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Car GPS review

Car GPS devices have never been more affordable, come with more features or had better smartphone integration.
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01 .Introduction

Garmin GPS unit with toy car

Here, we've tested 18 GPS systems, priced from $99 to $349.

On this page, you'll find:

What's new?

The rise of the smartphone app has forced car GPS device makers to offer more for less in an effort to counter the challenge that GPS apps present.

Most of the models we bought for this test include free map upgrades for the life of the product. Most also have Bluetooth connectivity, and several have included live traffic updates – premium features previously reserved for the higher-end $600+ models.

The overall quality and ease of use of car GPS devices has also improved and they have special features for planning trips and navigating through unfamiliar territory quickly and easily. However, it is still useful to consider whether your smartphone, placed in an appropriate cradle to ensure safe use while driving, can add navigation device to the long list of tasks it already performs.

This update to our GPS test includes 18 models, 12 of them newly tested.

We've changed our test method

Although you can compare overall results generally with models we have tested in the past, you can't make an accurate direct comparison as we have added more regions to our test in an attempt to cover more of Australia. We'll be retesting previous models under the new method if these models are still available for our next road test in 2014.

Calling 000? Try 112 instead

When travelling in the outback, your GPS device may be able to tell you where you are, but it won’t be able to get you out of trouble if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.

The emergency number to call is 112 if you’re lost or under duress – all you need is a network signal and emergency services should be able to locate you. This number will work on your mobile as long as it can get any network signal, and it doesn’t have to be your phone network. In fact, you don’t even need a SIM in the phone. The standard 000 should perform the same way for phones produced after 2002, however 112 will work on any GSM mobile.

Video: How we test GPS units

CHOICE puts a collection of GPS navigation units through their paces.

Models tested (2013)

  • Garmin nϋvi 2495LMT
  • Garmin nϋvi 2497LMT #
  • Garmin nϋvi 2797LMT #
  • Garmin nϋvi 3597LMT #
  • Garmin nϋvi 42LM #
  • Navman EZY100T
  • Navman EZY200
  • Navman EZY250LM #
  • Navman MOVE50 #
  • Navman MY400LMT #
  • Navman MY450LMT #
  • TomTom GO500 #
  • TomTom GO600 #
  • TomTom VIA 260
  • TomTom VIA 280
  • TomTom VIA 620
  • TomTom VIA225 #
  • TomTom XXL540 #

# Newly tested. 

How we test

City Only bench tests were carried out in Sydney, as past results in various cities showed very little difference between models in built-up areas in terms of distances and arrival times. Our tester, Scott O'Keefe, selects 10 locations from all over Sydney, and performs two sets of distance calculations for each location, one from Mount Annan and the other from Penshurst. The total of the predicted distances is calculated; the more accurate the predicted distance, the better the score.

Regional Bench testing is carried out for regional South Australia and Victoria. Scott conducts a driving test in the Hunter Valley, NSW, selecting a variety of street addresses – house/lot number, street name and town name – to find out if the GPS provides accurate directions. 

Ease of use Scott assesses how useful the GPS’s instructions are, how easy it is to attach and remove the unit and whether it vibrates during travel. He looks at how easy it is to use the menu structure on the touchscreen and, where supplied, whether it's necessary to use a stylus to navigate the menu.

Verbal instructions are assessed on the quality of the voice, timing of turn and other instructions, how clear the instructions are, and whether it’s possible to rely on verbal instructions without looking at the screen.

Screen quality Scott compares how easy it is to read the map, and how clear the picture is in daylight and at night.

Points of interest (POI) He selects 20 points of interest, including a hospital, medical centre, airport, police station, shopping centre, tourist attraction, and so on, and rates the models based on ease of finding the POI.

Speed of map refresh He checks how long it takes the GPS to recover after a missed turn, and after coming out of a tunnel, with a planned turn-off immediately after the tunnel exit.

Durability He checks each GPS after three hours in an oven at 60ºC, to simulate being left in a car on a hot day. All the models pass this test unless otherwise noted in their profiles.

For more information on GPS, see Cars.

Your say - Choice voice

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