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GPS Buying Guide - Future Shop

August, 2009


If you've never taken a trip with a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit, you've probably spent too long getting where you're going - and missed a lot of interesting stuff along the way. GPS has taken a lot of the stress out of the typical road trip, and many of the new features are making GPS navigation systems a fun and essential accessory to pack along.

In a nutshell, a GPS receiver relays information to and from satellites positioned in orbit around the earth. This information is then applied to the mapping software on the receiver itself, which tells you where you are, where you want to go, and how to get there in real time and with impressive accuracy.

Owning a GPS receiver has numerous benefits including not getting lost, planning a trip, and knowing gas stations, restaurants, tourist attractions and emergency services are close by. Some even have features like Bluetooth® for easy hands-free calling and multimedia playback, so you can listen to your MP3s or view pictures from a memory card. With this guide, we'll walk you through some of the basics of GPS, the latest technology they offer, and some of the cool extras you can find on some receivers.

GPS Buying Guide

The Basics

Type

Do you want a GPS for your automobile, motorcycle, marine vessel, or for hiking and other outdoor activities? Since hitting the consumer market, GPS navigators have been designed to suit different purposes, from being weather-proof for marine or motorcycle applications to including a two-way radio and trail maps for hiking or back-country skiing. Newest to the market are GPS trackers – small devices that you put in your car's glove compartment that let you track where your car is and has been if it's stolen. As these different kinds of GPS receivers are suited to different purposes, not all features and technology listed below apply to all receivers.

Screen Size

The majority of GPS receivers have 3.5 to 4.3 inch widescreen displays which is usually sufficient for basic navigation. However, it's worth it to consider larger screen options (up to about 7 inches) for better map detail, easier to navigate touchscreen menus, viewing pictures and using some of the GPS navigator's extra features. Some larger GPS screens even have an input that lets you connect a camera that's attached the rear end of your car, which makes backing into spaces much easier – especially in larger vehicles.

GPS Buying Guide

Maps

Most automobile GPS navigators come with pre-loaded maps of Canada and the US. Be sure that any GPS navigator you consider comes equipped with at least a map of Canada out of the box. On these maps are various points of interest (POI) like hospitals, gas stations, hotels, restaurants, amusement areas, tourist sites and more, so you'll always know where to get something to eat or fix a flat tire. You can even add your own POIs to reference for future trips.

Marine GPS navigators have maps of bodies of water, seabed depths, and are often able to track schools of fish, making them a must-have accessory for any sport fisher.

Trail GPS navigators are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who are as comfortable off the beaten path as they are on it. They provide accurate navigation in all sorts of terrain, mapping location and elevation, so you always know where you are.

Additional maps can be added through a download or purchase of a DVD map upgrade.

What' new.

While all GPS receivers help you get from A to B, many offer additional features for enhanced navigation, safety and entertainment. Consider some of these features if you're looking to get more out of your experience than just simple navigation.

Text-to-Speech
You'll find basic voice guidance capabilities in all automotive GPS navigators, but one of the features available in newer units is Text-to-Speech technology (Also called 'Spoken Street Names'). Instead of having to constantly glance down at your screen, Text-to-Speech audibly tells you where to turn using real street names. For instance, when coming up to a confusing or unfamiliar intersection, the GPS receiver will announce "Turn left in 50 metres onto Barclay Street." This feature lets you concentrate on when and where you need to turn, rather than peering at the on-screen map. Often, this feature comes with multiple computer-generated voice options.

Voice Address Input
Don't feel like typing out your destination's address? With Voice Address Input technology, you don't have to. Just say where you want to go and the Voice Address Input function updates your maps with the information.

Lane Assist
Major metropolitan areas can be major headaches to drive through – especially if you've never been there before. But all that changes with Lane Assist. Lane Assist lets you know when you need to change lanes in order to exit at an off ramp. This feature is a must-have if you often find yourself in large cities with multi-lane expressways, one-way streets, roundabouts, jug handles and other complicated routes.

Reality View
Reality View takes 3D maps to new levels, displaying true-to-life graphics of actual structures and landmarks as reference points when driving through an unfamiliar area. Reality View also provides a realistic image of complicated intersections to help you navigate your way through, complete with the signs you'll see on the road.

Extras

GPS doesn't end with navigation. If you're looking for something with a little more under the hood, GPS delivers. Many manufacturers equip their navigators with lots of robust additional features that go beyond simple navigation, delving into the world of multimedia, communications and more.

EMultimedia Playback

Some units feature a memory card slot that allows you to play music, pictures, and in some cases, video on the display. With this feature, you simply slide in a compatible memory card loaded with your media into the card slot and listen to music through your car's speakers, flip through pictures, or watch a video. Some GPS receivers even let you connect your iPod, MP3 player or satellite radio receiver. Because GPS navigators are portable, they make it easy to share your media with others, too.

Bluetooth

Traffic
Find out where the traffic tie-ups are, in real time, and tap the screen to find an alternate route. It's now available in a few Canadian cities with more coming. The feature usually requires a subscription, but a few models offer the service for free.

WiFi
This is a truly useful feature that more and more manufacturers are starting to include. With built-in Wi-Fi all you need to do is find a hotspot and download new maps, find additional points of interest and more.

Accessories

Future Shop offers a variety of GPS accessories that help enhance functionality, prolong the device's life and even give you additional features.

Cases
Because most GPS navigators are portable, having a case to keep the screen and body safe from minor scratching and bumps is a great way to protect your investment and keep it looking like new.

Screen Protectors
Since most GPS navigators use a simple touchscreen interface, they're constantly interacting with your fingers. A screen protector not only shields the LCD display from scratches, but also the oils from your fingers that can deteriorate the screen surface over time.

Mounts
In some regions, windshield mounts are considered a visual obstruction and are not legally permitted. If this is the case in your area, Future Shop carries different mounting options – like on-dash mounts – for your GPS receiver.

Additional Maps
Travelling abroad? In most cases GPS navigators sold in North America only come equipped with maps of North America. Future Shop carries additional mapping DVDs for your European vacation or Australian expedition, so you can expand your navigational capabilities no matter where you go.

You've folded your last map. GPS is the only way to go. Take a look at our online selection of GPS receivers, or print the helpful checklist below and bring it to the nearest Future Shop and a Product Expert can help you navigate to the right GPS unit for you. Simply circle the option you want, or circle "Tell me more", and a Product Expert will be more than happy to demonstrate how a particular feature or function works. You can also join the discussion on GPS technology in the Future Shop Community Forums.

Checklist

Checklist

Need a hand? We've provided a handy checklist below that can help you decide what GPS will fulfill your needs. Print it, fill it out, and bring it into one of our stores and speak with one of our Product Experts.

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