Garmin StreetPilot? Magellan RoadMate? Pioneer? TomTom? Which GPS best fits my needs? After-Market GPS or Built-in Vehicle GPS? What are the most important features to look for? What does it all mean?
We answer the questions that comparison shopping engines don't. After reading this short article you'll have the basic information you need to choose the GPS that best fits your needs, life style and budget. We have done extensive research and reviewed the distinguishing features of the highest rated, most popular GPS in each price category. Each model is a BestBuys.com Editors Choice.
On a Budget? Only need the essentials to take you from point A to B? You should consider Garmin's Streetpilot i-Series. The i2, i3, and i5 are around $200-$300 and still have all the features to get you to your destination with ease.
Pros: Inexpensive, small, easy to use, portable.
Scroll wheel: The i-series has an easy to use click-to-enter scroll wheel instead of the touch screen interface that many high-end models feature. The interface has gotten nothing but praise from owners (including myself) and has proven itself to be one of the most user-friendly navigation systems on the market. Color Screen: For a little extra cash, the i3 and i5 feature a 32k color screen. Pre-loaded maps: Only the i5 comes pre-loaded with maps of North America. The i2 and i3 can be loaded with several states' worth of data at a time.
Cons: The i2 and i3 only hold several states' maps at once.
Bottom Line: The Garmin i-Series provides a perfect blend of affordability and features for commuters, college students, and corporate travelers who are looking to experience the ease and enjoyment of GPS satellite navigation for the first time.
Widely acclaimed for its smart, touch-screen interface, the StreetPilot c340 is considered the best GPS in its class.
Pros: Smart interface, full-featured, portable
Brilliant touch screen: Quickly and easily type in names and addresses. Ready to Use Out of the Box: Pre-loaded maps for North America Text-to-Speech directions: The c340 not only tells you when to turn but also pronounces the street name (i.e., "Turn right on Main St" instead of "Turn right in 500 feet."). Reroutes around traffic: The c340 receives real-time traffic information from the optional traffic receiver, providing live traffic updates and automatic rerouting around traffic.
Cons: Traffic updates require subscription
Bottom Line: The c340 boasts the best combination of features and simplicity at a competitive price.
International Friendly: $600-$700
If you like the features of the c-Series, but plan on bringing your GPS overseas, you should consider the Garmin nuvi 350. Taking the c-Series to a new level, Garmin created the Nuvi, which caters to the international traveler.
Pros: Full-featured, portable, versatile, international travel friendly.
Travel Kit: The travel kit includes a Language Guide, Travel Guide, MP3 Player, Audio Book Player, Picture Viewer, SD memory slot and numerous other tools, including a world clock, currency and temperature converters.
Cons: Expensive, subscription required for some of the Travel Kit features.
Bottom Line: Fantastic features, but do you need them? It's a high price tag for what is basically a c-Series with a travel package.
The StreetPilot 2720 is among the most powerful automotive GPS navigation systems available. Building upon the features of the c-Series, the 2720 has everything you need and more.
Pros: The best portable GPS unit on the market.
Multi-Destination Routing: The StreetPilot 2720 minimizes trip distances by calculating the optimal route between multiple destinations (attention realtors, sales and delivery professionals!). Waterproof: The 2720 is also waterproof, making it a strong choice for motorcyclists.
Bottom Line: Great buy if you need the multiple destination routing. Otherwise, the more affordable c340 is your best buy.
High End In-Dash: $1000-$2000
Pros: Full-featured GPS with DVD Player
In-Dash installed: Convenient and secure. Large 6.5'' Screen: Choose from several map options and split screen views to find the one that makes the most sense to you. This is especially helpful when viewing upcoming turns because each turn is clearly labeled with a close-up of the precise turn and its respective distance. Voice Navigation: With an optional microphone, there is no longer a need to type in the address. Telephone Number Search: Only know the telephone number? Not a problem. DVD Player: Listen to turn-by-turn directions while playing a DVD. Vehicle Dynamics: Digital gauges display speed, acceleration G's, lateral G's, slope, angular velocity, battery voltage, and direction - all in real time. Power: The avic-N3 replaces your standard radio. But don't worry, it has ample amplification (22 watts RMS/50 peak x 4 channels). Installing it in my BMW 325i actually improved my sound dramatically.
Cons: Costly installation. Point Of Interest search doesn't show distances until it is selected (a feature that all Garmin models have). Shuffle control is a bit flimsy. Ability to drive while playing DVD depends on installation.
Bottom line: If you do not need a DVD player, you don't need the avic-N3. That aside, the Pioneer Avic-N3 is the best in-dash navigation system on the market.
About our guest writer of the day: Shane Atlas is a recognized authority on consumer electronics. He writes for http://www.BestBuys.com, a competitive comparison shopping website that provides informative articles and resources for savvy internet shoppers..