I’ve been talking a lot about fake GPS Modules a lot……now let’s talk about legit GPS Modules.
First of all I’ll run over the actual legit GPS chips that I own and have dabbled with.
I have several GlobalSat BR-355S4 pucks. These have Sirf Star IV chipsets in them which ONLY receive USA GPS system. I use these with my Uniden Police Scanners. Simply cut the plugs off of them and wire them to a plug that fits the Scanner.
I think it is important to note that as I mentioned above it ONLY receives GPS. While this is probably fine for a police scanner, I don’t think I’d trust my life hiking out in the Mohave Desert with a device that had a Sirf Star IV chipset. I’m not saying GPS would go down………but what if it did?
And I’m not knocking Qualcomm or their Sirf Star IV chipset. I’m just saying I want redundancy in a life or death situation.
Then this leads me to my next GPS point.
I have this on-going project to find a GPS Module that works with my Uniden SDS200 police scanner. Obviously this is so the scanner will auto update its location when a GPS Module is connected.
Uniden sells one for $50, so the goal is to manufacture one for less than that amount of money. Actually, I’ve succeeded several times, with my last build costing about $20.
So, what’s the problem you ask?
Almost every GPS Module I have purchased is FAKE. The GPS Modules that I know are not fake are from Manufacturer recommended sources, and all cost more than $50. More like in the $70 range.
The most commonly counterfeited chips are U-blox and specifically the NEO-6 series chips. An actual, REAL NEO-6M CHIP, not module at Mouser in the US for is $60 for one. A NEO-7 CHIP, not module, can be purchased from Digikey for $31 and I did find that Digikey calls the NEO-6 series “obsolete”. In fact U-blox says the NEO-6 is an old product as well.
So how is that you can do a search for GPS Modules and find $8 NEO-6M modules all over the place? If a legit chip is $31 or more how can a complete module be $8 or $12?
Answer: It can’t. It’s fake.
I just started dabbling with GPS modules. I got my first one from Amazon for about $12. I didn’t know almost anything about GPS chips but I did know that U-blox chips are pretty prevalent in the Drone community, so I set out to purchase a module with a U-blox chipset. The Amazon one I linked above (which now shows as unavailable, and I hope I had something to do with that) indicates that it has a NEO-8M chip on it.
I plugged the GPS into my computer and started U-blox U-center software. The GPSTXT data indicated
??:??:?? $GPTXT,01,01,02,u-blox ag - www.u-blox.com*50
??:??:?? $GPTXT,01,01,02,HW UBX-G70xx 00070000 FF7FFFFFo*69
??:??:?? $GPTXT,01,01,02,ROM CORE 1.00 (59842) Jun 27 2012 17:43:52*59
Rebranded Old Chip
Say What? I got a U-blox chip all right but it is a U-blox 7th generation with firmware from 2012. Here’s what the label indicated on the chip.
It says NEO-M8N.
Soooooo, someone took a 7th gen chip that is 10 years old and rebranded it to a current production version.
Not only that, the 7th gen chip does have a firmware upgrade however you can’t apply it because whoever made the module board didn’t include flash rom so it simply cannot be upgraded. How cool is that?