During the Summer break, I’ve had the dubious pleasure of test driving three quite similar GPS navigation devices. The devices differ in implementation and usability, but they all do the same thing at a high level.
Understand this: a GPS device will never replace local knowledge, and probably not even a good hard look at a map. The overview you get from a map – especially when travelling long distances – helps you to get a general idea of the direction you need to go in. “Turn left in 300 metres” on the other hand doesn’t offer much information about the journey.
I did find the devices useful in a couple of scenarios though:
- When setting a destination address with a street number, the GPSes were always pretty good about letting me know exactly where on the road the destination was. This is really good for long roads and stops you driving along slowly for ages looking for the correct street number.
- The TomTom’s map layout was excellent in the way it showed the next few streets on each side of the current road. This way you could see street names several hundred metres before the street signs were visible.
- The ‘ETA’ feature on all the devices was reasonably accurate. It gives you some idea of how long the trip will be, especially when travelling somewhere new.
Of the three devices, my pick would be the TomTom XL. It lacks some of the features of the others (more on that later), but if you want to actually have a usable device for your money, the TomTom is the way to go. The Garmin Nuvi 265w is a close second, but I found the cartoon-ey look of the Garmin maps a bit distracting, and the on-screen info on the TomTom was more informative.
I’ve talked about the Navman already, and the less said about it the better.
All the devices can be loaded with speed camera locations, and the TomTom and Navman offer constant road speed warnings. The Navman is over-aggressive however, bleeping the instant you touch the speed limit, which can get super annoying if you’re sitting very close to the limit. The TomTom on the other hand gives you a few seconds’ grace period before bleeping. I would also note that on both units the road speeds are not completely accurate, especially when travelling through small towns, but overall it can do a good job of warning you when you are travelling too fast.
If you like your information tabular, this should do the trick:
|TomTom XL||Garmin Nuvi 265W||Navman S200|
|Map Coverage||NZ only||NZ and Australia||NZ only|
|Spoken Street names||No||Yes||Yes|
|Other||TomTom Mapshare||Garmin Connect Photos||MP3 player and photo viewer|
Don’t read too much into the feature list above, other than the map coverage if you plan to travel to Australia.
- The Bluetooth speakerphone on both the Garmin and the Navman was largely pointless. Sure you could pair up with your phone and make a call, but in both cases the recipient of the call could barely hear what I was saying. I think a dedicated car kit would be a better option if you need hands-free calling.
- The FM transmitter (oh how I hate the things) in the Navman is beyond pointless. With it turned on, you only hear turn and warning information from a tuned-in radio, so the choice becomes turn warnings, or any other form of musical entertainment in your car.
- Spoken street names are available, but always poorly pronounced and to me were more irritating than useful.