GPS Navigators Buying Guide

Until recently, if you had to find your way around an unfamiliar city, you'd need to rely on directional signs, use a map or frequently ask someone for directions. Today, there's no need to get lost anymore when you can use a Global Positioning System (GPS) that have state-of-the-art technology to guide even the most novice operator around an unknown city or town.

Given the range of features that GPS navigators have, it's easy to get confused when it comes to choosing which one to buy that suits your needs. Knowing about the various GPS features and how they help you,  is a sure way to be able to make the right choice.

Understanding the different types of GPS

GPS devices come in three different models (Hand-held, Car/auto and Maritime). Hand-held GPS devices are most suitable for those involved in hiking or walking around an unfamiliar area while traveling etc. GPS devices installed in cars enable the driver to easily navigate unfamiliar roads, plot the quickest routes to take or avoid things like motorways, traffic lights etc. GPS devices installed in vehicles usually have a bigger display screen so a driver can easily read the information displayed. There are also GPS systems for marine navigation, that assist a boat-owner or operator to identify objects of importance such as rocks, headlands, islands etc. This system can be used in conjunction with other electronic devices like radar.

An additional type of GPS that is becoming more popular and accessible is the GPS systems available on most smartphones.

Some Important Features

LCD Screen

The screens for GPS devices can be as large as five inches for improved display and screen resolutions and a sharper image. When buying a GPS, look out for devices that have a night view option. This option will permit better viewing at night time.

Maps and Map Display

Look for a good display in two or three dimensions, that shows detail such as distance to a next point of interest and clearly-heard voice instructions. A good GPS map should display basic landmarks like petrol stations, police stations, hospitals and nearby supermarkets. Since roads and other infrastructure may change with time, it is important to always ensure you have the most updated map. To do this, all you have to do is to get connected to a computer. For a good device, this should be a pain-free process.

User Interface

Different devices will have different user-interfaces, but most will have touchscreen capabilities. Plotting your desired destination should not be a difficult task, as you will need it to be relatively quick and easy and user-friendly.

Portable devices

If you use a portable device, it should be easy to mount and dismount, to enable you to remove it from sight for security reasons.

Battery Life

The life-span of most batteries for hand-held devices is somewhere between 2-3 hours, although there are some brands that will provide up to eight hours of battery life. With such a short battery life, it should possible to recharge the device in the car as you use it, or via your USB port on your laptop or computer.

Other Features

There are other features that may or may not be included in a GPS to help make navigating through an unfamiliar place easier.

Some devices have a text-to-speech feature, which enables the device to audibly speak out its directions.

If your device has voice recognition, it could be programmed to recognise your voice when you give instructions. Instead of typing details, all you need to do is to speak out orders to the device.

A feature called “lane guidance” will give you information on what is happening immediately ahead. This is especially valuable when driving on multi-lane roads on busy days. In some zones, speed camera alerts are not made public but the GPS device can alert you of any approaching cameras or even schools.

A routing feature will help work out the best route between destinations.

When on a journey, some GPS devices will show the main road signs as you travel along.

Some Other Things to know about using a GPS System

The ability of a GPS device to work without interruption is based on the positioning of the antenna. This is usually placed on the windshield in most vehicles. The GPS will only work well when in direct communication with an open sky. Any obstructions like tall trees and buildings can affect its performance.

If you buy a GPS with Bluetooth, it could be used as a hands free speaker in conjunction with your mobile phone.

Some GPS devices can be used as a multimedia device for playing music files etc. These music files are stored on SD memory cards.

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