Top five GPS Navigation Systems

Posted on Tuesday, September 19 2006 @ 20:28 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
If you're reading this article, you must be tired of getting lost. Good news is that Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have finally become affordable and user-friendly. However, there are so many brands and models available that it's easy to get lost in technical details.

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 Editors Choice.

Economy: $200-$300

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.
  • 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.
  • Pros: Inexpensive, small, easy to use, portable.

    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.

    Full-Featured: $400-$500

    Widely acclaimed for its smart, touch-screen interface, the StreetPilot c340 is considered the best GPS in its class.
  • 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.
  • Pros: Smart interface, full-featured, portable

    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.
  • 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.
  • Pros: Full-featured, portable, versatile, international travel friendly.

    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.

    High-End: $600-$700

    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.
  • 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.
  • Pros: The best portable GPS unit on the market.

    Cons: Expensive.

    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

    The Pioneer Avic-N3 is arguably the best in-dash navigation you can buy. And it's a DVD player, too.
  • 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.
  • Pros: Full-featured GPS with DVD Player

    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, a competitive comparison shopping website that provides informative articles and resources for savvy internet shoppers..

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    Re: Top five GPS Navigation Systems
    by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 20 2006 @ 20:22 CEST
    I really feel that the *Lowrance iWay 350c* ( is a much better unit that anything from Garmin or TomTom.

    The price is $400 street, it has a 4GB hard disk, 3.5" touch-screen (320x240), MP3 player, and a tonne of other features. This unit broadcasts to your FM radio meaning no cables and MP3 and voice audio through your stereo.

    Also, it has a great 3D mode, is super fast, and lets you drag around the map with your finger just like GoogleMaps. Couple that with a 5,000,000 POI database and it's a real winner.

    The best GPS unit out there IMHO.

    • Reply by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 20 2006 @ 20:35 CEST

      Avoid Navman products. I have had a problem with one of their units for a couple of months and they won't fix it.

      I have a Lowrance GPS for the airplane and it is a great unit. I should have gotten one of theirs for the car instead of Navman.

    Re: Top five GPS Navigation Systems
    by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 20 2006 @ 20:42 CEST
    Nice article but a little biased towards Garmin. I'm a big Garmin fan myself (been using their products for 10 years) but there are alternatives. Magellan, TomTom, etc. Were any of these units looked at?

    • Reply by Anonymous on Thursday, June 07 2007 @ 21:45 CEST

      I read it and felt the exact same way... I am not familiar with GPS products, but it certainly looks like a Garmin biased individual created this webpage.

    • Reply by Anonymous on Sunday, July 11 2010 @ 10:15 CEST

      This thing looks great for those who like to explore. Right now I ride with a Garmin Quest, Polar HRM and Shimano Flight deck mounted on my handlebars. I do alot of explorative riding and once I started using the Quest, I wouldn't be caught without it. Battery life is a concern, Quest advertizes 20 hrs and is pretty true with back light off but the comment regarding the 305 drain to 6.5 with cadence/hrm is a concern. Still eliminating the handlebar clutter/weight to one device with mapping is real tempting. Plus I get a barometric altimeter which the Quest doesn't have, the gps altimeter is pretty inaccurate and the Polar HRM with barometric costs over $300. Does it support multiple waypoints per route?Quest does, Nuvis don't, critical for programming in exploration routes.

    Re: Top five GPS Navigation Systems
    by Anonymous on Saturday, July 18 2009 @ 16:37 CEST
    Agreed with the posted comments re the LOwarance unit. The only issue I have had with hte Lowarance unit is the power cable connection in the rear of the unit is tempermental. But the image, data storage capacity, and screen quality are HUGE pluses for the Lowrance unit.

    Re: Top five GPS Navigation Systems
    by Anonymous on Wednesday, May 19 2010 @ 23:45 CEST
    You reference the Magellan Roadmate in your introduction but do not even discuss it in your analyses of the various units.