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HOW TO CHOOSE CAR GPS INTEGRATED NAVIGATION, STANDALONE DEVICES, AND ALTERNATIVES

If you’re in the market for a car GPS unit, there are a handful of different things to consider. Some of the most important factors that may influence your decision making process include: * budget * integrated navigation vs. standalone unit * core features * map availability * additional features. BUDGET money is no object, it’s a good idea to start off by setting a general price range. If you’re looking to spend less than a hundred dollars, you’re probably going to have to settle for a small screen and scrimp a little on the features. You can also look for a bargain on an older model, but make sure that you don’t end up with outdated maps that are either costly or impossible to update. Your budget will also inform your decision to go for an integrated unit or a standalone device. Head units that include built-in GPS navigation are typically quite expensive, so you may want to steer away from them unless your existing head unit is begging for an upgrade. In that case, there are some head units that include integrated GPS navigation that can boast some pretty impressive features. INTEGRATED GPS NAVIGATION also an option in some higher end aftermarket head units. While these GPS navigation units tend to be quite expensive, they’re also pretty slick. If you’re opposed to sticking a blocky device to your dash or windshield, and you’re also looking to update your head unit, an integrated device could be a good way to go. Some of these head units that include built-in navigation are also full fledged carputers, so that’s something else to keep in mind. STANDALONE CAR GPS DEVICES These GPS units are typically the less expensive option, but that doesn’t mean they’re all cheap. Standalone units span the full range of sub-$100 budget models to feature-packed units that commonly have price tags of over $300. Other than price, the main benefit of standalone GPS devices is portability. Since they aren’t built into the dash of any one vehicle, you have the option of using one device in more than one vehicle. This is even easier if you pick up an extra mount and power supply. Core Features There are a handful of features that you should look for regardless of your budget or any other concerns. The most important ones include: * screen size and resolution * type of receiver * audible directions * automatic routing Screen size and resolution are typically tied very closely to price. Budget models tend to have smaller screens with lower resolutions, and you can expect to pay a lot more for units that come with big, detailed touchscreens. If you’re not familiar with GPS screen sizes, you may want to check out a few in person before you buy. In order to determine whether a screen is big enough, you can stand back a few feet and try glancing at it. If you have trouble making it out, then you might want to step up to a larger screen. As far as receivers go, some are more sensitive than others. GPS units that have low sensitivity receivers fall into the budget category, but not every budget model has a poor receiver. If you want to make sure that your GPS unit actually knows what road you’re on, look for a unit that has a high sensitivity receiver. And while most car GPS devices include audible directions, they aren’t all created equal. Some units include text-to-speech technology that allows them to read out actual street names, which can come in handy when you’re driving in an unfamiliar area. Other devices are nearly unintelligible, so it’s vital to take the quality of the audible directions into account when shopping for a car GPS unit. Other less important features that can come in handy include: * traffic * lane assist * voice input * 3D map view * points of interest * There are also a handful of non-core features that you may find, such as: * built-in MP3 player * digital picture viewer * hands-free calling While these features may be useful in limited circumstances, they’re mainly useless fluff. Rather than looking for a Swiss army knife that can do a lot of unrelated stuff, it’s a much better idea to zero in on a device that does one thing (in this case, GPS navigation) really well. a car GPS unit, you should also look into the: MAP AVAILABILITY Before you buy a car GPS unit, you should also look into the: * availability of map updates * timeliness of map updates * cost of map updates difficulty of updating the device This is especially important if you’re buying a discounted unit that’s a little long in the tooth. While it’s possible to find some incredible deals by shopping for old stock and factory refurbished car GPS units, it’s vital to make sure that you don’t get stuck with old map data. If the map updates are expensive — or the company isn’t putting out updates anymore — it might be wise to take a pass. ALTERNATIVE Due to the prevalence of devices like smartphones, the days of the dedicated car GPS unit may be numbered. These devices used to be the only game in town, but you now have a variety of other options like: * smartphone * tablet * carputer * multimedia cellphone If you already have any of those devices, you might want to check into the navigation options before dropping any money on a new car GPS unit. Some smartphones come with built-in GPS navigation, and there are also a number of applications that provide additional functionality. Tablets and carputers can do an even better job of replacing a standalone car GPS unit. And while your multimedia non-smartphone might not be a great choice for heavy usage, it may do the trick in a pinch.