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They say that men won't ask for directions and women can't read maps, so a GPS system that tells you exactly where you are and how to get where you're going would seem like the perfect solution for everyone. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and refers to a satellite-based navigational system developed by the United States Department of Defense and operated by the US Air Force, but free for civilians to use. There are now many competing models available to the everyday user, so it's worth taking a moment to consider what type best suits your travelling style.

For example, if you mainly drive with just yourself in the car, you need a device that provides audible driving directions, (you know, the one's that go """"turn left in 30 meters or you'll be in a ditch"""", so you can keep your eyes on the road. If you're the outdoors type that goes into the wilderness and needs to know where you are on foot, maybe an add-on to a PDA, or a stand-alone handheld GPS device would be best for you - they're much smaller, lighter and easier to carry around. Then again, if you're a car driver that's always got their laptop with them and only needs to look up directions every now and again, then a GPS accessory that hooks up to your computer may be all you need. And if you are mainly looking for something to use purely behind the wheel, do you always use the same car or do you use a lot of rentals? If you're always in the same treasured vehicle, then it might well be worth investing in a built-in system that will be neatly incorporated into your dashboard, while rental users will be much better off with a GPS device that just plugs into a cigarette lighter socket and can be easily moved from one car to another.

As with most electronic devices, the basic rule is that the more you pay, the more you get. At the bottom end of the price range, you're looking at a simple locator with a small, monochrome screen that just tells you where you are on a non-too-detailed map, and will plot where you've been but not necessarily help you get where you're going. At the top end, GPS machines can now act as everything from restaurant guides to music players, have fantastic screen detail and warn of every conceivable traffic problem via constant real-time updating features - but be warned, many of the best features around, the ones that can really help you avoid delays on the road, may require a monthly service bill on top of the cost of purchase.

A lot of the GPS features now available out there, such as the 3D buildings gimmick, are just useless eye-candy, while others are certainly worth the expense. For example, if you're mainly a car driver, insist on text-to-speech and go for a model with at least a 4.3"""" touch screen, as it's much easier to tap your menus and enter destinations into, and maps will be much easier to read. And if you're right foot tends to have a mind of its own, speed limit display and speed camera proximity warning features could keep you on the right side of the boys in blue.
Outdoor types should make sure that terrain maps are supported, as what may look like a gentle two-mile stroll on a cheap machine won't seem so relaxing when you find out those two miles cross sheer cliffs that mountain goats wouldn't touch with a bargepole!

And finally, with all systems make sure that the antennae provided is adequate for the places you will be using it - the best GPS in the world is a useless lump of junk if it can't log on to the satellites it needs for information.



Author R. Germain
date added Tue 04 08 2009

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