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Should I get a new GPS? Which one?
Old 08-18-2013, 02:38 PM   #1
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Should I get a new GPS? Which one?

Last week, the mini-USB on my GPS car charging cord broke (btw, it's ~$20 or less for a new cord) and that got me to thinking....should I just bite the bullet and get a new GPS?

I've been happy with my Garmin nuvi 255W (US and Canada maps) that I've had for 5-6 years. I use it frequently, both around town and on long road trips in the U.S. and Canada. It's not perfect ["Recalculating...." LOL] but it sure beats trying to read a map while driving.

I never got the maps updated (at ~$100 it was a bit too expensive for my taste), and I've heard that the downloads are getting so large that you need to pick a portion of North America rather than having it all on your GPS at all times. So the maps and travel info are getting a bit out-of-date.

I've had an Android smartphone for 2 years and have been wondering if/when I'd be switching over to using the phone in lieu of using a GPS. On several recent 1000+ mile road trips, I've run the phone route map app in parallel with the GPS. I still prefer the GPS -- it seems to lock onto the satellite guidance system and give consistent route guidance whereas I've had spotty cell phone service along the routes which resulted in poor/no guidance from the phone in places. Plus 'ease of use' seems to favor the GPS.

GPS prices have dropped significantly since I bought my old GPS due to the competition from smart phones with apps (like Google maps, etc.).

I started researching new Garmins today and am a bit overwhelmed by the choices. I'm wondering if I should just buy a fairly basic low-end unit (~$120-150) and count on it becoming obsolete in a few years or buy a mid-range unit (~$150-200) with lifetime map updates and some useful features (lane assist, bluetooth, etc.)? Is a unit with an expandable memory card worth buying (as it will likely have a greater useful life) as the free "Lifetime Map Updates" might actually fit onboard (as compared to Garmin's definition which considers a GPS unit obsolete when their map downloads (which include updated points of interest) no longer fit on your GPS.)

I pretty much just use the GPS in my car (vs. using it in pedestrian mode also).

I'm wondering what thoughts and suggestions the folks on this forum might have?


omni
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:42 PM   #2
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I've heard that stand-alone GPS's are "dead", but I don't think so; there's something to be said to having the maps in memory and not relying on a cell tower. But it would be nuts to upgrade the maps when a new GPS is cheaper than the map upgrade.
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Old 08-18-2013, 02:57 PM   #3
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You could probably get a cord for $2. There are cheap generic chargers for cars that will charge anything thru their USB power port. And that could be used for a new GPS as well. Which you will need at some point anyhow.

I'm mainly going to follow this thread, as I don't have much current info. I will likely be looking in the near future also. Some suggestions:

1) I think there are units that will accept open-source maps? If so, and if these are any good, that would be free updates for life. And you could probably submit fixes if you found something 'off' near you.

2) Identify your needs, make sure the unit meets them - this isn't easy from descriptions on the box. Don't take anything for granted.
My current TomTom displayed a direction heading ( like N, NE, SSW, and degrees), current mph and current speed limit. When I loaded a firmware 'upgrade' (hah!), they took away the ability to display all of those at the same time (in favor of some other info I did not want on the main screen), which really degraded the usefulness of the unit to me.
3) When I looked at GPS on phones, it seemed that some had the capability of storing the maps in memory. But I think the turn-by-turn directions were made by communicating with a computer running the algorithms 'in the cloud'. So maybe that doesn't help if you lose signal?

-ERD50
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:04 PM   #4
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Found this for maps:

Free worldwide Garmin maps from OpenStreetMap

-ERD50
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:07 PM   #5
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Like you, I have had a Garmin for years and am happy with it. I have never owned any other brand of GPS, so I cannot speak of how it compares with others. It's your decision what to do. On one hand, you can probably buy a charging cord cheap, but on the other hand, you need to update the maps anyway, and a new one will not be that expensive.
I love my GPS, but have noticed that since I rely on it so much, my sense of direction is not as good. When I'm taking a trip, I frequently say to myself "Heaven help me if my GPS does not work". Fortunately that has not happened.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:16 PM   #6
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I love my GPS, but have noticed that since I rely on it so much, my sense of direction is not as good.
I [used to] have an excellent sense of direction but have also found that my high usage rate of GPS seems to have negatively impacted it. I also used to read maps a lot -- now I rarely look at one, which may actually be having the larger impact on my sense of direction.

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Old 08-18-2013, 03:17 PM   #7
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I have been using an app called Navigon on my iPhone (there are others that are similar). The maps are stored on the phone so no cell phone signal is needed. I crossed the US relying only on this app for directions with no problems, even in god-forsaken places.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:24 PM   #8
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I've got a 255W, too, and I'd be glad replace it with another just like it if it died. Having free map updates would be nice, but I haven't seen many errors due to new construction.

Curious to see what I'm missing.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:24 PM   #9
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I have been using an app called Navigon on my iPhone (there are others that are similar). The maps are stored on the phone so no cell phone signal is needed. I crossed the US relying only on this app for directions with no problems, even in god-forsaken places.
Did this give you turn-by-turn directions? If so, can it do it out of cell range?

When I was researching this awhile back, it was confusing between map apps (shows a map - gps might keep you in the center), and navigation apps (enter a destination, it figures a route and provides turn-by-turn instructions). I might have that terminology mixed up, but that's what it seemed like to me. And it wasn't always clear which was which by the descriptions.

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Old 08-18-2013, 03:26 PM   #10
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I bought a refurbished Garmin nuvi 1390LMT from Frys Electronics for $103. When I recently updated the map (lifetime free), I need to add an external memory for the whole US map.

I also have a Garmin nuvi 255W which I have not updated since I bought it 5 years ago. It is still usable and I don't think that the cost of the update is worth it.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:31 PM   #11
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You could probably get a cord for $2. There are cheap generic chargers for cars that will charge anything thru their USB power port. And that could be used for a new GPS as well. Which you will need at some point anyhow.
-ERD50
I tried using a generic mini-USB-USB cord and charger (aftermarket, purchased for an iPod, that I already had at home) during a short drive yesterday and the GPS display was noticeably darker (even at 100%). I was wondering if it might "fry" the GPS (or something similar) in extended use.

Has anyone tried using the open source maps? At a quick glance on one forum, early-on they didn't do addresses well. That wouldn't work for me, as I usually drive to a destination address. Also, do they do the route guidance voice-overs?

I've used a friend's GPS on a recent trip and it had 'lane assist' which was wonderful when barreling thru busy highway interchanges in a foreign-to-me large metro area. It's definitely a GPS feature I would appreciate.

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Old 08-18-2013, 03:32 PM   #12
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Did this give you turn-by-turn directions? If so, can it do it out of cell range?

When I was researching this awhile back, it was confusing between map apps (shows a map - gps might keep you in the center), and navigation apps (enter a destination, it figures a route and provides turn-by-turn instructions). I might have that terminology mixed up, but that's what it seemed like to me. And it wasn't always clear which was which by the descriptions.

-ERD50
Turn by turn directions even out of cell phone range (as experienced in western WY and northern NV), though of course you need a decent GPS signal. IIRC Tom Tom offers a similar app.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:40 PM   #13
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I've used a Garmin Nuvi 1490LMT since 2010 and I still love it. I even replaced the battery earlier this year when it wouldn't hold a charge long enough to suit me.

Lifetime free updates on maps and it includes a receiver for live traffic updates on the go.

Less than $200 and highly rated.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:41 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by travelover View Post
I've got a 255W, too, and I'd be glad replace it with another just like it if it died. Having free map updates would be nice, but I haven't seen many errors due to new construction.

Curious to see what I'm missing.
Not much but some new road construction in MI -- the redo (and its redo ) of the approach to the Ambassador Bridge. But the signage is good and the rate of travel is slow.

In the middle of British Columbia a couple of years ago, I ran into major new highway construction that was definitely not on my GPS. It was a bit complicated trying to negotiate after dark.

I sometimes use the fuel and restaurant locator at times when far from home -- and my out-of-date GPS has led me to closed fuel stations (not good in a foreign location on an near empty tank of gas due to sitting in a traffic jam for close to an hour ) and restaurants.

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Old 08-18-2013, 03:42 PM   #15
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I have been using an app called Navigon on my iPhone (there are others that are similar). The maps are stored on the phone so no cell phone signal is needed. I crossed the US relying only on this app for directions with no problems, even in god-forsaken places.
I'll have to check this app out.

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Old 08-18-2013, 03:46 PM   #16
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I have been considering a different and somewhat more expensive option. Get the latest Google Nexus 7 tablet for about $200. As I understand it you can tell Google maps to download maps for any area and it will, thus no need to be hooked into a cell tower. However, I am not sure about driving directions with this setup. And it will take more space on the dash, window or wherever. The advantage is that you have a tablet computer wherever you go. Just don't let somebody break into you car and steal it.

One thing I like about my cheap Garmin is that it sits on the dash, where it is highly visible so using it does not distract me from my driving. I think this is very important. Like many, I find the cost of updating the maps to be prohibitive. Unlike some, street construction and updates in my area are making the current maps more obsolete by the month.
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Old 08-18-2013, 03:59 PM   #17
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Timely thread for us as well. Our Nuvi won't hold a charge, which makes it useless when the car engine is not on. We have held off on an upgrade because I would like a richer feature set that what is available. We recently got iPhones, and I thought that GPS type functionality was data hungry. Apparently, not so much.

The NYT on Navigon http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/te...view.html?_r=0

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Basically this app does almost everything you need in a mapping app, and itís all offline, apart from some of the features like the Public Transport mode and Google Street View images. That makes it great if youíre on a limited smartphone data package or youíre traveling overseas. Two minor complaints: It takes up a lot of memory space on the phone because all of its data is downloaded at the start, and sometimes its view of the road ahead can get cluttered with street names and other details. But the benefits outweigh these issues.

Another app I like is Waze (free on iOS and Android).

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Old 08-18-2013, 04:01 PM   #18
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I have been considering a different and somewhat more expensive option. Get the latest Google Nexus 7 tablet for about $200. As I understand it you can tell Google maps to download maps for any area and it will, thus no need to be hooked into a cell tower. However, I am not sure about driving directions with this setup. And it will take more space on the dash, window or wherever. The advantage is that you have a tablet computer wherever you go. Just don't let somebody break into you car and steal it.

One thing I like about my cheap Garmin is that it sits on the dash, where it is highly visible so using it does not distract me from my driving. I think this is very important. Like many, I find the cost of updating the maps to be prohibitive. Unlike some, street construction and updates in my area are making the current maps more obsolete by the month.
Funny you should mention it. I bought the 2nd generation Google Nexus 7 last week. Its "form factor' seems a bit too big to use it as a GPS (although I haven't attempted to use it in that manner).

I do like the Garmin's ease of use and size...and, as you mentioned, the fact that I can leave it attached to the windshield (in most places!) without worrying about theft.

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Old 08-18-2013, 04:07 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by omni550 View Post
I tried using a generic mini-USB-USB cord and charger (aftermarket, purchased for an iPod, that I already had at home) during a short drive yesterday and the GPS display was noticeably darker (even at 100%). I was wondering if it might "fry" the GPS (or something similar) in extended use.

omni
Here's the likely culprit - When Apple started using USB to power/charge their devices, they did some 'special' things in their chargers to tell the device how much current it could supply. The did this with various resistor values connected in the charger to the two data lines (which are not used in a charge-only supply). But they never ran any of this by the USB board, to get it approved as a standard method. Sooooo....

Generic chargers are often made to comply with Apple devices. In the mean time, the USB board defined some rules. I don't know about GPS devices, but I know that with an Android phone, if you take a generic cable, cut the data lines, and short them together on the phone end of the cable (leave the charger side open) - that will tell the phone that you have a high-current charger attached. I've done that with the Android phones for DW and DD.

If you look through the comments section of any f those chargers on amazon, you will usually be able to figure this out. They will mention a short from D+ to D-, or just a short between data lines in the charger for Android phones. Or cut a cable like I did to work with anything (note - that cable will only be for charging then - you can't 'communicate' with a computer with that cable).


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Originally Posted by FIREd View Post
Turn by turn directions even out of cell phone range (as experienced in western WY and northern NV), though of course you need a decent GPS signal. IIRC Tom Tom offers a similar app.
Thanks, I will check that out.

-ERD50
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Old 08-18-2013, 04:16 PM   #20
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We just had this conversation on a day trip we took last week. I just don't like using the phone - I really like having that little screen on the dash board and watching the change in the road and guiding me through tricky turns, etc.

My car was broken into about 18 months ago, and they stole my Garmin. The one that was stolen wasn't very old, but I got a Garmin 1450 (from QVC, with FREE lifetime maps) and it was had and shoulders above the one that was stolen. I think it was about $130.

And, a little tip. When we got the new one we set our HOME button to be a nearby retail shop. That way if it gets stolen, and the thieves are smart enough to figure out we aren't HOME, and they decide to visit our HOME, they'll end up at a martial arts store.
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