Year on year, the plethora of portable satellite navigation (‘satnav’ or ‘GPS’) units grows ever more complex – but not everyone needs the bells and whistles.
In fact, many of us just need something that plugs into the ciggie socket, sticks on the windscreen, and lets us tell it where we want to go. Here are four good entry-level options, all with 3.5in (8.9cm) diagonal displays, and comparable feature sets.
Bear in mind that these units are frequently discounted by retailers, both in-store and online, and you might find them available well below their listed prices.
1. TomTom One 140, RRP $249 – all-rounder
Building on its successful One series, TomTom has packed a smidge more goodness into an even more compact unit.
The One 140 is blessed with advanced lane guidance, which shows, just as you’re wondering where to go, which lane to change into, with a three-dimensional approximation of the scene you’re about to face.
The One 140 will speak to you too – recorded human voices will give you more general instructions, or computerised voices will read street names aloud.
Any map errors you encounter you can correct along the way, and the corrections will then be shared with other TomTom users when you next connect it to your computer, and the web.
TomTom also offers a once-off latest-map guarantee with the One 140, available via web download.
2. Navman MY30, RRP $249 – personal guide
Navman’s new MY series is a set of snazzy reinventions of its satnav line-up, including the smart, simple MY30. Menus have been reorganised for simpler use and everything’s a little more intuitive.
The MY30 also sports a trip logger, which makes redundant the otherwise onerous task of scribbling down all your comings and goings in a book – it’s useful for the taxman or simply as a record of your travels.
Street names are spoken, there’s a latest-map guarantee, and there’s lane guidance, but it’s not as good as the TomTom’s. The Navman uses Navteq maps, which don’t offer the same level of detail as the Whereis maps used by TomTom.
On the other hand, you can view electronic Lonely Planet and WCities guides, which are downloadable via the Navman website.
3. Garmin nüvi 255, RRP $179 – self-securing
The baby of Garmin’s automotive satnav range, the nüvi 255 is a competitive option in its price category, particularly at much-reduced street prices.
When you zoom in on a map, you’re able to see contour details; and if you buy the extra traffic-receiving kit, you’ll be able to get live traffic updates in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Even if you don’t buy the kit first up, traffic advice is a useful functionality to have.
If you want to add some fun into the equation, Garmin Connect Photos allows you to tag images with the GPS coordinates of your favourite locations, using your computer and the included software in conjunction with photos you’ve already taken.
There’s also a trip logger, and an interesting anti-theft feature that renders the device unusable unless a four-digit pin is entered, or it’s taken to a specific location.
4. Navigon 1300, RRP $199 – German ingenuity
A newcomer to the satellite-navigation scene in Australia, the German Navigon brings a clear-cut design that’s similar to the TomTom approach, with slightly different functionality.
When you enter in a destination, you’re presented with multiple route options, ranked in terms of the preference you’ve shown in driving that way previously. Two- or three-dimensional views are available, and, as with the TomTom, day colours turn to night automatically.
Lane guidance is also provided, as is a latest-map guarantee, and map errors are readily corrected on the fly. There’s even a nifty feature that helps you locate the nearest parking spot to where you are, just before you get there.
- Words Andrew Harris