GPS Buying Help
November 17, 2005 1:11 AM   Subscribe

GPS buying help needed

I would like to get a nice portable GPS unit with color screen and hoply 3D (optional)
I would like to get one with detailed map of U.S., Australia, and South Korea at the same time also...
Price is limiting factor for me.... I looked through google and Lowrance iWay 500c/Garmin/tomtom Go 300 looked good to me... BUT it seems that map costs are in hundreds also...
Could some one recommend me how I should go about getting the type of GPS deal I want.?
At first I need US, Australia, South Korea... I would like to get Japan/China/european maps in the future too... (yes I do fair amount of travel...)

I used GPS through HERTZ during my travels... it was lifesaver... and I just hate to have that nervous feeling when I am traveling around foreign countries mentioned above....
Cost is major factor for me though...

I do have a nice laptop that I carry around everywhere... but I heard the Microsoft Map/GPS isn't that good while driving around....(no voice help or something ... and i heard...)

Recommendations to a retailers would be appreciated also
posted by curiousleo to Technology (13 answers total)
p.s. Well I also do fair amount of walking around... maybe nice handheld ones are option too...

Also.. if I do decided to go with gps kit for my laptop, what software kit would you recommend?

Are there any sites that supply free or reasonable cost detailed maps of cities of the world...??
posted by curiousleo at 1:16 AM on November 17, 2005

p.s. II.. Also can these GPS system display foreign language like chinese/japanese/korean?
Maybe I can get the map cd from each country at lower price??
posted by curiousleo at 1:20 AM on November 17, 2005

Hm, haven't heard that MS Streets & Trips isn't that good- it's actually worked great for me, and has the major features you'd expect (tracking, rotation of map, trip planning, and with the 2006 version they've added voice/audio guidance when you're driving). But, I'm strictly in NA, so I haven't evaluated it in terms of int'l map support.

The pocketpc version of Streets & Trips, which comes with regular Streets & Trips, can also handle imported maps, and supports tracking with a bluetooth/etc type GPS attached; they have a lot more international maps for free of various cities around the world for the pocket pc version.

The biggest knock on Streets & Trips is that the maps outside North America are fairly weak- excepting some of the major world cities you can download after the fact. I haven't seen that S&T is particularly good at having international add-ons, but maybe they are for sale elsewhere and I just haven't looked because it wasn't an issue for me.

I am fairly sure that the various map software companies aren't using an industry standard, but I may be incorrect; MS Streets and Trips at least doesn't have a way of importing another vendor's map, or even new maps. Honestly, I'd be surprised if there was any one place you could get detailed road maps of so many different places, much less to work on one device. How detailed do the maps need to be?
posted by hincandenza at 2:51 AM on November 17, 2005

All maps from a single company (eg Garmin) are not equal to eachother! I spent a large price on South African maps from Garmin, and they are crap, as in, missing major routes, amongst other problems. European maps are great. Haven't used it in the States.

Garmin iQue is a good, portable device, for walking or driving. But it is pricey. Garmin seems a good company, apart from selling such ridiculously incomplete maps as they do for South Africa.

But I bought this one a couple years ago, when the iQue first came out. Can't speak for the current market.
posted by Goofyy at 2:55 AM on November 17, 2005

The Tom Tom Go series does what you want, and I highly recomend them. I have the 300.

The only thing about it I dont like is its slightly awkward shape when you want to carry it. It has an eMac shape, which doesnt fit in any kind of pocket. It is smaller though that it appears in pictures.

The screen is really good, and has the night-colours option which lowers the brightness and changes everything to blue tones so that it's not so distracting while driving at night.

Built in speaker and voices are loud and clear.

Ive no idea about the cost and availability of other maps though.
posted by lemonfridge at 3:20 AM on November 17, 2005

I need fairly detailed ones especially for foreign cities... becuase I figured, I will know much less about foreign road rules, etc....

MS ST is promising... but does it do good GPS while driving?
(comparable to real GPS)

I really like the idea of having digitial map GPS in my hand or bag where ever I go around the world... Just knowing where I will definately help reduce my fears for getting lost in foreign cities. (yes i am one of those people yet my job requires me to go out to the world...ironic? maybe...)

----this is a side comment about tech life
**since i got my web connectable cell phone, a tablet pc with hugh hard drive, my trips around the states have been a delight without normal traveling headaches... More than few times a trip, I had to check/change flights in airports, check/change hotel info.... while keeping all notes (yes there are telephone services.. but trying to do that with serveral hotels, airlines with all their restrictions...very hard.. it is nice to see the charts on the screen)
Beside I get more discounts through web.. my laptop was probably paid itself during few trips just by getting web deals during unforseen travel changes..

Frankly I became so dependent on these things that I figured I will go all digital "roadwarrior" thing...

am i wierd?

p.s. besides these tech things keeps me sane by providing me with games, movies, music, notes, something to read etc.... during those trips... now all i need is that gps some how... more suggestions will be appreciated....
posted by curiousleo at 3:32 AM on November 17, 2005

MS ST is promising... but does it do good GPS while driving?

It does a great job. Keep in mind that earlier versions of MS ST restricted the update time on the map when running GPS. MS hadn't yet licenced the ability to do real-time positional updates (every second) and instead updated your position every 5 seconds if I recall correctly. In other words, avoid used or older versions of MS ST. Nearly all consumer GPS/Software packages utilize an industry standard 12 channel NMEA 0183 receiver so the hardware is almost always compatible with other mapping software.

I did some work with TeleAtlas back in the early aughts and they may be a good jumping off point for an international hardware/software package.

The HERTZ Never-Lost system you used, is actually a $4000 piece of equipment made by Magellan. It's a small unit the size of a shoebox thats mounted under the passenger seat and runs off of a DVD. They are sweet units (if my memory serves me correctly).
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:29 AM on November 17, 2005

Garmin iQue is a good, portable device, for walking or driving.

Great for driving, not so good for walking. The problem is the size -- to get it as small as they did, with the screen they have (which is gorgeous!) and add a decent GPS antenna, they had to give up something.

What they gave up is battery size. In a car, hooked up to the 12V power in the car, this is a non issue. Hiking, it is -- if you leave it on to track, you can eat the batteries alive. If you don't, you have to resync to get a location, and you won't have a real track. It is useful as a "Where am I" box -- you open it up, sync, and there you are. But for tracking and routing, it needs power, and the battery isn't large enough for extended tracks without external power. (Doubly so if you use the WAAS feature.)

So, for hiking, it isn't very useful. It is, however, a perfectly useful PalmOS 5 box with GPS. If I were hiking with it, I'd rig an external battery.

I need to start looking for a replacement battery. *All* Lithium Ion and Lithium Polymer batteries lose capacity over time -- even if they are never used. It's part of the trade off -- for the higher energy density, you pay in lifetime. These batteries lose about 30% of their capacity per year -- every year, no matter what you do.

Having said that, I love mine, and having seen refurbed ones for under $300, I might get another one. Note that the I think the iQue 3600 is the one to get -- normally, I think big color screens on PDAs is a waste of good screens and battery power, but for mapping, large sharp color screens are the right answer. The iQue 3200's smaller screen hurts it as a mapping device -- and as a Palm Pilot, you'll find much better, faster and cheaper, so skimping on the screen is silly if you're buying it as a GPS mapper, and if you aren't, *don't* buy either of them.
posted by eriko at 8:13 AM on November 17, 2005

I've had a few handheld GPSes (and have experience with a couple of car ones). My current GPS of choice is the Garmin eTrex Vista C. It has a mini usb interface so you can use standard cables to hook it up to your PC/car DC adaptor. It has a good color screen, extremely good interface (Garmin seems to beat their competitors on the quality of their user interface alone). It does routing but doesn't have speech synth - but it does have a range of beeps/tones indicating actions you need to take; that's generally enough, when it beeps and the action isn't obvious (like get off the highway) a quick glance at the screen is all it takes.

It doesn't have upgradable memory (i.e. doesn't take flash cards) but it has 24MB which is enough to hold detailed routable maps for Manhattan and have some room left over. I bought Garmin's CD of detailed routable maps of North America and it is excellent. I also bought a world map CD from them too and while driving in France and the UK found the detail was awful: missing highways and some towns and rarely allowing the routing on the handheld to work.

The Vista-C also has a built in digital compass and altimeter, the digital compass is handy for geocaching the altimeter not so much.
posted by schwa at 8:35 AM on November 17, 2005

MS ST is promising... but does it do good GPS while driving?

It works great. I actually bought the DeLorme package with their USB GPS dongle first (it was $60 at Fry's, after rebate) but after seeing Streets and Trips' much simpler interface, I bought a copy of that. There is some additional driver tweaking necessary to get the DeLorme GPS working with the Microsoft product, but once that was done it's fine. And the software's only $30 after rebate. So I got Streets and Trips, a GPS dongle, and the DeLorme software for less than I would have paid for just the Microsoft package with S&T and their GPS dongle.

The 2006 version of Streets and Trips has a mind-blowing feature: it can figure out roughly where you are based on the wireless networks it can detect in the vicinity, assuming your laptop has WiFi. I have no idea how it works, but if you're in an urban area, it'll probably come up with something close to where you are.
posted by kindall at 9:03 AM on November 17, 2005

Slate did a little review of car GPS units a couple months ago that might be helpful in supplementing the advice you get here.
posted by letourneau at 11:08 AM on November 17, 2005

I use MS ST (N. America) every day when I'm out in the field working. I find that the 2005 version is far superior to previous versions, due to improved GPS support. It does update every second now, rather than every ten seconds or so. I also recommend it over Delorme's package.

Maps are not perfect, however. Microsoft's data seems to run about 2-3 years behind. It's not unusual that I'll find large 2-year-old subdivisions that don't appear on the map at all. But I'd say that street data seems to be about 95% accurate overall.

MS ST is also very helpful in finding a hotel, restaurant or service in a strange area without a phone book. With a few clicks you can select your location, set a radius of any distance and get an orderly list of every bar, restaurant, hotel, museum, or etc. in that radius, arranged by distance. With address and phone numbers. I find the information to be about 80% accurate.

But my favorite feature of MS ST is how smoothly it integrates with MS Office. I can export a list of addresses from my database, import into MS ST, map them, optimize stops and plot a course within about thirty seconds. Then I convert my laptop into tablet mode, plop it onto my lap, plug in the GPS and drive along the green highlighted streets until the little car icon meets the pushpins.

I've never heard of extra maps being sold for MS ST. Nor have I found a menu for installing updates. I suspect that these may be sold as separate programs (i.e. ms st europe edition) rather than as add-ons.

Really, MS ST is the first time I've ever thought a microsoft product was actually worth the money. Of course -- YMMV.
posted by Jonasio at 1:11 PM on November 17, 2005

Also: I don't use it, but a friend recently got the pocket pc version of MS-ST for his palm device. He says it works great, though it lacks some bells and whistles. I'd look into it for hiking or driving if you don't want to lug a tablet or laptop around.
posted by Jonasio at 1:18 PM on November 17, 2005

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