November 23, 2009

Automotive GPS Buying Guide

As GPS units continue to drop in price, there are a lot of folks asking the basics of GPS navigation, what stand alone unit to buy and what not to buy. I thought I would put down a lot of the things that I typically run through when I recommend a GPS to anyone. It starts with a budget, and some minimum features as well as how much are you going to use it and rely on it.

Invest in these features:

  1. Start with a trusted brand for a stand alone GPS - I trust both Garmin and TomTom to deliver an easy interface, with high quality maps and feature sets. They are the two titans of the word, have good support and very regular updates. If you are lucky enough to be able to travel to another part of the world, they have a lot of it covered with regularly updated maps.
  2. Text to Speech (TTS) at a minimum - this has the GPS speaking the road names, so it will say "Turn Right on Maple Street in 400 yards" instead of just "Turn Right in 400 yards." It doesn't make much of a difference on the highway, but in suburban and urban areas, it makes a huge difference to be able to concentrate on where you are going and listening for the road name instead of looking at the GPS map to figure out when to turn.
  3. Widescreen if you can afford it - with prices dropping more and more, a widescreen is very affordable, often costing only about $25 more than the standard 3.5-inch screened units. It's not the extra map that you get to see that is so important, but instead it's the text on the map that tells you street names, and it's the ability to input data into the unit on the larger keyboard that makes the widescreen so valuable.

Recently there are some very nice features that add to the capability of a GPS making it much easier to use and more trustworthy. If you can afford these, I would add to the list:speedlimiticon.jpg

  1. Lane Assist/ Lane Guidance - This is a couple of years old and I like it on my GPS when I can get it. The GPS will show you images of which lane to be in when approaching an intersection on the highway. While a regular exit ramp is easy, try some of the urban multi-road splits that have you needing to be in the middle lane to veer off and then a left lane to exit... it gets tough and this feature can help. Very helpful when you have this on the widescreen.
  2. Speed Limit Indicators - A hated these a few years ago due to the inaccuracies but recently I have come to love them. The speed limits are fairly accurate and are within a few hundred yards of when a Speed Limit changes on a state highway. I find them helpful, especially the Garmin implementation where the icon looks like a US Speed Limit sign with black writing on a white background. The TomTom implementations are text based in with all of the other data displayed which is a bit tougher to get at and decipher when driving down the road. This feature helps keep you legal.

Hope this helps...

Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

November 9, 2009

GPS Tour of The Wall in Berlin

There's not that much left, but here's a short video from Time Magazine that talks about a new GPS Based tour of the Berlin Wall.

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October 22, 2009

GPS Average Prices Way Down

Garmin Nuvi1490.jpg
Don't know if you've noticed, but I have, prices are way down on GPS units over the past year. But of course they are, right? We are coming out of a recession. In an article from teh WSJ today, they cited the prices of GPS units a year ago and now, indicating that the average selling price dropped from $242 to $189 from August of 2008 vs. August 2009.

To me, that signals a good holiday season if you want to go shopping for a GPS. While the average is still fairly high, I see a lot of great units below that average number, and expect that you can get an excellent widescreen device to the mid-100's and a standard screen entry level device for around $100, not on sale, and well below $100 for deep discounts like on Black Friday.

ReadMore at WSJ

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October 5, 2009

Gag GPS System - Wisecracks and more

From the crazy gag hopper comes this one; a gag GPS that makes wise cracks as you drive down the road. Motion activated, the unit will spew a few annoying phrases your way to make that drive all the more pleasurable. The G-rated mode passes for even grandma, but the R-rated mode isn't for little kids.

Via Foolish Gadgets

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October 1, 2009

DIY - Street Level Camera Rig


Thought I would pass this along - Do it Yourself street level cameras for taking those images just like Google did for their street views. The rig has eight webcams, a route and a GPS all tied into his laptop. Apparently the pictures snapped are pretty good even at 60 MPH. I assume that's in plenty of light. So just in case you wanted to set up your own competitor to Google Maps and drive most major cities, you're all set. Personally, it seems like a great project to just see if you can do it.

Via Crunch Gear

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September 28, 2009

Garmin Software Upgrade - Colorado Series

Garmin has a version 3.0 software upgrade out that adds a few nice features to the capabilities of the Colorado series. I have the Colorado 400t, and welcome a couple of the additions:

  • Added Waypoint Averaging application. (For more information visit our new Trail Tech website)
  • Added ability to load maps from any img file in the Garmin directory
  • Added ability to see a list of points from the map when several points are at the same location
  • Added customizable text to unit power-on screen (see \Garmin\startup.txt)

    I particularly like the waypoint averaging, where you are able to let the Colorado sit at a location (i.e. a Geocache that you are placing, or a particular trail waypoint), and let the Colorado average readings over time to get a more accurate assessment of the true location. With the advancement in the sensitivity of chipsets, some argue that this isn't needed, but I will take the capability and the added accuracy anytime, especially in dense tree cover or other challenging locations.

    More at Garmin Updates and Downloads

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  • August 25, 2009

    GPS Enabled Watch


    Filed under not nearly as awesome as a GPS with a screen is this GPS watch that shows you the way back home or to your car with little LED indicators. When you get out of your car, you can press and hold a button for 2 seconds to log your target's location and then when you need to find your way back, you can utilize the directional LED's to find your way there. When you are ready, you can also log your trek on your computer and see the trek on Google Maps. With a battery life of 21 hours, you'll be charging yet another appliance every night.

    at Chinavision

    Via CrunchGear

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    August 13, 2009

    In-Dash Navigation on the Rise

    According to a recent NPD study, in-dash Navigation is up 36% while portable navigation is only up 4%; the evolution continues. What's driving it? Cost is one factor, average selling price is down to $700 for the after market in-dash models, still much lower than the factory installed models. So while the in-dash models are starting at a really low base point, they may be a more viable format in the future. Another amazing stat from NPD is that 84% of all portable GPS sales were below $200 in June. Not a big surprise that the number is high, I am just amazed that the number is THAT high. This is not good news for new launches targeting only 16% of the market with higher end connected devices like the TomTom 740 LIVE and the Garmin Nuvi 1690.

    Via Twice

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    July 26, 2009

    Tour de France Done.... Great Rides for many

    I love the Tour de France and all of the drama that came this year with the layout of the overall stages to end the race on Ventoux. Obviously a big win for Contador, and one heck of a comeback for Lance, apparently sending TV ratings around the world through the roof. Pretty impressive to come back after four years and finish on the podium, beating some of the best riders in the world. If you missed Ventoux, you missed some unbelievable riding by the #2 finisher overall, Andy Schleck.

    Team Garmin came back in their sophomore year and really stood out in my mind to come in second for the Team standings, with Brad Wiggins coming in fourth overall, and young sprinter Tyler Farrar on the podium today just missing the last sprint for first place.

    If you like Team Garmin, you should have been following Jake on Twitter; he was there for the first six stages, and again the last few days of the Tour, offering up some great pictures, (Note the Garmin Edge on the handlebars of Brad Wiggins) and some fun commentary too. Sure Jake is an employee of Garmin, but it's easy to tell he's a fan too.

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

    July 19, 2009

    TomTom Survey Reveals Interesting Facts about Drivers


    TomTom conducted a survey to discover some driving habits of a few major cities around the country, discovering that there are certainly some fun differences out there. The survey figured out that the following cities divide out as:

    Diligent Drivers: Los Angeles, Houston

    Neutral Navigators: Chicago, New York

    Courageous Commuters: Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis

    There are also some fun questions about who uses their horn the most - Boston, who sticks to the speed limit the most - Minneapolis, and who claims to pick their nose the most....... you can find the answer after the jump.

    ArrowContinue reading: "TomTom Survey Reveals Interesting Facts about Drivers"

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

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