Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Personal Navigation Devices
Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) were very popular gifts in 2008 and throughout 2009 we saw some changes in smartphone technology and adoption that resulted in a couple of strong competitors left standing the the PND space. Garmin and TomTom are the primary players in the PND game and have some compelling units for those looking for a good GPS navigation solution as a gift this holiday season.
Personal Navigation Devices (PNDs) were very popular in 2008 and last Christmas we saw a number of manufacturers vying for the consumer dollars. I see quite a few people with these mounted in their cars and am not sure the market is as hot for PNDs as it once was. The iPhone brought attention to the fact that it, along with many other smartphones, can serve as more than capable GPS navigation devices. We also recently heard the news that Google is rolling out a free GPS navigation solution on the Google Android platform. That said, if you really need to get somewhere and don't have a paper map it is more comforting to rely on a dedicated GPS navigation solution than a phone whose battery might die in the middle of your trip or a device where a cell phone carrier signal is required to get your maps.
Looking through the latest reviews on ZDNet, it looks like Garmin and TomTom are the two main players left standing in the PND market. There is some limited connectivity with some of these solutions that is provided via the FM radio frequency via the MSN Direct service, but please be aware that Microsoft has announced that MSN Direct service is ending on 1 January 2012. I am not sure what Garmin and TomTom will do with devices that support MSN Direct, but the devices we will look at here are good to go for another couple of years. Let's take a look at the entry level and high end of the spectrum from both of these manufacturers in this GPS Holiday Guide.
The Garmin Nuvi 205W has a 4.3 inch widescreen 480x272 pixel resolution display so you won't miss out on that next turn. Maps are preloaded on the device with an optional SD card for storing more data. It is a fairly sleek and slim device (4.8"W x 2.9"H x .8"D and 6.1 ounces) so it is easy to take with you in your pocket or purse to keep it safe from thieves.
The device is a bit limiting as far as PNDs go with no spoken street names, no lane assist, no real-time data, and Garmin Locate functionality.
The Garmin Nuvi 1490T has a large 4.4 inch x 2.5 inch (5 inch diagonal) 480x272 pixel resolution display with software that gives you full lane assist on the highway so you don't miss that turn or exit. You can save up to 10 routes so trips can be preplanned on the device. Traffic alerts are provided via the FM traffic receiver and free lifetime updates. The device is MSN Direct compatible so the traffic updates may actually have a limit, as I mentioned in my introduction to this Holiday Guide.
The Nuvi 1490T also serves as a wireless Bluetooth speakerphone for your Bluetooth-enabled phone. You can dial from the Nuvi's touchscreen and answer calls by tapping the display. The device does not support voice-activated navigation so you will need to interact with it with finger taps on the display. You can navigate to photos that have geotagged information. The Garmin Lock anti-theft feature is included as well.
Even though the TomTom One 140S is an entry level PND, the only part that really appears to be entry level is the smaller 3.5 inch touchscreen. It still has many functions found in higher end PNDs, including real-time connection to LIVE traffic and gas prices (requires a subscription), advanced lane guidance, and announcement of street and POI names.
Maps are preloaded on the device and no expansion card slot is provided. Support is provided for TOmTom Map Share so you can update map data and share this with other TomTom owners.
The TomTom Go 740 LIVE is the first TomTom PND with support for real-time data provided by a wireless carrier via a GPRS connection so there are no worries with expiration of MSN Direct service with this device. I tried a device with integrated GPRS in the past and found it to be an excellent performer. 3 months of service is included with your purchase and the subscription cost after that is $9.95/month with no contract obligation.
Local search is powered by Google, you can avoid delays with real-time traffic, the lowest fuel prices can be found, and weather updates can be viewed with the wireless service. Lane assist, spoken instructions and street names, Bluetooth speakerphone capability, voice recognition and navigation, and more are supported.
The TomTom Go 740 LIVE has a 4.3 inch WQVGA touchscreen display, 2GB internal flash, microSD card slot, Bluetooth wireless radio, and rechargeable battery.