January 19, 2007 at 1:55 PM CST - Updated July 10 at 11:16 PM
It's no secret that high-tech products often get better and cheaper as time goes on. That's the case with portable navigation systems. In the last six months, prices have dropped 20% to 30% and high-end features are now commonplace. Consumer Reports just tested new systems, including some that are being heavily advertised.
Some units are a hundred dollars less than they used to be. Many units now include MP3 players. And one from Navman has a digital camera, which can record and file the GPS coordinates of a location that's been photographed so that you can easily find it again! Even inexpensive units have U.S. maps already loaded so that you don't have to hassle with downloading them yourself.
Testers found most come with touch screens, which are easier to use than those with a stylus. The problem with units that come with a stylus is that usually it indicates that the onscreen menus are small and awkward to use. Another feature to be wary of is a bendable gooseneck windshield mount. While driving the device can bounce, making it hard to read. Units with suction-cup mounts tend to be more stable.
Consumer Reports named two devices Best Buys. For $450 the TomTom One is easy to use and is compact. Less expensive--the Garmin Street Pilot i5. While it has both a roller wheel control instead of a touch screen and a smaller screen, it's very compact and only costs $350.
Some units, including the TomTom One, come with real-time traffic information--but be aware you have to pay a subscription fee for that service.
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