Best GPS Devices Reviewed & Rated for Accuracy
The decades of technical and computer innovation that still continue to reshape the way we live our daily lives finally seems to have made paper maps and manual navigation almost obsolete. The increased ubiquity of mobile phones has given young people more independence as well as unprecedented access to the world around them. However, such creations are not limited to personal use, as there are many other places in which computers have made our lives easier. One of those places, of course, is travel, with the aid of the sometimes under-rated GPS device.
GPS navigation systems are probably one of the very first computer devices released to the commercial market. They’re rather simple devices, at least to explain. They connect to a satellite that takes a scan of where the device is. It then beams that device a roadmap, which is then shown to you. Of course, these devices have come a long way since, which is why we’re looking at these ten favorites below.
- Garmin Nuvi 57LM
- Garmin Real Directions
- Tomtom VIA 1525SE
- Advanced Lane Guidance
- Garmin dezl 770LMTHD
- Customized Truck Routing
10 Best GPS Devices
1. Garmin Nuvi 57LM
Humans tend to interact better with things they recognize as human, which Garmin understands. Which is why they have the Garmin Real Directions System, which provides a helpful guide voice that talks to you like a friend reading off of a roadmap. Only without the stuttering, over correcting, or awkward small talk.
If there’s one thing all GPS’s tend to struggle with, Garmin definitely included, it’s the guiding to complex destinations like malls or airports. Fortunately, we finally have a solution to this, with Garmin Direct Access. Essentially, it’s just a simplified navigation system and menu that lets you select complex destinations without having to remember their exact addresses, which has been what has tripped up other GPS systems in the past.
Cost and Value
It should come as no surprise that GPS devices are expensive, but in recent years, thanks to the technology used to make them become more common, they’ve become quite a bit easier to afford than they used to be.
Garmin Real Directions
2. Tomtom VIA 1525SE
All GPS devices help guide you to your destination, that’s the most basic prerequisite of the device. However, if you’re a new driver, then you probably don’t quite know certain aspects about driving that you can only learn by doing. This GPS has that covered too, giving you advanced lane guidance, such as which lane to turn onto at key junctions.
Live map and traffic updates
With this screen’s 5” touchscreen display, you’ll be able to see clearly and accurately, exactly where you’re going. And if that wasn’t enticing enough, at no extra charge, this GPS also throws in live map and traffic updates that you can download for free onto the device.
Cost and Value
Thankfully this GPS doesn’t continue the trend of costing a lot more than most GPS’s are worth nowadays, as this GPS is less than half the price of the previous entry while offering almost all of the same services.
Advanced lane guidance
Live map and traffic updates
Display color is a bit washed out
3. Garmin Dezl 770LMTHD
When you’re traveling, and you hit a big town that you’ve never been to before, you can be left at a loss for what to do first. Which is why most new Garmin GPS devices come equipped with the Foursquare system, which regularly updates with restaurants, shops, and key landmarks and lists them for you in a convenient manner.
Truck/Trailer services directory
If you’re a trucker, this GPS should be considered mandatory. And the reason for that is because, among its many other features, this GPS also contains a full, extensive directory of all of the truck and trailer services in the particular area you’re in at that time. Which is perfect for those late nights when you just want to find a place to take a load off, and you’re too tired to look for a truck stop yourself.
Cost and Value
The big problem with this GPS is the price. Not only is it higher than the previous two, but it’s also one of the priciest on the list, period. The silver lining is that it, like the previous entry, does more than enough to justify its price, but it’s still asking a lot.
Truck/trailer service directory
Customized truck routing
4. Garmin Nuvi 3597LMTHD
Not only does this GPS has built in Lifetime update map software, but it also has free HD digital traffic software that gives you real time updates about the status of any traffic jams and how they affect your trip. And with its 5.0 resolution display with a pinch and zoom capability that outdoes most smartphones, you’ll never be confused as to where you are or what’s going on down the road ever again.
Ever gotten out of a movie theater, after leaving your car in an empty parking lot, only to find that the place was now packed to the brim with cars? If you have, you probably spent a while looking for your car if you forgot where it was. However, if you have this GPS, then you have a perfect solution. This GPS links up to your smartphone via a Garmin app, which, among other things, updates you on where the car is at all times.
Cost and Value
The main thing that keeps this otherwise excellent piece of hardware from the top spot is its price. Of course, it’s pricier than the previous entry, given how many more features it sports. However, with that said, you are more than getting what you pay for out of it.
Free HD Digital Traffic
Lifetime map software
Smartphone pairing can be inconsistent
5. Garmin Drive 60
If there’s anything people want out of their GPS device, it’s ease of use. Since you’re likely to be using it either when you’re already on the road or trying to get on the road as quick as you can, you don’t want to be wasting time pushing buttons all day. Which is why this GPS makes itself as streamlined and easy to use as it possibly can.
Rather than naming street jargon and details that you aren’t going to know about, sandwiched between meaningless numbers, this GPS device instead guides by recognizable road names and easy to spot landmarks, like a friend in the passenger seat who’s reading from a roadmap.
Cost and Value
Thankfully this GPS is nowhere near the price of the Garmin entries that came before it. Though that is mostly because of the lack of extravagant features. However, if you don’t want any add-ons, and just want a good, functional GPS, then this is the one for you.
Easy to use
None of the more advanced features of other entries
6. Pioneer AVIC-8200NEX
Most GPS systems only have the memory to keep track of American roads and landmarks, considering how big a country it is. However, this GPS has a bit more firepower to it, managing to keep detailed maps of America, Canada, and even Puerto Rico. Meaning that this GPS has detailed accounts of up to 7.9 million points of interest.
Not only is this a GPS, but it’s also a handy radio for playing CD’s, as well as a convenient DVD player. Perfect for when your kids are still too young for smartphones but want to watch their favorite shows anyway.
Cost and Value
This is easily the priciest entry on the entire list. Pricier, in fact, than a lot of people may be willing to pay for a GPS system. And this is squarely to do with the amount of features it sports. You can’t be a GPS AND a DVD player and expect to cost under $100, after all.
Siri eyes free control
7. Garmin DriveSmart 51 NA LMT-S
There are few things as torturous for a driver as burning away precious and expensive fuel trying to find a good parking space. Even worse when you actually do find one, only for it to be taken before you can get anywhere near it. Well, worry no longer, friend, as this GPS allows you to find the right parking spot by live updating you with what parking spots are filled and which aren’t.
This GPS will keep active track of the traffic problems in the immediate area in front of you, updating you whenever it comes across one so that you can better avoid it. Perfect for the commuter who doesn’t have time for traffic jams to keep them from getting to work on time.
Cost and Value
Thankfully, we’re back to actually rather reasonably priced GPS devices, as this one will keep you in the black while still giving you top-notch service.
Gives no confirmation about the status of the battery, even when charging it
8. Magellan RoadMate 6230-LM
Taking advantage of the fact that it’s meant to be mounted on the inside of your windshield, this GPS doubles as a dashboard camera. So, if there’s something you feel the need to record something happening out in front of your car, you can use this instead of fumbling to get out your phone.
G Shock Sensor
Even though it’s in your best interests for insurance reasons, when you have a nasty crash, the last thing on your mind is “oh I better press the record button on my GPS camera” because your body is locked into survival mode. Luckily, this GPS camera will automatically turn on and start recording the moment its G Shock Sensors detect any sort of impact on the frame of the car.
Cost and Value
Depending on what retailer you buy this from, this GPS can either be the cheapest on this list, or the second most expensive. It also depends on whether or not you buy the model with the built-in dash cam. Obviously, we recommend that you do.
GPS and dashcam
G shock sensors
Dashcam lens extends up to 120 degrees wide, capturing the entire street
9. Tomtom Go 520
Heading abroad to Paris? Islamabad? Tokyo? You’re probably having trouble finding a GPS that can give you a good map of those areas, right? Well, don’t worry, because this GPS comes equipped with the ability to download the map of the area of any major city in the world. Just hook it up to your computer, find the city you need, and download the map onto your GPS.
When driving, we become creatures of habit. This only makes sense, seeing as how driving is all about staying on one particular lane, railroading you to your destination. This GPS sees this, and then takes advantage of it. This GPS, once you’ve owned and used it for a long enough time, will study your driving habits and patterns, as well as the areas you most often visit. So, when you’re on your way there, if you haven’t already put in another destination, the GPS will automatically give you the fastest route to get there.
Cost and Value
While not necessarily affordable, this GPS is still nowhere near as expensive as the other entries on this list. So, if you’re willing to pay a bit more than usual for an excellent GPS device, then this should be at the top of your list.
Lifetime world maps
Siri and Google NOW compatible
Lacks auto update
10. Tomtom Go 620
Other GPS devices only let you use voice control when it can attach to your phone, allowing you to make calls without having to sacrifice the use of one of your hands. This is just fine, but this GPS also lets you use that voice control also to tell the GPS where you want to go. Press the mic button on the GPS itself, then tell it where you want to go. The map will update and give you the directions in record time.
Got a bad traffic jam coming up on the road? You probably want some kind of way to avoid it entirely, don’t you? Well don’t worry, this GPS has you covered. Not only will it tell you that there’s a traffic jam up ahead, but it will immediately set to work coming up with various alternate routes you could take to get around the traffic.
Cost and Value
The thing that cost this GPS its spot to its own predecessor is the price. This GPS is far more expensive than the earlier model, so if you’re on a budget that wouldn’t accommodate this price, we recommend the earlier model.
Fully interactive touchscreen
navigation should be considered mandatory for every car owner who can afford one. Though once upon a time they were a luxury, something that you only got when you had a lot of money and not much to spend it on anymore, now they’re cheap enough for everyone to buy. Sure, there are navigation apps on your phone, but they drain the battery more than pretty much any other app you have on that phone. Besides, it’s better to have your phone at as high a charge as you can, in case you need to call for help in case of an emergency. Meanwhile, a GPS device can keep track of where you’re at, the selected point where you’re going, as well as how soon you’re going to get there what might hinder your ability to get there in a reasonable time frame, all while keeping your hands free and not needing to take your eyes off the road where you can potentially hurt someone. And we can say with all certainty, that these are the best GPS devices that we could find on the commercial market. Every single one brought something new to the table and had perfectly fine reasons to be here. So, if you need a really high quality GPS device, look through this list, find one you like, and give it a try.
Criteria Used in Evaluation of the Best GPS Devices
Coming up with a good list for criteria concerning GPS devices was at once easy and not so much. On one hand, we know what we want out of our GPS devices, so those made for rather good baseline criteria. But they’re also very complicated machines once you actually dig in deep, and so things just got more complex as we ironically tried to make them easier. What resulted was, what we believe to be, a really good list of criteria. So, with that said, here it is.
These days, an electronic device is only as good as the amount of time it takes to do anything you’re telling it to do. It’s the same for computers, iPhones, and yes, GPS devices. On average, the amount of time a person is willing to wait for their device to actually follow through with their command is about 3.5 seconds. Not a lot of time and some even have less patience than that. So, you should always check to see how long it takes for the device to load, how fast it brings up the map screen, etc. Don’t worry about not being warned about this beforehand, the reaction time lag is one of the most complained about aspects of owning an electronic device. If it’s bad, trust us, you’ll find out eventually.
This refers to a lot of different things that your GPS can do for you while driving. This includes everything from traffic navigation to telling you when best to turn. How many of these features is best is entirely up to you, though, and if you’d rather not have any of them that works too. However, we highly recommend that you do go for as many navigation features as you can afford because they’re easily the best add-on that you can have for your GPS. Rather than give them some superfluous trait that, even when useful, isn’t something you can’t live without, these make the experience of using a GPS even easier and more functional. As such we judged each GPS that had an add-on such as this by how well implemented the add-on was. How much did it add to the experience of using it, how easy is it to access, etc.
Before the ubiquity of the internet that we know today, GPS’s were relegated to only showing the maps of the countries in which they were made for. Memory wasn’t what it is today, where hundreds of hours of gameplay can be put into a drive smaller than your fingernail. You could only fit so much information, and a detailed roadmap of the entire United States alone was pushing it. Fortunately, that is no longer a problem. Now, while the maps of every city in the world may not be on every GPS, they can be if you want them to be. The websites of the companies that made the GPS you own have an entire library of up to date roadmaps of every major city in the world, ready to be downloaded onto your GPS at a moment’s notice. And on top of that, how much information that is stored by default is only getting bigger and bigger. Nowadays it’s considered standard procedure to have your GPS capable of tracking any destination in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and even Puerto Rico.
Ease of mounting
It’d be a rather crummy GPS if you couldn’t actually put it up where you needed it to be in order to use it without complication. The most common spot to hang up a GPS device in your car is most often agreed to be the windshield. It keeps it in view, with you only having to turn your eyes ever so slightly to the right in order to see it, and it helps to keep a good signal between it and the satellite. There are several ways to go about mounting a navigation device, depending on the device itself. You can use adhesive, a bracket, all kinds of neat ideas to keep your GPS from falling off from where you put it.
Ease of use
This one is self-explanatory, and probably the most important out of all of them. A GPS is all about practicality, so any good GPS needs to be as practical and convenient to use as possible. This is why there’s been such a push lately for voice-controlled commands for GPS unit, because if you don’t have a passenger in the car, then you have to pull over and re-adjust the GPS just to put in the new location. But with voice commands, you can just order the GPS to log in your new destination, and it’s already done. Little touches like that really help to make a GPS all the easier to use.
For our final criteria, we, of course, looked at the price of each items. This was a complicated thing to tackle at first since each entry seemed to fluctuate wildly in its price. The only constant was that they were very expensive, each entry firmly sitting within the triple digit price range at least. But once we looked closer, we started seeing a method to the madness, so our criteria became about how much the GPS device had to justify the price it was asking for. Thankfully this wasn’t much of a problem, as each entry that ended up on the list had more than enough to justify the prices they were asking for.
Frequently Asked Questions
For our final segment of this article, we’re looking at some frequently asked questions about GPS devices. GPS devices are very complex machines once you get down into the specifics of how they work, so we found a lot of really good questions to tackle for this segment. What follows are the ones we felt were the most important out of all of the ones we looked at. So, with that said, here are the most frequently asked questions about GPS devices, and the answers thereof.
Q: So how many GPS satellites does it take to accurately pinpoint my location?
A: As of right now, the answer to that is four. There are about 24 dedicated GPS satellites orbiting the earth right now that handle everyone’s GPS signal simultaneously, but for however many, it takes to pinpoint the exact location of one person, the answer to that is four. Three can be used if need be, but the location won’t be quite as accurate. The tracker will show a general location, but nothing too specific.
Q: Why shouldn’t I just use the GPS system on my phone? It’s more convenient in many ways, has a lot of optional features found on mounted GPS devices as default, and is often more accurate.
A: All true, but you need to pull out your phone and leave it somewhere it won’t fall between the seat in order to do that. And if you don’t have a car charger, then your phone is going to die on your before you even get halfway there, since GPS takes a lot of battery power to run properly. You also have to log off of the GPS if you want to answer calls, and all in all, it’s just more practical to have a dedicated GPS system for your car. If your phone runs out of batteries while using GPS, for example, how do you plan on calling for help if your car breaks down before you get there?
Meanwhile, a mounted GPS device will do everything your phone’s GPS will do if you buy the right model, won’t die on you, and will give you more accurate, faster readings. There’s just no comparison in that regard.
Q: What are some add-on features shown throughout this list that you consider to be mandatory?
A: Any feature that helps you navigate better, generally speaking. This includes, but is not limited to:
Parking lot navigation: C’mon, who hasn’t wanted a way of finding the perfect parking spot before anyone else? And with this feature, you can.
Traffic navigation: A lot of GPS devices these days will tell you whether or not there has been a traffic accident or jam further down the road from where you are. But the best ones go a step further than that, using the map feature to plot a course for you that goes right around everything that would hinder your progress. You may lose a little time but compare to what you would lose by staying in the traffic jam, it’s just a little bump in the road.
Lane navigation: This is meant more for younger drivers who need help really getting used to how the roadworks. GPS devices that do this will help guide you to the perfect time to turn onto a lane, or merge onto a different road when on the highway.