Best Portable GPS

Category: Gadgets

I want to buy a portable GPS that I can use in multiple cars, or when walking around the city. Which model do you recommend?

Tom Tom Go 530 GPS

Portable GPS Units Reviewed

You car may already be equipped with a GPS unit, but what about those times when you're walking, biking or hiking, and you need a little navigation help? The new handheld portable GPS units on the market are the perfect solution. Spanning a range of prices and features, here is my top 5 list of portable GPS systems.

• TomTom has been around for a long time and their new Go 530, with a 4.3 inch display, has many features of more expensive models. Their IQ Routes' calculation is based on real average speeds so you can plan your travels accordingly. Other features include Map Share that updates daily, voice address input for hands-free usage, advanced lane guidance, a Help me page for emergencies and voice or map directions. There are plenty of extras with the system, including an FM transmitter, home desktop software for device to device file sharing, and the ability to record your own directions if computer voices tend to creep you out. The Go 530 retails for $249.00.

Magellan Triton 2000 Portable GPS For outdoor freaks with a larger budget, Magellan is probably your best pick. The Triton 2000 has a color touch screen (2.7 inch QVGA) with maps, compass page, menus and navigation screens. Built-in maps include not only highways but city centers, POIs (points of interest) and bodies of water. Waterproof and more rugged than most GPS systems, you can upload optional topographic maps, marine cartography and National Geographic TOPO. What sets this one apart from others is that it also feature a 2mp camera, a voice recorder and flashlight. The Triton 2000 caries and MSRP of $499.99, but they have smaller uprights for those on a budget.

Navigon 2100 Max portable GPS Although its name may not be as well known as some of the others, the portable, midpriced Navigon 2100 Max has a 4.3 inch touchscreen display, text-to-speech guidance and 3D graphics. It has lane assistance, multi-destination trip planning, Reality View for extra guidance and Direct Help for emergency assistance. The 2100 Max system, at $249.99, comes preloaded with maps and millions of North American POIs, and real-time traffic updates for life are available. One other great feature is that the Real-Time Traffic feature is FREE on this model.

Pioneer AVIC F500BT GPS Pioneer has long been making in-dash GPS and about 3 years ago ventured into the portable devices. The AVIC-F500BT has a whopping 5.8 inch anti-glare screen and a TeleAtlas Database that used to be 2 DVDs but is now stored internally with flash memory. Other features include simple menus and intuitive icons, 3D landmarks, POI Creator, voice recognition, driving reports and picture editing. In addition, it has many features that other GPS systems do not, such as the ability to play music from your iPod, using album art as an overlay, multiple A/V inputs and hands-free Bluetooth calling. This top of the line system will set you back $600.00.

Garmin Nuvi 250 portable GPS I personally recommend Garmin because I've had good experience with them. I needed something that was simple, portable and required as little installation effort as possible. The Nuvi 250 is practically plug and play with its 2.5 inch screen. It is pre-loaded with their City Navigator NT street maps of North America. It also includes POIs with hot spots, ATMs, restaurants, etc. Choose between 2D or 3D maps and attach to your car via your 9V plug or carry it with you on foot. The best part of the 250 is that it speaks to you, which is so much easier than peering at a map while driving. Add to that currency and measurement converters, a calculator, and free updates from Garmin. The price depends on where you shop, but should be around $150.00.

Finally, remember that many cell phones are available with GPS built in, such as the iPhone, the BlackBerry and other smartphones. Most Verizon phones offer a GPS download, but you have to pay by the day or month. Check with your carrier to see if portable GPS capability is available on your phone.

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Most recent comments on "Best Portable GPS"

Posted by:

m. free
04 May 2009

FWIW, the GPS on cell phones si not as good as a true GPS, and as stated you may have to pay monthly or per usage. I don't like to spend a lot of money, so I bought my prrtable GPS from Dell for $99 after rebates last year. It's a Pharos 150, and since we already have a built in unit in our Acura TL, I have something to compare to. The Pharos does a better job because among its features, it has 'text to speech", so it gives street names. The built in unit does not have this feature. But both do a great job of helping us to find our way. even with a smaller screen, the Pharos gets the job done.

Posted by:

04 May 2009

Sadly, I have had nothing but problems with my Garmin Nuvi. The plug in adapter to the cigarette lighter stopped working a month after I bought it. Fully charged, it still shuts off while using it without a power source after 10-15 minutes. Brand new and it never worked right. They get good reviews, but I won't buy another one.

Posted by:

04 May 2009

Are any GPS units radar detectors, too? Can you suggest a model?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I haven't seen a combo device. Some radar detectors have GPS built-in, but that's so it can remember where speed traps are.

Posted by:

Frank Gary
05 May 2009

Why.On an english site are the prices put in Dollars

EDITOR'S NOTE: I do *speak* English, but this site is located in the USA.

Posted by:

05 May 2009

Good article. I have two GPS' - both TomTom brand. A GO-300 (not very portable with it's funky size) and a Navigator 6 for my Palm Treo 750. I don't like their registration method for the Treo model, nor the lack of upgradeable maps (map date 4/2007). That said, I've taken it everywhere (given that I take my phone everywhere). It uses a small external bluetooth GPS receiver. I even took it on two motorcycle trips 6700 & 4200 miles. It worked great secured in my tank bag, although there were some "interesting" routes it chose that made the trip a little more "exciting." Since I take my bag with me wherever I go, the receiver is always with me. Definitely one of the best devices I've ever purchased! I see that Palm is now offering the Garmin add-on GPS package.

I also purchased a Magellan unit but I don't like the maps as much as I like the TomTom maps.

Posted by:

06 May 2009

Black Friday last I bought a little Magellan RoadMate 1212 for $80 at Best Buy. I think they normally run in the low $100s. We've loved the little thing. It's missing some features we like on the hiking style Garmen GPS units, but for finding a pharmacy (or Chinese restaurant, or amusement park, or...) in the middle of nowhere it's great. We love it and use it whenever we go on a road trips. It's easy to plug an address into. It came pre-loaded with maps and locations of interest. It even talks. The only real feature I've found very missing is the ability to go to a particular city. It want's an address. It will do cross streets though.

Posted by:

06 May 2009

Interesting that for the handhelds, the Magellan Triton was selected as the GPS of choice. Probably the largest users of handheld GPS units are geocachers, and they've pretty well slammed the Magellans. Consider the Garmin Oregon or DeLorme PN-40 as much better choices in the same budget, or the Garmin 60CSx or DeLorme PN-20 for a bit less. You might need to purchase extra maps for road navigation, however.

Posted by:

Stan Cochran
06 May 2009

I have a Mio GPS unit and am very satisfied with its performance. Shouldn't this have been included in your analysis?

Posted by:

06 May 2009

Another GPS worth considering is the Garmin Nuvi 265 WT. It is a widescreen GPS with all the user-friendly Nuvi 250 features, but also is bluetooth enabled for your cell phone and includes a traffic receiver with FREE lifetime traffic updates instead of a paid subscription. Found mine on sale at Newegg for $219.99 with free shipping.

Posted by:

06 May 2009

Very interesting article. You briefly mentioned the IPhone, BlackBerry and other SmartPhones that can use GPS software. I am currently a BlackBerry Bold user (previously I used a BB “8310”) and I have tried all of the “freebies” GPS software packages that were available for the BB. They were all ok but they really did not have the voice prompting and/or other features that I was use to when I had my old Garmin C-550. I wanted something very similar to my old Garmin. So, I invested the $99 and installed the Garmin Mobile version to my BB Bold several months ago and it was the best investment in software that I could have made. I just love it!

Not only does it provide the voice directions that I have come to love but being sensitive to your current location, I am able to also use the Garmin Google feature for all kinds of local and specific information from my BB for pharmacies, to shopping, or anything else that I need. It is all very quick and easy to use.

Plus, having just had my car broken into recently, my losses were minimized since I did not have the “extra” GPS equipment left in my vehicle. Garmin Mobile is truly the way to go for any serious IPhone/BlackBerry/SmartPhone user!

Posted by:

06 May 2009

My first venture into the portable navigator field (GPS is just one aspect of these, try a GPS without a map) was with the TomTom One 125. I am frugal (read "cheapskate") so I payed about $100. I like it. While it doesn't tell me to "Turn left on Main street", it does warn me to "Turn left in 250 feet" and then "Turn left." It gets the job done. I have found very few map errors, and they have a free map update service.

Posted by:

09 May 2009

I've always had good luck with Garmin and product support, although I haven't purchased any of the automotive line. I started using the aviation line of products when GPS first started to become popular. Product support was first rate!

For any AT&T Blackberry users, I would stay away from the "AT&T Navigator". I tried it and found it relatively useless! Try downloading Google Earth and use it instead. This gives you the choice of using the satellite imagery OR street maps! (If you're not subscribing to the unlimited plan, the downloads could get expensive though. RIM also has a mapping program that comes with the BB but I have not been able to get it working and suspect AT&T might have deleted the program that comes with the BB and block it's installation. It shouldn't be difficult to get around this, but I haven't had time to check into it.

Posted by:

07 Dec 2009

Which Garmin models have an a/v input so I can hook up a backup camera?

Posted by:

Tom C
03 Sep 2010

Q: Which Garmin models have an a/v input so I can hook up a backup camera?

A: Check out the Magellan 1700 and the Garmin Nuvi 5000. Both are very large - designed for people to install in their RV's. A number of older Garmin's could also be connected to a special adapter called the VIB-10 or the VIB-11, although it has gone out of production and requires the adapter be permanently installed in the car.

Posted by:

19 Oct 2010

Article is too biased or the author is clueless when it comes to GPSr units. No mention of the Garmin units so the whole article becomes suspect.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ummm, did you miss the paragraph that begins: "I personally recommend Garmin because I've had good experience with them." ??

Posted by:

Jesus The Best Portable GPS Guy
06 Jun 2011

I still think that the Garmin are the best portable gps around. I love their free map upgrade feature. I had a tom tom previous to that and I just like the Garmin a lot better.

Posted by:

Joe Reid
16 Jan 2012

Do any GPS units have an ear phone jack? I would like to use one but would not be able to hear directions unless plugged into the phones in my helmet.

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