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Practicality of a Google Nexus 7 as bike computer / GPS

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Practicality of a Google Nexus 7 as bike computer / GPS

Old 11-23-12, 10:01 AM
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Practicality of a Google Nexus 7 as bike computer / GPS

I've got a cheapo GPS device that works well http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ls_o01_s00_i00 , it is strictly a GPS waypoint recorder and speedo / odometer, no GPS map display. I also have a 4.3" GPS that I use once in a while when going someplace unfamiliar, it's not the best to use as the size is so small and just hard to see while riding.

I was thinking that one of while riding.the newer smaller 7" tablets might take the place of both devices. Was wondering if anyone else has gone this route and whether it works or not. There are several holders available with RAM ball mounts so I could mount it on the bars.

Any one?
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Old 11-24-12, 02:33 AM
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I've seen people use larger phones for this, so a tablet ought to work as well.

However, make sure you have a really good mount -- I've seen phones fall off their mounts and go flying down the road. And really, I'm not sure if the tablet (or the phones, for that matter) are meant to handle the vibration that normal road riding will put it under.

If that 4.3" GPS is a car version, the battery life probably isn't very good either. That's one good thing you can say about the handheld or bike specific GPSs -- they tend to have good battery life.
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Old 11-24-12, 05:41 AM
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The problem with any and all of these is that they only work where there's reception, which usually means in rural areas and hilly areas - you could be left high and dry. (Regardless of the 'coverage area' indicated by suppliers). So check things out well ahead of time and have a 'plan B' available if necessary.
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Old 11-24-12, 08:26 AM
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I have a Nexus 7 and love it. I have no interest whatsoever in complicating my bicycle riding, but if I did I'd probably look into something smaller. Springing for the Nexus 4 for an extra $100 might be the way to go, even if you don't activate it as a phone.
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Old 11-24-12, 08:57 AM
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Newer versions of Google Maps should have offline maps available in case where there are no reception available.

Also, check out the website: http://www.rammount.com/NewProducts/...3/Default.aspx

Google Nexus 7 Rail Mounts Comparison, second version with suitability for high vibration environment.
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Old 11-24-12, 12:01 PM
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Problems with the tablet - battery life, weather protection, damage from vibration (even with damping from a good RAM mount). If I was determined to try the tablet, I'd put it in a strong zip-lok bag and carry it in a jersey pocket (if it will fit - 7" might be too big). You can purchase battery packs that take 2 AA batteries and have a USB port (cable required) to recharge portable electronics. Still leaves mounting and weather protection. I would look for close-outs, returns, and refurbs on GPS units designed for on-bike use.
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Old 11-25-12, 09:38 AM
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I was on an organized ride a couple months back and saw a guy on a recumbent with an iPad, so it's definitely possible. Worth it? Unlikely. The drawbacks have mostly been stated here, insufficient battery, possible flakey coverage due to connectivity issues, etc. I would also venture to say it would be tough to see the screen at times with full sun, especially if you have polarized sunglasses. I mean it depends on the bike your using and how badly you want the information, but if it were me, I would look at a Garmin Edge. This is a case where purpose-built devices are worth it.

By the way, I doubt the vibration would be an issue. There are no moving parts on a tablet (i.e. hard drives), so nothing there for vibration to hurt.
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Old 11-25-12, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by cashmonee View Post
There are no moving parts on a tablet (i.e. hard drives), so nothing there for vibration to hurt.
It's better than a hard drive -- sure. But constant vibration, along with some occasional hard jolts, isn't good for anything electronic. At least a Garmin Edge is designed with that in mind -- a tablet or phone, not so much. (And also, merely being smaller helps with that, and being bigger tends to hurt with that.)

And of course it would be really unfortunate if you set your bike against a wall to rest and it fell over and shattered your tablet. A small bike or handheld GPS is likely to survive that even if the bike falls on it or the mount fails and it hits the concrete. A tablet ... it's much more iffy.
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Old 11-25-12, 03:59 PM
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For the money the OP paid for that cheapo GPS from Amazon, he could have purchased a Garmin Legend Cx used for less on Ebay! It has great battery life and maps are available from Garmin or free on the web.
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Old 11-25-12, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
For the money the OP paid for that cheapo GPS from Amazon, he could have purchased a Garmin Legend Cx used for less on Ebay! It has great battery life and maps are available from Garmin or free on the web.
From what I can see the screen on theGarmin Legend Cx is way too small at 1.3" x 1.7", I find the 4.3" screen on the other GPS I sometimes use too small to effectively use while riding without stopping to put on reading glass.

Thanks for the idea anyway.

Last edited by Rootman; 11-25-12 at 08:28 PM.
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Old 11-26-12, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
The problem with any and all of these is that they only work where there's reception, which usually means in rural areas and hilly areas - you could be left high and dry. (Regardless of the 'coverage area' indicated by suppliers). So check things out well ahead of time and have a 'plan B' available if necessary.
This would be helpful except that it isn't quite true.

The standard mapping programs usually download maps as needed ("online" maps). That requires cell-reception.

There are numerous apps that download maps beforehand ("offline" maps). That would be your "plan B".

The big problem is usually limited battery life.
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Old 11-26-12, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Rootman View Post
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
For the money the OP paid for that cheapo GPS from Amazon, he could have purchased a Garmin Legend Cx used for less on Ebay! It has great battery life and maps are available from Garmin or free on the web.
From what I can see the screen on theGarmin Legend Cx is way too small at 1.3" x 1.7", I find the 4.3" screen on the other GPS I sometimes use too small to effectively use while riding without stopping to put on reading glass.

Thanks for the idea anyway.
You missed his point.

You can use the Garmin the same way you use the "cheapo GPS" you did buy and it's more useful (even if the screen is a bit too small).

The screen on the "cheapo GPS" isn't any bigger.
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Old 11-26-12, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
It's better than a hard drive -- sure. But constant vibration, along with some occasional hard jolts, isn't good for anything electronic. At least a Garmin Edge is designed with that in mind -- a tablet or phone, not so much. (And also, merely being smaller helps with that, and being bigger tends to hurt with that.)
While this could be a problem in theory, it doesn't appear to be a problem in fact (with phones). Lots of people use phones this way. It's not unusual for phones to be dropped (presumably, they are designed to handle that).

Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
And of course it would be really unfortunate if you set your bike against a wall to rest and it fell over and shattered your tablet. A small bike or handheld GPS is likely to survive that even if the bike falls on it or the mount fails and it hits the concrete. A tablet ... it's much more iffy.
The bigger size of a tablet might make it more risky. In bike falls (not crashes), the tablet is probably going to be protected (somewhat) by the handlebar.

One might be able to get a damage insurance policy for the device (from, for example, squaretrade).

Last edited by njkayaker; 11-26-12 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 11-26-12, 01:48 PM
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Do the Same People who worry about bike weight , usually Load up on the latest Electronics?
just asking..
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Old 11-26-12, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
While this could be a problem in theory, it doesn't appear to be a problem in fact (with phones). Lots of people use phones this way. It's not unusual for phones to be dropped (presumably, they are designed to handle that).
Indeed they do, and indeed it isn't. As for if it's a problem, that's harder to say.

A handheld or bike specific GPS is more likely to survive a drop or crash without damage than a smart phone or tablet. As for damage from vibration or hitting bumps when it's in a mount, that's less certain.

I've seen two phones fall out of mounts on bike rides. One was in an otter case and was undamaged. The other was either in no case at all or a minimal case and the screen shattered and there was much cursing.

I've dropped my Edge 705 a few times, never damaged it beyond a scratch in the screen. (The mounts aren't very good. At least one drop was due to the mount failing and the GPS went flying. I hear the newer ones have a better mount.)

Last edited by dougmc; 11-26-12 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 11-26-12, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
You missed his point.

You can use the Garmin the same way you use the "cheapo GPS" you did buy and it's more useful (even if the screen is a bit too small).

The screen on the "cheapo GPS" isn't any bigger.
Yes but it's still water under the bridge, I DIDN'T buy a used GPS off eBay so I don't have it and I would STILL be looking at a 7" tablet to use to fill my wants.

I've also looked at the Galaxy Tab 2 as I realize that all the extra CPU cores and memory are of little use for my need, it's also about 1/2 the price as well.

One concern I do have about a tablet is if they truly do multitasking, I don't see any ONE software that will do mapping (with turn by turn prompting) AND provide the bike computer stuff I want. So if I start the bike computer app and switch to the GPS app to get instructions on where I'm going will the bike computer still truly run in the background and keep recording GPS waypoints and keep the stopwatch running?

And weight is of no particular concern to me either, these devices all weigh jut ounces to a few pounds.
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Old 11-26-12, 02:48 PM
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Originally Posted by ks1g View Post
Problems with the tablet - battery life, weather protection, damage from vibration (even with damping from a good RAM mount). If I was determined to try the tablet, I'd put it in a strong zip-lok bag and carry it in a jersey pocket (if it will fit - 7" might be too big). You can purchase battery packs that take 2 AA batteries and have a USB port (cable required) to recharge portable electronics. Still leaves mounting and weather protection. I would look for close-outs, returns, and refurbs on GPS units designed for on-bike use.
I just last Friday got a Nexus 7 for early Christmas - it does fit in a jersey pocket, no problem! The obvious drawback is you can't really use it for navigation back there.

I'm tempted to take two of the strap-clamp flashlight mounts and rig up a plastic holder for it on the handle-bars.
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Old 11-26-12, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
That's kind of dumb because it isn't an objective statistical sampling. It would not be too hard to come up with lots of photos of trashed Garmins. Keep in mind it's very likely that the number of people who have the iPhone 4/4S (the one phone model your silly photos show) overwhelms the number of people with Garmins. And they might even drop them at a much higher rate (think about why).

Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
As for if it's a problem, that's harder to say. A handheld or bike specific GPS is more likely to survive a drop or crash without damage than a smart phone or tablet. As for damage from vibration or hitting bumps when it's in a mount, that's less certain.
Lumping tablets with phones doesn't make much sense.

It wouldn't suprise me that a "handheld or bike specific GPS" would survive better. It's not clear whether it matters much overall. Keep in mind that people are likely carrying the phone anyway (although, maybe, in a more secure manner).

Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
I've seen two phones fall out of mounts on bike rides. One was in an otter case and was undamaged. The other was either in no case at all or a minimal case and the screen shattered and there was much cursing.
So, maybe, this is an argument for using a good case for the phone (and a good mount). (Good cases are not as likely for tablets.)

Last edited by njkayaker; 11-26-12 at 03:14 PM.
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Old 11-26-12, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
The problem with any and all of these is that they only work where there's reception, which usually means in rural areas and hilly areas - you could be left high and dry.
This is the first I hear of GPS not working in rural and hilly areas. GPS is not your cell phone, it has no "service providers" (unless you count the US military that put the GPS satellites up in the space to begin with). You WILL get your coordinates, provided you have line of sight to 3-4 of the satellites. That can be difficult if you're indoors or under heavy vegetation.

Some of the GPS enabled devices, smart phones in particular, download maps as required, using whatever data transfer plan available. That can be spotty. Traditional mapping GPS devices have maps built in, downloaded in memory, or sold on memory card(s), so they dont depend on cell phone coverage. They also have longer battery life, as they don't need to power the cell phone bandwidth. Keeping the GPS fix often takes enough power as it is.

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Old 11-26-12, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Rootman View Post
Yes but it's still water under the bridge,
That's s a different issue. (The fact that you are stuck with it doesn't mean it was the best thing to buy!)

You didn't appear to understand what he was suggesting. And, while what he suggested doesn't necessarily help you, it might help others.

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Old 11-26-12, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Juha View Post
This is the first I hear of GPS not working in rural and hilly areas. GPS is not your cell phone, it has no "service providers" (unless you count the US military that put the GPS satellites up in the space to begin with). You WILL get your coordinates, provided you have line of sight to 3-4 of the satellites. That can be difficult if you're indoors or under heavy vegetation.
He's talking about cell-reception (not GPS reception).

Originally Posted by Juha View Post
Some of the GPS enabled devices, smart phones in particular, download maps as required, using whatever data transfer plan available. That can be spotty. Traditional mapping GPS devices have maps built in, downloaded in memory, or sold on memory card(s), so they dont depend on cell phone coverage. They also have longer battery life, as they don't need to power the cell phone bandwidth. Keeping the GPS fix often takes enough power as it is.
Apps for smart-phones that use downloaded (ahead of use) maps (not on demand) are common as dirt. You can also turn off the cell radio.

The battery life is still an issue: a dedicated handheld/bike GPS will have much longer battery life (generally).
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Old 11-27-12, 05:07 PM
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I'd be very surprised if tablets had adequate sunlight readability. Garmins, for example, use screen technologies that have high contrast in sunlight and a backlight for other conditions. I can't see a rationale for Samsung to design a tablet with a mind to using same in full sun.
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Old 11-28-12, 08:42 PM
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So reading all of this, I find myself asking, how much do you really need turn-by-turn navigation? Can't you take a look at a map and know where to go? The best solution is probably something like a Garmin Edge that will allow you to plug in a route and direct you (the 500, w/o maps, and 800, w/ maps, can do this) and then have a cell phone with a GPS app that has offline maps, such as Navigon, on your phone for those times you go off course. I cannot see any advantage of having a 7" screen sitting on your handlebars. It would be difficult, and likely dangerous, to use/read while riding, susceptible to bad weather/conditions, and prone to break if the bike ever falls. Not to mention the theft aspect. I'm a gadget junkie and a tech freak, but the tech has to make sense and not get in the way.
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Old 11-29-12, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by cashmonee View Post
So reading all of this, I find myself asking, how much do you really need turn-by-turn navigation? Can't you take a look at a map and know where to go? ...
Well, I'm doing this century http://main.diabetes.org/site/DocSer...f?docID=116645 in May, and just trying to plot it in Google Maps got me lost so I think it would be really handy to have a gps unit showing a map and turns.
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Old 11-29-12, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Well, I'm doing this century http://main.diabetes.org/site/DocSer...f?docID=116645 in May, and just trying to plot it in Google Maps got me lost so I think it would be really handy to have a gps unit showing a map and turns.
Yes, I agree. I have 2 different wants, recording rides and providing GPS maps for navigation. I already have a small 4.3" gps but find the screen to be way too small for my old far sighted eyes and the interface sucks, a tablets mutitouch interface would be better. The battery on my GPS dies after about 1 hour, it was intended to use in a car with a DC source of power. The last time I used it I had to look at it, turn it off and then dig it out again and turn it back on, navigate to the route and do it all over again. I will be the first to admit that I am a real dork with directions. While "real" biking GPS's may be the "best" solution the price is just beyond what I want to spend, a tablet for less than $200 may fill the bill.

rdtompki's comment about the readability in sunlight is one thing I hadn't considered and may put the kibosh on the idea. I know there are times I have to find shade or hunch over my present GPS to see the screen.

I may just keep up with my present method, pre-study the route online using ridewithgps, download it to my GPS and use my small cheap bike computer / GPS waypoint tracker to record the ride. If it's a new or extended rout I will back it up with a paper map I printed out from Google Maps too.
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