Sunday, March 18, 2012

Our GPS Reviews

Listed below are links to all the GPS reviews I've written on GPS Tracklog. The list is kept up to date and there is a link to it on the sidebar labeled "Our GPS Reviews." If this long list is overwhelming, be sure to check out our Auto GPS buyers guide and Handheld GPS buyers guide.

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DeLorme Handheld GPS reviews

Garmin Auto GPS reviews

A note about discontinued Garmin auto units:

Most Garmin auto units without the flat form factor have been discontinued, as have older nuvis. In most cases, a newer Garmin nuvi is the best choice rather than one of these older units.

Garmin Fitness GPS reviews

Garmin Handheld GPS reviews

Garmin Marine GPS reviews

Lowrance Auto GPS reviews

Lowrance Handheld GPS reviews

Magellan Auto GPS reviews

Magellan Handheld GPS reviews

Mio Auto GPS reviews

Navigon Auto GPS reviews

TomTom Auto GPS reviews

Other GPS reviews

Mobile phone reviews

GPS Buyers Guide

NEW: Check out our updated Automotive GPS Buyers Guide and Handheld GPS Buyers Guide.

Choosing a GPS to purchase can be a challenge, especially if it’s your first (yes, people do upgrade). So here for your reading pleasure is our new GPS buyers guide. Let’s get a couple of things out of the way immediately:

Garmin, Magellan or Lowrance

At the risk of alienating fans of a couple of brands, I’m going to stick my neck out and say…Garmin is generally considered to be the best brand going, at least in the handheld market. They have intuitive menus and a reputation for strong customer service. Magellan is in the middle with a quality product, and a strong share of the automotive market. Lowrance can be a great choice for those on a budget, and they certainly have their proponents. Those are very broad strokes, so please don’t flame me, but it is a question I am often asked. And apparently a lot of people agree…at the time I’m writing this Garmin has a lock on the Top 10 GPS receivers sold at

Basic, Mapping or Autorouting

A basic GPS is just that. It will guide you to a waypoint, along a route and record a track. A good example is the Garmin eTrex Venture. (By the way, just so you know what you are clicking on, the remaining links on this post go to my reviews unless they say (Amazon) beside them. You can guess where those go, and yes, if you make a purchase through them, you help pay my hosting bills. End of disclaimer.) These basic units will only show the most rudimentary map — primarily your waypoints and tracks.

The next step up is a mapping unit like the Garmin eTrex Legend. This receiver has enough memory to accommodate topo maps or city maps, but it will not provide turn-by-turn highway directions.

For that, you’ll need to step up to a unit like the Magellan RoadMate 760  or the Garmin GPSMap 60CS.  With these receivers you can enter an address (or select a restaurant or…) and have it guide you there, turn-by-turn. These units are often referred to as autorouting receivers, short for automatic routing.

What Do You Want To Do With Your GPS?   

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Creating Custom Maps for Lowrance GPS Receivers

In another of our continuing series of the best of the boards, this jewel comes to us from Groundspeak, the geocaching message board. In a Lowrance vs. Garmin response, I said…

…if you want to create your own maps, you can do this with the 60CS. With the H20, you can only add tracks. Lots of them, granted, but it is still a significant limitation, especially if you want to add contours.

To which Hoary, a geocacher from Massachusetts said…

There is a significant progress in regards of building your own maps for Lowrance iFinder. More details in Yahoo! MapCreate Format Group:

Sure enough, information is posted there on a new tool, MP2LCM. I covered how to obtain data and create MP files in my book, GPS Mapping – Make Your Own Maps, but the ability to transfer those custom maps to current Lowrance units is a new development. Now I haven’t tried this yet, so if you have, chime in and let us hear your thoughts. Congratulations to the MapCreate Format group for all their efforts.

Making custom (not counterfeit) maps for your GPS

There was a story last week about counterfeit GPS maps causing drivers to get lost in Shanghai, which was widely reported in mapping blogs (like GeoCarta and The Map Room) and discussion groups.  But what do they mean by counterfeit maps? Jesse at Very Spatial started to address this, saying "I disagree with their use of the word ‘fake’, inaccurate is more realistic."  You can make custom maps for your GPS that may be sloppy or deceptive, or they may be more accurate than what you can buy commercially.

Let’s take a look at how this is done. What follows is a brief overview of a subject covered in great detail in my book, GPS Mapping – Make Your Own Maps, which includes step-by-step instructions.

Why would you want to do this? Well, you might be traveling to a foreign country for which there are no good GPS maps. Or you might just want better topo maps than what is available commercially. This is a common problem for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, as almost all GPS maps are based on 1:100K scale data, the one exception being Garmin’s US Topo 24K series (Amazon), which only covers national parks. Garmin’s US wide product (Amazon) shows contour lines 130 feet apart. I don’t know about you, but I like to know if I’m about to ride my mountain bike off a 100′ cliff! And while the Magellan (Amazon) and Lowrance products show contour lines much closer together, they actually interpolate the 1:100K data to do so, which is misleading to say the least.

On to how to make custom GPS maps…

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