September 22, 2006

Buying Guide: Best Automotive GPS

There is huge growth in the mobile GPS segment and for good reason – people are getting tired of being lost, and being stuck in traffic. The other big reason that the market is growing fast is that the quality of the products is way up, while the price is coming down. You don’t need an advanced degree to run one of these things; most of the time these things are dead simple to use and work well right out of the box. There are about three levels of units on the market right now, the lower end entry models that offer basic navigation and not a lot of add-on frills, the mid-tier that has rock solid feature sets and a lot of ease of use features and then the high end units that offer a lot of screen real estate and a lot of extras that make life on the road easy. If you can afford to enter with a Mid-Tier model, do so. The larger screen and easy input of a touchscreen will help out a lot.

Entry Level GPS Navigation System:

I would flat out recommend the Garmin StreetPilot i5 unit. (We have used the Garmin StreetPilot i3 – the same model without pre-loaded maps that come standard with the i5 model, and liked it a lot: See our Review of the Garmin StreetPilot i3.)

  • Pre-Loaded Maps and Points of Interest.
  • Color screen (small and not touchscreen).
  • Voice Prompted Turns.
  • Automatic Re-calculation if you miss a turn.
  • Garmin interface is easy to understand.

    Mid-Tier GPS Navigation System
    Within this mid-tier, I need to make a couple of recommendations depending on what features you want, and as a result the prices can vary. Roughly these GPS systems are $400 - $600.

    Best Basic Mid-Tier GPS System
    Garmin StreetPilot C330 Garmin StreetPilot C330 Best value going at under $400

  • Pre-Loaded Maps and 5 Million Points of Interest
  • 3.5 inch color touch screen –upgrade versus the StreetPilot i5 above.
  • Voice Prompted Turns
  • Automatic recalculation if you miss a turn.
  • Garmin interface is easy to understand.
    See our review of the StreetPilot C330 GPS.


    Best Mid-Tier GPS System with Traffic Alerts

    Garmin StreetPilot C340> Adds Traffic Alert capabilities; A good deal at around $450

  • Pre-Loaded Maps and 5 Million Points of Interest
  • 3.5 inch color touch screen
  • Voice Prompted Turns – Text to Speech capability (Speaks street names).
  • Automatic recalculation if you miss a turn.
  • Traffic Alerts via TMC FM Receiver – You get alerts to traffic incidents in select cities (see our review for more details).
  • Garmin interface is easy to understand.
    See our review of the StreetPilot C340 GPS.

    Best Pocketable Mid-Tier GPS System TomTom ONE – Slim and Thin
    ttoneNAdesk.jpg

  • Pre-loaded Maps and POI’s for US and Canada.
  • 3.5 Inch Touch screen
  • Pocketable – 4.3”W x 3.5”H x 0.9”D and only 9 ounces
  • Comes with Optional PLUS services which can be activated through select Bluetooth Phones which can add traffic alerts and weather reports.
  • SiRF star III chipset – Highly accurate in tough locations like Urban Canyons.

    Best Pocketable Mid-Tier Traveling GPS System - Garmin Nuvi 360

  • Pre-loaded Maps and POI’s for US and Canada.
  • 3.5 Inch Touch screen
  • Voice Prompted Turns – Text to Speech capability (Speaks street names).
  • Automatic recalculation if you miss a turn.
  • Traffic Alerts via FM TMC Receiver – You get alerts to traffic incidents in select cities.
  • Hands Free Bluetooth Phone compatible – Make phone calls through the GPS.
  • Other interesting Features: MP3 player, audio book player, JPEG picture viewer, world travel clock with time zones, & currency converters.
  • Optional Translation Guides
  • Pocketable - 3.87" W x 2.91" H x 0.87" D and only 5.1 ounces.
  • SiRF star III chipset – Highly accurate in tough locations like Urban Canyons.
  • Garmin interface is easy to understand.

    High End GPS System
    Once you move to the high end of the GPS systems, you get a lot more flexibility, like multiple destinations and let the unit tell you the best route to take that will get you done the fastest. They can come with larger screens, like the Garmin 7200 – a whopping 7-inch screen. Or, maybe you want to control your iPod from your GPS – yes, we have that available too. Roughly, these GPS systems are $600 and up online.

    Best High End GPS System to go with your iPodTomTom GO 910
    tomtomgosnew.gif

  • Pre-loaded maps of US and Canada
  • TomTom Plus Service - an optional service that gives you traffic alerts and weather reports over your Bluetooth phone connection.
  • Optional FM TMC Receiver lets you connect to Traffic Reports if you don’t have a Bluetooth phone.
  • 4 Inch widescreen - Touch screen controlled
  • Voice Prompted Turns – Text to Speech capability (Speaks street names).
  • Automatic recalculation if you miss a turn.
  • Hands Free Bluetooth Phone compatible – Make phone calls through the GPS.
  • Other interesting Features: MP3 player, JPEG picture viewer, and audiobook compatible.
  • Controls your iPod thorough an Optional cable.
  • Audio Out jack to connect to your Car Stereo if it has an Audio input jack, otherwise audio is played through the TomTom GO’s speakers.
  • SiRF star III chipset – Highly accurate in tough locations like Urban Canyons.

    Best High End GPS System for Traffic - Garmin StreetPilot 2820

  • Pre-loaded maps of US and Canada
  • Optional FM TMC Receiver lets you connect to Traffic Reports.
  • OR optional XM antenna gets you XM Traffic feeds.
  • 3.8 Inch screen - Touch screen controlled
  • Voice Prompted Turns – Text to Speech capability Bluetooth connectivity means you can use an earpiece if riding a motorcycle.
  • Automatic recalculation if you miss a turn.
  • Hands Free Bluetooth Phone compatible – Make phone calls through the GPS.
  • Built-in MP3 and audio book player
  • Waterproof IEC 60529 IPX7 standards (submersible in one meter of water for up to 30 mins.)

    Best High End GPS System for the Total Splurge - Garmin StreetPilot 7200

  • HUGE 7” screen
  • Video Inputs – play those DVD’s here!
  • XM radio and traffic ready – just add the antenna.
  • all the standard GPS stuff you’d expect from Garmin.

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    Posted by Scott Martin at September 22, 2006 8:24 AM
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