With more than 50 GPS navigation devices saturating the market and prices getting cheaper, there are so many options available its hard to pinpoint what its core features should be. Not limited to simple text to speech and multiple route functionality, today´s GPS´carry much more.
Here is a primer on what we recommend before buying.
4.3 inch screen – The 4.3 inch screen is the bread and butter; a standard now with low cost and mid range GPS´s. 3.5 inch was the old fad. Today, 4.3 inch screens are similarly priced. 5 inch or more screens just meet the threshold for blocking your windshield space.
Lane assist – Also known as reality view, this feature lets you view the roads and signs you´re approaching on the screen in photo quality while indicating which lane you should stay in with an assortment of bright arrows. This feature is a godsend on tricky freeways. Keep in mind, reality view does not show your entire journey but only certain signs and intersections. Look out for this with the Navigon 5100 and the Garmin nuvi 1490LMT.-
Bluetooth – Making and receiving calls could be done with Bluetooth compatible GPS´which uses its internal speaker and screen to do the work. Your contact list and Caller ID are displayed on screen and voice directions are muted while calls are in progress. Plus, you can dial point of interest locations such as gas stations and restaurants with a Bluetooth-compatible telephone. As of January 2011, you can find many Bluetooth enabled GPS´ for less than $250.
Dynamic search – This feature where letters are automatically entered to complete terms you type into the GPS is critical for frequent travelers. Searching for a town starting with ¨New¨ in your area will bring up a listing with all the towns starting with ¨New.¨ within several hundred miles of each other. Nearly all low priced models like the popular TomTom XXL530S carries this.
And if you feel like splurging …
Real time traffic – The newer GPS´ is hooked to an antenna which receives an FM frequency that informs of obstructed and heavily trafficked roads. Some even provide the latest on gas prices and Google powered search. This service requires a subscription and a big downside is its limited availability in a few cities.
As GPS devices out-do each other with more advanced features every couple of months, the first four features listed above are a safe bet for starters.