07 August, 2007

GPS - Automotive Systems

Due to a recent car accident, I had to have an extended use of a Hertz rental Taurus, equipped with a Magellan Hertz NeverLOST GPS Navigation system (http://www.hertzneverlost.com/) . It got me thinking that, aside from my hand-held Magellan GPS 315 – now four or five years old – I’ve not had new GPS gadgetry in some time. Okay, okay… my cell phone is an LG VX8300, and technically it is GPS capable, but I’m not one to pay for extra Verizon services, so I’ve not used it.

What do you use? What is your favorite GPS toy?

My Basic Tenants

I’m of the belief that all GPS units should include the ability to navigate to latitude/longitude locations, but I’m also pragmatic…and it probably will very rarely be something I’ll need (and I have my old hand-held for that, should I require it). Also, I own a Bluetooth headset, for my phone, and the phone itself has a built-in speakerphone, so I have no interest in Bluetooth capabilities in a GPS unit. My media player will remain my media player.

GPS Buying Guide

Good ole CNET comes through again with a buying guide at http://www.cnet.com/gps.html?tag=pm. They’re always good for good background information, etc., although their “current prices” are often not quite so updated, especially when comparing online merchants beside each other. It’ll take you a little extra time, but click on each merchant to find out their real price of the moment. For better prices, simply visit your favorite online electronics stores, Google a few GPS specialty sites, and do the shipping math. Obviously, check each site for its authenticity via your usual, diligent means.

[UPDATE: TigerDirect has better prices than CNET lists various sites having them, at least as of the moment of this posting update. See


Rudimentary/elementary units

Magellan RoadMate 2000

Check it out at http://www.autonav2000.com/mall/anProdDetail.asp?ProdID=512 (one of the places to purchase) or http://www.gpsmagazine.com/2006/10/review_magellan_roadmate_2000.php (review, October 2006). Note the review is dated from the product’s release period and thus states a much higher price ($299) than one would actually have to pay (less than $200). It has a 100% touch-screen interface. The review is worth reading, as a stand-alone document, for its quality of writing and its explanation of how routing engines (routines) work. Fascinating stuff. Another review of it at CNET at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/magellan-roadmate-2000/4505-3430_7-32065622.html?tag=prod.txt.2. [Note: the 2000’s big sister is the 2200t (http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/magellan-roadmate-2200t/4505-3430_7-32065623.html?tag=txt), which sports an SD chip and the ability to play MP3’s and display photos. About the only reason I’d want one of these things to play media files is to play podcasts, but whatever.

TomTom One

Similar to the Magellan, though seemingly a bit more pricey. Review at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/tomtom-one/4505-3430_7-32026663.html?tag=also.

Garmin StreetPilot i3

Similar to the above two units, this one has a very small screen but is the cheapest of all three, and it gets good reviews (aside from the screen size comments). Would probably be cute in a VW Bug or compact car where windshield real estate is at a premium. Check it out at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/garmin-streetpilot-i3/4505-3430_7-31468216.html?tag=b_readfull . [The big sister of this unit is the i5, as seen at http://reviews.cnet.com/car-gps-navigation/garmin-streetpilot-i5/4507-3430_7-31518215.html?tag=sub, although I’m not seeing how it is that much better.]

Navman iCN 330 Portable GPS (Auto)

Small enough to go in one's hand, etc. You can find these for $120 (usually refurbished). A small screen, but a good looking unit, not touch-screen, but smartly designed buttons, if you're not sure if you need a GPS, but want to dabble without investing a lot of money, this puppy, at $100 plus a couple of bills, seems like a reasonable choice. See it on sale, at TigerDirect (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-Details.asp?EdpNo=2248785&sku=N555-1028&CMP=EMC-TIGEREMAIL&SRCCODE=WEM1432DL) and a review (if you can count something that seems more like advertising, with no negative comments, as a "review") at http://www.mobilewhack.com/reviews/navman_icn_330_gps_device.html . The reviews from the TigerDirect buyers all like the unit, but they say the maps are at least a couple years old, and they have not found updated maps at the Navman site. So, you might want to poke around yourself, for map updates, before buying.


Beth said...

I love my Garmin Street Pilot. It has not taken me in any wrong direction yet! It's so easy to use. My only problem with it is that it doesn't adhere to the windshield real well when it's hot outside. I have purchased a "sticky" pad for the dash and it seems to rest fairly well on that. But, as far as functionality, it has kept me from getting into a lot of "messy" situations when traveling. I also like the feature of finding fuel in an unfamiliar area.

Anonymous said...

From friend Kevin:

Hi Dan,

We have a Garmin c550.

It's about a year old now. Ours is kind of round and oblong.

I've seen some that are more like a flat panel TV. Those look sleek.

We returned from the Dells today, and it helped with general navigation, as
well as finding restaurants.