November 11, 2007

GPS Holiday Gift Guide – The Best GPS Gifts

Gps Lodge Blogpire Gg-1The GPS market has taken off in 2007, and it was just a year ago when a GPS first hit Black Friday and awoke a sleeping giant. Again this year, I am happy to share what I think are some of the best GPS units on the market coming into the holiday season. I have used all of the models below, with a few exceptions where I used a similar model, and I know them fairly well.

I hope you can find a GPS that’s the perfect gift for someone you know (or maybe even yourself). I can’t tell you the one best GPS for you to buy, because people have different needs and different budgets, so I gave you a list of GPS units by price range. Check out the key features list at the end of the post if you need some help understanding the list.

If you have questions, post them in the Comments section below and I’ll try to answer them the best I can.


Need a GPS for a European Trip or with both Euro and US maps?: Check out my post on GPS Units for European Vacations.

Entry Level Units – Standard Screen $150 - $250
GarminNuvi200sm.jpg

  • Garmin Nuvi 200 or Nuvi 250 – Slim design and the easiest interface to use. Solid navigation capabilities and 5-6 million of Points of Interest. Nuvi 200 has continental US + Hawaii+Puerto Rico maps, Nuvi 250 has All of North America. Read my Full Review of the Garmin Nuvi 200/250. If you can, pay the extra ~$30 for the widescreen Nuvi 200/250 (see below); small up-charge for big experience boost with widescreen.


  • TomTom ONE 3rd Edition – Uses the new TomTom NavCore 7 software, which includes MapShare and Help Me! Capabilities, not found on the 2nd edition. Easy interface; no Text to Speech (TTS), and Maps of US and Canada, with 2+ million POI. Overall the 2nd edition is good, 3rd edition is better.

  • Mio C230 – Basic navigation with a decent map set (continental US), ~1.7 Million POI and Text to Speech. The interface is good, but a little more challenging to get used to than the Garmin interface. Worth the step up from the Mio C220 for the TTS feature. Read my Full Review of the Mio C230, or the older C220 Full Review


    Widescreen Entry Level $250 - $399

  • Garmin Nuvi 200W or 250W – Again dead simple interface in a widescreen version, 5-6 million POI. Generally only a few dollars more than the standard screen versions; worth the upgrade. Nuvi 200W has continental US + Hawaii+Puerto Rico maps, Nuvi 250W has All of North America. Read my Full Review of the Nuvi 200W/250W

  • tomtomONEXLsm.jpgTomTom ONE XL or TomTom ONE XLS – Widescreen Version of the TomTom ONE regular. The TomTom ONE XLS adds Text to Speech for about $50. Includes the upgrade to NavCore 7, this adds Help Me! and MapShare. See my Full Review of the TomTom ONE XL.

  • Mio C520 – Good navigation with some good features to boot. Includes Text to Speech, 6 million POI, a nice split screen navigation that gives you map on about 2/3rds of the screen and data like your next turn series on the other 1/3rd of the screen. Six Million POI. Read My Full Review of the Mio C520.


    A Step-up - <$400

    Want Text-to-speech in a Garmin? Try these two:

  • Nuvi 260 – Thin no flip up antenna, North American Maps, 6 million POI.Nuvi350sm.jpg
  • Nuvi 350 – Older design that set the standard for flat units; very popular, very solid, North American Maps, 6 million POI.

    TTS on a Widescreen Garmin?

  • Nuvi 650 – Beautiful bright widescreen with Text to Speech and North American Maps; cheap upgrade from the Nuvi 350, 6 million POI.


    Higher End Units >$400
  • Garmin Nuvi 660 – Adds TMC Traffic capabilities and Bluetooth Handsfree to the widescreen and North American Maps, 6 million POI. See my Full Review of the Nuvi 660
  • Garmin Nuvi 750 – New slim design with Where am I? and multi-point route optimization capabilities. Six Million POI.
  • Garmin Nuvi 760 – Adds Bluetooth and TMC Traffic capabilities, six million POI. Read my Full Review of the Garmin Nuvi 750/760 TomTomGO720sm.jpg
  • TomTom GO 720 – widescreen, MapShare, Bluetooth Handsfree and optional TMC Traffic. Also, record your own turn voices. Read my Full Review of the TomTom GO 720

    Garmin vs. TomTom vs. Mio [vs. Magellan]

    A lot of people want to know which to purchase, and I tell them that they will have to decide for themselves. Read my reviews, and think about the GPS user and what is important to them. You cannot go wrong with a Garmin, and TomTom is very good. Mio is still a value play, and for that savings you give up some ease of use.

  • Garmin has the easiest interface and with that they shed some features that add a bit of complexity to the user experience. It’s like an Apple design mentality vs. a PC.
  • TomTom is still a good interface and getting better, and then have recently added some features like MapShare or record your own voice for turn prompts (GO 720 and GO 920) to units that are hard to resist.
  • Mio has a lot of features and is often about 15-20% lower in price than the other two. The interface is better than most other lower priced brands, but not as clean and easy as either Garmin or TomTom. I have no problem recommending Mio for those who are not “Technically Challenged” in understanding how to do things on a computer. Me no problem, my grandmother, not so much.
  • Magellan, I leave out of my list this year, as I am not happy with their interface these days. Features are compelling, but the interface is a drag on what could be a great product. Sorry Magellan, maybe next year.


    Features and Attributes to consider when buying a GPS

  • Text to speech (TTS) – this helps with driving in urban areas or where roads are close together; speaks street names for better awareness in making turns. More on TTS.

  • Interface Quality – Mio is good and better than “no-name” brands. TomTom and Garmin are better. If the user is technically challenged, move up to Garmin or TomTom.

  • High Sensitivity Chipsets & Flat Form Factors – All of my recommendations this year have high sensitivity GPS chipsets and are flat. I am not recommending the Garmin StreetPilot C300 series this year because it has neither. Instead, spend the extra $40 or so and move up to a Nuvi. The Nuvi line is great, and the performance and your satisfaction will be much better. Money well spent.

  • TMC Traffic – Traffic is still young and evolving, but it can already help a lot in urban areas where traffic and commuting headaches are a constant struggle. Garmin 660/670 and 760/770 have the TMC receiver built into the power plug. Others (TomTom 720, Nuvi 350/360) have it as an extra cord that is an optional add-on. All TMC subscriptions are about the same cost per year (~$60) after a free trial period. More on TMC Traffic.

  • Points of Interest (POI) - More is better, but due to costs and space issues, some of the entry level units don't have a lot. At 1.3 million or less you won't get all the stores sometimes due to manufacturer's decisions on what to cut and what to keep. Sometimes you get plaza names but not the stores in that plaza. See More on POI


    Looking for more amazing gift ideas? Check out our extensive set of holiday shopping guides on electronics, fashion, cooking, and more.

    Read More in: GPS Buying Guides

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    Came straight to this page? Visit GPS Lodge for all the latest news.

    Posted by Scott Martin at November 11, 2007 10:33 PM
  • Recent Comments

    Scott,

    What a great set of reviews. Perhaps you can answer a question that I don't see any discussion about:

    I have a friend with a Garmin i5 which she hates for one key feature: if you don't follow the route, it always seems to insist on getting back to the original route, even if that means making a u-turn or reversing direction on an interstate. It's so bad that she now refuses to use it.

    The GPS built into in my Prius seems to have a much more clever re-routing algorithm - if you vary from the route, it will recalculate a new route based on where you are.

    I'd like to get a new GPS unit for another person, but I don't want to make the same mistake as my friend. Is this single-mindedness about re-routing a characteristic of all Garmins? or just the i5? or is there something we're doing wrong? I see lots of good reviews about Garmin units, but no one seems to mention this problem.

    Any information you have would be very welcome.

    **********************

    Mike,

    Many units, including newer Garmins have the ability to shut off the U-Turn attribute when configuring the navigation features. I reviewed an i-3 a long time ago and don't recall if you can do this on these models.

    I will say that even with a U-turn shut off, you risk the unit looking for a way to effectively "u-turn" you as it sees ways for you to drive around the block and get you back on the old route. This is due to the fact that it sees the route as the best option currently, until it realizes that plowing ahead and hitting a slightly different route is more efficient....

    Hope this helps.

    -Scott


    Posted by: Mike at December 15, 2007 9:33 PM

    Hi Scott, I've been reading your wonderfully detailed reviews trying to decide on a GPS for myself, however I'm still unable to choose. Which would you say is better for traveling locally around a big city, the Garmin nuvi 200 or the Tom Tom One Third? Your help would be much appreciated.

    *******************************************
    Both are good in their own ways; I am not going to tell you what to buy as for me I like them both.

    Nuvi 200 - Probably the easiest interface out there; very simple. Much appreciated for non-tech users.

    TomTom ONE 3rd - some extra features that make the offer compelling, including the MapShare and Help Me features. The unit offer a slightly less intuitive interface, and some debate if the quality of the routing is up to the Garmin standard.


    Posted by: Katie at November 26, 2007 5:00 AM

    WE are traveling to Europe soon. All of the GPS units here have US and Canada as default base mapping.
    Is there any way to get a Europe map database, here in this country?

    ******************************
    See my post on Traveling to Europe for GPS:

    http://www.gpslodge.com/archives/013262.php

    There are units in the market that do come with both sets of maps, and there are fairly straightforward ways of taking a US only model and buying extra maps.

    You need to do the math, to see which way is a better value, considering the time and hassle of adding maps yourself if you go the download route.

    I will urge you to stick with the big guys: Garmin and TomTom, as they have good solid support and a fairly broad map selection if you buy a la carte.

    -Scott


    Posted by: JRW at November 24, 2007 12:21 PM

    OK well I decided to just bring my Navigon 2100 w/Traffic back to Staples for a refund.

    So now I need your help / Recordation. Like I said in my Previous Comment, I had no problem understanding and using the Magellan 3100 except I hated it. always froze up and resetting it self

    So what GPS system would you recommend for me to use thats out there, and that is easy to use, and gives you Speech to Text, as well as tell's you street names.

    Thank you Jonny k

    ******************

    Text to Speech - Two less expensive ones that are easy to use:

    TomTom ONE XLS - make sure it's the "S" version - about $259 today on Amazon.

    Nuvi 260 - small screen version - dead easy. TTS and All of North America maps.

    Nuvi 350 or 360 - Both older models and started the flat screen segment. great navigators.

    Nuvi 650 - was around Costco for $299; not sure if sold out. You pay 5% more if not a member at Costco.com

    You can always see my Holiday Shopping Guide:

    http://www.gpslodge.com/archives/014729.php

    for a lot more information.

    -Scott


    Posted by: Jonny k at November 23, 2007 6:06 PM

    Cool review. TomTom ONE 3rd Edition looks nice.. not too fancy but seems like all you'd need really.


    Posted by: hsa767 at November 16, 2007 5:07 PM

    Bill,

    Good call, sorry about that. Some POI are up, and others to follow; also linked in my POI post from the other day. My hope is that people will see the post and read the full reviews to to the research on the unit so they know what's right for them.

    Dannyka,
    I'll look into the RM1200 interface question too.

    -Scott


    Posted by: Scott at November 13, 2007 6:44 AM

    I'm surprised that you didn't include "number of POIs" in your list of features to consider, especially since you just had a post about it the other day. Limited POIs (especially a "shopping" category) is very much a deal-breaker for me. Sadly, it seems many companies fail to list the number of POIs included with the units, and I've taken a couple back to the store after I got them home and found the database severely limited.

    Thanks for a terrific site.


    Posted by: Bill at November 12, 2007 11:09 PM

    Hi,

    First of all, great site you have. As it gets closer to Christmas, I've been visiting every day. :)

    My question has to do with your DE-recommendation of Magellan units. Not that I know anything about the interface, but doesn't the 1200 have a new interface, or is it the same as the other Magellans? Are you planning to do a review of this unit?

    Anyway, thanks to your site, I'm narrowing my list of choices. Hmmm... or is that expanding them? Oh, well. Either way, it's a lot of fun! :)

    Thanks again,
    ~Dan


    Posted by: dannyka at November 11, 2007 11:39 PM
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