GPS Buying Guide

There are a lot of options when it comes to GPS hardware so it can be hard to just pick one and start logging locations. The size, update rate, power requirements, these are all features that you'll want to look into before you choose which hardware is right for your project.

Size

This is something you need to consider if your project is supposed to be pocket-sized. GPS modules are getting ever-smaller (Your tiny, tiny cell phone has one in it!) but remember that in general, the antenna has to shrink to fit the module which will affect things like lock time and accuracy.

Update Rate

The update rate of a GPS module is basically how often it recalculates and reports its position. The standard for most devices is 1Hz (Only once per second). The fact is, unless you're on an airplane or something, you're probably not going fast enough to have changed position significantly in the past second. However, UAVs and other flying or fast vehicles may require faster update rates to stay on track. 5 and even 10Hz update rates are becoming more and more available for cheap. Keep in mind, though, that a fast update rate means that there's more NMEA sentences flying out of the module, some microprocessors will be quickly overwhelmed trying to parse that much data. On the plus side, if you have a module that runs at 5 or 10Hz, it can usually be configured to run at an easier pace.

Power Requirements

If someone asked you to crunch a bunch of numbers that you had to get from satellites in orbit around the Earth and use that information to figure out where you were, you'd flat out refuse. It's a lot of work, and yet that's exactly what these tiny GPS units are doing (multiple times per second!) so they can use a lot of power. On average, around 30mA at 3.3V. Keep in mind, also, that GPS antennas usually enlist the help of an amplifier that draws extra power. If a unit appears to have super-groovy-low power consumption, make sure there's an antenna attached.

Number of Channels

Even though there are only so many GPS satellites in view at any given time, the number of channels that your module runs will affect your time to first fix. Since the module doesn't know which satellites are in view, the more frequencies that you can check at once, the faster you'll find a fix. After you get a lock, some modules will shut down the extra blocks of channels to save power. If you don't mind waiting a little longer for a lock, 12 or 14 channels will work just fine for tracking.

Antennas

Many modules come with this chunk of something on top of it. What is that? That is a precisely made chunk of ceramic. Each antenna is finely trimmed to pickup the GPS L1 frequency of 1.57542 GHz. Sound expensive? Well, they make a lot of them. There are some other GPS antenna technologies (chip, helical), but they are not as common, a bit more expensive, and require significantly more amplification and filtering.

Oh hey - as I mentioned, the satellites are in the sky like... 12,552 miles above you, so be sure and point the ceramic towards the sky, ok? GPS antennas are getting better, and you can certainly get GPS signal indoors, but it's hit-or-miss. I hear there are reception problems in the urban canyons of places like New York City. If you can get near a window - it will help a lot.

Accuracy

How accurate is GPS? Well it varies a bit, but you can usually find out where you are, anywhere in the world, within 30 seconds, down to +/- 10m. Amazing! I say +/- because it can vary between modules, time of day, clarity of reception, etc. Most modules can get it down to +/-3m, but if you need sub meter or centimeter accuracy, it gets really expensive. I've heard stories of such fabled GPS receivers, but I have never gotten to touch one. Someone please prove us wrong.

GPS Breakout Boards

SparkFun GPS Breakout - U.FL, ZOE-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - ZOE-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - ZOE-M8Q (Qwiic)

GPS-15193
$44.95
1
Start Time

Cold: 26 sec, Hot: 1 sec

Update Rate

18Hz

Antenna

External

Dimensions

25.25mm x 25.25mm

Protocol

NMEA, UBX, and 18Hz RTCM

Power Requirements

3.3V, 29mA

Bonus Features

Software Configurable, UART, I2C, High Sensitivity

SparkFun GPS Breakout - Chip Antenna, SAM-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - Chip Antenna, SAM-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - Chip Antenna, SAM-M8Q (Qwiic)

GPS-15210
$39.95
2
Start Time

Cold: 26 sec, Hot: 1 sec

Update Rate

18Hz

Antenna

External

Dimensions

41.35mm x 41.35mm

Protocol

NMEA, UBX, and 18Hz RTCM

Power Requirements

3.3V, 29mA

Bonus Features

Software Configurable, UART, I2C, High Sensitivity

SparkFun GPS-RTK2 Board - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK2 Board - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK2 Board - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

GPS-15136
$219.95
8
Start Time

Cold: 25 sec, Hot: 2 sec

Update Rate

25Hz

Antenna

External

Dimensions

43.5mm x 43.2mm

Protocol

NMEA, UBX

Power Requirements

3.3V, 35mA

Bonus Features

Receives both L1C/A and L2C Bands

SparkFun GPS-RTK Board - NEO-M8P-2 (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK Board - NEO-M8P-2 (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK Board - NEO-M8P-2 (Qwiic)

GPS-15005
$199.95
4
Start Time

Cold: 29 sec, Hot: 1 sec

Update Rate

10Hz

Antenna

External

Dimensions

40.6mm x 33mm

Protocol

NMEA, UBX, RTCM

Power Requirements

3.3V, 35mA

Bonus Features

Accuracy close to 1inch

SparkFun GPS Breakout - XA1110 (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - XA1110 (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - XA1110 (Qwiic)

GPS-14414
$49.95
4
Start Time

Cold: 15 sec, Warm: 5 sec, Hot: 1 sec

Update Rate

10Hz

Antenna

Built-In & External

Dimensions

30.48mm x 25.4mm

Protocol

NMEA, MediaTek Binary

Power Requirements

3.3V, 25mA

GPS Receiver - LS20031 5Hz (66 Channel)

GPS Receiver - LS20031 5Hz (66 Channel)

GPS Receiver - LS20031 5Hz (66 Channel)

GPS-08975
$69.95
2
Start Time

Cold: 15 sec, Hot 1 sec

Update Rate

5Hz

Antenna

Built-In

Dimensions

30x30x5mm

Protocol

NMEA

Power Requirements

3.3V, 41mA

GPS Receiver - GP-20U7 (56 Channel)

GPS Receiver - GP-20U7 (56 Channel)

GPS Receiver - GP-20U7 (56 Channel)

GPS-13740
$17.95
35
Start Time

Cold: 29 sec, Warm: 28 sec, Hot: 8 sec

Update Rate

1Hz

Antenna

Built-In

Dimensions

18.4mm x 18.4mm x 4mm

Protocol

NMEA, UBX

Power Requirements

3.3V, 40mA

GPS Mouse - GP-808G (72 Channel)

GPS Mouse - GP-808G (72 Channel)

GPS Mouse - GP-808G (72 Channel)

GPS-14198
$37.95
Start Time

Cold: 36 sec, Warm: 25 sec, Hot: 1 sec

Update Rate

10Hz

Antenna

Built-In

Dimensions

52 x 52 x 20.5 mm

Protocol

NMEA, UBX

Power Requirements

3.3-5V, 40mA

GPS Receiver - EM-506 (48 Channel)

GPS Receiver - EM-506 (48 Channel)

GPS Receiver - EM-506 (48 Channel)

GPS-12751
$39.95
12
Start Time

Cold: 35 sec, Hot: 1 sec

Update Rate

1Hz

Antenna

Built-In

Dimensions

30x30x10.7mm

Protocol

NMEA, SiRF

Power Requirements

4.5-6V, 45-55mA

Bonus Features

Extremely High Sensitivity: -163dBm

GPS Receiver - GP-735 (56 Channel)

GPS Receiver - GP-735 (56 Channel)

GPS Receiver - GP-735 (56 Channel)

GPS-13670
$45.95
15
Start Time

Cold: 29 sec, Warm: 28 sec, Hot: 8 sec

Update Rate

10Hz

Antenna

Built-In

Dimensions

35 x 8 x 6.5 mm

Protocol

NMEA

Power Requirements

3.3-5V, 37mA

SparkFun GPS Module - Copernicus II DIP (12 Channel)

SparkFun GPS Module - Copernicus II DIP (12 Channel)

SparkFun GPS Module - Copernicus II DIP (12 Channel)

GPS-11858
$75.95
3
Start Time

Cold: 38 sec, Hot 3 sec

Update Rate

1Hz

Antenna

External

Dimensions

31.8x27.4x14mm

Protocol

NMEA

Power Requirements

3.3V, 44mA

Bonus Features

Standalone Module Available

GPS Antennas

GPS/GNSS Magnetic Mount Antenna - 3m (SMA)

GPS/GNSS Magnetic Mount Antenna - 3m (SMA)

GPS/GNSS Magnetic Mount Antenna - 3m (SMA)

GPS-14986
$12.95
1
Weight

75g including 3m cable

Size

50x38x17mm

Terminal Connector

SMA

Constellations

GPS/GLONASS

Power Requirements

3-5V, 10mA

GNSS Multi-Band Magnetic Mount Antenna - 5m (SMA)

GNSS Multi-Band Magnetic Mount Antenna - 5m (SMA)

GNSS Multi-Band Magnetic Mount Antenna - 5m (SMA)

GPS-15192
$64.95
Weight

175g (including cable)

Size

60.0mm x 82.0mm x 22.5mm

Terminal Connector

SMA

Constellations

GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou

Power Requirements

Bonus Features

Picks up both L1 and L2 bands

SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board

SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board

SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board

GPS-15247
$24.95
1
Weight

7.4g

Size

60.96 x 25.4mm

Terminal Connector

Constellations

GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, and BeiDou

Power Requirements

GPS Antenna Ground Plate

GPS Antenna Ground Plate

GPS Antenna Ground Plate

GPS-15004
$4.95
Weight

191g

Size

101.6mm x 6.35mm thickness

Terminal Connector

Constellations

Power Requirements

Interface Cable SMA to U.FL

Interface Cable SMA to U.FL

Interface Cable SMA to U.FL

WRL-09145
$4.95
3
Weight

4g

Size

101.6mm

Terminal Connector

SMA

Constellations

Power Requirements

U.FL to U.FL Mini Coax Cable - 200mm

U.FL to U.FL Mini Coax Cable - 200mm

U.FL to U.FL Mini Coax Cable - 200mm

WRL-15114
$1.95
Weight

3.04g

Size

200 mm length x 1.25mm diameter

Terminal Connector

U.FL on both ends

Constellations

Power Requirements

RockBLOCK External Patch Antenna

RockBLOCK External Patch Antenna

RockBLOCK External Patch Antenna

WRL-14580
$64.95
Weight

43.36g

Size

40.5mm x 38mm x 12.3mm

Terminal Connector

SMA

Constellations

Power Requirements

GPS 3V Magnetic Mount Antenna SMA - 5m

GPS 3V Magnetic Mount Antenna SMA - 5m

GPS-00464
3 Retired
Weight

118g

Size

46mm x 46mm x 13.7mm

Terminal Connector

SMA

Constellations

Power Requirements

2.7V, 8mA