Cheap laptop GPS module hacked to work with microcontrollers

in hacks by DP | 11 comments

ublox pci-5s

Emeryth discovered that these cheap laptop PCI GPS modules can easily be interfaced with microcontrollers. On the back of the board there are testpoints which he identified as UART and USB. The USB is recognized as a CDC-ACM standard virtual COM port.

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  1. Alex says:

    Good hint.
    Now the question is, what (kind of) antenna to use for this device … anybody?

    • Emeryth says:

      According to the datasheet, any GPS antenna (active or passive) with a U.FL/IPEX connector should work.

      I bought some random $5 active antenna on ebay and it’s working, that’s all I have to say.

  2. Will Emite says:

    Any that use “Connection: Hirose U. FL – R”

  3. Looking at pictures of this module I’m thinking it might be possible to shear off the bottom half (the side with the PCI connector – there doesn’t appear to be any traces going on the area except for the PCI connection but I can’t see under the sticker.
    Can anyone who has one confirm that? I just bought one to check, if so it would be a nice size for use in a project as well (not that it is too big to begin with for most projects).
    Awesome tip Emeryth – thanks!

    • Emeryth says:

      I think it is possible to cut it in half, there is a half-sized version of the card in the ublox product catalog.
      There is nothing under the sticker except a fancy ublox logo made out of copper.
      Although the PCB has more than two layers, so you can’t really see where the traces are going.

      • Cool, thanks for checking – I’ll give it a try when mine comes and see what happens.
        Looking at a some mini-pci-e pinouts it looks like perhaps Pin 17 and pin 19 (or maybe 11 and 13?) might be Rx and Tx (seems to vary by board though) and that 36 and 38 should be USB -/+ for sure. In case someone wanted to make a clean breakout board – personally I plan to cut it in half and solder to the points you identified though.

  4. Bob says:

    By the time you have got an antenna as well this is going to cost the same as just getting a USB receiver!

  5. rm says:

    One would hope an author who posts in a blog like this would know difference between “PCI” and “Mini PCI-E“.

  6. Anupama says:

    Can it be found on Eagle?

    Thank you

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