Staff GPS navigation picks for Black Friday 2010

Consumer Reports News: November 23, 2010 09:30 AM

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With Black Friday just a few days away, the GPS team has compiled a list of the best GPS deals we have found on good portable navigators, though we know shoppers need even more guidance. Sure, we have ratings on more than 100 current GPS navigators and recommendations on the best units, but with all the low prices, this shopping holiday calls for a more personal touch.

The GPS team has poured over the deals from major retailers, both brick-and-mortar and those online, sharing what our picks would be and why. Whether shopping for a gift or a new navigator for yourself, these personal takes will help point you toward those units we most like.

For further insights, online subscribers can use our interactive ratings tool to sort and filter the ratings based on the factors that matter most to you, and even find the best prices online using our ad-free, consumer-focused shopping tool.

Jeff Bartlett: For my holiday cash, a navigator must have spoken street names, reality view, lane assist, and free traffic. I'm tempted by Bluetooth, but in reality, a cyborg-like headset would be a better, more versatile choice. Bonus points for a system that gives speed warnings--a feature that has proved quite helpful when traveling in unfamiliar areas. Scanning the deals, as much as I have loved (and recommended) the trusty Garmin 265WT, I'm going with the newer, super-sized TomTom XL 550TM. It has a massive five-inch screen, all the essential features, and free traffic and map updates—including crowd-sourced Map Share. I do wish it had the new magnetic mount found on the impressive Go 2405, rather than the compact design prone to popping off the device. But for the prices available (about $130), a compromise or two is expected. Give up on the map updates, and it can be found for just $100 at Radio Shack. The savings could be spent on downloading a cool Darth Vader or Homer Simpson voice. Mmmm, donuts!

Frank Rizzi: For me, any proven GPS performer for under $100 is always a good deal. There are many choices on our deals list, but I am going with the Magellan Roadmate 5045. You get a five-inch screen, lifetime traffic alerts, spoken street names, highway lane assist, and the ability to exclude roads on your route. The 5045 also has an icon right on the map screen that will display restaurants and gas stations at an upcoming highway exit—a nice convenience on road trips. One of the features I dislike is the mounting system. As you slide the unit on you must be careful to line up the USB connection to avoid damaging it. Overall, for $100 you are getting some very useful features.

Frank Spinelli: My pick is the Garmin Nuvi 1350. This is a basic unit that omits the bells and whistles found on the higher-priced devices. However, it provides key navigational features such as lane assistance and text to speech, coupled with a wide screen and the easy-to-use Garmin interface. This model is also sold with free traffic and maps, so look for the LMT (Lifetime Traffic and Maps) or T (Lifetime Traffic) designation if free maps and traffic are on your GPS wish list.
Jim Travers: I've got to go with the Garmin Nuvi 3750 this year. And, in fact, I have gone a lot of places with it, including a recent trip to the Southwest, where it reliably guided us to new places for 1,100 miles.

One of the newer Garmins, the Nuvi 3750 has an easy-to-use interface, reliable directions, and features that I want like spoken street names, lane guidance, and reality view. It also has an enhanced pedestrian mode for navigating on foot in unfamiliar cities. The thin profile makes it easy to slip into my pocket or backpack when traveling, and in my opinion, the 4.3-inch widescreen rivals the TomTom 2405 for having the most vivid graphics in the business.

The Nuvi 3750 doesn't come with traffic info, but you can add a traffic receiver for $120. It does include historic traffic info when planning routes. With a suggested retail price of $349, the Nuvi 3750 doesn't come cheap. But it's easy to use and can be relied on when you're thousands of miles from home. And I just saw it listed on for $257.84, almost $100 less than on the Garmin website.

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