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GPS

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What's behind our GPS Ratings?

Experts at our National Testing and Research Center tested 33 models in GPS to see which ones perform best.
We look for:
  • Overall score
    This score mainly reflects how easy a navigation system is to use, combined with factors such as information given, portability, and routing options. The displayed score is out of a total of 100 points.
  • Screen size
    The diagonal length of the display screen measured in inches and rounded to the nearest tenth on an inch.
  • Ease of use
    Ease of use score is based on an assessment of the physical interface, touch-screen control, programming logic, and readability. Testing considers such things as whether the database allows dynamic searching for addresses, if unlikely letters are grayed out, ease of entering into navigation menus upon start-up, ease of finding points of interest, and ease of adjusting common functions like volume, brightness, and map zoom setting.
  • Routing options
    Our routing evaluation looks at the choices for fine-tuning a route and calculation time. Specifically, we factor multi-destination routing, avoidance of toll roads, biking routes, walking routes, RV/truck use, and availability of foreign map databases. In addition, we measure system response time when operating data-entry menus, such as POI searching.
  • Driving guidance
    Based on the on-screen and audible information given to the user during navigation. Includes type and font size of on-screen information, ability to speak proper street names, languages supported, and amount of audible information given including descriptions of the next maneuver, including lane assist and reality view.
  • Mount design
    Considers how the mount is engineered, factoring size, security, and ease of installation.
  • Display quality
    Display quality reflects image clarity, color accuracy, and contrast as judged by panelists who viewed text and photos, and on lab measurements.
  • Traffic interface
    Rates the presentation of the traffic information and the ability to put the data into use. Rating factors include color coding for traffic severity, depth of information, estimated time for delay, and tools for rerouting around congestion. However, we do not rate the accuracy or timeliness of the traffic information itself.
  • Tested battery life
    After being fully charged, the length of time in hours that the unit remained on, while set to full brightness.

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Recommended GPS

Recommended GPS are standout choices with high scores. They include CR Best Buys, which offer exceptional value. When narrowing your choices, weigh features, price, and attributes that matter to you.
  • Buying Guide
  • Price & Shop
A portable GPS system will usually guide you to your destination. The highest-rated GPS models make it especially easy to enter destinations and they give the most helpful directions. If you're looking for information about GPS systems, Consumer Reports is your best resource. Consumer Reports’ GPS reviews will give you honest buying advice that you can trust. Use our GPS buying guide to discover which features are most important to consider. We also provide unbiased Ratings and GPS reviews to help you choose the best GPS system for your needs.

Recently reviewed GPS

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RoadMate 2136T-LM
This Magellan has a 4.3-inch LCD screen. It is preloaded with maps covering the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico.

GPS buying guide

If you often travel to new places for work or pleasure, have trouble reading maps, or simply hate to ask for directions, you might consider a global positioning system (GPS) based navigator for your car. Once you put in a destination, the system will plot a route, give spoken turn-by-turn directions, and show your progress along the route. Most personal navigation devices (PNDs) let you choose your routing preferences, including the shortest distance, the fastest time, or even routes with no toll roads. Some portable units offer special routing options for bicyclists to help them avoid highways and for pedestrians, appropriate routes are provided that ignore one-way traffic restrictions. Some devices even offer a choice for the most fuel-efficient route.

You can also use a GPS device to quickly find a variety of points of interest (POI), including gas stations, ATMs, hotels, tourist attractions, and more. Typically, you can search for a specific point of interest, browse ones that are near your current location, or look up ones in a different area. You can even choose a nearby restaurant by the type of food you wish to eat. Once you've located what you want, the system can calculate a route to get you there and often provide contact information, should you wish to call ahead.

In today's competitive market, GPS prices have come down to the point where even budget units include features previously available only on more expensive models, such as the ability to speak street names, issue speed warnings, and provide reality view, graphically representing major intersections. Higher-priced models can include such features as an FM receiver for traffic information, a wireless FM transmitter to integrate with the car's audio system, and Bluetooth connectivity, which can be handy for hands-free phone operation. Services such as traffic, weather reports, and Internet searches are widely available, although they can require a subscription or use a smart-phone data plan. Free traffic information is also increasingly common, though it is sometimes supported by small, onscreen advertising.

Extra features aside, our testing has shown that all GPS navigators will typically get you to your destination, but not always by the most efficient route. While there is no substitute for local knowledge of roads and traffic situations, some devices add intelligence through historical traffic data and the ability for users to modify maps.

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