Buying a GPS device

What should you be on the lookout for when buying a GPS?

Device features

GPS device featuresBluetooth: GPS systems with Bluetooth compatibility serve a variety of purposes. By pairing up with your mobile phone, you’re able to make your GPS device act as a hands-free unit. Combine that with POIs that carry phone numbers, and you can call ahead straight from your GPS device. Combine that with Text to Speech, and your GPS device may be able to read out your SMS messages while you drive.

Text to Speech (TTS): Text to Speech is commonly referred to on packaging as TTS. A unit without Text to Speech would announce a turn as “Turn right in 100 metres”, whereas a unit with Text to Speech would announce “Turn right in 100 metres onto Smith Street”. TTS improves safety by confirming that you are on the right route without you having to take your eyes off the road.

Traffic Message Channel (TMC): Advanced GPS devices offer Traffic Message Channel compatibility (TMC) maps. Currently available in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, TMC broadcasts traffic alerts to your GPS device, enabling it to recalculate a route to avoid traffic incidents, such as accidents or road works. TMC may be built into a GPS device, or added to selected models using a cradle and antenna combination or via a software plug-in.

Interface: Look for a device with a clear interface and menu you can navigate – this is something the leading brands tend to do well. Take time to trial the interface while in store – does it make sense to you, or would you struggle to understand it while out driving?

Send to GPS: Allows you to search from a PC and then forward the POIs and addresses you need to locate directly to a compatible GPS device. It’s also an accurate way of entering locations into your portable GPS device, and for alerting others to particular locations.

Screen: The choice in screen size for portable units is generally between 3.5 inches or 4.3 inches. Larger screens offer more on-screen data, but won’t slip into a bag or pocket as easily. Make sure your touch screen is quick and responsive, as well as bright and easy to see even in high glare conditions.

Windscreen mount and cradle: A great GPS set-up is all about how easy the device is to remove from either the windscreen and/or the docking station. Having a single-clip dismount from the windscreen will make your day-to-day use of the GPS device much easier. The ability to easily rotate the GPS device while it is mounted on the windscreen will allow you to quickly adjust the angle of the screen for easier viewing and use.

Map features

GPS map featuresMap data: Check the mapping provider for your particular GPS device carefully, as not all maps are made equal. Make sure the maps have been compiled by a local company, with on-the-ground experience of Australian road conditions. It is important to check that the map inside your GPS device has all the basics covered, including an extensive address list. The features below will help ensure you have a fantastic navigation experience:

  • Speed limits
  • Points of Interest
  • Accurate lane information
  • Accurate school zones
  • Junction views

It’s worth looking for free map upgrades when purchasing your GPS device, as some models can be sold with maps that may soon be superseded. GPS manufacturers release new map data one to four times a year, depending on the brand (please contact your hardware manufacturer for further details). Make sure to check that updates are available for your device.

Points of Interest (POI): GPS is not just about getting from A to B, it’s about what’s along the way. Most GPS devices permit POIs to be selected as a final destination, allowing you, for example, to select ‘zoo’ rather than its street address. POIs such as petrol stations, accommodation, ATMs or tourist sites can also be added as stops throughout your journey. Many GPS brands specify the number of POIs included within the device, and more is generally better for your navigation experience. It is, however, important that the POI data has been analysed and tailored to provide the most relevant destinations along the way. Make sure as many POIs as possible are embedded in the device, as some GPS devices require you to download POIs via Bluetooth.

Speed limits: Road safety features are a must when purchasing a GPS device. A GPS device with quality map data will provide you with extensive speed limit information and speed warnings along your route, helping to keep you safe on the road.

Fixed speed and red light cameras: Great mapping will provide you with information on upcoming fixed speed and red light cameras. Your GPS device will provide an alert upon approach, ensuring you’re safe on the road and helping the old hip pocket.

School zones: Children can be unpredictable, so it is always important to be careful when driving within school zones. Make sure your map includes accurate school zone data and that your GPS device provides an alert when approaching a school zone.

Junction views: A visual display of freeway exits and complex intersections, this typically includes the road sign and an arrow indicating which exit or direction to take. It helps makes your journey easier as the display of the intersection on the GPS device tries to replicate what you actually see through the windscreen!

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