The 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.
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 ReviewWidescreen 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
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.
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
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