November 15, 2006

Holiday GPS Buying Guide - Best GPS Gifts

It's that time of year again when big things come in little packages. Here's to all those presents that have your name on them, and maybe even those that you wrap up for someone else. Here's a list of GPS units that I think are sound units and a good value for what you are getting. That doesn't mean that they are the cheapest models, just that they are solid and offer a lot of features for the money. I prefer flat models and I think that the industry is moving in that direction. There’s a premium to pay for that convenience, so check out some of the non-flat models if you want lower prices or other features. Finally, there are a few great handhelds and fitness models out there for gifting; see below.

Best Automotive GPS Overall
nuvi660sm.jpgIt's the one I would want to rip open as my present: The Garmin Nuvi 660. I loved it and it worked very well - read my review. The screen is the brightest and best I have seen. It's top of the line features like Bluetooth integration and traffic alerts sit atop a platform of solid navigation in a beautiful flat form factor. At Amazon and GPSNow.

Flat Form Factor GPS Units I Recommend
Mio C310x - yes, this little beauty with a recently upgraded interface running a Mio version of the iGo software is an inexpensive, but decent little GPS. (Read my Review) If you are fortunate, you might snag one on Black Friday in what I think is the best deal this year on a GPS. $149 on Black Friday; ~$400 everyday.

tomtomonesm.jpgTomTom ONE (if you have a data connected phone) - has a flat form factor and it offers TomTom PLUS services (like traffic feeds and weather forecasts) through a data connection on your mobile phone. (Read My Review of the TomTom ONE) $449 on Black Friday and about $499 everyday.

Garmin Nuvi 350 - (Compare the Nuvi Line) Well designed and solid. No traffic (optional add-on antenna for traffic), and no handsfree Bluetooth connections, but flat, and a great navigator at a decent price. At Amazon and GPSNow.

Non-Flat GPS units I Recommend

If you want an inexpensive GPS and are considering an i-series Garmin (i3, or i5), I very much recommend moving up to a Garmin C-series product; the experience is better with the larger touchscreen. I say this because a lot of readers have returned them and bought the C-series after using the i-series for a while. While I think that the i-series is a good navigator, the slight upcharge (~$40 from i5 to C330) is worth it for the C-series, consider one of these two below.

Economical GPS for the Computer Savvy
c320sm.jpgOutright best value is to buy the Garmin StreetPilot C320 and add a 1GB SD card. The user will need to download the maps from the included maps disc to the 1GB SD card. This will cost you under $300 for a very functional easy to use GPS. At Amazon and GPSNow

Economical Out of the Box Navigation
Garmin StreetPilot C330 - (Compare the SteetPilot Line) has preloaded maps so you don't need to worry about downloading data to an SD card. Turn by Turn directions, preloaded maps, millions of Points of Interest. At Amazon and GPSNow

Best GPS Navigation Software
DeLorme StreetAtlas 2007 - this is great software for the PC. I love the interface and the long list of capabilities and features. I am finishing up my review on this, but I will tell you this is a great way to plan and go for long roadtrips. Best handled with a co-pilot as you can really get a lot out of the software with this while driving.

Best Handheld All Around

Garmin GPSMap 60CSx – this model line recently got upgraded to include the SiRF star III chipset and add-on memory cards to increase the amount of map data you can carry. Big screen, altimeter and electronic compass make this the top of the line and it’s built on a good base of features that make a handheld GPS worth having. I am using this model right now and will write up a review in the coming days. $50 Rebate through 12/31 - At Amazon and GPSNow.

Best Pocketable Handheld
Garmin eTrex Vista Cx – this smaller handheld GPS has a lot of the same features that the GPSMAP 60CSx has, only in a smaller package. The smaller screen is not hard to read, and the smaller screen means longer battery life. I have used a vista for a long time and like them a lot. $50 Rebate through 12/31 - At Amazon or GPSNow.

Best Entry Level Handheld
Garmin eTrex Venture Cx - Skip the monochrome units and move up the color unit with expandable memory and a USB connection for faster map downloads. With the rebate this is within range of the older generation monochrome, serial connection eTrex Legend; spend the extra money it’s worth it.
$50 Rebate through 12/31 – At Amazon .

Fitness GPS
GPS for Runners

Forerunner 305 – Improved heart rate monitor and watch-like fit on the wrist. Tracks progress and helps you train. I reviewed the Forerunner 205 and liked it; I would love the extra that the heartrate monitor adds. At Amazon .

GPS for Bikers
Edge 305 Bundle – similar to the Forerunner, this bikers GPS is sure to thrill. I know I want one. This will track your progress and has bike specific capabilities. Can be bought with heart rate monitor and a cadence monitor. I want it all, but you can get a less expensive combination with only one or the other. If that’s the case, I would drop the cadence and go with only the heart rate monitor version. At Amazon .

Note: Both Mio and TomTom use Teleatlas maps which are currently less accurate than the NAVTEQ maps that Garmin uses (my experience). I know that Teleatlas is working hard to catch up, but this may be an issue for you if you live in an area where roads are rapidly changing and you absolutely need the best maps. Teleatlas has launched initiatives to get better map data and they are in the process of doing that now, so I think that the gap is closing.

Read More in: GPS Buying Guides | GPS Rebates and Sales

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Posted by Scott Martin at November 15, 2006 8:22 AM

Recent Comments

In your review of SA2007, please consider it unsuitable for mobile use because it does not keep the GPS location pinned to a single location on the screen, even to the point of allowing the GPS location to almost move off the top of the map before redrawing. At higher speeds, or if you have a turn coming up at the critical moment the GPS location gets to the top of the screen, the program is of no value and presents more of a safety hazard than other GPS systems with which I'm familiar.

Additionally, SA does not function under a limited user account (WinXP), making it unusable for most corporate network computer users who take their laptops on the road. Many corporations do not permit their users higher privileges, even on the local machine.

Posted by: Rob at December 4, 2006 12:31 PM
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