HiLetgo VK-172 USB GPS Review
I’m on a GPS kick lately and picked up a HiLetgo VK-172 GPS dongle ($12) from Amazon.
It claims to have a U-blox 7020 chipset inside but if I know anything it’s that most GPS modules you buy online that claim to be U-blox are usually counterfeit.
We might be in good shape here because the 7020 chipset is an older generation product according to U-blox.
The 7020 chipset is a GPS/GLONASS (Russian positioning system) and is small and low powered. It is my understanding that it will not do GPS and GLONASS simultaneously. You have to select one or the other in U-blox software. United States GPS is a bit more accurate than GLONASS and it seems to be default set to GPS. We’ll keep that setting for initial testing and toggle it to GLONASS later (if we can).
You can find these VK-172 GPS dongles all over the place but I think a large number of them have counterfeit chipsets.
Let’s test it with U-blox U-center software to see if it indeed an authentic chipset.
We are going to plug this into a Windows 11 laptop and check it out with U-center software. We’ll be able to tell pretty quick whether it outputs the right NMEA data or responds to commands from U-center. If not, it’s a counterfeit.
Right off the bat I can tell it is fake. In u-Center in the Text Console the GPTXT is not correct.
20:31:37 NOTICE: ANTSTATUS=INIT
According to the U-blox Interface Manual the Message Structure should read this:
$GPTXT,01,01,02,u-blox ag - www.u-blox.com*50 $GPTXT,01,01,02,ANTARIS ATR0620 HW 00000040*67
Not good. So I dug in the Menus a little deeper and it doesn’t respond to any of the Polling commands that U-blox says it should.
To throw a little more fuel on the fake fire, U-blox documentation says that the 7020 chip has 56 channels. U-center reports 22.
Can’t Upgrade Firmware
This particular chip reports that it has version 1.0 of firmware. U-blox has a V 1.01 however, it will not flash. Says it can’t detect flash ROM. Fake, fake, fake, fake, fake. The fact that it throws up a red screen is enough of a tell, even without reading the specifics.
Nothing. There isn’t much reason to continue. It’s not authentic, nor will it perform as well as an authentic chip.
It cost about $12 and it is a working GPS module. So far I haven’t tried to toggle it over to GLONASS but I suspect it won’t. But I’ll try. Will I send it back? No. If I send it back and someone says I defamed them……..hey, I have the original exhibit.
Is There A Point Here?
Yes. If you want a U-blox GPS or GNSS chipset you have to buy through authorized channels that U-blox designates. If you spend $12 on Amazon you are going to get exactly what you pay for. A clone. A cheap fake. A counterfeit.
Hey, I’ll throw it in the bug out bag. It will likely get lost at the bottom but it does work. Who knows when someday you might need it, or might need two GPS’s. It’s not worth $12 and it isn’t worth the hassle of sending it back. And I’ll give it to a family kid someday maybe and teach them “old school”.