Trimble R2. It's pretty, pretty, pretty good.
The R2 is more than pretty good. It's design and build quality is top-shelf and it's performance is astonishing. We think it's the best “budget-friendly” surveying rover from Trimble that we’ve ever tested.
The R2 was introduced sometime around 2015 but only recently did we get the opportunity to trade one in. Lucky for us, at the same time, we had a Trimble R10 (Model 2) that we wanted to put to the test – as we’ve been excited about what others are saying regarding Trimble's ProPoint™ technology performing in seemingly impossible GPS environments. We have grown up, but we still love to play with our toys, so we didn’t hesitate to pack up and head to the field with both receivers.
Similar in size, shape and weight to the R10 and R12, the R2 is built with a IP-65 ruggedized plastic housing (opposed to alloy on the R10/R12) which seamlessly integrates a rubberized shock absorbing bumper around the top section of the receiver. It meets Military specs for vibration and is designed to survive a 2 meter drop onto concrete. It’s well built and feels solid.
The R2 has the best battery door / compartment that we’ve ever seen on a Trimble surveying receiver. It utilizes a sliding tray design that is easy to remove and securely clicks into place - a big upgrade over the R8 series and R10 / R12. The R2 also utilizes the standard (92670) battery that Trimble has been using for decades in the R8, so batteries are less expensive more readily available compared to the R10.
The R2 is a true GNSS receiver capable of tracking all available constellations (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BeiDou, SBAS). The R2 is outfitted with Trimble’s Floodlight (satellite shadow reduction technology) which enables the R2 to work accurately in harsh GPS environments. We’ve seen the benefits of Floodlight™ technology on the Geo7x, but it’s performance on the R2 rivals ProPoint™ technology found on the R10 Model 2 and R12.
The R2 is capable of providing real-time centimeter accuracy through VRS, RTX and local RTK corrections. CenterPoint RTX™ service through satellite (SV) is as simple as it gets – but can also be delivered via cellular through your controller or smartphone.
The R2 is designed to be used primarily as a rover and does not offer true RTK base functionality (static base observations for logging only). Compared to the R10, It also lacks L5 tracking a.k.a "Triple Frequency" but based on our research, we haven't seen any empirical evidence that shows L5 is beneficial when used in a centimeter level RTK solution.
The R2 is compatible with Trimble Access, TerraSync and TerraFlex field software - and nearly every Trimble handheld device – including the TSC3, TSC5, TSC7, TDC100, TDC600, Yuma, T10, T100, Juno, T41, Slate…etc. With Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, it’s also compatible with just about every handheld / smartphone device – including the iPhone.
The R2 is an option-based receiver (pay for what you need). For a basic sub-meter GPS only configuration, new prices start under $3,000. Expect to spend up to $12,000 for the RTX configuration with centimeter accuracy and all constellation tracking.
The R2 is built with an internal wide-band UHF radio for receiving local RTK corrections – but you’ll have to pay another $1,100 to enable it. Fully enabled – as tested - our R2 (new) was $13,000.
R10 Model 2 vs R2:
We didn’t start with the intention to compare the R2 against the R10. In fact, the purpose was to test the performance of the R10 with ProPoint under tree canopy. The R2 was supposed to be our “control group” – that is, our baseline of how a “normal” GPS receiver should perform in this environment. However, we quickly realized that the R2 was outperforming what we had always considered as “normal”.
RTK Field Test:
We spent 3 days in a medium-density forest filled with tall pine and cottonwood trees. Our goal was simple: find a spot amongst the tall trees where the R2 lost its fixed solution – then bring the R10 in to see if ProPoint lived up to the hype.
This test should have been quick and easy – but everywhere we went, every pocket in the woods, the R2 maintained a fixed solution. Every day for 3 days, we drove into the forest – unpacked our gear – connected to our base station - waited in the open for a fixed solution, then walked into the forest until we lost fix. To our surprise, it was not that simple to find a spot where the R2 lost initialization for more than 5 minutes (continuously). When we did find a bad location – the R10-2 wouldn’t initialize either.
After two days in the pines, we decided to change location and run our test around a 300-acer patch of tall cottonwood trees. We were well into Fall, so most of the leaves had already fallen, but the sheer size of the trees (over 60 feet tall) would definitely be considered as a harsh GPS environment. This is where we finally found a spot where the R2 lost fix and the R10-2 kept going. However 5 minutes later – we heard the familiar “ding” from the R2, indicating it had once again initialized and was now fixed.
The trees were dense enough where we were now losing our radio signal from the local base station (roughly 3 miles away). Radio on the R2 would go in and out, while the R10 never lost radio. This was not about testing the UHF radio signal, so we decided to switch over to CenterPoint RTX via satellite for corrections.
Now running on CenterPoint RTX™, and set up under the tall trees, the R10 initialized first – within 5 minutes. We had to wait another 7 minutes or so for the R2 to initialize. Both receivers were floating in and out of initialization. We were in total disbelief that either receiver could maintain a fix (for any period of time) under such heavy tree canopy. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
We’ve always been leery about initializing in harsh environments - as we know bad initializations can and do happen. Using a total station, we shot two points under the trees where our receivers were struggling. We then measured and staked out those points with each receiver. We found that in this environment, the R10-2 would show a fixed solution – but could be as much as 6 inches off vertically. The R2 on the other hand was never more than +/- 1 inch – well within RTK / RTK tolerance. We observed similar results over the next hour. To rule out the RTX service as the issue, we installed a long-range radio antenna on the R2 and switched back to local corrections via UHF radio and observed similar results.
The R10 Model 2 with ProPoint™ provided more time “fixed” but seemingly at the cost of accuracy. During our tests, observations with the R2 were always within +/- 1 inch.
The R10 provided better UHF radio reception, but a long-range radio antenna on the R2 boosted its reception as well.
The R2s performance in harsh GPS environments far exceeded our expectations. It performed so well that we were in total disbelief – like watching David Blane perform his illusions right in front of our face.
The surprising performance by the R2 overshadowed the performance of the R10. The R10 with ProPoint™ is certainly impressive – but with a price tag north of $25,000 – you kind of expect it to be….right? I guess like anything that is proceeded with a lot of hype, when you finally see it, you can be left feeling a bit underwhelmed (que theme song from Curb Your Enthusiasm).
The base station that we used for local corrections (Trimble R9) was a city managed and only tracked and transmitted GPS and GLONASS (L1 & L2) via CMR+. Maximum distance from the base was 6 miles.
Firmware version of the R2 was 5.54. The R10 Model 2 was running firmware 6.05 with ProPoint™.
Short videos of R2 performing in the two different wooded environments.
|R2 Fixed in the pines||R2 Fixed under cottonwooods|