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FINDING your lost pet: Loc8tor vs Whistle vs Findster Duo

Posted 11-03-2017 at 06:39 PM by hiero2
Updated 11-07-2017 at 12:15 PM by hiero2

Loc8tor vs Whistle vs Findster Duo: FINDING your lost pet

{Since I hate undated reviews! Fri Nov-03-2017}

I've had conversations with my neighbors on the topic of GPS petfinder devices. I have now owned and used 3 brands, and this is a short review and comparison of the three. The brands I've owned? Loc8tor (two types), Whistle, and Findster Duo.

I have to add this comment: it seems to me most of the net content I find that review these products is concerned about activity monitoring. Let me get this straight, right now. I could not care less about activity monitoring. AFAIC, it is a useless frivolity. What I DO care about is FINDING my pet when they are not with me! Plain and simple.

The winner? It depends. I can wish for more, but it doesn't exist yet.

Loc8tor: Probably the oldest design of the batch - it works. The company does not even currently market the Loc8tor product for pets (1), which is a shame - because in some ways they are the clear winner. But not in ALL ways. They are plenty small and light enough for any dog (over about 10 lbs). I've had cats who were big enough to carry this on a collar, no problem. But Loc8tor is the biggest (size, weight) of the three brands. They are supposed to be water "resistant" - but my last one died when a dog went wading. It did not even get submerged - just got water splashed on the carry-case. The good points? Loc8tor will locate your pet anywhere. You do not need to be close by. Anywhere (well, anywhere where there is cell phone service). The user interface (UI from now on) on the computer is superior for tracking. It has a history, so you can see where the pet was, and when. On a tablet the UI should be almost as good, but last time I tried it on a cell phone (admittedly some 2-3 years ago) it was unusable. Here is an important point - you can set how often the Loc8tor device reports back - from 10 second intervals to 2 hour intervals. This is important - and I will explain why when I get to the Whistle. The accuracy of the locating is very good. Last item - cost. Purchase price for the unit is in the $100-120 range. However, you also have to purchase GPS time - just like using a cell phone. You can purchase as little as a single month of cell-time, which may be a small advantage to somebody, but I would not think so for pet tracking. A one year subscription for service is $161.87 (2).

Whistle (3): Second in weight - it is still so light it really doesn't have any impact on how I use it. Water resistance is better than Loc8tor - as my dogs wade in the same pond on our daily run, and the Whistle hasn't died yet. Like the Loc8tor, the Whistle uses cellphone GPS technology to locate the pet. The Whistle has very cute mounting brackets that do seem to work. Although I've used this unit for perhaps a year, I have questions in my mind about how well these cute plastic mounting brackets will last. The downside? Whistle only updates location, at best, once every 3 minutes. And you can't really control this, like you can with Loc8tor. I have to say, a location update once every 3 minutes is not enough. In 3 minutes my dogs can travel a mile and a quarter. And I don't have the fastest dogs out there (even though they do pretty well!). I don't know about you, but if I'm trying to find a wandering dog, a mile and a quarter is insane. There is no way I would have the faintest idea where the dog was! I mean, other then within a mile or so, but a mile is a long way! The dog can't hear you call from that far away, and you really don't know where to find the dog!

However, the mapping does work on your cell phone. The UI is slow, but it works. The Whistle UI is also strongly oriented towards activity-monitoring, and I really just don't see a need for that. If you really want to have active pets - just get out there and do it.

Whistle also has regular GPS (cell-phone) subscription fees. Their equipment cost is less than Loc8tor, as is their subscription for service. As of this writing, the original purchase is from $60-80, and the annual subscription is about $90. So, a bit cheaper than Loc8tor, but if you are looking at these products, such a small price difference probably won't be meaningful to you.

Findster Duo: a new entry in the market. The lightest one of the batch. Works great. Excellent UI. Location update every 10-15 seconds. However, and it is a BIG however, this is not a true GPS unit. It operates on local radio. It used Bluetooth to connect to your phone (and you have to have a smartphone). And it uses radio to connect the master unit (connected to your phone) to the slave unit (on the pet). The UI is excellent. The locating is excellent. EXCEPT! As I mentioned, the units rely on your cell phone. The master unit (called the "Guardian") has to be in Bluetooth range of your phone. Meaning you have to carry it with you and have your phone with you. Findster says the radio range to the slave (the pet unit) is up to 2 miles. In real life, I have found it to be from a quarter mile to a half mile. Under good circumstances, I am sure that it could be better - but, hey, real life, eh? In no way would this have been good enough for my old hound. When she was gone, she was miles away. My current two have an orbit range from my location of about half a mile, so it works ok. Equipment price is comparable to Whistle. NO subscription fees - as no cellphone GPS service required. You've already got the cellphone GPS service with your smartphone.

Loc8tor: Most expensive. Best locating. Best locating UI - but only on a full-fledged computer - not on a cell phone. Water resistance not so good.
Whistle: If you have to have full location service - this is your next logical choice. Locating UI is ok. It works on a cell phone. But locating is slow, and has issues that can be significant. Cost is moderate. Water resistance is very good. The only reason Whistle is not an outright winner is because their locating service and interface is so weak. When you are really trying to find a lost animal, you have to have a 10-15 second reporting interval. Anything more is too long. Whistle, are you listening?
Findster Duo: Wonderful UI. Excellent locating - until your pet gets too far away. Excellent water resistance. Cheapest cost of the three - you only buy the hardware - no subscription fee. But also, no find-anywhere GPS.

So, if you just want to find where Fido is at the park - and Fido isn't likely to be a mile away already? Findster is your choice. And it is a superior choice for that. But, if you have a hound, who launches into earth-orbit mode at the sight of a rabbit, and who won't stop until the rabbit does? Maybe miles away? You have to choose either the Whistle, or the Loc8tor. For locating alone, the Loc8tor is my strong favorite. But then you knock up against that water wall. Loc8tor failed that, and Whistle passes. Loc8tor gives you better real-time location. Whistle gives you 3 minute old location, and delivers that at slow net speed. But it does deliver. And Whistle hasn't failed me because it got a little water on it.

And, one last note, but not least! For cat owners! Cats do not generally roam for miles. For cats, local finding radio can work. I know - we use it daily and have been using it for years. We have been using an earlier generation of the Loc8tor cat product, now called Tabcat. It is local only. The one we use is good up to about 5-600 feet. But with sometimes walking about a half-block in compass directions from our house, we have been able to locate our cats, and bring them home. In our case - for the night - as we impose a curfew on our cats - home whenever it is dark. The current Loc8tor product is a newer generation than the one I use. In a way, it is similar to the Findster product, although Findster has a greater radio range (and the receiver - the pet unit - is larger).

(1) They are currently marketing the Loc8tor device for cars and other objects - keys, etc.
(2) As of this writing: Fri Nov-03-2017
(3) I own the older Whistle. A newer Whistle model, Whistle 3, is out now. Based on the manufacturer's website, I do not think there are any differences that will impact this review - EXCEPT weight. The Whistle 3 is half the weight of the previous Whistle. However, the Whistle is already light enough it was simply not a factor for me.

P.S. I have received no compensation for any of this. I paid for the units. Nobody has paid me anything - so this is not any sort of advertising scheme. What you see is my honest opinions, no favor to anybody! Cheers, H.
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