The Most Accurate Top Rated Portable Handheld GPS Reviews

The Most Accurate Top Rated Portable Handheld GPS Reviews

Posted 05.17.2010 in Articles by Amanda

The Most Accurate Top Rated Portable Handheld GPS Reviews

Right now, one of the wisest electronics purchases you can make is a handheld GPS. Whether you're navigating around the neighborhood or across the country, GPS systems render maps obsolete. GPS devices are faster, easier to use, and provide extra information that can mean the difference between getting completely lost and being right on time. GPS devices aren't just limited to cars now, either - now you can take them with you wherever you go, whether you're on bicycle, foot, or even public transportation. If you're in the market for a portable handheld GPS, you've probably read some handheld GPS reviews already, but before you make a purchase, it's important to know exactly what you're looking for and understand everything a GPS does. By the end of this article, you'll have all the knowledge you need to make your GPS purchase.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. Previously considered a luxury device, GPSs have dropped considerably in price now that smartphones have become widespread. In the past, most GPSs have been mounted on car dashboards or built into their interfaces, but these days handheld GPS units are more common. These portable GPSs can be used anywhere, no matter your mode of transportation. Modern GPSs are also loaded with features, some subscription-based and some built into the unit. While most phones now have navigation tools and apps, a portable GPS is much more specialized and allows you more control over how you use it.

The basic function of a GPS is to help you find your way. The device comes with maps loaded on it, and can identify your exact location on the map. From there you can input a destination (a town, exact address, general destination type, or business name) and the GPS will configure a route or routes for you to take. The GPS can also display mileage, landmarks, estimated time, and much more information that you may find useful while on the go. You can program routes into the device to save for later and download extra maps to load onto the GPS.

But beyond the basics are a multitude of features that you should look into when buying a portable handheld GPS. You can read about each model's specific features by browsing handheld GPS reviews, but it's a good idea to have a list of features you'd like your GPS to have so you can begin narrowing down your choices right away. Here is an overview of some of the standard features, as well as some of the more specialized ones.

Screen Size

Most portable handheld GPS devices on the market today have a screen size of 4.3 inches, which is an ideal size for both portability and readability. If you are willing to downgrade your screen size, you can save a fair bit of money, and a bigger screen will cost you more but can improve readability. Depending on where you will be using your GPS, you may want to consider different screen sizes - a larger screen can take up more dashboard space and may not fit as well in your pocket or bag.

Battery Life

Depending on what kind of traveling you're doing, you'll want to extend your GPS's battery life as long as possible. Those taking their GPS on long road trips may want to shell out more cash for a model with a longer battery life, but if you're just going around the neighborhood you can save money by opting for a shorter battery life. 12 to 14 hours of use is a good average. Power sources vary; some handheld GPS units run on AA or AAA batteries while others can charge through USB or through an AC dock. Accessories like converters and charging packs are readily available though, so if you find a unit you love but don't like the power type, look into some addons to make it just right.

Maps

Different GPS manufacturers load different maps onto their devices, and depending on the brand, there are lots of downloadable maps that you can load onto your GPS. But all portable handheld GPSs come with preloaded maps and a POI database. POI stands for point of interest - locations of restaurants, stores, museums, tourist attractions, gas stations, and many other locations. This enables you to find the location of a specific site or service you want to go to. POI databases vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so your best bet is to read handheld GPS reviews to determine the quality of a database.

 

Traffic Updates

Most higher-end models and some mid-range ones have live traffic updates available. These units have traffic receivers that keep you updated in real time. This allows you to select the best route for your journey without getting stuck in a jam first. You can also purchase separate receivers to attach to your GPS if it doesn't have a built in receiver, but you may need to pay a subscription charge and the receiver tends to be bulky and heavy.

Media and Entertainment

Almost all portable handheld GPS devices support the playback of media such as music, videos, and photos, either by loading the files directly onto the device or through use of an SD card. Higher-end models may support Bluetooth phone connection, so you can use the GPS as your phone interface instead of using a headset or making the risky (and sometimes illegal) choice to talk on your phone while driving. Not all phones are supported, so do your research before you invest.

With your preferred features in mind, you can begin looking at specific GPS models to see which one is for you. Here are the best budget, mid-range, and high-end models to get you started.

Budget: Garmin vi 2300LM

Pros: Very affordable, useful tools like calculator and currency converter, ecoRoute feature picks most environmentally-friendly route.

Cons: Traffic information is augmented by distracting ads, so-so voice recognition.

Mid-range: Magellan RoadMate 5175T-LM

Pros: Vibrant 5-inch screen, free traffic updates and lifetime map updates, WiFi web browser built in

Cons: Screen does not lock, advanced information is not displayed, incomplete user manual

High-end: Garmin eTrex 30

Pros: Topographic maps are excellent for hikers, state-of-the-art positioning, 20+ hour battery life

Cons: Somewhat cumbersome interface, hefty price tag

A GPS is a vital tool for travelers, especially those who find that their smartphone's navigation apps aren't cutting it. With so many models available and so many features to choose from, you're sure to find one for you. With this information in mind, you can make a well-informed decision and get the best handheld GPS for you.

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