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Although GPS-enabled smartphones are gaining ground in the portable navigation market, the standalone portable navigation device (PND) is far from dead. In fact, today’s PNDs sport more features than ever to help you get from point A to point B quickly and safely–features such as audible driving directions with text-to-speech (TTS), spoken street names, real-time traffic updates, Internet connectivity for points-of-interest search, and large easy-to-read screens, to name a few. However, the GPS market has also never been more crowded, so to help you in your buying decision, we’ve selected our Top 5 picks for in-car GPS navigation systems. We will frequently update this list as we review new GPS devices, so check back often.
Garmin Nuvi 3790T
The Garmin Nuvi 3790T is an exceptional portable navigation device with just the right blend of form and function.
Garmin designed the Nuvi 3790T to be the thinnest, lightest portable navigation device ever and to go toe-to-toe with the iPhone in a fashion show. Though we’re not certain that the Nuvi would win such a matchup, by setting its standards so high Garmin has essentially solidified the 3790T’s spot as the sexiest dedicated GPS device you can buy.
The good: The Garmin Nuvi 3790T is one of the thinnest and lightest portable navigators we’ve tested; it’s the best looking, too. Voice Command is truly hands-free and can be activated merely by speaking to the Nuvi. Bluetooth calling also helps drivers keep their hands on the wheel. Traffic data is free.
The bad: The glossy screen tends to create a good deal of glare when used in direct sunlight. Traffic data cannot be accessed while using the device in the hand.
Motorola MotoNav TN765t
The MotoNav TN765t has a robust feature set that is on par with that of more-established brands and a beautiful interface that is, in many ways, superior.
Motorola took a pretty serious beating when we reviewed its MotoNav TN30 portable navigation device. However, instead of dropping out of the PND market or simply releasing an incremental update with fixes, Motorola went back to the drawing board and came back swinging with the all new MotoNav TN700 series.
The good: The MotoNav TN765t features updated hardware and an innovative new interface that combines the map and the menus. Bluetooth hands-free calling (with address book sync and voice dial), text-to-speech, and free FM-traffic reception are welcome additions to the MotoNav feature set. The MotoExtras service is a clever way to add data connectivity by using a Bluetooth-paired phone’s antenna to transmit.
The bad: The MotoExtras data service isn’t always on, so it must be manually refreshed for the latest info. GPS tracking in skyscraper-dense urban areas is a bit sketchy.
TomTom XL 340 S
The TomTom XL 340 S introduces a few advanced features to TomTom’s midrange lineup, while staying well below the premium price bracket.
The TomTom XL 340 S builds on TomTom’s successful XL series of wide-screen portable navigation devices. The XL 340 S’ features, such as advanced lane guidance, daily fuel prices, IQ Routes, and TomTom Map Share, work together to constantly update its map data and route-mapping algorithm. Therefore, in theory, these electronic gadgets should get better with time.
Also, as an “S” designated model, the 340 S features text-to-speech that reads aloud street and point-of-interest names for quicker recognition.
The good: The TomTom XL 340 S has advanced features such as lane guidance, downloadable fuel prices, and user updated maps from TomTom Map Share. Its large 4.3-inch WXGA touch screen is easy to read and to enter addresses on. Text-to-speech enhances the device’s safety.
The bad: The larger size, combined with additional thickness added by an EasyPort mount, somewhat limits its portability. Routing from a moving vehicle is considerably slower than from a stationary one.
Magellan RoadMate 1470
The Magellan RoadMate matches the competition’s performance and ease of use, while providing a larger screen at a lower price.
The good: The tech gadgets of Magellan RoadMate’s OneTouch menu put the most commonly accessed destinations and searches at a user’s fingertips at all times. The smartly designed destination confirmation screen gives users a good deal of flexibility as to how they get where they’re going. Large 4.7-inch touch screen gives users more real estate for maps and menus.
The bad: Poorly designed cradle interferes with power cable when mounting. The onscreen keyboard cannot be changed from its alphabetical layout to a more familiar QWERTY layout.
Garmin Nuvi 205W
As entry-level GPS navigators go, the Garmin Nuvi 205W are still one of the best choices available for users who want speedy performance without breaking the bank.
When most people think GPS electronic gadgets, the first name that pops into mind is Garmin Nuvi. Garmin’s Nuvi 200 line of navigators was an excellent blend of ease of use and value. The new Nuvi 2×5 line of GPS navigation devices seeks to build on that reputation with a few new features, while still keeping the price relatively low. The Garmin Nuvi 205W is one of two entry-level models in the 2×5 line, and features only the most basic navigation features.
The good: The Garmin Nuvi 205W features a large touch screen and an easy to understand interface. Start-up, destination entry, and trip routing/rerouting times are slightly faster than the competition. “Where am I?” feature is very useful for emergencies.
The bad: The Nuvi 205W’s feature set is rather limited. Mounting cradle is bulkier than competing models and not very portable.
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