Review: DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Send a Tweet from the backcountry, track your GPS position anywhere on the globe, text-message a friend out of cell-phone range, or blip out an SOS signal in an emergency situation via a roving satellite network. Those are the touted features of a to-be-released bundled GPS/satellite communicator product from DeLorme and SPOT LLC.

Announced last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the device — official name: DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator — is the “first handheld GPS navigation device capable of sending customized text messages,” according to a press release.

The product, available in May for $549.95, requires two separate devices — the DeLorme PN-60w and a small, second-generation SPOT device — that are sold together. They communicate with each other via a Bluetooth-like wireless protocol called 802.15.4. The result is a full deck of GPS tools on the PN-60w along with the ability to send custom messages and rescue notification on the SPOT satellite network. (Cell phone range is not required.)

DeLorme GPS with SPOT.jpg

DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w with SPOT Satellite Communicator

The companies call it a “rugged, handheld GPS and satellite communicator product.” For outdoors users, the two-in-one gadget gives GPS tracking tools and the ability to send messages and waypoints, including live updates to social-networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Geo-caching.com, or SPOT LLC’s SPOTadventures.com. The PN-60w device has a graphical color display screen and an internal keyboard for typing out communiqués.

For emergency situations, the SPOT transmitter can work as a stand-alone device to send location-based information to a response center. (The small SPOT unit has just two buttons: On-Off and SOS. The buttons are protected so they can’t be inadvertently triggered.)

A final interesting feature: According to Delorme’s Charlie Conley, the 802.15.4 wireless protocol will enable multiple PN-60w users to see each others’ positions and exchange GPS data and files or text messages in the backcountry. The wireless signal will have a range of up to one mile, Conley said. This functionality won’t be available upon the targeted May release, but will come in a free firmware update potentially by fall 2010.

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.

Posted by Bry - 01/14/2010 11:50 AM

I guess this is a first by any outdoor electronic manufacturer. Wow, this is really something amazing a GPS and communicator. Great device to keep the psychological spirit up, when you know you can communicate with friends and family. A little costly, but in remote places probably very worth it.

Great review and website

Bry

Posted by Lance Perry - 01/19/2010 10:33 AM

Good to send data back to loved ones. But what about in the case of a loved one needing to get you in the backcountry? An emergency back home might happen. I don’t think I read in there the ability to receive text messages (only between devices) from the outside world.

Posted by willy - 01/19/2010 09:34 PM

wouldn’t a sat phone be a better deal?

Posted by Steve Borth - 03/13/2010 01:52 PM

I use to be a survey technician, but have been out of the scene for the last year. Does anyone know the status when the next generation of L1 L2 receivers will be available in the Handheld GPS units?

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