How to choose the best portable GPS device

By mlemelin - January 18, 2018

In the age of the smartphone, it could be argued that a portable GPS navigation system is outdated. With every iPhone and Android device coming complete with more map apps than you can throw a traffic pylon at, what purpose would a GPS device for your car have? This sounds like a better question than it actually is; if you think that Google Maps or Waze is the answer to all your GPS navigation needs, you may want to think again.

With the cost of data skyrocketing, the cost of efficiency increasing exponentially, and our ever-growing reliance on our phone’s digital and pragmatic acumen, a portable GPS system makes more sense than ever. You wouldn’t try and use a GPS navigation device to make a phone call, so why would you use a phone for navigation? Whereas a smartphone necessarily has to be good at a great many things, a portable GPS system prides itself on being perfect at one thing: navigation.

The GPS market has quieted over the past few years, but that simply means that there are way fewer pretenders and way more contenders for your portable GPS budget. Embedded with traffic reports, perpetually updated mapping, and advanced localized specificity, the latest car navigation systems are more adept and expert than ever before. Clearly, this is not your grandfather’s AAA TripTik!

When it comes to portable GPS navigation systems for your car, two well-known names lead the field: Garmin and TomTom.

Garmin Nüvi

Credits: Amazon.com

When it comes to portable GPS navigation systems, Garmin is the industry icon. Whether you choose the top-of-the-line 3597LMTHD model or its more affordable cousin, the 2597LMT, all of your GPS navigation needs and wants will be covered.

For what it’s worth, the models are startlingly similar. Both boast 5-inch displays, both feature free lifetime map and traffic updating, and both weigh under 7 ounces. Where they differ is in their respective resolutions: the 3597LMTHD features a 800 x 480 pixel resolution while the 2597LMT has a smaller, 480 x 272 pixel screen. The other key difference is the top-shelf model’s capacitive screen versus the more affordable option’s resistive touch screen. The capacitive screen does not require the finger pressure instead relying on anything holding an electrical charge, like human skin! This will not only help you navigate to your destination, but will take you to the future of portable GPS technology!


Credits: www.tomtom.com

If Garmin is the industry leader in the portable GPS navigation systems clubhouse, then TomTom is the fierce competitor charging up the back nine. Whether you opt for the VIA 1605TM, 1535TM, or GO 600 model, TomTom is makes a sound argument for employing a portable GPS over your phone to satisfy your navigational needs. While slightly heavier and a bit smaller than Garmin’s offerings, TomTom’s portable GPS navigation systems still pride themselves on free lifetime map and traffic updating, a variety of screen resolutions, and capacitive/resistive touch options. While not quite as well known as Garmin, TomTom offers competitive pricing and top shelf industry reviews — especially the 1605TM model.

We’ve discussed the best way to use portable navigation systems to manage the concrete journey, but what about for those among us who yearn to trek off-road? Garmin’s Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS Receiver is the portable nav tool of choice for outdoor adventurers, anglers, hikers, bikers, and motorcyclists.

The Montana 680 features a “dual-orientation, color touchscreen,” industry-leading resolution, automatic geotagging, and a digital camera that promises high-quality images. Can your iPhone do that? The 4-inch touchscreen display visible in the darkest and brightest environments allows you to know exactly where you are in addition to where you’re going.

With this combination of portable GPS navigation systems from Garmin and TomTom you can confidently leave your phone at home, and go discover the world—without getting lost.