Why You Should (or Shouldn’t) Care about SiRF
I’ve had many readers contact me with questions about SiRF, the SiRFstar chipsets, and especially the SiRFstarIII chipset. As more and more people look at chipsets when making a purchasing decision, more questions arise. This article isn’t meant to specifically address any of the direct questions asked, however it should provide an overview for everyone.
So let’s take a step back look at this from the perspective of a new GPS user since that is what most readers here are. Just like your computer has a central, core processor chip (like an Intel chip or a PowerPC chip, etc) GPS devices also have a core chip inside which receives the GPS signal and passes that information along to the GPS software. (I’m simplifying things a bit for this conversation.)
What many people might not know is that various GPS manufacturers don’t typically use a GPS chipset they have developed themselves. The GPS manufacturer will build the device and construct the software that you see running on the device, however the “heart” of the GPS receiver, the GPS chipset, most often comes from a different manufacturer.
Thus you can have GPS receivers from different companies that use the same underlying GPS chipset. Thus the strength of the reception from GPS receivers using the same chipset should be identical, as should the initial acquisition time. What might differ between the GPS receivers is the shape of the device, weight, screen size, and perhaps most importantly the software you interact with.
Lately a company called SiRF has been getting a lot of attention from GPS enthusiasts, specifically their SiRFstarIII chipset. This chipset is known for having fast acquisition times as well as being able to receive a GPS signal where other GPS chipsets might not have been able to acquire a solid signal, or “fix”.
So should you only consider a GPS receiver that is built using chipsets by SiRF or the SiRFstarIII chipset? No. While we agree the SiRFstarIII chipset is great I wouldn’t avoid a particular GPS receiver if it didn’t have a SiRF chipset. However if you are currently dissatisfied with the reception of your GPS receiver and it has an older chipset, SiRFstarIII might be something you want to consider in your next GPS.
In short, I wouldn’t avoid purchasing a GPS receiver that wasn’t SiRFstarIII equipped, however when I receive new GPS receivers for evaluation if it has a SiRFstarIII chipset I know the signal will be acquired quick and be strong.