Top 5 Portable GPS Navigation Systems and Buying Guide

Car Stereo and In-Car Electronics Expert Reviews Feature Articles GPS Navigation Systems

Here are CarReview’s top 5 portable GPS systems:
(list updated 12/2010)

1) Garmin nüvi 255W
The Garmin nüvi 205W/255W is a very affordable 4.3″ touch screen GPS and is preloaded with Garmin’s City Navigator for the lower 48 states, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. With nüvi 255W widescreen display, you will always get the big picture. View map detail, driving directions, photos and more in bright, brilliant color. Its sunlight-readable, 4.3″ (10.92 cm) display is easy to read, from any direction. The detailed mapping inside nüvi 255W also includes 5 million Points of Interest (POI) including hotels, restaurants, ATM’s, gas stations and many more. Also compatible with Garmin’s ecoRoute software that allows users to find more fuel efficient routes when navigating and even track their fuel usage, thereby saving time and money. The nüvi 255W has the ability to call out the street names. (Price: $89 – $179)

2) Magellan RoadMate 5045
The large 5-inch touch screen is 35% larger than a standard 4.3-inch screen. It comes with premium features that includes lifetime traffic alerts, highway lane assist, OneTouch favorites, over 6 million Points of Interest, and Built-in AAA TourBook. Enjoy Free Lifetime Traffic alerts that provide real-time traffic information with no subscription fees. Pre-loaded with NAVTEQ maps of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Highway lane assist guides you, when approaching interchanges and exits, towards the correct lane. Exclusive to Magellan is the built-in AAA TourBook® guides for US and Canada. This feature gives you ratings and descriptions on AAA-approved places to stay, play, dine, and save. No membership required! (Cost: $136 to $250)

3) TomTom XXL 540 TM
The TomTom XXL 540TM combines a luxurious 5 inch anti-glare touchscreen with lifetime map updates and lifetime traffic updates. Based on up-to-date traffic information, the XXL 540TM will recalculate travel time and suggest alternate routes. Spoken turn-by-turn instructions including street names will guide you to any address in the US, Canada and Mexico, including more than 7 million preloaded points of interest. IQ Routes Technology calculates the fastest route possible based on time of day, saving you time, fuel and money. Advanced Lane Guidance indicates exactly which lane to use, so you can go confidently. (Cost: $200 to $260)

4) Motorola MOTONAV TN765t
The Motorola MOTONAV TN765t personal navigation device has two things that will immediately grab your attention: The extra wide, cinema-like 5.1 inch screen and the vibrant color and quality of the hi-res display. The TN765t measures 2.8 by 5.1 by 0.4 inches and the 5.1-inch LCD screen has a 358-by-854 pixel resolution. It’s a perfect format for Dual-View, a unique way to offer the driver the info he/she wants while allowing the map view to remain uncluttered. Though the TN765t has some similarities with other well-known navigation device competitors, it also has countless features which are much different from others, such as the data-over-voice connection powered by Airbiquity. You get streaming traffic for life without signing up for any data plan thru any cellular network. Motorola only give you three months of service which includes Google Local Search, weather updates, fuel prices, and a few other Internet-search related features. (Cost: $219 to $315)

5) Garmin Nüvi 3790T with nüRoute™ Technology
The Garmin nüvi 3790T is a GPS device that features a multi-touch glass display, nüRoute™ technology with trafficTrends™ and myTrends™, and lane assist with junction view. It sports a full glass 4.3” diagonal multi-touch display with dual orientation capabilities that allow users to use the nüvi 3790T either horizontally or vertically. The unit also features Bluetooth® wireless technology with a built-in microphone and speaker for handsfree calls; nüRoute™ Technology with trafficTrends™ and myTrends™ that enables the unit to automatically learn daytime trends for traffic flow to improve routes and predict estimated time of arrival based on time of day and day of week. trafficTrends™ updates every time users connect the device to myGarmin.(Cost: $399 to $499)

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  • Frank Nitti says:

    what is the average life of a G.P.S system

  • Frank Nitti says:

    I was told buy a salesman that a G.P.S. will last only 2 to 3 yrs then you have to get a new one. Is this true

    • Derek says:

      Not true. A portable GPS system will last a lot more than 2 years and continue to be useful if it has the ability to download software updates to keep the maps and info current. Several of my friends have Garmin Nuvis, been using them for several years, and not one has stopped working.

  • Pretender says:

    I have heard that there is a Navi that allows you to change its “voice” /accent.Me thinks that it would be cool too. I am shopping for a navi under 200 any suggestions?

  • הני says:

    ולגביי GPS -520 של PREMIER יש המלצות קניתי אתמול ?

  • alleyrunner says:

    I asked for ACCURACY recommendation as my 205 is FREQUENTLY wrong.

  • Derek says:

    Looking for some feedback from the readers. Is the information provided on page 1 helpful or do you jump directly to page 2 to view the best GPS devices that were chosen?

  • Derek says:

    Top 5 portable GPS list for cars updated just in time for the holiday shopping season. New on the list is an entry from Motorola – MOTONAV TN765t.

    Garmin is still a popular choice amongst consumers and technical evaluators, but TomTom and Magellan aren’t too shabby either.

  • Stella says:

    Hey Stan44. You’re calling people idiots and you can’t even spell. Classic.

  • Don says:

    stan44 – You should have the electricity and telephone turned off in your trailer home…and why are you using the world wide webs? I reccomend you also sell your pick up truck and get the kids used to running from town-to-town. You frakking idiot! You probaly have no problem parking them in front of the TV or the Wii, huh? GPS navigation happens to be the greatest technological advance of our generation. It’s even better than the singing bass hanging on your living room wall.

  • Derek says:

    Now that Garmin has released their Garminfone on T-Mobile service, an update of our article, “Portable Network Devices Rule Over Smartphones w/GPS”, is due.

    I agree, a person should learn how to read a real map before becoming dependent upon GPS devices. Just like a person should learn how to do long arithmetic before relying upon a calculator. It may be slow and archaic, but we shouldn’t be relying upon technology too much.

  • Larz says:

    Sad But True, we do depend on to many electronics what happens when the “GPS” system is no longer free.. some say it will always be free I’m sure they said the same about television…and soon radio u have to buy a box to see anything or pay 60 a month to have something thats hopefully interesting on. Money will always be made they just need everyone to depend on the GPS it is a great little tool but U SHOULD TRY to know how to understand and read a map and not freeze 1 mile from the VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER…… oh and I had a tom tom think it was around $100 worked great have a insignia ns-navo1 have to always clear the history otherwise it will always take u to the place prior and they charge for downloads work’s ok

  • stan44 says:

    I have a road map in the glove box.
    I paid $2.50 for it.
    The kid has fun tracking our routes.
    Added bonus is my child will not be
    illiterate, like many that are becoming electronic dependent.
    We know 12 year old kids that cannot read a compass.
    They need their cell phone to tell them which
    direction to go.
    Makes me sick.
    Chances are your kid is an idiot too.
    If the battery dies they will freeze to death
    1 mile from home.
    You yuppies that spend $1200 on a dvd player to keep
    your kids quiet just proves to me that your idiots and
    even your children think your a joke, so they don’t
    listen to anything you tell them.

  • Mio Navman Spirit S500THF says:

    It really very important to get a good GPS system for vehicles….they tend to be of great use at times.Hence many thanks for sharing your information with us.

  • adam says:

    You know what I use, and have been using, and pretty much am very happy w/. My cellphone and Why pay money for a service that is already out there?

    Though I wish the GPS was a bit stronger. Sometimes it takes a couple time to locate me if there isn’t a direct view to the heavens.

  • treedy says:

    i have got one unit was similar to TomTom GO 930, but the price was much cheaper than GO930.

  • m35man says:

    I have heard some very good things about the Navignon 8100T. It has great graphics, free real-time traffic updates for life, 12 map updates available for three years for just $79.99, and a great Zagat Guide built-in, providing recommendations for restaurants, hotels, etc. The only things that caused me to not include it in my Top 5 is the price ($599.00–at this price point, why not go with the Nuvi?) and the fact that they’ve had some problems with the voice recognition feature. If a GPS nav system is not top-notch when it comes to voice recognition, it’s useless to me, because if I have to pull over, the entire purpose of the unit is now moot.

  • Scott says:

    I’m curious if you considered the new Navigon 8100T, and how you think it compares with Nuvis.

  • Derek says:

    Please be aware that California has laws pertaining to objects attached to the windshield that affect the driver’s field of vision. The top photograph depicts an illegal position for a portable nav-system. Below are the only areas where an object can be attached to the front windshield in California.

    “a 7-inch square area in the lower corner of the windshield farthest removed from the driver (the passenger side) or in a 5-inch square area in the lower corner of the windshield nearest to the driver (the lower left corner of the windshield).

    Post up if your state has similar laws.

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