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Video: What to look for in portable GPS

Don't settle for a basic, run-of-the-mill portable navigation device. Watch this video for a quick overview of the best and newest features in portable navigation.

Read video transcript

Portable GPS navigation for your car is a great way to not only get directions to where you're going, but to enhance your journey in many ways you might not have thought of. And we're going to take a look at some of those ways in this video. But first, let me go over some common features found in most portable navigators.

The primary function of these travel tools is point-to-point navigation, so they all come preloaded with detailed maps and a database of points of interest. A point of interest is anywhere you might want to stop along a journey such as a restaurant, hotel, gas station, or even an ATM. Navigators sort these points of interest by category and they include address and phone number information for each one where available.

Once a portable navigator determines where you are and where you want to go, it will establish a route and give you visual and spoken directions. All you have to do is follow along. Text-to-speech voice prompts help a great deal by saying actual street names at each upcoming maneuver so you'll be sure you're on the right path. You'll hear something like "Turn right on Main St" instead of "Take the next right" which can come in very handy if you're in an unfamiliar area.

When you get beyond these basic features you'll find a lot of handy extras that differentiate the various models. Built-in Bluetooth® is one important feature that some navigators offer. Bluetooth lets you use your compatible cell phone hands-free through the navigator's touch screen. In many cases you can access your phone book right through the navigator instead of fumbling around for your cell phone. The best thing about having Bluetooth is that you can call ahead to make reservations or find out how long the wait is at a restaurant.

Traffic updates come in handy when you're driving in the city and they're now offered in most metropolitan areas — but you will need a special receiver typically to get these updates.

Other handy features found in some navigators include 3D building graphics and junction view. These features give you an improved view of your surroundings instead of the typical flat, two dimensional graphics. These views usually only work in urban areas where you'll find distinctive buildings and complicated intersections. Lane guidance helps you stay on track by showing you which lane you should be in for upcoming turns.

Now let me tell you about a feature that is currently available only on a handful of navigators. It's called "connected GPS" and it allows your navigator to work as a portable search engine so you can find any type of destination you want to from the road.

Here we have the Garmin Nuvi 1690 and the TomTom XL 340 S LIVE, both of which feature connected capabilities. With your subscription to their respective services you can access Local Search powered by Google, which lets you plug in any search term you want to get instant results making it much easier to find what you're looking for rather than scrolling through endless menu screens to find that one special spot. This feature requires a monthly subscription but both companies offer a free trial period so you can check it out before subscribing.

Connected services do more than give you search capabilities. They can also provide live traffic reports in your area, weather forecasts, and local gas prices. You can also look up movie times and events listings in your local area to find out what's going on in town tonight.

As you can see, connected GPS can make your travels easier and more fun than the basic portable navigator can. And with the extra features we mentioned earlier, like Bluetooth and improved graphics, you'll find that even the most routine commute can take on a whole new life as you discover new ways to explore your surroundings. So be sure to check out portable navigators that go beyond the run of the mill feature set. To find out more about what a portable navigator can do for you, visit of give us a call for personalized service.

  • Commenter image

    Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/31/2017

    Lois, this article is quite old but much of the information remains the same. While we no longer carry the specific models referenced in the video, you'll find similar (and improved) features in our current lineup of portable navigators. In particular, the "connected" features of current navigators work with brand-specific apps. The GPS device talks to the app on your phone now, rather than pulling the information directly through 2G or 3G (or Wi-Fi in some rare cases) signals into the navigator.

  • Lois West from Ranchos de Taos

    Posted on 3/29/2017

    This needs a date. Was this information from 2010 or 2015 or what year?