Consumer Reports tester Frank Spinelli has driven thousands of miles this year. He and his team have tested more than 100 portable GPS units, ranging in price from $90 to $450. They come with lots of features.
Take traffic info. It can show delays along your route.
Jeff Bartlett with Consumer Reports, "Many new models provide traffic information for free, although there are small ads that may pop up onscreen."
Then there's voice recognition, which is found on the most expensive GPS units.
Jeff demonstrates as the GPS says, "Click state city."
You can operate menus and enter an address hands-free by speaking a command.
The GPS says, "Please state house number."
Jeff responds, "1-2-3."
The GPS responds back, "23."
Bartlett says, "Our tests found that voice recognition doesn't work well enough to justify the cost."
But text-to-speech is a low-cost feature worth having. Rather than simply hearing "turn left," you're given the street name as well.
The GPS prompts, "In point-one miles turn left on Odell Avenue."
Another good feature - reality view. It displays a 3D view of exits and intersections. And "lane assist" shows you the best lane to be in for an upcoming turn.
In the end, Consumer Reports recommends the TomTom One 140S. It costs around 170 dollars with this optional receiver that allows you to get traffic information.
Almost all of the new smart phones have GPS applications. Consumer Reports' tests find the navigation on some can work just as well as a traditional GPS unit, but the smaller screens can be tough to see and the smaller buttons harder to use.