The consumer GPS devices with road maps of entire continents are just such cool gadgets. I want one even though I know I won’t get that much use out of it - I know how to get pretty much everywhere I normally drive, I’m good with directions when I don’t - but the coolness factor is so tempting that I may buy one anyway.
I played around with a display model of this unit yesterday. I was surprised that it seemed pretty good quality for only $150. I was especially impressed with the speech synthesis - at least I think it was synthesis rather than prerecorded because it said the names of individual streets. Odd thing about it was that the point of interest mode didn’t seem to work - I searched for stuff like grocery stores and movie theaters and it said none within 50 miles. I’m not sure if the software was improperly installed or what.
What’re the main differences you’ll experience when going with a sub-$250 model instead of the pricier units? What are good particular models in the cheaper price range? Anything I should look for in terms of features?
Do the quality of maps vary significantly from brand to brand, or is it all pretty much from the same source?
If we’ve done a GPS device thread before and you can find it, a link would be great. “GPS” is too short to search for.
When I was shopping for them last December, I was told that one of the big price differentials was the voice recordings. The cheaper models use a limited set of precorded messages - “turn right at the next intersection” “go straight for five miles” “cross the bridge” etc. The more expensive models have a voice simulator and can give more specific directions - “turn left on to Cecil Adams Boulevard”.
That’s why I was surprised to find the $150 model I linked to saying “Turn right on Decatur Blvd.” - and it didn’t sound like Stephen Hawking.
Another question I had - how good is the point of interest listing on most models? If you serach for, say, restaurants - are they just dots on the screen, do they have names and maybe information like type of food? Are the listings thorough? Are there collaborative projects online where individuals contribute their own POIs that can then update the device maps?
I use a Magellan at work, and the Points of Interest thing is amazing. You can narrow the search definition to be very specific or keep it broad. If you’re searching for restaurants, it will list them first, with the address, and you can choose one from that list.
You can also set it to display certain POIs on the screen all the time. I keep it turned off, because it clutters up the screen, IMO, but depending on which POIs you select from the User Option menu, they show up as a red cross (hospitals and medical-related), a fork and spoon (restaurants), a dollar sign (banks and ATMs) and so on.
I have an Amcor which my brother bought for me on a special sale last year for about $130. It has voice, and a good, readable, display, and does just fine (even if it sometimes wants to take me on odd routes.) The only thing I would miss if I used it a lot is a tie in to traffic reports. I got my daughter a Magellan for Christmas, and she likes it also - also fairly cheap.
Another option is to combine GPS with a pocket PC. I have the HTC Touch Cruise pocket pc/phone running Windows Mobile 6.1 and Route 66 GPS software. This is pretty cool stuff. Sucks up the battery life, so you really need to plug it in while driving but it works really well. Multi language. I’m just playing with it but the Shanghai map is extemely detailed. Misses some alleys and walkways, but has directed me from the ass end of nowhere home more than once.
The US maps are probably even better. One thing I haven’t done yet is road test it out into the provinces but will do that next weekend.
This month’s Consumer Reports has a good write-up of the choices and trade-offs of differently priced GPS receivers. There are some good low-cost ones and some not-so-good ones (but I don’t have the issue in front of me). Hope that helps.
Good choice – I’ve used Route 66 on HTC Wizard & Tytn II PPCs, and it works pretty well for short-to-medium distance trips. For long distance trips, it’s a bit problematic in that the software divides the maps into regions, and you can have only one region loaded at a time. For example, for a trip from Atlanta to Chicago, you have to plan the trip in multiple parts, e.g. Atlanta to Nashville, Nashville to Chicago. Also, the map region isn’t updated automatically – you have to select the map region manually, so you can end up driving off the edge of the map.
I just upgraded to CoPilot Live 7 – its maps are a bit fresher, and it offers live traffic updates & re-routing, and most importantly, it doesn’t segment its maps.
I have used multiple GPS’s inc. TomTom and Garmin etc. . In the end the Garmin units stood head and shoulders above the field due to the quality of the mapping software and search algorithms in the hardware. Regardless of hardware bells & whistles a GPS is only as good as it’s mapping software and the wired in algorithms. The cheaper ones often have poor, non-optimal directions outside the big cities. TOM TOMs have a good hardware bundle and lots of features but have older and less precise maps than the comparable Garmin units which is huge deal in real life traveling.
I use a Magellan at work, and travel everywhere from big cities to incredibly rural areas. I’ve never had a problem with the mapping. I can go from downtown Baltimore to a lone trailer in the middle of nowhere quite easily.
Luckily, my company keeps them updated on a regular basis.
I got a Garmin with my rental car on my last vacation in March, I don’t know that much about them so I don’t know which one it was, whatever they have at the Alamo rental desk at the Sarasota airport and the thing rocked. We took to calling it the “magic box” and I’ve priced them out around $200 back when I was looking. Voice directions, POI, the whole 9 yards.