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Recommendations for mobile GPS units (1 Viewer)

Scott Merryfield

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I am looking into purchasing a mobile GPS unit, and would love to hear other HTF members' experiences, good and bad, with different brands and models.

I will be using the unit for long road trips, since my wife and I have decided to take more driving vs. flying vacations. This summer we plan to take a road trip to South Dakota (Badlands, Mount Rushmore, etc.), Montana (Glacier National Park), Alberta (Banff, Calgary) and return via the Canadian provinces.

I am looking for something that provides automatic routing, voice command directions, and detailed information regarding points of interest in different areas (gas stations, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, police, etc.). I only need support for the U.S. and Canada for the near future, but the ability to add mapping for Europe at some point would be a benefit (but not an absolute requirement).

So far, the Garmin StreetPilot III seems to best fit my needs. A co-worker highly recommends Garmin's products for features and manufacturer support. He is on his 2nd Garmin GPS, but his model and software are tailored for nautical and rural trail use (he owns a boat and snowmobile, and spends a lot of time on the Great Lakes and on backwoods snowmobile trails). A new StreetPilot III Deluxe version is available on June 3rd that includes just about every option I need for $780.
 

Michael*K

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I was thinking of getting one too. Does anyone know if these handheld units work on commercial aircraft? I'm often curious as to the aircraft's flight path, especially when I fly at night.
 

CharlesD

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I have a Garmin V, its smaller than the StreetPilot and doesn't talk. It does give directions and has a highly detailed map with the gas stations, resturants etc.. I like Garmin products, its my 2nd GPS unit from then.

A colleague has a StreetPilot and likes it alot, except for the voice command which he says nags too much if you don't do what it tells you to do!

You can use GPS units on a plane if you have a window seat.
 

AllanN

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I don't know about aircraft, maybe if you held it right by a window it could get a signal but with all the metal there probably is a problem. Im sure however that they are banned on aircraft. Either for the slight possibility that they may interfere with navigation equipment. Or because if you where a terrorist you could track a flights exact heading. But Garmen IMHO is the best brand out there.
 

CharlesD

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So, this unit could replace my wife then?
That seems to be the primary purpose of this unit :)
During long road trips it will also want to discuss your relationship with it, and will refuse to answer questions as to why it needs to buy so many shoes.
 

Wayne Bundrick

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I've had the original StreetPilot for a couple of years. It doesn't have color or voice navigation. I think the StreetPilot III can automatically plot the "best" route? Mine won't do that either, you have to program the route by marking each turn.

Re: airline flights... If you're at a window, you can probably get a good signal. But I don't think GPS is on the list of approved devices since Sept. 11. Previously it could have made the crew and other passengers nervous if they weren't into the super neat-o coolness of the gadget, but these days it would make them VERY nervous. They'll think that only a hijacker would want to know the plane's exact position, altitude, speed, and heading.
 

Scott Merryfield

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Re: airline flights... If you're at a window, you can probably get a good signal. But I don't think GPS is on the list of approved devices since Sept. 11.
I had not given this much thought, but does this mean that if I want to take my GPS unit on a plane to use at my destination, I cannot even bring it on with my carry-on luggage? I usually do not put expensive electronics in my checked luggage to avoid damage from the luggage gorillas -- items such as cameras, camcorders and portable DVD players. I would prefer to carry on the GPS unit for the same reason, but not to use on the plane itself.
 

Jay H

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I'm curious myself about the airline restrictions, I'm going to Alaska in August again so I'll have to pack my backpack and hiking gear...
I've used a Magellan MAP 410 on a plane pre-9/11 and was able to get an OK signal at a window seat. Was neat to know the cities your flying over and that stuff. The lady next to me thought it was a cell phone :)
You should also check out Magellan's Neverlost system which I think is what Hertz uses in it's rental program, at least as a comparison to the StreetPilot III. I can't say that I've ever used it but I was a passenger in a person who had a Hertz with it and it was pretty good. It had the streets around a shopping mall and stuff like that.
Jay
 

Michael*K

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GPS receivers are not listed in the FAA list of Link Removed. Probably the only thing they do is make sure the thing turns on and off.
Strangely enough, anytime I've gone through security with my cell phone or Palm on me, security has always wanted me to turn them on and off to make sure they were "legit." On my last flight a few weeks ago, I had the cell phone, my Palm, a pager and a minidisc player in my carry-on. Nobody said a word. They never asked me to take them out and turn them on, even when I got pulled aside for additional screening of my bag.
 

Wayne Bundrick

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GPS may not be on the FAA's list, but I think the airlines have their own lists too. You can probably carry it on the plane, but they might not let you use it in flight.
There is a wealth of GPS comparison information at http://joe.mehaffey.com .
 

Scott Merryfield

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Thanks for the link, Wayne. That site had some useful information. Also, for anyone else who is interested, there is a Garmin user forum (similar to HTF) hosted at etailer www.gpscity.com where I found some useful info on Garmin products.
Does anyone out there own a Magellan GPS? Right now I am leaning towards the Garmin StreetPilot III Deluxe package, but would love to hear anyone who has reasons to consider a Magellan model similar in features.
 

Scott Merryfield

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I just thought I would post a follow-up. My new Garmin StreetPilot III Deluxe arrived about a week ago, and I have been playing with it a little around town. The autorouting feature on both the unit and PC software (City Navigator) works fairly well, but the software does not seem to like the route I take to/from work. It's a limited-access parkway that is a flood plain, and the GPS keeps trying to get me to turn off the road. It's rather amusing. :) The autorouting did a great job giving me directions to a new golf course last weekend, though.
I already have a route plotted out for our next road trip, and it looks to be a reasonable route. The voice commands are very detailed, not only telling you where to turn, but to keep right/left after the turn when necessary. It's very quick at recalculating a route if you drive off-course. So far, this product looks like a winner.
 

Andrej Dolenc

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As far as GPS units and airplanes, I took a trip back in May with some friends where we flew from the DC area up north to Providence, RI. One of my friends is an air traffic controller, he specifically asked if he can use the GPS unit onboard. They said yes, as long as you wait until the airplane has reached cruising altitude. Pretty cool, once he turned it on and it picked up a signal, the altitude did read 32,000 ft!

Andrej
 

Ryan Wright

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but they might not let you use it in flight
Only if you get one of those overzealous stewardesses who has no clue what it is. In which case, I would politely explain it to her, show her how it works, and if she still insists it be turned off, tell her you'll only turn it off if instructed to do so by the captain. The airplane probably has it's own GPS installed, for crying out loud. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to use one; they can't interfere with anything.
Before you buy, check out Pricescan. Streetpilot III is $659 at http://www.gpsnow.com/. I bought my Garmin eTrex Legend from them. It was $50 less than retail and their service was excellent.
 

Jay H

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yeah, I used my old Magellan MAP410 once on flight from Florida back to Newark and it was real cool knowing what (major) cities you are flying over. It was at night and you could easily tell the major cities by looking at the amount of light coming from them. The young lady next to me thought it was a cell phone. But it must of been odd because I had it on by the window for most of the trip yet didn't say one word... I think if I started talking to it, she would of freaked out. But I guess that would of been cruel ;)
Jay
 

Gregg Loewen

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I use Delorme Street Atlas 9.0 and it works great. It works with my laptop and plugs into my USB port. The only time I have had any problems is when driving in NYC (too many tall buildings).

Ive used this unit while navigating more than 10,000 miles now and would not leave home with out it :)

Gregg
 

Philip_G

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you need the captain's permssion to use the GPS on a commercial flight, period. It does not matter what's on the FAA's list or the airline's list, if the PIC says no, you are breaking the federal code by turning it on, have fun with that. If you asked during cruise the flight attendant could ask for you and they'd probably say yes, however the NON aviation handhelds I thought stopped working over XX speed.

the altitude function is pretty inaccurate BTW, because of the geometry it can be off quite a bit depending on how many SAT's are locked in. I don't know how many the hand helds track at any one time? three probably?
 

Philip_G

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Up to yes, but probably not continuously. I think 5 is the magic number for flight navigation, or maybe it's 7, I don't recall i guess.
 

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