As a person who travels for work quite often and as a father to daughters who play sports all over the place, a GPS navigation device is an essential piece of equipment for me. Most of my mobile phones have GPS receivers and they work well in a pinch, but it is a much better experience to have a large screen dedicated navigation device and these are quite popular today with prices that are very reasonable. There are also high end devices packed with features and I'll present the latest high end and lower end devices from the major GPS manufacturers in this guide.
There is one new device that actually has a constant internet connectivity (Dash was another that recently left the hardware business) so you can get real-time traffic updates, map and data updates sent wirelessly, and the latest and greatest search data via the internet. One of the best features of this connected device is the ability to send destinations to the device via a web interface from your home or office.
Other GPS devices use the MSN Direct network to send data (movie times, gas prices) one way to your device. Then there are others that focus just on navigation and mapping functions, which are the core functions in these GPS personal navigation devices. Some cars have them integrated, but for the rest of us we can now buy one priced from US$100 to US$300 and be completely satisfied with the experience. Let's take a look at a few of the best devices on the market today.
I posted a review of the TeleNav Shotgun and continue to use it as my primary navigation device. The name may sound a bit strange at first, but it sure brings back the days of my teenage youth when we had defined and strict rules for claiming the "shotgun" position in the car. The TeleNav Shotgun brings the well-known TeleNav software (found on mobile phones from US carriers with different branding, such as Sprint Navigation or AT&T Navigator) to a dedicated device.
The hardware is fairly well designed with a soft touch rubberized body, large 4.3 inch 480x272 pixel touch screen display, and microSD card slot. A SIM card is inserted and included for wireless connectivity. The device focuses on navigation and points of interest (POI) with over 11 million loaded on the device. Real-time traffic updates are downloaded from the internet and provided to you on the device as part of the subscription service (fees range from US$9.96 to US$11.99 per month, depending on length of your contract). All the other GPS devices provide traffic and info via FM in a one-way form of communication while the TeleNav Shotgun provides two way communications for live searches and even more to come.
I personally find the capability to send destination addresses to the device through a web browser at my home or office to be an invaluable wireless feature. I can send a month's worth of soccer field locations to the device and never have to worry about printing up maps or getting lost. The gas price feature is also quite handy to use for finding the lowest price around you when you need it or finding where the closest diesel station may be found.
If you purchase the TeleNav Shotgun on Monday, 1 December you can also get six months of service for free as part of their Cyber Monday deal.
Price: $299.99 with three free months of service
If you are looking for a premium GPS navigation device then it looks like the Navigon 8100T may be one of the most expensive on the market with some cool features. The brushed metal 8100T has a huge 4.8 inch 16:9 touch screen with Panorama View 3D for an amazing visual experience. Just try to keep your eyes on the road and not on the GPS navigation device. This feature provides surrounding landscapes and digital elevations to give you a geographic view as close to reality as possible. An integrated graphics accelerator is included to support this feature.
You can speak your address as well for full hands-free navigation. The 8100T also supports Navigon's Reality View Pro and Lane Assistant Pro technology. Real-time traffic updates are provided in major cities via the Navigon network (one way FM communications). A Bluetooth radio is included so you can sync your contacts and use the device as a hands-free Bluetooth speaker in your automobile. Multi-destination navigation is supported in case you have a few stops to make along the way to a final destination.
Price: $599.99 MSRP
If you don't want to spend lots of money on a GPS navigation device then you may want to take a look at Navigon's newest entry level device that should meet the needs of most people is the Navigon 2000S. The device has a 3.5 inch touch screen display and is under 3/4 inch thick. Navigon software looks great with their Reality View Pro and Lane Assistant Pro features that give you a great 3D view as you drive with highway exits and interchanges clearly identified. I like the looks of the actual road signs (big green signs) that you see on the highway being provided.
The Lane Assistant Pro feature is handy in big cities where there are often left exits and double veers to get somewhere. I had a tough time with this in Houston recently and wish I had a device like this at the time.
There are also a few more Navigon GPS devices priced in between the 8100T and 2000S that you may want to consider this season.
Price: $199.99 MSRP
A brand you are probably very familiar with is Garmin and they have the largest number of personal navigation devices on the market so you have a huge selection to choose from here. The Garmin nuvi 880 is their highest end device with spoken commands and not just spoken destinations. Thus you can control the menus and everything completely hands-free on the device. You can also ask the nuvi 880 where you are and it will tell you where the nearest gas station, police station, or intersection is. The device will automatically mark your parking position when you remove it from the windshield mount so you can pop it in your bag and rest assured you will be able to find your car later. This can be a very handy feature when you are traveling or in a crowded place like the mall or stadium
Garmin uses the MSN Direct service to provide you with traffic, weather, gas prices, movie listings, stock prices, news, and more. The 880 has a 4.3 inch touch screen widescreen display. The integrated Bluetooth radio lets you use it as speakerphone too for complete hands-free usage.
Price: $799.99 MSRP
One of the newer, more affordable Garmin GPS devices is the Garmin nuvi 265WT. There are others that are less expensive as well, including the older Garmin nuvi 250. The nuvi 265WT has a widescreen WQVGA (480X272 pixels) display and it comes with lifetime traffic service so no additional monthly subscription is needed. The device also sports a Bluetooth radio for pairing to your phone and using it as a speakerphone in your car.
The nuvi 265WT is also one of those GPS navigation devices that have several additional features, including photo viewer, world travel clock, currency converter, unit converter, and calculator. Over 6 million POIs are included on this device.
Price: $329.99 MSRP
TomTom is another very well-known name in personal navigation devices and their 930T is the current high end device. The TomTom GO 930T has a 4.3 inch widesceen touch screen display, 4GB internal flash, SD card slot, FM transmitter, Bluetooth radio, and is RDS-TMC traffic compatible.
The 930T looks to have very high ratings by all reviewers and supports features like advanced lane guidance, hands-free calling, and enhanced positioning. I want to try out a device with lane guidance since this is very important in major cities. With the FM transmitter you can hear the audio over your car's speakers too. The enhanced positioning feature helps keep you guided when passing through tunnels are other areas where your GPS signal may be lost.
Price: $499.95 with $100 instant rebate
Looking at the lower end of the spectrum in the TomTom lineup we find the TomTom ONE 130 that is very reasonably priced, yet still provides lots of features people are looking for in navigation devices. It has a unique window mounting system that folds up onto the back of the device for truly compact navigation. The device has a 3.5 inch 320x240 pixel touch screen display and does provide a decent TomTom navigation experience. Some of the search functionality is a bit limited on the TomTom ONE 130 and it really is a basic navigation device.
However, reviews report that the volume is quite low, which is very unfortunate for an automobile navigation device. If you tend to look at your navigation device more than listen to it, then it may not be as much of an issue for you.
There are several more TomTom personal navigation devices between the 930T and 130S so check out the TomTom site and consider them as well this holiday season.
Price: $199.95 with $50 instant rebate