Sunday, March 18, 2012

5 GPS features you don’t need

Throwing money away sm

UPDATE: Since several years have passed, I decided it was time for an updated version of this post!

GPS receivers are becoming more feature-rich every year. But what works and what doesn't? Here are five features that you just don't need.

  1. Traffic – I recently saw that 50% of people with live traffic on their GPS don't use it. Great idea, but it ain't ready for primetime yet. You'll get plenty of erroneous reports, and you'll also come across lots of bottlenecks that go unreported.
  2. FM transmitter – Useless in urban areas where the FM band is crowded, but of possible interest to the 0.1% of the population living in rural, mountainous areas.
  3. MP3 player – As much as I like seeing the track and artist name on my GPS screen, the tinny speakers aren't made for listening to music. If your GPS has an audio out jack, and your receiver an audio in, you could connect them, but then you'd have cables strung everywhere. TomTom has an iPod control cable for their GO units, but there's that cable thing again. A car stereo with Bluetooth and a nuvi 7x5T unit might give you a better option, but lacking the former I haven't tried it.
  4. Bluetooth – When it does work, it generally sounds horrible for the person on the other end of the call. Exceptions — my experience with the TomTom GO 730 was better than most, but what I'm really impressed by is the nuvi 7x5T I've been testing. It won't do everything I wanted it to, but the sound quality in early use has been great. Stay tuned for a full report. UPDATE: Bluetooth that works.
  5. 3D buildings – Useless eye candy.

There you have it. Save your money. In an upcoming post I'll look at features that are worth paying for.

About Rich Owings

Rich is the owner, editor and chief bottle-washer for GPS Tracklog. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus.


  1. What?! Traffic is the only reason I use a GPS. The GPS built into my car is useless because it doesn’t have traffic.
    I know how to get everywhere in my city (it’s a numbered grid, it’s easy). I just need to know the most efficient path. Because traffic is really only available on highways and a few major roads, I only pull out the GPS when I expect to travel via expressway (going to the airport, daily commute to the suburbs, etc.).
    I have a Garmin Nuvi 680 with MSN Direct traffic. It’s right far more often than it’s wrong. Far more often.

  2. Ha! I knew I’d attract comments with a post like that! Hey, what metro area are you in? I ask because some traffic services perform better in some metro areas than others, and it might help someone else to know.

  3. I see this is an old post, but I also thought mp3 was not important to me when I bought my Garmin 200W. Then I learned about Garmin TourGuides, which were desirable to me and ‘require’ (sort-of) a unit with mp3 for the voice narration, etc. I since then bought a 765T to make use of them (TourGuides & voice alerts).

  4. Rich Owings says:

    Good point!

  5. Speaking of the MP3- I have been unable to find the storage capacity of the MP3 for any of the Garmin units, but specifically the nuvi 755T. 2GB,32GB or somewhere in between? Will it accept an SD card to increase the storage? Thanks!

  6. Rich Owings says:

    Straight from the factory it has 1.7 GB free memory. You can use up to a 16GB SDHC card to increase storage capacity.

  7. Ha! My 3 favorite features of my Garmin Nuvi GPS are traffic, bluetooth, and mp3. I have alternatives I can take to work, so it’s great when it warns me to redirect. The bluetooth speaker phone works great. With the phone and mp3, it’s essential to connect a cable from the GPS to the radio, but that doesn’t bother me, and it’s great having my phone, mp3, and gps directions all coming over the car speakers.

  8. Glad its working for you. Undoubtedly, there are people who love all five!

  9. Hi! I am a student pilot and I’d like to know what’s the cheapest and best handheld GPS that will track my flight path? I read an article in my flying mag that tells how to download it to Google Earth and track my path. I can’t really make much sense of all the features and really only think I need somethnig with automatic route tracking and a great battery life. Any and all info will be helpful and greatly appreciated!!

  10. Melissa Long says:

    Do you still feel like there is no good way to get accurate traffic reports on a gps unit?

    • I think it has improved, definitely, but is still lacking. In general, the larger the metro (think LA), the better the traffic data.

      The newer HD traffic models like the new TomTom LIVEs and the Garmin nuvi 3490LMT appear to improve things more, although the just released 3490LMT seems to have some bugs. I should have my review of the latter posted in a day or so.

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