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Friday, March 02, 2007

If you're looking to upgrade your GPS device, or you're new to the market, these are a few of our recent favorites.

The GPS market is growing by leaps and bounds, with more and more features available beyond basic navigation. Make sure your device has all the right features you need to stay on track plus pack along a few cool extras for the road.

So what exactly makes a GPS device good these days? To start a modern navigator should have a large readable display, a strong receiver, a variety routing options, built-in maps, and a large points of interest (POI) database. One of our favorite bonus features—text to speech—is sure to please. A unit with a text-to-speech engine is able to pronounce street names in addition to providing directional change instructions. And that's just navigation-wise. Multimedia players are a nice addition as long as they're easy to use and there's ample additional storage for your songs, videos and pictures. Bluetooth capabilities are convenient too for making hands-free calls directly from the POI database. And that's why the following devices are our most recent favorites. Some excel by including innovative features, while others find their strength in providing excellent performance, ease of use or a nice price.

The nĂ¼vi 680, the latest in a long line of high quality GPS devices improves on its predecessors by adding a new and exciting technology: location-based services. Garmin has partnered with MSN Direct to offer a variety of information based on your current location such as Traffic, Weather, Gas Prices, and even Movie times. In addition to this important travel info, the nuvi 680 retains all of the features that we love about the nuvi line. You'll find a bright 4.3-inch screen, SiRF Star III GPS receiver, a Bluetooth speakerphone interface, and an MP3 player.

If you're planning on using your GPS outside of the car, but still would like a few travel tools, games, and multimedia features thrown into the mix, the Mio Digiwalker H610 is a good choice. In addition to a standard automobile profile, it also has pedestrian and bicycle modes. Travelers will also enjoy features such as a world clock and a currency converter. Those in need of entertainment will appreciate the full featured audio and video players, photo viewer and selection of games. All this functionality is packed into a deceptively diminutive package. And since the H610 is based on the latest SiRF Star III receiver, and includes a comprehensive POI database, it will get you where you're going with ease.

In the market for something a bit simpler and perhaps more affordable? The Intellinav One features a 3.5-inch nonreflective touch screen with a 20-channel SiRF Star III receiver, preloaded maps for the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus a massive POI database. Its multimedia players, however, are fairly basic. Even so, the Intellinav One boasts two hard to come by talents: multi-segment routing and text–to-speech conversion. The latter is a nice convenience where the device is able to pronounce street names in addition to providing basic "turn right, turn left" directions.

Finally, if you seek a GPS for just direction and don't need fancy multimedia features, the Navman F20 is a truly affordable entry-level system (based on the SiRF Star III GPS receiver). Its menu structure and interface couldn't be simpler, with dedicated buttons for Fuel and Parking. Tapping these buttons allows you to find the nearest gas stations or parking lots—both very common POI searches. And unlike many budget GPS devices, the F20 includes complete maps for the United States as well as a POI database preloaded on a 2GB SD card.

So whether you're GPS junkie looking to upgrade, or a newbie hoping to leave those torn paper atlases behind, one of these devices should meet your needs. Below are brief descriptions and links to the full reviews of our favorite devices—be sure to take a look before you begin shopping.