GPS Buying Guide

GPS devices have become one of the most sought after consumer electronics, and why wouldn't they be? They help you find your way and save you time and money. Use this guide to help you decide what kind of system is right for you and which features you’ll want to have.

Installed vs Portable

● Installed
The benefit of purchasing an in-dash GPS navigation product is that it usually doubles as a complete multimedia solution - providing users with a single control center for all entertainment sources and features (e.g., iPod, satellite radio tuner, DVD player, etc). The main benefits are the integrated look and feel (no exposed power cables, for example), larger screens and less gadgets to carry in and out of your vehicle.

● Portable
Utilizing a suction-cup window or dash mount, portables are convenient since they can be shuttled from vehicle to vehicle (including a rental car) and even on foot. Size, portability and cost are the primary benefits of these units.


Beyond price, the primary differentiators of today’s PNDs is size and features. Here’s a look at many available features and what you might like about each:

● Display Size
Screen size is important. You want a screen that’s big enough to read the guidance prompts, street names and on-screen buttons, but one that’s small enough to mount on your dash or windshield without blocking your view or interfering with dashboard controls. Screens sizes range from 3.5 inches to 7 inches. A 4.3-inch screen tends to strike a good balance with many buyers.

● Map Updates
One very important consideration when selecting a GPS is map updates. Roads and routes are constantly changing, therefore keeping your maps updates is essential. Some devices include free lifetime map updates, others give you one free update, and many others require you to purchase updates separately. Be sure to factor the cost of updated maps into your purchase decision.

● Route Guidance
Route guidance is what really matters, after all it’s why you purchased a GPS device. Practically all PNDs give you the choice of navigating either by entering an address, an intersection or a point of interest (POI). POIs include restaurants, parks, airports, parking lots, fueling stations, hospitals, etc. POI data is particularly prone to becoming outdated, though higher-end PNDs with built in cellular data connections give you “live” access to the most up-to-date maps and POI data. (See below for more details)

Here are a few guidance-specific features to consider:
Automatic rerouting-- this helps you get back on track if you miss a turn
3D view -- gives you a virtual map view that simulates your view out the windshield
Lane guidance-- shows you which lane to use when navigating complex intersections
Text To Speech-- this feature calls out actual street names rather than just stating “turn left.”

● Real-Time Traffic
Real-time traffic gives you up-to-the-minute traffic information. Many models with this feature can re-route you around traffic tie ups.

● Real-Time Data
Real-time data, also marketed as “Live” services, gives you instant access to information such as:

Gas prices
Red light and speed camera alerts
Weather alerts
Social networking -- find friends nearby

● Bluetooth
Models with Bluetooth connectivity let you pair your cell phone to make hands-free calls through the device’s speaker and easily navigate to addresses stored in your phone’s address book. This is a great alternative to using a headset.

● SD Card Slot
Insert an SD card to add additional map data or display multimedia content on the PND’s screen.

● Accessories
Don’t forget these very useful PND accessories:

Car mounts -- you’ll want one for each vehicle
Motorcycle mount
AC adapter for charging at home
Traffic receiver (required on some units for real-time traffic services)
Additional maps and updates
Subscriptions to real-time traffic and live services
Carrying case to protect your PND while not in use

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