects to a variety of mapping programs and for a fair price. The only downfall I see is that I wasn't able to operate a Bluetooth headset and Freedom Keychain at the same time. I can live with that.

Can I get my exact or almost exact latitude and longitude with the freedom keychain? Sorry if that's a stupid question but I'm new at this.

I'm just reading the comments and questions, and being new at all this, I'm wondering if there are fees at all with this. Is it a free service once you hook up with the key chain?

Maybe....
IF your keys are within 10 meters of your phone - AND the GPS puck is "On" - AND you are tracking "real-time" through a service such as GPSed, then MAYBE you could get a fix within 3 meters (best GPS) and see the location on a computer - better to keep them in your pocket..... (:-)

Standard data rates apply for downloading the data to display on the screen. So the answer is yes to internet service.

so does it offer turn by turn out loud? or does it just sync with the browser? i want the turn by turn so i dont have to keep looking at my phone. otherwise ill just get a regular talking gps. i would get the verizon navigator but its to expensive monthly.

I believe that the cop could sign up for Google Latitude and invite friends to see where he is. This should solve the problem of people that he doesn't want to see where he is seeing where he is.

There would be no reason why you couldn't use a wired headset while using the GPS unit would there?

Is there any more discussion about using this with certain software? I would be curious as to how people get along with various apps. I have a BB 8330m.

Thanks!