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Video: Portable GPS Shootout

Comparing navigators on the road


Crutchfield writer Dominic took four different portable GPS navigators out for a road test to compare various features, such as destination entry, lane guidance, 3D graphics, voice recognition, and more. He also brought a smartphone with a mapping application along to show how portable GPS navigators offer more convenience and easier-to-follow guidance.

Read more about our experiment and the results in our article, "Taking Portable Navigation for a Test Drive."

Dominic: Hey, this is Dominic. I'm here in the Crutchfield mobile lab and today we're going to be talking about portable GPS devices. We're going to be comparing some features of four different portable GPS devices and we're going to be looking to see some of the differences you might find between the devices themselves and we're also going to be comparing them to something that people sometimes use instead of a portable GPS device, and that is a mapping application on their smartphone.

Okay, now we're going to enter our first destination of the day into each of these GPS devices and the phone. Voice command.

Garmin nuvi 3490LMT: "Say a command."

Dominic: Find category.

3490LMT: "Speak a category."

Dominic: Airport.

3490LMT: "Searching for airports. Select a line number."

Dominic: Down. Four.

3490LMT: "Would you like to begin navigation?"

Dominic: Yes.

3490LMT: "Continue 24 miles on I-64."

Dominic: So up next we're going to go with the TomTom GO LIVE 1535M portable navigator, which also features voice-activated navigation, but you actually have to touch the screen on this one to get it to work. So we're going to go to the map and I have to touch this microphone icon to activate the voice navigation.

TomTom 1535M: "Say a command."

Dominic: Drive to the nearest airport.

1535M: "Please say the list number or say next page."

Dominic: Next page. One.

1535M: "Planning fastest route to Richmond International Airport, Richard E. Byrd Terminal Drive, Sandston. The route is 43 miles and will take 42 minutes and 35 seconds."

Dominic: Okay. Now we're going to enter our destination on the Magellan RoadMate 5175-LM. So this one is like most portable navigators — you have to touch it. So we're looking for a point of interest. And we're in airport. We have a list of airports here and we're going to the Richmond International Airport. And okay.

We're gonna next go with the Garmin nuvi 2555LMT portable navigator. We're going to use their search function here and we're going to plug in "airport", and it brings up a list here at the top bar. We're going to go to the category and the one we're looking for is here on the second page. And it's calculating.

Magellan RoadMate 5175LMT: "Continue on route."

Dominic: And there we are.

Okay, here we have a run of the mill Apple iPhone4. It's got the Google Maps application on it, so we're going to pull that up and do a search for our address. So let me type in Richmond International Airport. Okay, so it did find it. So it's giving us a route but no map — still waiting for that to load. So it looks like we finally have the map here. So here we go.

One other thing to notice about these different navigators is, you can see here on the screen shots, there are some disparities between them. Here on the Garmin, this actually gives you a 3D kind of perspective of the terrain around you. Now it's pretty flat where we're driving but you can see shaded areas indicating elevation as well as bodies of water nearby, plus it's also popping up stuff like gas stations along the way.

Here on the TomTom we see also green indicating, you know, grass on both sides of the highway and we've also seen bodies of water along the way. But here on the Magellan, a little more austere, its display. And then back here on the Garmin 2555LMT you can see the gas stations popping up.

All four navigators: "In 1.2 miles keep left onto I-64 East."

Dominic: Alright. So now we. we're getting a little action here. Here you can see on the Magellan we've got some signs popping up and it's indicating here by the brightness of the left sign that this is where we want to stay — on the left-hand side of the road there to be in the right lane for what's coming up. And now here you can see on the Garmins that the split-screen views are coming up, telling us to stay on the current road. As you can see we've got a lot going on here.

We're merging here into traffic. We've been able to pretty successfully get through our journey with these four different portable GPS navigators. They all performed pretty well, especially in relation to the map application on the iPhone. If you have any questions about portable GPS navigation or any of the other things that we offer at Crutchfield, feel free to give us a call.

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