GPS Comparisons – A Great Way To Shop For The Perfect Unit
It is much easier to find information on specific GPS products than reliable GPS comparisons. When I first became interested in car GPS systems, I searched the internet for unbiased comparisons, GPS ratings, or reviews that might be helpful. Suffice to say, useful comparisons were few and far between, which is why I decided to create my own information site, which you can access from the link below.
All GPS devices work the same way, they all work with the same satellite system: a network of about thirty satellites that orbit the earth and are used to triangulate the position of GPS devices. When you buy a GPS system, from Amazon for example, what you are buying is the receiver, which receives the signals transmitted by that network of satellites. What’s even better is that you and I don’t have to pay to use that multi-million dollar satellite network. It’s free! All we have to do is buy the device.
But then there is the problem: which device to buy?
The market leaders are Garmin, Tom Tom and Magellan. You can go to their websites for information, but each company tries to emphasize the strengths of their products, while glossing over their weaknesses, and they do so in a way that makes it difficult to compare their product to another company’s. I have no problem with this. It just makes it a bit difficult to decide which GPS to buy.
You can buy automotive systems that mount to the dash of your car (like your radio), or portable systems that mount to a suction cup device on the windshield or sometimes the top of the dash. The information in this article focuses on portable systems. They are much cheaper and you can take your unit with you while walking or driving another car.
Portable systems cost from less than $200 to almost $1000US. All these GPS devices find your location and show you routes on maps. All of them preloaded with maps of the United States and Canada. (Some of the cheaper ones only come with regional maps.) What makes the difference in price is the quality of the maps and so-called “points of interest”, along with a host of additional (but useful) features.
The size of the POI database is important. Points of Interest are preloaded addresses and information about businesses, civic buildings, hospitals, gas stations, restaurants, hotels, schools, and generally any destination you want to go to.
The cheapest systems only have about 750,000 points of interest preloaded. That sounds like a lot, but when you consider how big the United States and Canada are, 750,000 restaurants, hospitals, gas stations, ATMs, and Starbucks, it’s really not that big. The best systems have a few million points of interest. Definitely something worth considering, especially if you’ll be using your system on the go. Of course, if you’re only using your GPS near your home, the number of points of interest may not matter; on the other hand, you may not need the GPS system. j
There are some features that are important to consider.
The user interface (how easy the unit is to use) is important. Some systems like the Garmin Nuvi are like mini computers, they do a lot. I’m not saying avoid the Nuvi, I really like that product line. Just keep in mind that you may need to read the instructions the first time you use it. To Garmin’s credit, the StreetPilot C series was designed to be extremely easy to use. If I were to buy my 86-year-old mother-in-law an automotive GPS system, it might as well be the StreetPilot c340.
As you go higher in the price range, you get more features. Some are not so important, like having a travel watch. My car has a clock, so I don’t think I need two. Bluetooth technology is a feature you might want if you use your cell phone a lot in the car. Bluetooth allows you to use your GPS like a cell phone. So you’re limiting the number of devices you have to keep up with in the car, which is always a good idea when dealing with a busy motorway interchange.
Mid to high range GPS systems have mp3 players so you can listen to music and audio books. That’s fine if everyone else in the car wants to hear the same thing. If not, I guess everyone will have to use their own iPod.
Screen size is a problem! The last thing you want to do in traffic is strain to see the GPS screen. Many of these product lines have widescreen versions. That translates to 4.3-inch screens. That’s nearly an inch larger than the 3.5-inch screen. For some people, it makes a difference.
There are some other features that I haven’t covered in this article. You can click below and go to my website for more detailed information on specific units.