Not too long ago I read about a survey from a British insurance company. It seems that they talked to 2,000 adults about their driving habits. The result? Men apparently waste six million hours a hear driving around lost. Yes, male drivers waste an average of 20 minutes when they get lost before stopping to ask for directions, while women wait an average of only 10 minutes. See? That’s justification for a gadget purchase if I ever heard it.
Last fall I purchased a Magellan GPS system. It took me a long time to decide which model to buy, but when I finally pulled the trigger I was quite happy with the results. I purchased a Magellan 760, pictured below:
What made me pick this one? For starters, it doesn’t have a battery. It only operates when plugged in. After reading about dozens of different GPS models I finally realized that to narrow down my choices I had to figure out what was important. I determined that the odds of me taking the GPS out of my car and walking around with it were slim, at least for the models I was looking at. If I wanted a hiking GPS, I would get a hiking GPS. I wanted a driving one. Battery life was not only not important but turned out to be a cost issue as well. The more popular units use proprietary batteries that can only be replaced by the manufacturer. At an exhorbitant (in my opinion) cost. So battery operated was out.
I didn’t want an mp3 player (they make those). I didn’t want a multi-media viewer (they make those too). I just wanted a nice GPS.
I did want a unit with plenty of space. The 760 has a 20GB hard drive which comes pre-loaded with maps for the “lower 48″ states and Canada. I can load additional maps via USB or by the compact flash card slot. I will be taking a trip to Europe last this spring so loading the European maps might be a prudent thing to do.
The large storage space is also filled up with POI or Points of Interest. The unit quickly proved it’s value last December as we were trying to escape the snow and blizzards of the Rockies on our way home from a vacation. After reaching yet another closed road and the clock ticking towards midnight I asked my wife to punch in the closest hotel. After a few keystrokes we were informed that the nearest hotel was in the small town just 15 miles back. Oh, and the best part? The hotel phone number was part of the listing! A quick phone call and we had determine that yes, they had a room, and that no, our 115 pound dog would not be a problem, and yes, they would hold the room for us with a credit card. Nice.
I also wanted a unit that would really help me drive, not just with a visual map but with verbal directions. Some GPS units will call out, “Time to turn right… NOW” and that’s helpful when there’s only one road to turn on. But if you’ve ever navigated some of the more complicated cities (New Orleans comes to mind) you can understand the benefit of having the unit actually give you the street name you’re turning on as well. Although it might be interesting to hear the GPS lady try to pronounce “Tchoupitoulas Street”.
I did add an external antenna to the unit, not because I thought the built-in antenna would not work, but some states do not allow you to mount anything to the windshield anymore. It’s also easier to conceal the GPS when we pull into a rest stop since it’s down low in the dashboard rather than right up in plane view.
Some other nice features include:
- Automatic volume increase based on your speed
Once you pass 45 miles per hour, the volume of the spoken directions automatically increases
- Auto “night view” mode
When it gets dark, the unit alters the color and contrast settings automatically.
- 6 Million POI entries
Includes gas stations, restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and many more. There are even web sites where you can download speed trap data and load that into your unit.
There are plenty more of fine features for this unit. I have used it even around town when I need to find a new location. One of the cool features that I’ve not subscribed to will allow the unit to tie into local traffic monitoring systems and automatically route you around traffic jams before you get stuck.
Now that’s a smart gadget.