GPS Review and Buying Guide


Getting started

If you often go new places for work or pleasure, have difficulties reading maps, or simply hate to request directions, you might think about a global positioning system (GPS) based navigator to your car. Once you devote a destination, the system will plot a course, give spoken turn-by-turn recommendations, and show your progress along the way. Most personal navigation devices (PNDs) let you choose your routing personal preferences, including the shortest distance, the fastest time, or perhaps routes with no cost roads. Some portable units offer special routing choices for bicyclists to help all of them avoid highways and with regard to pedestrians, appropriate routes are supplied that ignore one-way visitors restrictions. Some devices even offer a choice for the the majority of fuel-efficient route.

You can also make use of a GPS device to quickly find a number of points of interest (POI), including gas stations, ATMs, hotels, tourist sights, and more. Typically, you can search for a specific stage of interest, browse ones which might be near your current place, or look up ones in the different area. You can even choose a nearby restaurant by the kind of food you wish to nibble on. Once you’ve located what you would like, the system can calculate a option to get you there and frequently provide contact information, if you want to call ahead.

In today’s competitive market, GPS prices have come down to the stage where even budget products include features previously available only on more costly models, such as the chance to speak street names, matter speed warnings, and provide reality view, graphically which represents major intersections. Higher-priced models can incorporate such features as a great FM receiver for visitors information, a wireless FM transmitter to integrate using the car’s audio system, in addition to Bluetooth connectivity, which is usually handy for hands-free mobile phone operation. Services such as traffic, weather reports, and Internet searches are widely available, although they can call for a subscription or use a new smart-phone data plan. Free traffic information can be increasingly common, though it is sometimes supported by tiny, onscreen advertising.

Extra attributes aside, our testing has shown that most GPS navigators will typically help you your destination, but not always by the most effective route. While there isn’t any substitute for local information about roads and traffic conditions, some devices add learning ability through historical traffic data along with the ability for users to modify maps.


How to select

Before you buy a new GPS navigator, think in relation to your typical driving conditions, how often you’re within unfamiliar areas, and the features which might be most important to people.

Next, focus on how well the device works for navigation. The highest-rated models we’ve tested allow it to be especially easy to enter destinations and provide the most helpful recommendations. Look for a GPS guide device that scored well for ease of use. Some interfaces are additional intuitive than others, and low-scoring units is usually awkward, slow, or both equally. Then consider what, when any, extra features you desire. We’ll take you as a result of these steps and introduce functions to contemplate in this GPS acquiring guide.

What type of driving can you do?

If most of one’s driving is spent commuting down the same route or managing local errands on comfortable roads, you might not get much use from your GPS navigator.

On one other hand, if you often encounter traffic congestion on the commute, choosing a nav system with real-time traffic information can assist you avoid traffic congestion, damages, or road construction, and plot a route around it when you even get to the problem area. But traffic reporting on GPS units is not perfect; like other types of traffic information, it is usually inaccurate or outdated. However, this can be a welcomed feature for several drivers.

Where and how often will you use it?

If you’re purchasing a new car, check to determine if a built-in system is available and how much this costs. These are nicely integrated into the car. But they’re typically far more expensive than portable systems, both equally initially and for subsequent map updates. Still, if the vast majority of your driving is done in a car, or if you’d prefer not to experience a unit mounted on the actual dash or windshield, and you’re not on a tight budget, you might be happier using a built-in system.

If people often fly to completely new places and rent vehicles, or if you own many car, a portable system might be the ideal solution, especially with prices with regard to entry-level systems starting at under $100.

Another increasingly popular option can be a cell phone or smart phone. With these, you don’t need to pay for an expensive in-dash system or stress about carrying around a lightweight GPS navigator.

There are two forms of phone-based navigation available. An example may be a subscription-based service through your cellular service provider, which typically costs about $3 dollars daily or $10 dollars a month. Downloadable navigation applications are the other option, which range in price from free to around $60. Our testing has shown that as is the case, you get that which you pay for. A server-based solution is usually great in a crunch, say for a vacation or if you get lost. However, an application is a better purchase for smart-phone users, because the name-brand apps have the actual features and performance for you to rival dedicated portable units, and they have the complete map onboard, so guidance isn’t relying on a cell signal. Whichever option you decide on, you’ll also need to acquire a mount, car charger, and perhaps a data plan to your phone, if you do not already have one.

How about extra features?

A full-featured aftermarket GPS unit can effectively upgrade an adult car with features just like a trip computer, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, MP3 player, in addition to an FM transmitter.

Voice command is a feature that means that you can navigate on the operate, allowing you to enter in an address or get directions to a gas station, restaurant, medical center, or location from the POI menu simply by asking for it. However, this feature is only on a few high-end products. Performance varies, but we’ve found that it feature works very well on the Garmin Nuvi 3790T.

Accessories like live traffic information, weather, and local gas prices will offer an increased measure of safety and convenience, but you might have to take on a new subscription fee.

Check your neighborhood laws

Check the laws locally and the mount types available when you buy. States have been proven to place restrictions on windshield mounts. Most manufacturers such as a plastic disk that sticks towards the dashboard to provide an alternative solution mounting location. Another option can be a “bean bag” mount, which simply sits on the dashboard and has a rubberized surface to hold on to it in place.

If you travel outside the usa, look for a portable system that provides maps for navigating in other countries. Most will function in america and Canada, but several upper-level models from Garmin, TomTom, and others come preloaded with or is usually retrofitted with maps of Europe and also other regions.

Built-in battery comfort

All portables come using a rechargeable battery. If you need to use the GPS unit for walking or being able to view the multimedia features outside a car, look for one that will operate for no less than three hours on a new charge.

While all systems such as a plug for your car’s 12-volt wall socket, a built-in battery also will give you the option of using the power port for an additional device, such as a cellphone, and it eliminates cable clutter.

A battery also means that you can enter a destination in addition to plot a route when you enter the vehicle. Some models are packaged with a regular AC plug for in-home employ and recharging. Most also charge by having a computer’s USB port.

Dimension matters

If you choose a portable unit, size is significant, especially if you frequently pack it in the suitcase. Some models are no bigger than a wallet, while others are as large as a paperback book. Look to get a screen that’s large enough to read easily without blocking the view. We’ve found a new 3. 5-inch diagonal screen is definitely an acceptable compromise for travelers, but for regular employ, a 4. 3-inch wide screen allows much more information to be displayed, thereby making it easier to enter handles, due to larger touch-screen links. Several models use some. 7- to 7-inch screens, which can be better to see in a larger vehicle using the windshield further away from your driver. For commercial trucks, vans, and RVs, it’s best to purchase a special device for all applications, as they can provide guidance that factors low-bridge clearance in addition to parkway restrictions. In supplement, they typically provide in depth travel information, such as truck-stop services.




Shoppers looking for navigational support can choose from a number of GPS devices, including aftermarket lightweight or in-dash units, cellular phones, factory-installed in-dash units, telematics devices, and even laptop pcs. All have advantages in addition to disadvantages, and choosing the right one for you depends on the needs and budget.


Portable navigation systems

Today’s portable units offer the majority of the features of carmaker built-in devices, and some have features that you can’t get in a new factory-installed system. Plus, they’re compact enough to cart with you. They can certainly be moved from vehicle to car, and their light-weight and small size get them to easy to pack within luggage. With prices from about $80 to $400, portable units are a smaller amount expensive than built-ins, on $750 to $2, 000. And features available within portables have been advancing recently. Real-time traffic reporting is available even on more-affordable products, and some premium units offer voice-command capability.

Easily transportable navigators do carry several minor drawbacks compared towards in-dash factory systems, including screens which might be typically smaller and therefore potentially hard to read. Plus, a portable navigator should be placed a safe location where it will not interfere with air case deployment or block presence, and it should be securely mounted to reduce the risk of injury in an accident. If the unit’s power supply loses its charge, you will also suffer from a cord running to a power point. And when you leave a car, a portable unit ought to be hidden or removed in order to avoid theft.

But there usually are some real positives using portables. The GPS market place has advanced quickly, using major brands introducing completely new devices, features, and refinements more than once a year–a pace that will automakers cannot match because of their multi-year product development cycles. This often means that will portable units typically offer the latest features, whereas factory systems often often trail behind. Portables are much less expensive money to purchase, they can be readily shared with friends and family, and we’ve found that will map updates are less costly–some even have lifetime map updates to get a modest additional charge. Furthermore, the lower purchase price for portables makes it feasible to upgrade devices more reguarily than most people substitute their cars.

Traffic information is definitely an increasingly common feature, and there are various ways available to obtain it. Some units are traffic ready and call for a subscription to a reporting service. Others provide traffic info with the life of the device to get a flat fee, and still others offer traffic at no cost, supported by on-screen banner ad ads. If traffic reporting can be a feature that you like, it is most cost effective to get a unit equipped with a receiver and is particularly ready right outside the box. A traffic capable device might require purchase of a distinct traffic receiver, which can add just as much as $100.


Aftermarket in-dash devices

If you like the thinking behind an in-dash unit but aren’t interested in a new car or maybe don’t want a manufacturing facility version, you might look at an aftermarket navigation system. These types of GPS systems are typically packaged as part of a premium stereo. Similar to automaker systems, they usually have a large, easy-to-read display, and some can present real-time traffic conditions alongside your route, and also play DVDs. In several systems, a motorized screen retracts into your dash and remains outside of sight until you need to use it. This stealth design continues the dash uncluttered during normal driving and conceals the unit from would-be thieves. Aftermarket systems can cost just as much as factory systems and are best installed by way of a pro. And also take into account that many modern factory sound recording systems are so integrated into the dash that it’s difficult to change them with an aftermarket unit.


Cell-phone-based navigation

Some cell-phone service carriers, including ATT, Sprint, and Verizon, provide GPS navigation that may be accessed through compatible cellular phones. Unlike GPS-capable smart telephones, these types of GPS phones don’t have internal mapping software or perhaps a POI database; they access the data wirelessly over the cell network. Menus and features are similar to those of other lightweight systems, including spoken in addition to onscreen turn-by-turn directions, visitors info, and a point-of-interest food list. Advantages include eliminating the necessity to carry an additional unit for navigation, automatically up to date databases for map facts, as well as POIs, and the chance to call ahead to a destination using the push of a option.

Cost for the service is normally about $10 per calendar month, or it can be purchased approximately $3 per day–handy if you only need directions occasionally. But the small size of some cell-phone screens will make the map and directions hard to determine. Smaller speakers compromise the actual audio quality of verbal directions, and small buttons are harder to govern than those on greater devices. Not all phones are offered with mounting systems. As well as the navigation function may call for a data plan.


GPS-capable smart phones

Most smart phones have GPS receivers and mapping application, allowing them to work as a portable navigation unit. While this eliminates the necessity to have two separate units, smart phone and PDA screens are usually smaller than those about dedicated GPS units, and they can be more difficult to see and use. In addition towards the phone and cell-plan prices, you would need to acquire a navigation app or sign up for a monthly server-based course-plotting service.

Both Android and Apple iOS users enjoy the free included navigation software with turn-by-turn directions. Smart phones from a number of manufacturers and carriers is usually equipped with downloadable course-plotting apps, ranging in price from free to about $60. We are finding good choices from leading navigation companies Garmin, Magellan, Navigon, in addition to TomTom. These tend to become easier to use versus free apps and abundant with features. Although relatively pricey at their regular rates, these major apps include routinely been discounted around major holidays in the past.


Built-in factory systems

These kinds of GPS systems are offered as optional features when you buy a new vehicle. They can retail for just as much as $1, 500 when offered alone, but they tend to be bundled with other attributes, such as a backup camera or perhaps a high-end audio system that will add another $1, 000 and up. Built-in systems have large, clear screens that are mounted within the dashboard and have generally intuitive controls. They are integrated nicely into your car, and some use touch-screen displays which make it easy to input spots and navigate through food selection. Some can also answer voice commands, giving you the additional safety of keeping your eyes on the highway and hands on the actual wheel. For a registration fee, many systems can offer real-time traffic and climate reports.

Integrated factory systems are the most expensive sort of navigation aid. Because they may be built-in, you can’t take them with you in case you have more than one vehicle or occasionally rent an auto. Map updates must be purchased from your car company or seller, and they can cost one hundred dollar or more. Some systems prevent anybody from entering destinations as you move the car is moving. While that is intended to limit drivers distraction, it also means a new passenger can’t program it either unless the automobile is stopped. Plus, you typically won’t have the ability to upgrade to new technology or features and soon you buy a new vehicle. Similarly, if you’re searching for a used car, know that an earlier navigation system may have old technology and restricted or outdated mapping.


Telematics devices

Combining GPS and cell technology, telematics systems enable drivers gain access to emergency help or a number of convenience services from their particular vehicle. Available from a large number of carmakers, example systems include Ford Connect, Hyundai Blue Link, OnStar from General Motors, Lexus Basic safety Connect, Mercedes-Benz mbrace, in addition to Toyota Entune. Specific solutions vary somewhat, and these people include paid and free offerings.

The systems typically such as a menu of services, such as emergency crash notification in addition to assistance, a stolen car or truck locator, and roadside guidance.

Users of OnStar and mBrace can choose a navigation package that enables them to simply tell the service operator what address or maybe point of interest they’re seeking. Turn-by-turn verbal directions are then downloaded towards the car to guide the driver towards the destination, similar to the standard GPS device.

Ford’s Sync works slightly differently, in that ringing is not built into your vehicle. Instead, a individual pairs a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone with Sync, which then gives access to automated services including recommendations. There is no fee with the Ford system for their “Traffic, Directions, and Information” package deal, which owners can down load from www. syncmyride. com. This kind of service is becoming ever more popular with other car brands.

Some telematics systems give you a basic graphic display exhibiting each coming turn. Others make use of a full screen for featuring a map, instructions, in addition to controls. Advantages include ease of use and being able to request directions, even while operating. Another plus is that you don’t need to pay for updated mapping information. On the downside, you ought to be in an area using good cell-phone coverage with the systems to work and they can be expensive.

Map software in addition to GPS receivers for pcs



You can turn your laptop in a navigation device with a great add-on GPS receiver in addition to map program. These are offered from companies such as DeLorme and Microsoft, starting at under $100. While they provide functions a lot like a dedicated GPS unit, a laptop is not practical to use while driving and probably dangerous. Also, laptop screens is usually difficult to see within a car due to glare. We discourage this sort of navigation.




All portable navigation devices available today include pre-loaded maps and still provide spoken directions and automatic rerouting if you miss a turn. Listed below are additional features to look for when comparing models, based on your needs. (These GPS features and also other key elements are specified in our GPS model pages, available for each unit in the Ratings charts. )


Display size

We’ve tested portable systems with screens between 3. 5 to 7 inches. The smallest can be hard to determine, and their small touch-screen buttons causes it to be tedious to enter a great address. On the other hand, the largest units is usually bulky to carry, and when mounted to the windshield are likely to obstruct more of your view of the road. A 3. 5-inch display measured diagonally is satisfactory, but 4. 3-inch wide screens are better to read and use. Greater 5-inch screens are significantly available, and these big units is usually especially useful full-sized trucks and any vehicle the location where the windshield is far clear of the driver.


Spoken neighborhood names

Better systems inform you to turn onto a new street, highway, or route number by its name as opposed to the more general “right flip ahead” or similar universal instruction. This GPS attribute, often called text-to-speech, helps you to keep your eyes on the highway and less on the actual GPS unit. It is specially useful in busy, unfamiliar areas where operating is challenging and intersections could possibly be close together.


Real-time visitors reports

Units with traffic information can alert you to definitely a problem or slowdown ahead with time to avoid it. Some will even ask if you need to find another route and definately will detour you at the touch of an button. The real-time data is available to subscribers through a new cell-phone network, FM indication, or satellite radio service. But the service is currently available only in several cities, and coverage is generally limited to major tracks. The quality of information–like virtually any traffic reporting–can vary or be under current. Still, we have found that it can benefit. We’re seeing more plus more devices with free, advertising-supported visitors information, but some will still be subscription based, and some require an extra receiver costing up for you to $100. Free traffic information can be supported by small banner ads that pop up on screen. How generally they appear varies by simply region and density of advertising businesses. Several organizations, such as Garmin, offer you this feature on several models. Another emerging trend can be that some new models element in historical traffic data when calculating routes which enables it to guide you around acknowledged congestion patterns, such as rush-hour traffic.


Predictive files entry and dynamic lookup

These GPS features produce entering a city label or address faster. Having predictive data entry, since you type, the screen’s keyboard will highlight only characters that help complete a new known name. If people type “Pitt”, for example, the system will then likely highlight “S” because the next letter for Pittsburgh.

Almost all models have dynamic lookup. This common GPS unit feature helps narrow things down since you tap in an tackle. With dynamic search, if you type “San”, the unit might offer up a summary of choices including San Diego, San francisco, or Santa Barbara. Then you’re able to pick one from the list or perhaps keep typing.


Detour attribute

If you see traffic building up ahead, a manual “detour” button will find you an alternative course. Some models allow the consumer to select a unique distance to route around a challenge. Traffic-capable devices integrate their particular traffic information with detouring capabilities, prompting a user to pick an alternative route whenever traffic conditions are undesirable. That can be valuable in evaluating options before changing course.


Routing choices

Some systems can alert you to definitely toll roads on your selected route and often permit you to select a route that will avoids them. Other routing options you may want to look for include numerous trips, or routes for riding or walking that avoid highways and let walkers not in favor of one-way traffic.


Reality see

Realistic depiction of key junctions with lane specific visual directions to share with a driver in advance of their next maneuver. Mostly available on highways.


Isle assistance

Indicates the appropriate lane with the driver to travel in order to execute their upcoming maneuver.


Mounts and mounting

Most portable systems mount towards the windshield using a large suction cup. Manufacturers typically use a great angled rigid arm to connect the unit to the actual suction cup. We recommend the rigid arm mount for the reason that less-common goosenecks tend to vibrate once the car is in movement.

Something else to look for is a unit which is easy to install and remove from your mount. Typically, a unit slides onto a mount or snaps with it. The power cord either plugs into your mount or directly into your unit. We’ve found the most convenient to use are mounts that permit you to snap the unit within and release it using the push of a option. If the power cord plugs into your mount, that makes it better to quickly remove and reinstall the unit.

Minnesota prohibits drivers from mounting any devices towards the windshield; California has restrictions on placement. Check laws locally before purchasing. An alternative can be a “bean bag” mount, which simply sits on the dashboard. Those are a cinch to use, and they stay put pretty much. But beanbags can slide and in many cases fall off the dashboard during abrupt movements. Another mounting method added with most portable GPS devices can be a self-adhesive plastic disk that adheres towards the dash, giving you an area to attach the suction glass.


Power Supply

All portable systems is usually powered through a car’s 12-volt outlet, and all have an interior rechargeable battery. An internal power helps to minimize a new tangle of cords within the car. We found that these units typically operate for 2-4 hours with a charge, although our screening has revealed significant deviation among models. Internal power also allows you to practice using the system and program driving destinations while you’re away from the vehicle, or to use the device as a hand-held application when traveling, walking, or maybe bicycling. An AC power adapter is oftentimes included with the devices, allowing the device to become used and recharged inside. Some can also be charged employing a USB cord attached to a computer.


Bluetooth compatibility

This allows you to make and receive phone calls using the unit’s inside speaker, microphone, and display, and it automatically quiets directions as you move the call is being manufactured. Units with this attribute can display user’s phone book and show the actual caller ID on-screen. A nice tie-in, this feature provides for dialing point-of-interest locations present in the GPS device. Has a Bluetooth-compatible telephone.


MP3 gamer

With a music gamer, the device can retailer and play pre-loaded audio files, either through its speaker or throughout the car stereo using an FM transmitter or perhaps a cord from the GPS headphone jack towards the car’s auxiliary port. This GPS feature means the unit could also be used as a portable music device clear of the car. File capacity varies by unit. Most navigation units produce an SD card expansion slot machine for file storage.


Online video player

Shows videos previously saved to unit’s flash drive or stored with an SD card. Using this GPS attribute normally disables navigation as you move the video is being found, but it can possibly be handy for families about road trips and regular flyers.


Photo viewer

The viewer allows users to come up with previously loaded photos or photos stored with an SD card, as just one image or as slide shows.


Foreign languages

Many units offer verbal and displayed directions within Spanish and French along with English, and several have all the more choices. Some TomTom models can offer spoken directions in a lot more than 30 languages, but can’t display all on the screen. With regard to specific language needs, it’s advocated that you check using the device manufacturer’s website with the latest out-of-the-box abilities and extra language features that could be available by download.


Brand names

The market for portable GPS course-plotting devices remains alive, using new models still staying introduced. Our testing, based on countless hours within the lab and on the highway, has shown that the market continues to change in addition to develop, as the 3 well-established market leaders continue to launch new devices in addition to features.


Garmin, that also develops aviation in addition to marine technologies, is primarily recognized for developing lightweight GPS devices. Its current Nuvi lineup includes three brandlines—Essential, Advanced, and Prestige—for all forms of consumers at a number of prices and select attributes.


Magellan develops in addition to distributes vehicle navigation, crossover GPS, and outdoor handheld course-plotting products. It currently markets RoadMate and SmartGPS brand name lines for automobiles.


TomTom offers three forms of products: navigation devices, in-dashboard course-plotting and car control solutions, and navigation software for installation on mobile devices. In 2014, it is showcasing its GO series within the portable navigation device (PND) market place.


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