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Is After-Market GPS Up to Driving Speed?


Knowing an exact geographic position and finding the way to another location always has been a challenge no matter at which time we look at. Over the past several thousand years, mankind has found countless innovative ways to master this task, leveraging geographical characteristics, constellation of planets and stars and later also tools such as sextants and compasses. Today, navigation is made easy with most people relying on detailed maps and road atlases. For a few years, many of us learned to value the usability of online services such as Mapquest that simplify navigation tasks and help us find street routes.

However, Global Positioning System (GPS) continues to revolutionize how we get from A to B. Interactive maps and real-time satellite tracking have the potential to automate virtually all of our navigation needs. Whether it is simple navigation for weekend hiking or sophisticated guidance for cross-country treks, GPS is quickly moving into our everyday life and recently has hit price points that are reasonable and affordable for most of us.

One of the emerging killer applications for GPS today is in-car navigation. Let's face it: Even a detailed map requires some talent to read and most of us have the talent to make perfect use of traditional road atlases. This is where GPS not only is a gadget, but becomes a real tool to simplify an everyday task and provide true value. Therefore, it's not surprising that mainstream GPS functionality becomes especially interesting for the use in automobiles.

With a sheer flood of devices announced every month we decided it was time to scour the market and find out what such systems are capable of for in-car navigation. Within this article we will review two current portable navigation systems. We tested the systems over a time frame of four months to expose strengths and weaknesses. We took the systems into local traffic as well as vacations in several parts of the country, reviewed them for use in multiple cars and put them through a standard test track. We gathered not only objective results but also a collection of subjective, real-world impressions to determine what these systems can do and what they cannot do.

So is an investment in a GPS device to go from point A to point B by car worth the money?