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Which GPS?
July 24, 2008 1:20 PM   Subscribe

As a late birthday gift my father wants to get me a GPS for my truck. He asked if I wanted a TomTom or a Garmin, but I'm not familiar with either one. I looked online a bit but found all the models and crap confusing, so I seek advice here.

If it makes a difference, I do a lot of driving in rural areas, and want one that will speak directions as well as show them. Actually, if it could yell them at me, that would help a bit too, as I have kids. Loud kids. Thanks!
posted by PossumCupCake to Technology (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
I bought a Garmin nüvi 350 and have been very pleased. It speaks directions and shows them. It's pretty loud and can be set to provide a loud chime before each direction.

I can't speak to the rural areas, but so far the directions in New England have been excellent.

The only thing negative I can say about it is that it sometimes takes a few tries to get the suction cup to stick to the windshield.
posted by taojones at 1:32 PM on July 24, 2008


Here's the only thing I know: TomTom products (some, at least) allow you to download custom voices for reading the directions, including folks like Bruce Willis and (oddly enough) Eddie Izzard. I do not know if Garmin offers this feature.
posted by davejay at 1:34 PM on July 24, 2008


Consumer Search provides helpful summaries of reviews for all kinds of products, including auto GPS devices.
posted by Perplexity at 1:38 PM on July 24, 2008


I had a TomTom for my first GPS. I liked it a lot.

Now I have a Garmin. I like it a lot too.

The differences at the same pricing tiers are small, but notably, the order in which address information is input is different between these two brands.

The Garmin seems to know what side of the street Points of Interest are on, but has some problems routing through certain intersections.

The TomTom's map data is from a different vendor than Garmin's. Garmin uses snapshots of the same vendor data used by MapQuest and Google Maps, I think.

When talking about the different price points, usually the lower the model, the smaller the data set. Really cheap ones might have room for one State's worth of map data. Cheap ones might have the whole US, but no Points of Interest. The more expensive ones tend to have the data set for the whole US and many thousands of POIs. When you get to the super expensive ones ($500 and up) the differentiation is in screen size and add-on services like traffic data and gas prices, which is usually an add-on monthly service fee.

Both Garmin and TomTom have Mac support, if that matters to you. Garmin's Mac support is better than TomTom's.

TomTom is built upon Linux, though I don't know of many projects to hack them, as they are a fairly expensive niche device.

On preview: As mentioned, TomTom has downloadable voices. It doesn't appear that Garmin nüvi has that feature. Garmin does have downloadable replacement vehicles to show on the 3D maps though.
posted by tomierna at 1:40 PM on July 24, 2008


I know nothing about Tom Toms.

I also have a Garmin nüvi 350 and I really like it. I haven't gotten lost with it yet.
posted by All.star at 1:41 PM on July 24, 2008


My wife approved my purchase of the Tom Tom because I could get John Cleese's voice on it. "Bear left, beaver right"... Took me a while to figure out...

Tom Tom has been reliable for 2 years now, very easy to use and seems to have good maps.
posted by cosmac at 1:47 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


If your dad has an iPhone 3G, TomTom will soon have GPS software for it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:51 PM on July 24, 2008


I think Garmin has better map data. And this really is the most important factor.

Also, wake sure you buy one that speaks the street names.
posted by Slenny at 1:53 PM on July 24, 2008


I have an older Garmin for my car, and an even older one for my boat. Both are seriously excellent. When I was looking for the car one, I looked at Tom Tom, and didn't feel it had the features taht I wanted in the high-end Garmin. No doubt things have changed since, but I've built up some strong brand loyalty to Garmin - and I agree with Slenny on the excellence of their mapping data. That's not a slam on Tom Tom, but just afirmation that I have had just about zero problems with Garmins.

A relative has the same Garmin as I and took it to France after downloading the European map software. She had no problems in the transition, and it helped them get around small back roads in Normandy with ease.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 2:05 PM on July 24, 2008


now when you say truck...?

If you need to be careful of weight/height restrictions the TomTom ProNav has all that additional data - UK only at the moment but elsewhere sure to follow
posted by handybitesize at 2:08 PM on July 24, 2008


I bought a Garmin nüvi 350 and have been very pleased.

I got the 650 -- bigger screen I think is the main difference -- and I love it. Got it in a deal at Costco. Directions for the most part have been good, definitely a few places that it's not. If there's a specific rural area you usually drive in, I'd get one with a good return policy, and test out the maps one day.
posted by inigo2 at 2:09 PM on July 24, 2008


You may want to research which map provider is better in your area. Garmin uses Navteq and I believe TomTom uses Teleatlas. Where I live, Teleatlas mapping is more accurate (Navteq doesn't even have the street that I live on).

This forum thread may help
posted by wongcorgi at 2:15 PM on July 24, 2008


I have the Garmin c340, which is excellent. No celebrities, but three pleasant enough voices tell you turn by turn and show it well also. It also goes pretty loud.

For extra cash you can also get the traffic probe which has been helpful at times.
posted by genefinder at 2:16 PM on July 24, 2008


I have a TomTom and it's quite ok, but some maps are wrong it has taken me some wrong locations and sometimes the address or the street I'm searching is not in its database, even though it's in Google Maps. This has happened only 2-3 times

So since 'tomierna' said 'Garmin uses snapshots of the same vendor data used by MapQuest and Google Maps', I would expect it to be more accurate and complete than my TomTom.

Also I read in a forum that Garmin is more durable than TomTom.

I would suggest going for a Garmin nüvi 350, since it has Text-to-Speech feature.
posted by WizKid at 2:16 PM on July 24, 2008


The only GPS I know is the TomTom One, and I have zero complaints about it.

I bought one for my adult son shortly after getting mine, and he immediately found some freeware that enabled him to create driving directions in his own voice and upload them to both TomTom units.

His mother thinks this is the greatest thing in the world beacuse she gets to hear her oldest son's voice calmly guiding her to her dsestinations. I also think it's pretty cool.

I wish this level of GPS technology and price/performance had arrived 20 years earlier.

I am no longer freaked out by having to drive into major cities and other remote destinations.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:17 PM on July 24, 2008


I've used the Garmin nüvi 650 and 750, and both have been great. I've used both while driving in rural northern Georgia and they've done great. Both speak directions and street names, though the voice does sound exasperated when you miss a turn and it has to recalculate.

I've been surprised by just how useful I've found the built-in points of interest. When my AC went out on a recent 14-hour drive, the GPS found the nearest dealership so that I could get the (very minor) problem taken care of.
posted by capsizing at 2:27 PM on July 24, 2008


Yet another happy Garmin nuvi 350 user here. I've had it for over 2 years, however... You may want to go with the newer 660 instead. Similar price range, bigger screen, but less compact.
posted by qvtqht at 2:30 PM on July 24, 2008


I just remembered one problem. The suction mount that comes with the Garmin nüvi 650 tends to pop off the windshield, sometimes while you're driving. The friction mount, which is sold separately, works fine, and the suction mount for the 750 is also fine.
posted by capsizing at 2:31 PM on July 24, 2008


I like my Garmin - It's one of their Windows Mobile PDA devices. M4 or M5 (can't quite remember). I bought it so that I could use it in the car, but also as a pedestrian/public transit user while traveling. It even goes camping pretty well, and Garmin has a ton of available topo maps and even fishing/camping specific maps.

Having a handheld GPS unit with a setting for "pedestrian" navigation really comes in handy in an unfamiliar city. This was super sweet three years ago, but it has been pretty much rendered a ho-hum feature when so many cell phones are now capable of the same thing. Something to consider though.

Of course, now that I know I can get Eddie Izzard doing the voice-overs for navigation, I know what my fiance is getting for Christmas. A Tom Tom. She's going to fucking love it.
posted by terpia at 2:33 PM on July 24, 2008


I have a TomTom and it's seriously the bee's knees. Love the custom voice options for the fun side, but love the fact that I can actually get to wherever I'm heading. That being the point and all.
posted by VioletU at 2:34 PM on July 24, 2008


nthing the awesomeness of the Garmin Nuvi 350. I'm very pleased with it and it's nice and compact. It gives turn-by-turn voice directions with the street names (lower-end models will just tell you "Turn left" as opposed to "Turn left on Main Street"). The screen is very bright and is easy to see in the daytime. You may run into volume issues if you have very loud children. I often have trouble hearing it when I have the stereo cranked up to a moderately high level. There is a headphone jack, though, which you can use with a regular set of earphones. There are widescreen GPS devices out there, but I'm not sure what the usefulness of the extra width is -- the most important part of where you're going is straight ahead, not to the sides.

As for extras, you can change the voices between male/female and among different accents like British and Australian with Garmin. As mentioned above, you can download different car icons as well. Prices have dropped recently, so you might consider going with a better model that includes Bluetooth and traffic updates (well, since it's a present, just go ahead and ask for one with those features). Traffic updates might carry an extra monthly fee, though. If you peruse the product pages of GPS units at amazon, they feature a breakdown of all the features of each of the units (e.g., Nuvi 360).
posted by puritycontrol at 3:36 PM on July 24, 2008


I chose the Garmin Nuvi 360 because Garmin also builds avionics. They by-god better know how to make a good GPS.

My main gripe is with the bluetooth connectivity, which is limited to a rediculously small set of phones.

The benefits of the Nuvi style is that you can walk around with it, then slip it in your pocket without much fuss.

I tried out the Australian and British voices. It was funny to hear WA called Western Australia, etc.

Took it for a drive out to eastern Washington State (the very definition of rural) and the maps worked great, even locating our fairly-new hotel.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:11 PM on July 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is secondhand information, but be sure to consider future map purchases. I was talking to someone last night who has TomTom for their Windows Mobile smartphone. Apparently, they won't sell him the latest maps for that device. They say they might in the future. Additionally, they cost more than the Garmin map updates (at least going by what he was saying).

Unless you plan on disposing of the unit once the maps grow stale.
posted by wierdo at 6:20 PM on July 24, 2008


If price is of any concern to you, I just got (literally yesterday) the Garmin c340. It is a older model which garmin has stopped making (but they still support it). I found it on amazon for 140 (if you look on eBay you can find it for even cheaper).

I not sure but I'm tempted to say it is as good as the nuvi 350 (voice says the street names (text-to-speech) - which apparently from some friends I asked was a very important feature - plus the map of the entire U.S. and traffic information). Also as far as I know Garmin has more international maps than tom tom does (if that is important to you at all).
posted by clueless22 at 8:48 AM on July 25, 2008


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