I’m sure you’ll agree that a GPS
system must be reliable and easy to use.
That was our top criteria for selecting
the best GPS system. If you are ready
to just get to where you need to go,
the Garmin Nuvi Portable GPS system scored
high above the other GPS systems
we researched and is our top pick.
GPS System Comparison
|480 x 272||480 x 272||480 x 272||480 x 272||800 x 480||800 x 480||800 x 480||480 x 272||800 x 480||800 x 480|
|0.70 x 6.80 x 3.90||0.70 x 4.90 x 3.10||5.20 x 0.10 x 3.50||0.80 x 5.50 x 3.40||4.50 x 0.90 x 7.40||4.50 x 0.90 x 7.40||0.80 x 6.60 x 3.70||0.80 x 5.50 x 3.40||3.30 x 0.80 x 5.40||7.40 x 4.50 x 0.90|
|Warranty||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year|
GPS System Buying Guide
What is a GPS System?
Getting lost in an unfamiliar city is not fun at all. For some people it can even cause panic to set in. A GPS is a great way to reassure people that they are going to know where they are at all times, or if they don’t know, they can easily find out. There are many different capabilities that a GPS system can include. You need to understand what they do and the different features each has before you purchase one.
A Little Bit of History
The original first GPS system was used in the military. Because of the pinpoint positioning that it was capable of, having a GPS gave them a decided advantage over other ships at sea in the 80s. Up until the invention of the GPS, the military had relied on the sextant which was fine in its day, but was now 300 year old technology.
In the 90s, GPS units were able to fit right in the palm of your hand making them a crucial item for travelers, changing the way people reached their destinations, and making it much easier and less stressful. As time has gone on, GPS systems have added more and more features and become even more streamlined.
Things to Consider before Purchasing a GPS
Buying a GPS is an investment so making sure you get one that will meet all of your needs and preferences is very important. You don’t want to spend money on a device that doesn’t have all the features you’re looking for because that is a waste of your money. Make sure that you ask yourself the following questions before you purchase a GPS system.
- How often do I travel and How far? – If you are the type that wants to look up every address on your GPS and you are on the road a lot with either long distance or around town driving, investing in a good GPS system will be worth it to you. If you very rarely drive or find that you only seem to go to places where you already know where they are, a GPS doesn’t make much sense. Decide how often you will be using a GPS and make the decision as to whether it will be used frequently. If you are a salesman or delivery driver of some kind, a GPS could save you a lot in time and gas.
- Will you use your GPS on foot, in a vehicle, or other outdoor pursuits? – With handheld GPS systems being the norm nowadays, you can use them in other places besides your vehicle. Do you like to hike? How about mountain biking or boating? The handheld units on the market today are perfect for those activities. It is important that you know ahead of time where you will be using the GPS so you get one that has the capabilities you need.
- How often are updates offered? – If you travel for business a lot or use your GPS to help with a delivery job or business, you want a device that has the most up to date maps possible. If you’re just looking for the occasional coffee shop or store, frequent updates are not as important.
Common Features of GPS Devices
Features are another area where the user needs to know what they will be doing to choose the right ones. Different units will have similar features but then some have additional features that you may find very handy to have. We have outlined a list of the most commonly found features in today’s GPS systems.
Good Map Coverage – Handheld GPS units that are sold in the United States typically offer detailed street maps for all of the United States. Most offer coverage for Canada as well and some will even include Mexico. Users sometimes have the option of purchasing extra maps in digital form for other foreign destinations as well. Make sure that the unit you choose has a detailed maps feature and that it offers updates for free and on a regular basis.
3D Map Coverage – Depending on the unit, it may offer 3D map coverage. This can also be referred to as a bird’s eye view. I n many cases, a 3D map view can be much easier and faster to interpret and quickly becomes a favorite viewpoint for the user to utilize.
Spoken Directions, Step by Step – The handheld GPS units will usually offer spoken directions that come through a built in speaker the unit has. Other units may feed the spoken directions through the vehicle’s radio. Almost all GPS units offer the voice function/feature and it is worth paying for. Having the spoken directions prevents the driver from having to constantly take their eyes off the road to look at the map. With spoken directions, they can watch for the turns the GPS voice is telling them to look for.
Points of Interest – POI or points of interest include places of business that the user may want to do to. These will include gas stations, hotels, parks, coffee shops, and other places of business. These can change fairly frequently so make sure that the POIs include phone numbers as well so you can verify if needed.
Screen Size – Screen sizes in GPS units will vary, typically measuring anywhere from 3” to 7”, measured diagonally. Some of the handheld devices are even smaller. Larger screens are going to be easier to read, especially if the user is driving. You can usually expect to pay more for a GPS unit that has a larger screen. Since the smaller units with smaller screens are lighter, they might be a better choice for someone who is getting one for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Real Time Traffic Updates – Some GPS units have the ability to receive real time traffic reports which can be very beneficial for commutes back and forth to work. Traffic jams, accidents and delays can show up on the map and the GPS system can provide the driver with an alternative route. There is usually a subscription fee charged for these real time updates but if you drive a lot, it’s definitely worth it.
Media Card Slots – There are two ways that GPS units store their data: memory card slots or a built in hard driver. Hard drive GPS units will usually calculate directions faster than the units that have a memory card, but memory card GPSs are usually more durable and last longer. Media card slots are very useful for those who want to back up information and can also be used for playing music or using a photo view feature if your GPS has one.
Channels – The number of different satellite signals your GPS system receives information from are called channels. For the less expensive models, users can expect to have about 12 channels available. More expensive units can have as much as 24. The more channels a GPS unit has access to, the more accurate it will be.
Waypoints – This is an essential feature of handheld GPS devices. A waypoint is a specific geographic location that is defined by latitude and longitude and is inputted into the GPS device. GPS users can record a path they may be taking on a hike and be able to find their way back to the vehicle. Just be sure to start recording (by pressing the waypoint record button) at the beginning of the trail. More expensive GPS systems can hold more waypoints.
Tracks – Backtracking where you’ve been is a good way to retrace your steps if you get lost. That is what the Tracks feature will provide on your GPS system. As you’re taking that hike or mountain bike ride, your path will be displayed on your screen and a trail of breadcrumbs will show where you’ve been.
Benefits and Uses of a GPS
For Work – GPS systems are used daily in many work situations. These include rescue organizations, firefighters, geologists, archeologists, pilots, dispatchers, tour guides, military personnel and more.
For Traveling – Get directions for any city you are in across the United State and Canada. It can also provide POIs and the best route to take go get to your destination.
Different Types of GPS Systems
There are four basic types of GPS systems that you can choose from. Each one has its benefits and drawbacks. The best way to decide which type you need is to determine beforehand what you will be using your GPS for.
Recreational – Recreational GPS systems are small enough to fit in your hand or pocket. They can also fit on your dashboard as well. Some even come in a wristwatch style that is great for runners. It is very compact and lightweight.
Automotive – These GPS systems are specifically designed for vehicles and most often have built-in maps, voice directions, touch screens, different mounting instructions and map downloading capability.
Marine – These GPS systems are used for boats and other watercraft. They typically have waterproof designs and in some cases can float as well. Many have both offshore and onshore maps, chart plotting capabilities, and a screen that you can still see clearly in the bright sunlight. Depending on the model, some may offer tide information or locate fish.
Cell Phone – Many cell phones have GPS capability just in smaller form. There are many apps that one can get to use on their cells and turn them into a hand held GPS device.
When it comes to getting a good GPS system, one of the best things you can do is analyze your own needs and preferences and make sure that the models you look at have those capabilities and features that you need. There are a lot of different styles, sizes and models on the market today which can make choosing ONE a big challenging but if you take the time to research them a little by reading this guide you will find that the field could be narrowed significantly. This will make your choice much easier.
Having a good quality GPS system with the right features for your needs will make travel of all kind, whether on foot or in a vehicle much easier. Gone are the days where you have to drive around finding the destination you are seeking. Now you can input the information for where you are going and let the GPS guide you right to it.