UPDATE: Since writing this review, some functions on the GPS have stopped working and Qstarz haven’t responded to our emails asking for help. Because of our concerns about durability, we can’t really recommend this tracker.
We’re fairly traditional bike travellers. On tour, we try to minimise technology, rather than go for the newest gadget, thus our preference for paper maps over GPS.
So when QStarz asked us to review their new SR-Q2100 GPS sports recorder, we weren’t sure if we would like it. Would this be something useful, or just another thing to carry around and worry about recharging? We agreed to accept a demo model and try it out.
First, it’s important to understand what the SR-Q2100 does and doesn’t do. It is not a mapping GPS. That means, you can’t load maps onto it and get turn-by-turn directions or a view of the roads and geographical features in the area.
It’s better to imagine this device as a sophisticated bike computer. On its big LCD screen, you get all the functions of a traditional bike computer – speed, distance, time travelled and a clock – along with some extras normally only found in GPS units.
The cost (listed for $140 U.S. but available as low as $100 U.S. online) also puts it in the same price bracket as high-end bike computers and basic GPS devices like the Garmin eTrex H ($201.93 from REI).
The QStarz SR-Q2100 will:
- Log your path, so you can later download the route you’ve cycled and see it on Google Maps
- Show which way is north with the digital compass
- Give the current temperature
- Allow you to geotag your photos, as long as you synchronize the clocks on your camera and the GPS
- Let you set up to 99 waypoints for key destinations, such as a campsite or a friend’s house, and then gives the distance and general direction to each point from your current position (as the crow flies)
- Perform fine in the rain because it’s waterproof
When we first got the recorder, we immediately loaded up the software on our computer that lets you download and edit the tracks from the GPS tracker to your computer. It’s all pretty intuitive and runs on Windows. No complaints there.
Next, we put it on Andrew’s bike using the included handlebar mount and took it for a ride. It took a few seconds longer to start up than we’d ideally like (QStarz advertises a 42-second cold start up time) by the time it found a satellite signal but within a minute we were up and running.
On the bike, the SR-Q2100 performed well. It gave us all the regular information we were used to with a standard bike computer, as well as some nice extras. We enjoyed knowing the current temperature and how far we were from our end point, although we never did figure out what to do with the azimuth reading that also appears on screen. Folks with experience in orienteering might get more out of that feature than we did.
We particularly liked the ability to set a point and then be told when we were getting close. For example, we wanted to find one of the free camping sites in the Netherlands but they are not clearly marked with signs, so they are easy to miss. With this tracker, we used Google Maps before we left home to get the GPS co-ordinates for the campsite as well as the turns we had to make to reach the camping area. We saved all these points in the SR-Q2100 and then it conveniently beeped when we reached a turning point, so it was impossible to pass by the track we needed – something that can be a danger with paper maps.
What don’t we like? The stability of the handlebar mount was one downside. Although it initially seemed secure when we mounted it on Andrew’s bike, a few times he lightly knocked it with his arm accidentally. The tracker fell out of its mount and onto the road. There was no damage from these falls and the GPS continues to function well.
A few months after first starting to use the GPS tracker, the mount broke completely and we now have to keep the GPS tracker inside our map case.
Also, while the battery life was just as advertised – 25 hours – we would prefer a GPS unit that takes AA batteries, because you can always get an extra set from any shop. The SR-Q2100 has a built-in battery that will have to be recharged every few days on tour. While we enjoyed its benefits over the course of a long weekend, we aren’t so sure it we would always be able to keep it charged on a longer tour.
Knowing that we can rely on something and keep it charged, even when we might not find electricity for a week or more, is important to us – especially when that gadget is not only a GPS but also our bike computer.
It’s exactly that concern that leads to our mixed feelings about the SR-Q2100. Did it perform as promised? Absolutely. Can we see its appeal? Definitely. We’ll take it along on day trips and tours of up to 4 days or where we know we’ll be staying in a campsite at least a couple times, with access to electricity.
For longer adventures, however, we won’t be throwing out the paper maps and traditional bike computer just yet.
This review is based on a free sample, provided by QStarz. We always give our honest opinion in reviews. If we don’t like something, we’ll tell you, and if our opinion changes after extensive use, we’ll tell you that too.