How we test car GPS devices and apps

Getting around using your smartphone or a GPS device

Finding the best GPS device or mobile app

Our testers hit the roads to find out which car GPS devices or smartphone apps are worth taking on your next trip.

We test a range of GPS devices and compare them with free apps Apple Maps and Google Maps in our latest car GPS reviews.

Our expert testers

Our expert tester Scott O'Keefe assesses a wide range of products – including TVs, digital radios and turntables. He also loves to get in his car to test the best tech to get him from A to B.

How we choose what we test

For apps we look through the various online stores to see the most popular smartphone GPS apps and take them out on the road. For GPS devices we analyse the local sales figures to determine the most popular models from companies such as TomTom, Garmin and Navman.

How we test

Performance (bench tests)

  • Regional performance: Scott checks various addresses for accuracy in various states. If the address can't be found and the business is not a point of interest either, then the score is zero for that address.
  • City performance: The city test mainly involves bench tests 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. However, assessments of speed of recovery when coming out of tunnels and recalculations after a missed turn are carried out in the field. Scott selects 10 locations from all over Sydney. The more locations that can be found and then routed to, the better the score. The total of the predicted distances is calculated; the more accurate the predicted distance, the better the score.

Ease of use

  • Apps: Scott assesses how easy it is to install the app and use the menu structure on the touchscreen. He also looks at the quality of the display data such as distance to next turn and street name and turn direction symbols.
  • Devices: We assess how useful the GPS's instructions are, ease of attachment and removal of the unit, and whether it vibrates during travel. We also look 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

  • 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.

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.

Test criteria explained

The overall score is made up of:

  • Regional bench test 25%
  • Ease of use 20%
  • Verbal instructions 20%
  • Screen quality 15%
  • Points of interest 10%
  • Map refresh speed 10%

Our test lab

We maintain a lab that is up to date with the latest reference machines and calibrated measurement tools for our testers to bring you the right results.

Ready to buy?

Check out our latest GPS and GPS apps reviews. For more on what to look for in a GPS device or smartphone app, read our buying guide.

Leave a comment

Display comments