The Spark Nano 4.0 is the latest incarnation of GPS tracking devices from well-known wireless tracking technologies company Lightning GPS. It follows on the heels of the company’s previous two versions, which both realized good commercial success. The secret behind the entire Nano line is a combination of its compact size, incredible features, and the software used to power it. We tried out the Spark Nano 4.0 for 30 days and we were impressed.
The first thing to know is that the Nano is an active device rather than a passive one. Being an active device means it collects and sends it to a server in real time. A passive device simply collects data which is then retrieved by plugging the device directly into a computer. If you want active tracking you’ll need something like the Nano; but be aware that active devices are more expensive than passive ones. With that out of the way, let’s discuss our impressions of the Nano 5.0.
Just like a smart phone, first impressions based on the look and feel go a long way in determining whether or not the consumer will have any confidence in a GPS tracker. Our first glance at the Spark Nano 4.0 revealed a device small enough to be held in the palm of the hand or hidden away underneath a plastic bumper. Upon taking it out of the box it had a very solid feel even though it may have looked like an inexpensive cell phone. The case was well built, the control’s comfortable, and the 3″ x 2″ size perfect for concealment.
Based on our first impressions we were not ready to declare the Spark Nano 4.0 a great device, but we also were not immediately turned off by what we experienced. The next thing we learned, however, was important. It might be important in your decision to purchase this device or go with another one.
Activation Fee and Contract
If you take a look at the Brickhouse Security Website description of the Spark Nano 5.0 you’ll find that it comes ready to go out of the box. In other words, there’s no activation and its subsequent fees involved. According to Brickhouse Security, your purchase of the Spark Nano 5.0 constitutes your agreement that you want the device activated for use. How you view that is up to you, but we found it refreshing that we didn’t have to lay out another $50 just to get the device up and running.
In terms of contracts, there are none with this tracker. The monthly fee is $29.95 and you’re free to cancel at any time. Note that if you do so, you will probably have to pay a reinstatement fee should you decide to get back online. If this helps you make your decision, Brickhouse Security is currently offering their first 30 days service for free.
According to Brickhouse Security there are three options for obtaining tracking information:
- using the Brickhouse Security software and servers (default option)
- purchasing the white label Brickhouse software for installation on your own servers
- using your already existing software and servers
Because we were only testing the device we used the default option. The tracking features worked flawlessly from the first moment began our testing. We are pleased to see that we could customize a lot of the features including how often we wanted reports delivered and where those reports were sent. As you track you also have the option to overlay maps to get a better idea of where the device is. In our accuracy test we determined the Spark Nano 4.0 to be accurate within 10-15 feet, just as the company promotions claim. That’s an improvement over the first two versions of the Nano.
Other Impressive Features
- Geo-Fencing – Of all the features on this device that impressed us none was more important than the geo-fencing utility. The idea behind the geo-fencing is to establish certain areas where your teen drivers can and cannot go. For example, if the west side of town is known for shady activity you could create a GPS “barrier” that tells the device your vehicle is not allowed in that area. If it’s driven past the barrier you would automatically receive a text or e-mail alert. This is a great way to make sure your kids are not driving where they’re not supposed to.
- Panic Button – The Spark Nano 4.0 is certainly not the only GPS tracker with a panic button, but purchasing one without it seems to be a foolish waste of money. Having this feature doesn’t substantially add to the cost of device, yet the potential benefits it provides make it well worth it. Say you’re sending your Spark Nano 4.0 with your child when he goes out hiking with his friends. If he gets lost or anyone in his group gets injured, hitting the panic button immediately sends an alert to let you know he’s in trouble. The panic button could be just as useful for an elderly relative, a driver involved in the accident, and so on.
- Battery Life – Out of the box the Spark Nano 4.0 has a 30-day battery life under normal conditions. Obviously, the more frequently you choose to receive your reports the shorter the battery life. If you need extended battery life you can purchase a backup six-month battery for about $200. This would only be advisable if you need a device operable for extended amount of time without hardwiring to an existing electrical system.
- Startup Time – If you want maximum tracking capability without leaving your GPS device on 24 hours a day, you need one with a fast startup time. Startup time is considered by the industry to be the amount of time it takes to make the device ready for tracking after it’s been off for six hours or more. Anything under that six hour threshold is considered hot startup time. For the Spark Nano 4.0 cold startup was an impressive 29 seconds. Hot startup was between one and 2 seconds.
Overall we were very impressed by the Spark Nano 4.0. We were a bit concerned at first whether or not it would hold up to the weather but that turned out not to be a problem. The device is both water resistant and resistant to temperature extremes; you’d really have to put it through hell and back to do any real damage. The Spark Nano 4.0 is also very accurate, provides great software, and gives you enough options to maximize use for your particular circumstances.
In the end our only concern was the overall price tag. However, at an average retail price of about $200 it is well worth the money for the quality. And remember, you’re not paying additional setup fee or signing on to a contract.