GPS Navigation Systems

I’m thinking of getting a portable GPS navigation system. Any advice on models or manufacturers to get or what sort of features I should look for?

Try searching. There’s a lot of threads on the subject and even one that is very recent.

Or be a bit more specific. Where do you live (US I assume?), what will you use it for, how important is budget and what features matter to you?

A lot of people will tell you that a good Android phone with the excellent Google Navigation is all you need, but a vocal minority prefers standalone units and/or a device that will still show you the way when there’s no phone connection.
Again it’s easier to advice if you provide more information.

I did a search and found two threads. One was quite recent but was focused on whether or not one should buy a built-in system or a portable system, so it didn’t seem particularly relevant. The other one was from 2006.

While I realize it is grand tradition on Qt3 to revive dead threads from long ago, I figured having people read through posts from 2006 before getting to my question was probably not the best use of reader time and in fact might be rather confusing, and likely to generate responses to 2006 statements which may no longer be true.

I will admit it’s possible I missed other newer threads.

I live in the US. I’m not sure about budget. I’m willing to spend several hundred dollars if the general consensus is that the features are worth the price.

Interesting. I don’t currently have a smart phone, and don’t think I’d be willing to pay the monthly data fee for them.

A smart phone seems like it would be a bit on the small size for viewing maps, or are all the GPS Nav units basically iPhone size?

I got an Android tablet a few months back and it’s been the best GPS I’ve ever used. I don’t think stand alone units are necessary these days, honestly.

I wasn’t (just) trying to be snarky. I was sure that there were recent threads and your post was very scant on information one way or the other. Just knowing you looked helps.

No. One reason I belong to the vocal minority that prefer standalone units is screensize. While I agree that the Google Navigation is rather good (nearly as good as a standalone) one of it’s great advantages is that it’s free… but of course only if you already am in the market for an Android and paying monthly fees isn’t counted.

Most standalone units are 4+ inches and many have 5 inch models.
I prefer TomTom because of their MapShare and HD LIVE traffic features - but the latter means a yearly subscription. This will also give you Google integration and some of the features where the smartphones excel.

There’s and argument that TomTom and TeleAtlas have bad US maps… I don’t have no evidence to counter that (I’m review the occasional GPS, but not in the US)… but I dare say that the information is outdated and part myth. I can certainly find no professional reviews agreeing with that their maps are significantly worse - and all maps have areas where they aren’t so good (including Google).

When that is said, Garmin also makes excellent units and what you prefer is often up to personal taste. In some ways I find Garmins UI superior to TomTom, but the traffic information in TomToms HD Traffic system is in my experience superior to everybody elses - but of course you get the best use of this, if you use roads that they have a lot of information for. But that goes for all services… you won’t get updated on the fly traffic information for some small town in the midwest.

TomTom’s newest units also have an ace magnetic coupling that makes taking the unit out and plugging it in is really painless… but their cheaper units have standard USB connectors that can be quite crap (falls out easily or doesn’t connect properly so it’s not charging even if you think it’s connected, so beware)

I’d agree with this, except for someone that’s going to use it a lot. A dedicated unit is so much more convenient for frequent use.

How do you mean? How is keeping a dedicated GPS unit with you more convenient than keeping your tablet with you? Seems about even in that respect.

My phone has a 4.3" screen. It’s pretty comparable to a standalone unit, only higher-resolution.

While I agree that the Google Navigation is rather good (nearly as good as a standalone) one of it’s great advantages is that it’s free… but of course only if you already am in the market for an Android and paying monthly fees isn’t counted.

You’re right about the price thing, but since I just took an 18 hour trip using Google Navigation, including a short stint when I was running a Garmin and the Android in parallel for comparison purposes, I have to say that it’s not “nearly as good,” it’s “noticeably better” overall.

Advantage of the Garmin: It shows speed limit data. I have a proper mount for it.

Advantage of the Android: Better voice directions (“Main St. veers left and turns into Williams St.” instead of “Turn left onto Williams St.”). Vastly better UI, particularly including speech recognition and ESPECIALLY including searching – finding the nearest Culver’s is trivial on the Android and a pita on the Garmin. Up-to-date maps. Street view when you’re getting close to a destination so you know what you’re looking for. Faster recalculating when you deviate from the route.

I can see where Google Nav is too expensive for people who don’t believe they otherwise have a reason to own a smrtphone, but it’s definitely the option to choose if you can.

As far as using it in a car, all the time. And I was thinking phone, not tablet, sorry.

But what’s hard about using a phone in the car? You have it with you, they have mounting things, and in general, it’s no more of a hassle to hook up than a portable GPS system.

It’s more of a hassle than a built-in one, sure, but built-in ones are $2000 and usually awful.

I’m thinking about how I do it, propping it up on the dashboard and it’s bumping around and ringing everything else. I should get a mount and try it like a reasonable person someday.

You get a mount for it, just like the mount for your Garmin or Tomtom. There’s a zillion of them out there, and they work with suction cups or friction bases, just like for a dedicated GPS. As for calls, you have Bluetooth, same as ever.

On the price subject - you may be paying a monthy fee for a smartphone, but Google Maps itself is free, and frequently updated. I have a built in nav in my car, and it costs about $200 a year for map updates.

Yeah, the built-in stuff is a complete ripoff, both from an up-front cost perspective as well as an update cost perspective. It’s only good from an aesthetic viewpoint.

I personally use CoPilot for the iPhone, but that’s only because my company spends a shitload of money every year on ALK’s products and they give us a bunch of keys to it.

You necessarily don’t need to. There are GPS apps which work with offline data. Also, AGPS, which also uses base stations to fix your location, doesn’t require a data contract.

I got a Galaxy S from someone upgrading, and don’t even use it as phone per-se (it’s also replaced my old digital camera, webcam and minidisk recorder, AND plays angry birds)

Tomtom. I really like mine and you can get a model with free map and traffic updates for life.

I have an iPhone, and a Garmin. One of my biggest issues with the Navgon (is that right? Looks wrong) on the iPhone, for me, is that it has a much more difficult time picking up the satellites than the Garmin. I also find it more difficult to read from driver eyes to dashboard mount - the map is smaller. Lastly, it is more finicky in terms of touch controls (i.e. I can reach over and easily hit a touch control on the Garmin - on the iPhone I have to hit just the right/smaller spot.)

I don’t know what it is but my Garmin just feels better designed for the task, and not an “add-on” feature.

I had a TomTom and then got Navigon for the iPhone. I have used Navigon all over the US and Canada and have no complaints. I’ve never seen the satellite problem mentioned above (unless I am in a parking garage, hehe). I also use an XM radio portable mount with the iPhone and that combo is what I take on trips. I do agree that adjusting to touching a screen as opposed to buttons on the TomTom is probably a downside. But for convenience and cost, Navigon has worked great for me.