GPS Buying Guide

Whether you’re navigating unfamiliar streets or racing to get to your meeting on time, a GPS device can be a saviour. This GPS buying guide will point you in the right direction.

GPS 101

GPS (Global Positioning System) devices make it easy to find your way just about anywhere you can drive, boat or walk. By sending and receiving data from distant satellites, these mini-computers can assist you in your daily commute, guide you safely through strange lands and keep your workout on track. The latest auto dashboard GPS systems are loaded with extras like multimedia centres, MP3 music players and detailed route planners. They've also got the latest wireless, voice guidance and voice recognition technology. A portable GPS unit can be your personal travel assistant in your vehicle or on foot, for business or pleasure. Putting GPS to work for you comes down to choosing the right device. 

Types of GPS


Sport & Hand-held GPS

You don’t have to be a hard-core backcountry hiker, biker or skier to benefit from packing a handheld GPS. A sport GPS can make any outdoor excursion that much more fun by providing you with useful information you wouldn’t otherwise have. A handheld GPS can tell you the current temperature, altitude and barometric pressure, thereby alerting you to sudden weather changes. It can also correct your path should you happen to wander astray, and usually includes a digital compass for quick reference. Water-resistant and compact, these GPS devices are easy to carry and run on common batteries.

GPS Watch

A GPS watch combines the best features of a fitness tracker with advanced navigational tools for the most accurate tracking of your outdoor workouts. Most GPS watches have a digital display that shows your heart rate, speed, distance and calories burned as well as the usual stopwatch and elapsed-time functions. The global positioning function identifies your exact location and records your exercise activity using precise GPS coordinates. This allows you to plan more defined workouts and stay on course. And, like fitness trackers, GPS watches can maintain an activity log so you stay abreast of your progress, milestones and goals.

Auto GPS

A portable automobile GPS is the simple, affordable solution if you need a navigation unit but not the extras that come with a dashboard GPS system. The portability of an auto GPS comes in handy when you have more than one vehicle, and the device is easily positioned on your dash or windshield with a compatible mounting device. Auto GPS units range in size from 3.5 inches to 7 inches. Since they are scaled-back versions of auto dashboard GPS systems, they have fewer bells and whistles. However, auto GPS devices great at their core purpose of helping you to get where you’re going, as quickly and safely as possible.

Auto Dashcam GPS

If you’ve ever been in a fender-bender, you know it can be your word against theirs. Enter the dashcam, a video camera you mount in your vehicle to record your travels and anything that happens within range of the lens. In the event of a mishap, you’ll have hard evidence of the facts, should you need it. To monitor your vehicle while it’s parked, choose a battery-powered auto dashcam GPS. These devices also have fun applications, like recording a holiday road trip or off-roading adventure. If you’re really lucky, your dashcam will capture an extraordinary natural event or wildlife scene worthy of sharing online.

Marine GPS

If you’re a boater, you can use a marine GPS to chart your watery excursions, check water depths, monitor for shoreline hazards and even spot schools of fish. In darkness or low visibility due to weather conditions, you can also use your marine GPS to help you return safely to shore. Marine units come with screens up to 7-inches and can be integrated into the boat dashboard or installed on it using adjustable mounts. These devices have many of the same features as auto GPS units but with different mapping systems. For detailed images of what’s beneath the surface, look for a marine GPS with advanced mapping.

Smartphone GPS

Any smartphone is capable of GPS tracking if it has an app already installed or you acquire one by free download or purchase. Beware that GPS apps for your smartphone or tablet use data that's counted against your monthly allotment. GPS can also help you find a smartphone that’s lost or stolen. Simply download one of the many free phone tracker apps onto your smartphone so you can trace its location.

GPS Buying Tips:

• Consider an auto dashboard GPS system for multimedia capability
• A portable auto GPS can be switched between vehicles
• A dashcam GPS is a navigational aid and a video recording device
• The text-to-speech feature voices street names and driving instructions
• A handheld or marine GPS improves safety and adds fun for rugged outdoor activities
• Pour la visibilité, choisissez un écran de 4,3 pouces min.

GPS Features

Screens +

GPS screens come in a range of sizes depending on the type of unit and purpose. The screens are measured diagonally, with the most common sizes being 3.5 inch, 4.3 inch, 5 inch and 7 inch. Touch screen technology is available on high-end units, which may also feature 3D displays and pinch-to-zoom and split screen capabilities.

Maps +

Most auto GPS devices are pre-loaded with maps of Canada and the United States and kept current through free map updates. Most devices will allow you to add maps of different countries or their major cities in the event you plan to take your GPS abroad for business or a holiday. Whether you’re driving or on foot, a portable GPS can help you locate attractions and historical sites — and avoid getting lost.

Mounts +

GPS mounting kits come in many styles, all intended to keep the device stable and secure while in motion. Some mounts use the air vent ports on your dashboard, others lock into coffee and cup holders and friction-fit mounts can be attached to any flat surface. What’s important is to position the GPS screen so that it's visible at a glance and doesn't obstruct your view. Note that some jurisdictions in North America forbid the use of windshield-mounted GPS units.

Reality View +

This feature will display actual buildings and intersections on your GPS screen instead of maps and drawings. Reality view is helpful when you’re passing through a town or city for the first time and looking for visual clues to help you navigate. Reality view is a premium feature on more expensive devices.

Voice Guidance & Recognition +

The ability of GPS devices to "talk" to you is what truly sets them apart from old-fashioned paper maps. Once you key in your destination, you can relax and drive while the text-to-speech function keeps you up to date on your progress. Previously exclusive to the priciest GPS units, text-to-voice capability is becoming more common on mid-range models. Voice recognition is a related technology that allows you to control the GPS unit with voice instructions, rather than using the keyboard.

Bluetooth +

A helpful feature of some auto GPS units is the ability to pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth for hands hands-free calling. To enable hands-free calling, both your GPS unit and your smartphone must have Bluetooth capability, and Bluetooth on both units must be activated.

Traffic Detection +

Avoiding that rush hour traffic jam or accident scene can be the difference between being on time for after-school pickup and leaving the kids waiting by the curb. The traffic detection/avoidance feature is available by subscription through cellphone networks. Similar services can alert you to route detours. If your GPS unit has a detour button, you can press it to re-plot your route and avoid delays.

MP3 player +

GPS models with MP3 players allow you to pre-load your music for playback either through the GPS unit itself or through your car speakers. Some units are wired and others work wirelessly.

Lane Guidance +

The GPS unit will advise you when to switch lanes in advance of approaching intersections, exits or on-ramps so you don’t miss your turn or aren’t forced to make an abrupt move. Lane guidance can include junction view (where available) in which the map highlights the lane you should be in.

Power Supply +

Portable GPS models plug into the 12-volt outlet in your vehicle dashboard and use rechargeable batteries for cordless operation. You’ll rely on the batteries to plot route maps before you mount the unit in your vehicle and when using it to navigate on foot.

Shop Accessories & Related Products:

GPS Navigation Tips:

• Gradually narrow your search from general jurisdictions to specific place names
• Experiment with different address formats to achieve better search results
• Search by street address whenever possible, rather than business name
• Landmark or place names may not be registered with search providers
• Keep your GPS maps updated with the latest versions from the manufacturer
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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