GPS (Global Positioning System) technology has been around for decades. However, it's only over the past few years that most people instantly connect GPS with in-car navigators. These nifty devices ensure that you'll be able to throw away the old street directory and never get lost again by offering turn-by-turn navigation using highly detailed mapping data.
Advances in GPS technology and lower prices have made these in-car GPS units more affordable than ever before. In addition to turn-by-turn navigation, many new GPS navigators can synchronise with your mobile phone to provide handsfree calling, play your music and video files and even read out your mobile phone text messages.
If you're not familiar with GPS units, their advantage over a regular street directory is endless. An in-car GPS can automatically show your exact location anywhere in the world, provide turn-by-turn instructions on how to drive from one location to another, identify points of interest like petrol stations, restaurants and emergency services and, very shortly in Australia, direct you around live traffic spots to avoid delays.
There are many in-car GPS units on the market in Australia, from entry level units, right up to the top of the line models providing all the bells and whistles available. If you need more information, why not check out our GPS Buying Guide.
For our top 10 list, we've had to consider a number of factors including price, design, features and performance. As tough as it was to separate the contenders, we've gone for Garmin's nuvi 760, as our number one unit. Combining a very affordable asking price with the latest features, including text-to-speech technology, a superb user interface and a Bluetooth-enabled, handsfree phone connection, the nuvi 760 also added a feature we haven't seen on any other model – the ability to transmit sound via a built-in FM transmitter. This means the unit can send sound wirelessly through your car stereo, avoiding the common occurrence of missing directions due to low volume levels.
In second place is the Mio DigiWalker C520, using a split-screen technology to display additional information – you can switch between a next turn list, nearby points of interest and when it becomes available, live traffic information. This user-friendly information adds a lot to the overall user experience when navigating and sits neatly alongside the map in a 70/30 split-screen.
TomTom's ONE XL and GO 720 units occupy the third and fourth spots respectively. The ONE features an extra wide display at an affordable asking price, while the GO 720, TomTom's top of the range model, uses most of the features on the market and also boasts an audio player and image viewer. All TomTom units feature an excellent, user-friendly menu system, making them an excellent all-round choice.
Navman's top of the line S90i unit is next in line. Apart from a bright, vivid interface, the S90i features NavPix, a camera which geotags photos taken and allows you to store them as waypoints for navigation. The Navman S80 also allows you to store geotagged photos, but it doesn't include a camera feature to photograph them. Using the NavPix Web site, users can upload geotagged photos to share amongst the Navman community of users.
Sandwiched between these two Navman units is Mio's DigiWalker C720t, an upgrade to the DigiWalker C520. The C720t adds geotagging and a traffic module, but its price is a little hefty and the geotagging feature very poorly implemented. Thus, the second placed C520 remains a better option in terms of value.
In eighth place on the list is a very interesting device, the Eclipse AVN2210p. A combination of a clip-out TomTom portable GPS unit and an Eclipse in-car stereo, the AVN2210p brings together mobile navigation and entertainment. Amongst this unit's many features is iPod connectivity, built-in Bluetooth, a USB connection and a touch screen interface via the TomTom portable navigation unit. We'd have it higher in our list, but it's costly compared to regular units and it requires installation into your car dashboard – an option not available to all.
Two models ideal for those on a tight budget round out our top 10. Navman's S30 offers a widescreen display with the intuitive and user-friendly Garmin interface, while LG's LN500 is a basic, but credible navigational unit ideal for first-time users. Both models are entry-level units that don't really skimp on features. In particular, the LN500 provides plenty of bang for your buck, featuring text-to-speech technology, an MP3 player, and a picture and photo viewer.
Top 10 GPS units: