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GPS Receivers - Top 10 by Performance Price

Updated on April 19, 2011

Top GPS Receivers for Cars

Garmin nüvi 750 4.3-Inch Widescreen Portable GPS Navigator

Widescreen display, spoken directions,an integrated FM traffic information receiver. With the introduction of the 700 series, Garmin has borrowed the sleek good looks of its entry-level nuvi 200 series, but packing it with its high-end features of the 600 series, and then some. Most notably, the 700 series includes multi-destination routing. This feature allow you to enter up to 10 destinations at once and the nuvi will calculate the optimal route between - great for delivery drivers or mum's ferrying teenagers! Top of the line model with a price to match

Tom Tom One XL

The TomTom ONE XL is virtually identical to the TomTom ONE except that the XL provides a wider screen (4.3 inches versus 3.5 inches) and optional FM Traffic (TMS) capability. The TomTom ONE (2nd edition) is a no-frills, entry-level unit whose competitive pricing and ease of use has made it a best sellers. CNET calls it "...perfect for first-time buyers or drivers who just need a simple solution for getting from point A to point B." The ONE is TomTom's entry into the "shirt pocket" GPS class, following the lead of Garmin's nuvi series. Weighing 6.5 ounces and measuring only 3.8" x 3.2" x 1", the ONE easily fits in a purse or pocket and can double as a handheld in urban areas, though its meager battery life of only two hours does limit its usefulness in this way

Garmin StreetPilot C330

Garmin's StreetPilot c340 is the updated version of the to the very popular StreetPilot c330. The c340 keeps everything users raved about the c330 and adds "text-to-speech" capability which tells you not only when to turn but also pronounces the street name (i.e., "Turn right on Main St" instead of "Turn right in 500 feet.") In addition, the c340 automatically notifies you of traffic delays, allows you to see congested areas on a color-coded map, and allows you to avoid traffic by pushing a button to find a new route.

Mio Digiwalker c220

If your budget is tight but standards are high and all you want is a basic, no-frills GPS, then this unit is worth considering.The China-manufactured c220 is an entry-level, no frills unit that offers no extras such as an MP3 player or live traffic capability. That being said, it performs admirably as a basic GPS, and offers the "shirt pocket" ultra-portable form factor with a reported battery life of 3.5 to 4 hours.

Top Handheld GPS Receivers

Garmin GPSMap 60csx

The 60csx is equipped with fantastic sensitivity making it easier to get a fix of your position deep within canyons or under thick forest canopies. Its also much quicker to fix your position, and has great battery life, rated at 18 hours for typical use using two AA alkaline batteries. There is a microSD card slot which makes the unit's internal memory expandable for maps, routes and waypoints, but it also means it's now much easier to go from sailing to hiking to commuting by simply swapping microSD cards. Note if you don't need an altimeter or digital compass the Garmin GPSMap 60cs has the same features as the 60csx minus these two.

Garmin eTrex Legend

The Garmin eTrex Legend GPS receiver is based on Garmin's entry level eTrex, but adds the same base map found in Garmin's III+ and eMap models, along with 8 MB of memory, making it a solid midlevel offering. Housed in a translucent blue case, this powerful, 12-parallel-channel, GPS receiver weighs only 5.3 ounces and measures 4.4 by 2 inches. It literally fits in the palm of your hand. The Legend can hold up 8 MB of amazingly detailed information that you upload for the area you plan to navigate.

Top Marine GPS Receivers

Garmin GPSMap 76CS 115 MB Handheld Marine GPS

Brightest, sunlight-readable display available, this unit will give you a quick and steady fix. In addition, the GPSMAP 76CS boasts a built-in electronic compass and barometric altimeter. The GPSMAP 76CS features the familiar GPS 76-family keypads and styling, with 115 MB of memory, an Americas Autoroute basemap, and a Marine Point database. Fast USB connectivity makes loading charts and maps quick and easy, while navigation instructions can be shared with repeaters, plotters, and autopilots using NMEA protocols through the dedicated serial port. Finally, the waterproof unit is fully compatible with MapSource products like BlueChart.

Top GPS receiver enabled PDA's

Garmin iQue 3600 PDA/GPS

Garmin's pioneering combination of a powerful PDA and a fully-functional GPS is a winner, based on solid consumer reviews and editor's ratings at Epinions, CNET, and Amazon. The iQue 3600 is a Palm based PDA combined with a high-end GPS, including turn-by-turn driving instructions with a fast processor. Look up a client's address and get directions from your current location.

Garmin iQue M5

The iQue M5 offers the same high-caliber integration for Windows Mobile/Pocket PC and adds bluetooth connectivity. Like its sibling, the Palm OS-based iQue 3600, the M5 is a strong entry for business travelers. The unit is versatile and can use Garmin's BlueChart marine charts, topographic maps for offroad use, etc. User rating mention a large, bright screen, bluetooth convenience and elegant integration of GPS features among their most admired features. The built-in MP3 player received more mediocre reviews. For those business travelers not needing a PDA or who already have one, the Garmin nüvi 350 offers portability, a travel/language reference, and full featured in-vehicle GPS features.

Top GPS Bluetooth Receiver

TomTom Navigator 5

The Navigator 5 is a Bluetooth Wireless GPS receiver compatible with bluetooth-equipped PDA's (either Palm or Pocket PC). The TomTom Navigator 5 stands out from the crowd CNET states that it "definitely represents the best of the breed" and in its 5-star rating/review, PC Magazine calls the unit "by far, the best in-car, turn-by-turn navigational system for handheld devices we've seen. Excellent maps, 3D views, and an intuitive, well-designed interface make this product a pleasure to use." To use the unit you load the TomTom software and maps onto your PDA. Your PDA works like a full-featured in-car GPS unit, providing spoken turn-by-turn directions guiding you to millions of points of interest (POIs). Users praised the ease of use and accuracy, though several longed for better documentation. All-in-all, the TomTom Navigator 5 is top choice for adding GPS capability to your Bluetooth-enabled PDA.

Garmin Streetpilot C530 GPS Receiver

What is GPS?

Global Positioning System is a system of over 20 satellites which uses microwaves to determine the location, speed and direction of a Global Positioning System Receiver - that's the GPS receiver that you purchase. The satellite system was initially installed by the US Military for their own purposes, but after the shooting down of a civilian jet that wandered into Russian airspace, in 1983 President Regan made the system freely available to the public for the common good.

By the late 80's the system had been taken up with enthusiasm by pilots and mariners as it allowed them to avoid wandering into hazards, by for example inadvertently drifting at night. I

n the last 10 years GPS unit's price has decreased while their usefulness has increased. GPS receivers are not only available as handheld GPS receivers or in-car units but you can also buy a USB GPS receiver for your laptop or a the Holux GPS Receiver which works on your PSP.

How does a GPS Receiver work?

A GPS receiver works by using as many satellites as it can find to establish its location, direction and speed. The GPS receiver needs to be able to "see" the satellites, that is there must be a line-of-sight to the satellites. This means that the GPS will not work underground or indoors e.g. in a parking building or basement or a tunnel.

The GPS receiver needs to be able to triangulate from multiple satellites so sometimes it will have difficulty getting an accurate fix e.g. in a narrow canyon or valley when only a small part of the sky is visible. This is more likely to be a problem in the southern hemisphere because there are fewer satellites in the first place.

The best places to get a fix are in wide open spaces where hills and buildings don't get in the way. The more obstructions the longer it will take for the GPS unit to confirm its location and the less accurate the resulting fix.

The GPS is not weather dependent - it doesn't matter if there is cloud cover or in fact a severe storm - the microwaves picked up from the satellite is unaffected. Many GPS designed to be used outside or on the water and are therefore waterproof.

A GPS receiver doesn't cost you anything to use. It doesn't use cell phone technology so you don't need to be in cell phone range and you do not need subscribe to any service to get the satellite information - its available free to use for everyone!

GPS Receivers:Which is the Best?

So you came here looking for a single recommendation of the best GPS receiver? Or maybe a couple suggestions for the best GPS receiver and a cheaper GPS receiver option?

Sorry to disappoint, but as always, to find the best technology you have to decide, in advance, before you get to the hard sell salesman or the multiple websites -what are you actually looking for. So what do you want the GPS to do?

The two basic types of GPS receiver include those for car navigation and handheld GPS receivers. Other options including upgrading your phone or PDA to include GPS or connecting your laptop to a GPS.

A GPS receiver for car navigation.

Some cars come with in-built navigation systems but these tend to be expensive and of course you loose the unit when you trade in the auto!

So when looking for a GPS for car navigation here are some important points to consider:

Will you only use the GPS receiver in the vehicle? If yes then battery power won't be important to you so long as you can run the unit off the vehicle's power.

If you do intend to remove the GPS to use it for navigation by foot, or in another vehicle you need to consider:

  • weight,
  • battery power,
  • ease of use in bright sunlight,
  • ability to turn off the voice prompt.
  • where will you mount the unit
  • will you need an external aerial to get a good signal will your car's windscreen block the signal?

Remember the unit needs to "see" the sky so the correct mount to position it is important.

Do you generally drive alone or with a friend? The friend will be able to read the screen for you but if you are alone it may be more important to have good voice prompts.

What maps are available for your unit? What do they cost? Not all manufacturers have maps for all locations - its worth checking before purchasing. remember if you do take your GPS on vacation with you that the first time you turn it on in a new country it will take some time to work out where it is - up to15 minutes depending on the satellite conditions. You might also need to pack a voltage and/or plug adaptor for it.

Typical of this type of unit would be popular models such as :

  • Garmin StreetPilot C330
  • Garmin Nüvi 250W
  • Mio DigiWalker C520
  • TomTom ONE XL Portable Extra-wide Screen

Handheld GPS Receivers

These are the original GPS receivers which have been around for much longer than today's sophisticated map based units. A handheld GPS is designed to be used in the field by either workers or those backpacking and camping.

These units are designed to be rugged, knock resistant, water resistant and light weight. Because of their simple screens they often have much better battery life than a map based unit with its large screen.

They come with standard features that allow you to input way points or points or interest (POI) either manually, via a USB connection or, by bluetooth connection.

The unit will point you literally in the direction to the required location and inform you of your speed of progress. This can quite literally be a lifesaver particularly when walking or driving on dirt roads with few distinctive features to navigate by.

They can also be handy in a strange city if you want to be able to find your way back to your hotel, or last night's excellent restaurant thru the Medieval town streets of Europe or the featureless strip malls of the US!

Top ranking handheld GPS receivers include:

  • Garmin eTrex Magellan eXplorist 210
  • Lowrance iFinder H2O

GPS on your PDA or cell phone

Maybe you are in the market for a new cellphone. Cellphones that come with GPS capabilities are now common. As with all technology it is sometimes cheaper to go for specialised devices which tend to be cheaper and have better functionality. However if you do want the ultimate "device" maybe a GPS enabled PDA's such as the new Mio A701 Is a combined PDA, cellphone and GPS allows you to mount it in you car with a map function but also to take it with you and use it as a camera, MP3 player and cell phone might be for you!

Other top ranking GPS enabled PDA's include:

  • Navman 4410 Bluetooth
  • HP iPaq 312
  • Garmin iQue 3600

GPS Bluetooth receiver

If you wish to use your laptop with yoru GPS receiver then you may want to take advantage of the new GPS Bluetooth receivers - though of course your laptop will need to be Bluetooth enabled as well.

The advantage of Bluetooth is that you don't need to physically connect the laptop and the GPS unit - convenient in a moving vehicle. You then have the advantage of the full-size laptop screen to map your course . The GPS Bluetooth receiver is therefore a cheap and simple unit as all the mapping actually occurs on you laptop.

A similar system is also possible using USB GPS receiver, but the advantage of not having to deal with cables makes the Bluetooth receivers winners!

Top ranking GPS Bluetooth recievers include:

  • Garmin GPS 10
  • Earthmate GPS BT-20

GPS Accessories

So now you have decided which GPS is for you? But wait there is more - the supply of accessories are endless but some of the key items which you should consider and include in your budget are:

  • extra maps
  • 12v power Chargers
  • USB cable (for PC)
  • Extra Memory Cards
  • mounting brackets
  • external aerials
  • carry cases

Where to buy your GPS Receiver

If you are not familiar with GPS's at all you should go to local specialist store so you can actually see the unit and try it out in person. Check the prices on-line before you go so that you have a bargaining position too. You may be able to do a deal with the extra maps, cards, cables that you need with a person better than you do buying on-line.

That said buying on-line I would stick with a major retailor such as E-Bay or Amazon because of their reliable shipping and returns policy.

As with any technology purchase you will be pay top dollar for the latest releases. If however you are prepared to go a little down market, which may still tick all your want list boxes, you could save $100's by buying last season's model.

Lis Sowerbutts has been traveling since she was 7 and believes that travel is too good to be left to the young!

Holux GPS Receiver


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    • bckcountrynvigatr profile image


      10 years ago from USA

      GPS are really useful tools, and it makes it all the more easier if they are handheld. :)

      I have this free app as well here:

    • profile image

      Navman GPS 

      11 years ago

      Thank you for the post Lissie. There is a kiwi brand that you forgot to post and you are from New Zealand! You forgot about Navman GPS systems. They make really nice units.

    • Ivy Carla profile image

      Ivy Carla 

      11 years ago from Melbourne

      Well-done article Lissie! Very informative :-)

    • Apepperson profile image


      12 years ago from Texas

      Nice Hub Lissie! I've been thinking of buying a GPS unit, but like Mark said, I can read a But they are really cool guy gadgets so I'll probably own one sooner or later.

    • profile image

      Virginia Criminal Lawyer  

      12 years ago

      Got a Garmin - thing is awesome. I can't believe what a time saver it been.

    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 

      13 years ago

      Nicely done Lissie. Myself, I can read a map, LOL Now I will get lost tomorrow. :D

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      13 years ago from New Zealand

      A satisfied customer alwyays sounds like an Ad! Im glad you're enjoying your new toy Rob! Its good that you have found a way for your maps to be independent of your GPS receiver - that really gives you power as the consumer!

    • profile image

      SEO Rob 

      13 years ago

      I have the Holux GPSlim 240 Bluetooth GPS and it's totally sleek.. it's has the new star III chipset which help it lock on easily and quickly.. It's about 1" by 3" wide and I use my Samsung Blackjack cell phone to connect to it with Google Maps and Route 66 GPS software.. I get voice routing(Route 66) as well as off road details and real-time traffic (Google Maps) because I can use any GPS software I like as long as it's compatible with Windows CE for Smartphone..

      I know this sounds like an ad lol.. I just really enjoy my new gadget...

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      13 years ago from New Zealand

      I must admit Ihadn't kept up - I think the feature giving you real time traffic reports is excellent for US cities - don't think its made it to Sydney yet though!

    • Caregiver-007 profile image

      Margaret Hampton 

      13 years ago from Florida

      Wow! A few years ago we had the GPS to navigate coastal waters, then in cars...and now there are so many choices. Certainly what the traveler needs, and now you are providing a great guide for us. Thanks, Lissie!

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      13 years ago from New Zealand

      Yeah - see if you can find out when the new models come out and then buy the older model - it can save you 100's!

    • Rudra profile image


      13 years ago

      I am going to buy one of this soon. Think might go for the Garmin. Seems pretty nice. Will wait how the price does over the months.

    • Lissie profile imageAUTHOR

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      13 years ago from New Zealand

      Thanks for your comments - yes Garmin and Tom Tom are the leading brands without a doubt!

    • profile image


      13 years ago

      TomTom and Garmin are quite in news.Thanks for the information.

    • Aman deep Garg profile image

      Aman deep Garg 

      13 years ago

      Its very Informative.Keep it up.


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