Consumer Reports has released the results of their latest GPS tests, and I've got the full press release after the jump. I've added links to my reviews of the units they mention and recommend.
Overall, I think they did a pretty good job here, much better than in the past when they have rated units introduced years before.
"Despite the influx of several new brands and models, longtime GPS brands -- Garmin, TomTom and Magellan -- are still making the best Global Positioning Systems. The three brands accounted for 16 of the top 20 rated models in the latest tests in Consumer Reports June issue.
After months of in-lab and on-the-road tests of 39 GPS systems, the Garmin Nuvi 760 ($600) rated best with an "Excellent" overall score. CR's experts found the Nuvi 760 to be a good all-around package, easy to use, with intuitive controls, good guidance and a number of advanced features.
While all tested units scored "Good" or better, CR found that a high price tag doesn't necessarily indicate a top-performing GPS device. At a tested price of $550, the Jensen Rock-N-Road NVXM1000 scored lowest. Among its faults, the Rock-N-Road NVXM1000 is bulkier than most units, with a small screen for its size and a small size of display data that makes it harder to read than other units. Also scoring among the poor performing systems -- the Alpine Blackbird PMD-B200 II, whose $630 tested price made it the second most expensive system tested.
Consumer Reports GPS navigator ratings are based on a battery of tests that compare each system's ease of use, including the ease of entering in the destination, the quality and clarity of the spoken and on screen information, routing options, routing time, and portability. The complete ratings chart, detailed product pages, product selector and guide to purchasing a GPS device is also available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.
Consumer Reports Quick Picks
CR ratings rank models based primarily on which units provide the most helpful directions and are easiest to use. Extras such as MP3 players don't count towards overall scores. However, Consumer Reports Quick Picks consider other factors such as price and features. Below are some of CR's recommendations:
All four units are simple to operate and have desirable features including large 4.4 inch screens, Bluetooth connectivity, spoken street names and traffic capability. Both Garmins and the TomTom also have an MP3 player and a photo viewer. The TomTom is the only one of four with an iPod interface.
All three models provide very good navigation performance at an entry-level price. They are compact, easy to use, and have good-sized 3.5 inch screens, but they don't offer all the extra features common on higher-end models. Despite its low price, the Garmin Nuvi 350 ranks among the best. Both Garmin units include a few niceties, such as an advanced calculator, a photo viewer, and spoken street names. Of the three, the TomTom is the only unit that doesn't have spoken street names.
CR's GPS Buying Advice: Features that Count
All current GPS navigators include pre-loaded maps and provide spoken directions and automatic rerouting if drivers miss a turn. The following are additional features CR recommends considering when comparing models:
- A screen that's not too big, not too small. CR has tested portable systems with screens from 2.5 to 5 inches. The smallest can be hard to see, and the small touch-screen buttons can make it tedious to enter an address. On the other hand, the largest units can be bulky to carry when mounted to the windshield can obstruct more of the driver's view of the road. A 3.5-inch screen is a good compromise, but 4.3-inch wide screens are quickly becoming the benchmark.
- Real-time traffic. Units with traffic information can warn of a problem or slowdown ahead in time to avoid it. Some will even ask if you want to find another route and will reroute you at the touch of a button. The quality of information varies from city to city, and though the info can be limited, inconsistent, and sometimes inaccurate, CR found it can help. Expect to pay a subscription fee of about $60 annually. Some devices need an additional receiver costing up to $200. Higher-end models have a built-in or included receiver.
- Spoken street names. Better systems tell you to turn onto a street, highway, or route number by its name rather than the more general "right turn ahead" or similar direction. This function, sometimes called text-to-speech, helps the driver keep eyes on the road and less on the GPS unit.
- Predictive data entry and dynamic search. These functions make ntering a city name or address faster. With predictive data entry, available from Alpine, Cobra, Harman Kardon, HP, Jensen, Magellan, Mio, and Pioneer, as you type, the screen's keyboard will highlight only letters that help complete a known name.
The complete ratings for all GPS models tested are provided in the June 2008 issue of Consumer Reports, available May 6, wherever magazines are sold and online at www.ConsumerReports.org."