Navigational and GPS Device Buying Guide - GPS device, Tools, and instrument - Completely GIS, GPS, and Remote Sensing Tutorial -
Navigational and GPS Device Buying Guide

Navigational and GPS Device Buying Guide

If you wind up frequently getting lost while driving around, walking, hiking, or riding a bike, you might want to look into buying a Global Positioning System, usually referred to as a GPS device GPS buying guide - Not just for the directionally challenged, these are great for those who don't like to use paper maps or ask for directions.

These nifty contraptions come in a few main varieties, including automotive, handheld, and marine. There are also models designed specifically for runners, which track speed, distance, and course, and are usually made in combination with heart rate monitors GPS buying guide - For those who like to keep things simple, don't forget that GPS systems are also available on smartphones and PDAs, thus eliminating the need to carry an arsenal of electronics with you wherever you go. In short, no matter what your need, there is a GPS device for you.

Types of Navigational Devices

There are several different types of GPS devices catered to specific sectors of the consumer market. Hardware products designed for hikers, bikers, drivers, boaters, and dedicated computer users have popped up in the past five years. However, there is also an increasing number of machines that have multi-purpose functions. For example, some systems function not only as a car navigational tool, but also an MP3 player GPS device, buying guide - and satellite radio GPS device, buying guide - receiver in one.

GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

Handheld GPS device, buying guide -

  • Ideal for hikers and hunters, and others who spend a lot of time outdoors.
  • Lightweight, but with a smaller LCD screen than other models.
  • Some can be mounted inside a car, but the small screen makes them less than ideal for driving.
  • Check out: Magellan eXplorist GPS device, buying guide -

Car GPS device, buying guide -

  • These usually have larger screens so you have an easy view while you drive.
  • A noteworthy feature of a car GPS system is voice-activation or text-to-voice directions.
  • The majority come with mounting equipment for easy installation or you can purchase an in-dash system.
  • Check out: Garmin nüvi 1490T GPS device, buying guide -

Cellphone GPS

  • Most smart phones have integrated GPS devices, which is perfect if you are in the market for both products.
  • Requires a download of maps and/or software.
  • Reduces the number of gadgets you need to carry around.
  • Check out: BlackBerry Curve GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

Laptop GPS device, buying guide -

  • GPS devices that attach to your laptop are available.
  • Can be used in a car, but not practical for hiking.
  • Requires the download of maps and/or installing software.
  • When using a laptop or netbook, simply plug a GPS dongle GPS device, buying guide - into the USB port to acquire satellite reception. 
  • Check out: Garmin Mobile GPS 10 GPS device, buying guide -

Watch GPS device, buying guide -

  • Ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and fitness junkies.
  • Can track location, pace, distance, and heart rate, plus calories burned and more.
  • Bulky, so really only good for use when working out.
  • Look for a comfortable fit and easy-to-reach buttons.
  • Check out: Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS device, buying guide -

Nautical GPS device, buying guide -

  • Chartplotters GPS device, buying guide - and fish finders GPS device, buying guide - are specifically designed for use on boats. However most models can easily adapt to use elsewhere simply by loading new software.
  • Most have very large backlit screens that can easily be read in bright sunlight.
  • Can track include depth contours, inter-tidal zones, wrecks, boat ramps, fishing areas, marinas, and more.
  • Check out: Garmin GPSMAP 276c Portable Chartplotter GPS device, buying guide -

Important Features On Any GPS Device

Major Manufacturers

  • High-resolution screen that will be bright and easy to read.
    • Make sure that the screen will hold up to the sunlight.
  • A simple button pattern that will be easy to use. Most are touch screen GPS device, buying guide -
  • A fast processor for rapid recalculation.
  • A decent battery life (many models are very poor in this respect so it's good to research this a bit before buying).

Car GPS Devices

GPS device, buying guide -

What to Look for in a Car GPS:

  • Address-to-Address Routing: Essential for car navigation.
  • Maps: Always look at the included maps package. If you think you will ever venture north of the border, look for a package that includes Canada or just says North America. Take into account where you will likely be driving in the future.
    • New models feature transatlantic maps in case you are road tripping in Europe.
  • Verbal Directions: The best (and safest) way to use your GPS device is to have it take instructions from you and then talk back to you. Just about every unit will also tell you when to make a turn. Many newer models will now say the names of streets as well.
  • Mounting: Make sure to get a unit that can be easily mounted GPS device, buying guide - to your dashboard or windshield.
  • Automatic Routing: Most models have this feature.
  • Waypoints: Some units have just the basics (points of interest, gas stations, etc.). Others will allow you to mark your own points of interest as well.
  • 12 Channel Parallel Receiver: This type of receiver will give you the best reception so that you don't lose the signal in a strange city.
  • Screen: You want a decently-sized screen since you might need to glance at it while driving.
    • If you get a color model, consider TransReflective Color.
  • MP3 Player: Some GPS devices can double as MP3 players if you're bored with the radio and tired of lugging around your CD collection.
  • Audio Book Playback: Many of Garmin's models and some of TomTom's have the ability to play audio books, which can make that longer trip that much less taxing.
  • Satellite Radio: For just $12.95 per month, users can stream XM Radio to their Garmin device, while Clarion's NICE gets Sirius radio for a comparable fee.
  • Bluetooth: A nice extra feature to allow you to make hands-free calls while driving. 
  • Traffic: For an extra montly fee you can receive live traffic reports, which makes your trip hassle-free. 

Handheld GPS Systems

GPS device, buying guide -

What to look for in a handheld GPS system:

  • Weight: If you're hiking or backpacking, every ounce counts. Conversely, durability is also important.
  • Twelve-Channel Parallel Receiver: For hikers and off-road travelers, these receivers will give the best service.
  • Map Screen: Certain devices only display relative longitude and latitude lines. Be sure your model is map-ready.
  • Waterproof GPS device, buying guide - You don't want your GPS to short out when it rains or if you fall in a stream.
  • Long Battery Life: Carrying multiple batteries around can certainly be a pain.
  • Waypoints: Most sites recommend a GPS unit with storage for at least 500 waypoints.
  • Compass: Helps you get to the next waypoint.
  • Screen Characteristics
    • Color GPS device, buying guide - vs. B&W : Some color screens are hard to read in sunlight. The exception is a TransReflective Color GPS device, buying guide - version.
    • Size may also be a factor. Consider how small a screen you can read comfortably.
  • Route Capacity: Most devices can hold at least 20 routes, while some may hold as many as 50. The more, the better.
  • Topographic Maps: If you plan to do a lot of backcountry hiking, elevation and small stream data will definitely come in handy.

Outdoor Fun

These products enable you to make the most of your outdoors experience. With tons of built-in features and power that lasts all day, these gadgets are perfect to suit all your outdoor communication needs.

GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver GPS device, buying guide -

Not only is this navigator reasonably priced, but it uses GPS technology to locate your position quickly and maintains its signal no matter what the terrain. This little navigator is light enough to hold in the palm of your hand and can store up to 500 waypoints to easily find what you need right away. It can also run on battery power for up to 14 hours, supports 15+ languages, and best of all, it's waterproof. What more could you want?

Uniden 28 Mile GMRS Radio 2 Pack with Charging Cradle and Battery Packs GPS device, buying guide -

These two-way radios offer communication up to the range of 28 miles and are even equipped with Caller ID, direct call, privacy codes, and call tones. They have up to 22 channels and will auto channel change so that your frequency is not disturbed by interference. Designed to handle the rugged outdoor elements, Uniden radios even come with a charging cradle and extra battery packs for a quick power-up.

When Basic Isn't Good Enough

With the PDA becoming extremely outdated, people are looking to smart phones as their all-in-one devices. If you are interested in a Smart phone, you can expect to be paying extra just for services. You'll have to check with your carrier to exact pricing. The iPhone GPS device, buying guide - includes a pseudo GPS via cell signals, and maps your location to Google maps.  The one drawback is when you're out of cell coverage, you're really lost.  For laptops, make sure you get a good product bundle that includes a wide array of maps.

As devices become further integrated, multi-functionality is what distinguishes the best from the merely adequate. Here are some forward-looking navigation systems that give consumers a little something extra. Whether it be DVD playback or landmark recognition, these devices each have a special feature that makes them worth a look.

GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

Garmin nüvi 775T GPS device, buying guide -

Among the many features of the nüvi 775T is the buildings display, which shows them in 3D--especially helpful in larger metropolitan areas. The lane assist feature gives a realistc 3D rendering of critical road signs and exits so you never miss a turn. What seperates this model from the 765T GPS device, buying guide - is that this unit comes loaded with maps of Europe. 

TomTom GO 930T GPS device, buying guide -

This is TomTom's premier model.  It includes transatlantic maps, voice recognition, remote control, and a traffic receiver among its many features.  TomTom's IQ routes is a collection of data from millions of drivers to find the quickest routes possible, so you can drive like a local in any city, even in Europe.

Garmin nüvi 1690 GPS device, buying guide -

Each nüvi 1690 comes with a free two-year nuLink! subscription and includes Google local search to find restaurants, landmarks, and attractions. The 1690 also includes preloaded maps, lane assist with junction view, hands-free calling features, and ecoRoute.

GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

Navman N40i GPS device, buying guide -

The Navman N40i, brother of the N60i GPS device, buying guide - (a slightly upgraded model) has a few noteworthy features, including the ability to take a photo of any location so that no matter where you end up, you can always find your way back to it. There is also a quick "get gas/find parking" button and a safety camera sensor to help you avoid getting speeding tickets. Finally, like many new models, there is a traffic sensor updated in real time to keep you out of traffic and on your way.

TomTom One GPS device, buying guide -

Finally a GPS device for everyone! The TomTom One is great for your automobile.  This unit has a touch screen that you can access, and for added safety, the 3.5-inch LCD screen only appears when stopped. However, the voice commands are wirelessly transmitted to a Bluetooth GPS device, buying guide - headset.

HP iPAQ rx5900 GPS device, buying guide -

The HP iPAQ rx5900 is a PDA/GPS device based on Windows Mobile 5.0 in a functional fashionable form. The compact unit allows you to listen to MP3s, watch videos, look at pictures, play games, or surf the Web while stuck in traffic. Ideal for use in the car since the measly 90 minutes of battery life makes it unsuitable otherwise. The quality of navigation is what really makes this unit shine.

GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

iCN 750 GPS device, buying guide -

The Navman iCN 750 lets users take digital snapshots of locations and display them for navigational help. Though the quality is poor, the iCN's geocode system can save that picture's location and bring it up as a landmark tool at the user's request.

Sanyo NV-E7500 GPS device, buying guide -

This GPS and DVD GPS device, buying guide - combo acts as a media player and a portable navigation device. The seven-inch screen is comparable to many other portable DVD player screens and its stereo speakers, while not stellar, get the job done. The Sanyo can also play CDs.

Garmin Edge 350 GPS device, buying guide -

The Garmin Edge 350 is a GPS device designed especially for bikers. Like the competitors from TomTom and Magellan, the Edge 350 clips onto a bike's handles for easy access. In addition to regular features, it also tracks heart rate and speed and has other cool exercise features.

Quick Picks

In a hurry?  You can't go wrong with one of these top-selling GPS devices.

GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

Garmin nüvi 255W GPS GPS device, buying guide -

Not only does it have an anti-theft feature, there is also a world travel clock and currency calculator. The 255W can show you over six million points of interest and locate emergency services. 

TomTom XXL 540TM GPS GPS device, buying guide -

The TomTom XXL series is one of the most popular for its quality and affordability. It comes with maps of Canada and Puerto Rico and has a lifetime of map updates.

Garmin nüvi 855 GPS GPS device, buying guide -

This slim device that can fit in your pocket and offers a speak menu option that allows you to keep your eyes on the road. The lane assist feature will ensure you never miss a turn. 

Magellan Maestro 3200 Portable GPS GPS device, buying guide -

Amazingly easy-to-use, find almost any location in seconds without even reading the instructions. The 3.5-inch color touch screen shows your position, points of interest, routes, and more on the interactive map.

Garmin nüvi 265W GPS GPS device, buying guide -

Supports Bluetooth for hands-free calling and traffic reports. The 265W is another sleek unit that speaks the names of streets and has a screen lock feature.

GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -
GPS device, buying guide -

Garmin GPS Golfing Companion GPS device, buying guide -

When you reach your destination or take a break from driving, hit the links with this waterproof device that measures individual shot distances and shows the exact yardage to fairways, hazards, and greens.

Garmin nüvi 1350 GPS GPS device, buying guide -

Receive free traffic updates for life and with ecoRoute, you'll get the most fuel efficient route. The cityXplorer with help you navigate city transit when you're not in the car. 

Magellan RoadMate 1700 GPS GPS device, buying guide -

A sleek and stylish seven-inch extra-large color touch screen provides brilliant high definition for easy viewing. Includes maps of US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Garmin nüvi 295W Handheld GPS GPS device, buying guide -

This nifty handheld lets you view in both portrait and landscape view. It's also an MP3 player with Wi-Fi and a three-megapixel camera.