For those who drive significant distances or who frequently find themselves searching for things in unfamiliar surroundings, a GPS satellite receiver can certainly simplify life. Like most electronics devices however, the number of choices, brands, and features can make the decision making process difficult and time consuming. Shoppers however, can take some time to identify the features that would be most valuable for them, determine how much they are willing to spend, and then relax as the selection will be greatly simplified once these decisions are made.
In a world of innumerable options, here are a few of the more critical characteristics to consider before you buy:
Will the GPS device be used outside of the vehicle?
There are some ultra portable GPS devices designed for use in cars, vans, and trucks that offer the flexibility of use outside of the vehicle as well. To be useful, the device would need not only roadmaps but terrain information loaded. Certainly size and weight need to be considered if the device is to be carried; buying a GPS device with Bluetooth helps to make this option more feasible. It would aslo be important to buy a GPS device with rechargeable batteries in these instances so that the it could operate without being plugged in for several hours.
Is the screen sufficient?
Obviously the screen needs to be large enough to easily see, but small enough to not block the view of the driver. It is also wise to be sure that the screen is easy to view in any type of lighting condition; not only at night time but in bright sunlight as well. Most people also prefer a touch screen to navigate than one requiring the use of a stylus or some other type of access. If keeping your eyes on the road is important, you should buy a GPS device that operates with voice commands so that you don't have to put your eyes on the screen to get instructions.
How accurate is the information the GPS device provides?
There are a number of features to consider when trying to assure the accuracy of information. A device with WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) is able to pinpoint locations accurately to within a few feet; this may or may not be critical for a given user. Some devices will merely instruct drivers to "turn left" while others are capable of providing more detail by stating the name of the street when providing instructions. Some devices also provide real-time traffic information by using an FM frequency within the vehicle. The accuracy and detail of the maps included with the GPS device can vary as well so comparison shopping can be useful. The more "points of interest" on a map, the more likely it will pinpoint the location a user is seeking. Keeping maps updated after purchase is usually up to the consumer. Some devices require the purchase of a CD to update the device while others accomplish this across the internet.
Is the device easy to use?
Again, for many users, voice commands and a touch screen make a GPS device easier to use. Examining the menus to determine if they are user friendly is important. Many current models don't require any complex installation and are ready to go out of the box, but some offer preloaded maps while others require buyers to install the maps themselves.
As with any purchase, consumers should identify their needs and their budget to determine which device would be the best choice. If pin point accuracy is needed, they should buy a GPS device with WAAS but if budget considerations rule, a device that allows the user to transfer maps from a PC to the device would be a more cost conscious choice than one with maps on the hard drive.
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