Product Review: Bad Elf GPS Pro

Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 8:00 AM

The iFlightPlanner Crew often receives questions about external GPS devices that are compatible with iFlightPlanner for iPad.  While there are several on the market, two units that we’ve tested and recommend are the Bad Elf GPS and Bad Elf GPS Pro.  Andy Matthews, iFlightPlanner’s Co-Founder & Director of Business Development, recently flew with the Bad Elf GPS Pro and we wanted to share his thoughts on the unit with the iFlightPlanner community.

First Impressions

Out of the box you’ll notice the Bad Elf GPS Pro’s LCD display, a unique feature that makes it the first GPS with an informative user interface approved by Apple.  The backlit display makes it easy for the user to view connection status, battery level and location details (latitude, longitude, altitude, heading, speed and UTC) without the need for it to be connected to an iOS device. 

While the unit weighs only 3.2 ounces (90 grams) it feels very solid and fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.

Key Features

  • Shared Bluetooth® connectivity for up to six (6) iOS devices
  • Backlit LCD display with 3-button device control (power, Bluetooth, tracking)
  • Long battery life (30+ hours in standalone mode, 16 hours in Bluetooth connectivity mode)
  • GPS tracking with storage for 100 hours of data
  • USB port for charging while in use
  • IPX4 water resistance for use outdoors 

Pairing & Setup

Pairing the Bad Elf GPS Pro with the iPad is no different than pairing any other Bluetooth device and is very simple.  However, the LCD feature allowed Bad Elf to include an additional step that ensures you are pairing the correct devices which instills a level of confidence that the process is being completed successfully.

Satellite acquisition times averaged less than a minute and Bad Elf offers a free app available on the App Store that allows you to verify that the GPS is communicating properly with your iOS device.

In The Air

The Bad Elf GPS Pro functioned flawlessly while in the cockpit and never once lost connectivity with the iPad or the satellite network, even when I accidentally dropped it beneath the front seats and it no longer had an unobstructed view of the sky.  My mishandling provided the perfect opportunity to check the status of the GPS reception using the utility app which showed a negligible difference compared to when the unit was within my reach.

While the GPS Pro fits comfortably in the palm of your hand, I found it difficult to find a secure place for it in the cockpit due to its sleek shape.  This revealed one issue I have with the Bad Elf GPS Pro.  The manufacturer recommends that the GPS be kept out of direct sunlight, all but eliminating the aircraft’s glare shield as a potential place to set the GPS Pro as you can with other units.

The unit’s GPS logging feature, which can easily be toggled on/off using one of the device’s control buttons, is great for creating a record of your flight or critiquing an instrument approach (view screenshot).  The data can be downloaded, viewed, and shared as a KML or GPX file all within the Bad Elf GPS app which continues to prove itself very useful.

On The Ground

I love the fact that the Bad Elf GPS Pro does not require a connection to an iOS device to be functional.  The built-in user interface allows it to be used in a number of environments, not just as a companion to iFlightPlanner for iPad.  Bad Elf suggests also using it for geocoaching, travel, cycling, hiking and sightseeing, just to name a few.

If you fly flight simulators, take note here.  The Bad Elf GPS Pro is a central component to the Cygnus Pro Wireless system (sold separately as a full package) which allows you to connect your favorite flight simulator to the iPad.  Cygnus taps into the location services of the connected iOS device, making it believe it is flying with your simulated aircraft.  This setup allows you to use iFlightPlanner for iPad with Windows-based versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Microsoft ESP and X-Plane, Lockheed Martin Prepar3D and all Redbird Flight Simulators.

Final Thoughts

The Bad Elf GPS Pro’s ability to connect and share GPS information with multiple devices, together with its LCD user interface and Cygnus capabilities, make it the most versatile external GPS unit on the market.  It is not yet compatible with Android devices, an obvious deal-breaker for Android users, but for anyone who flies with the iPad or uses Apple devices I can highly recommend the Bad Elf GPS Pro.

This unit carries a higher price point ($149.95) compared to other units on the market, but the additional features fully justify the cost and we are proud to list it in the iFlightPlanner Shop as an “iFlightPlanner Approved” product.

We will continue to add more “Approved” products to the iFlightPlanner Shop as we move into the New Year and invite you to contact us if there is a product that you feel compliments, or enhances your iFlightPlanner experience!

The iFlightPlanner Crew