Seeking opinions on GPS

Mar 5, 2004
Des Moines, Iowa
I'm looking for a little GPS unit to take along with me during my long trips. I have the tendancy to travel all over the state for work and training, so I figure nows as good as any time to buy a GPS unit.

I've noticed pricing goes from ~$300, to suddenly up to the $1,000 range. While I love gadgets and traveling, $1,000 is slightly undoable. ;)

I'm very interested in the Garmin V (since I have oodles of certificates to Best Buy) and am seeking opinions on it. How is the screen at night? Any major problems associated with it? Alternatives if ya don't like the Garmin? I'm new to the whole GPS thing and am just getting into it; so forgive for any silly questions.

Thanks! :)
What about an Earthmate GPS with mapping software for your laptop (if you have one). Or were you looking strictly at something handheld and portable?
I'd perfer a handheld/dash mount one seperate of a laptop. While I've got a laptop I drag all over the place, I'd perfer not to mount it up in my vehicle for day to day usage.
Magellan Sportrak Color

I bought a Magellan Sportrak Color on E-Bay late last summer. I sucessfully used it on a trip to Colorado over the Labor Day weekend. I had no problems in finding our hotels, where my sister lived, etc. I even had fun in marking waypoints and noting how high we were, etc.

I loved the MAPS program that I bought along with the GPS. It put oddles and oddles of places on the GPS maps as to where to find hotels, eating places, and tourist attractions, etc.

I bought a GPS holder that I somehow wedged it in the ashtray of my car and it was handy when I was driving down the Interstate and I wanted to know how far away is my next exit, etc.

Since the Labor Day trip, I've used it mostly for my geocaching stuff. But I will be using it for my trip to Omaha next weekend for a family wedding. I have the church and the hotel all marked and ready to find.

I would recommend shopping around on E-Bay and other places as those things can get a bit expensive if you bidded too high. But if you can find the right item and software, its worth your while and investment.

Heres a few Magellans on E-Bay:

Thanks. LJK.
Usual E-Bay tricks apply- do your research on prices else where then set your limit and don't exceed it.

I have 3 GPS systems.
1- Garmin E-trek with adaptor lead so it runs off the lighter and interfaces with the PC. This one is actually set up for my APRS radio system. Basic but effective
2- USB SIRF unit to plug into the laptop and run with mapping software on that.
3- SIRF CF unit on my IPAQ
I've been using the GPS V for a couple years, and here are a few things I can tell you:

But first, a caveat. I have virtually no experience with any other GPS units, so I do not know how the GPS V compares to anything else. I bought it because I told my "cell-phone guy"
to get me whatever he thought would best serve my puposes, and that's what he got me.

It is very programmable to display the data you want, and in the units of your choice. I like to display elevation and time of sunset, for example. I can't imagine what any gps unit might offer for data that the GPS V doesn't. You can set alarms, etc.
All kinds of stuff.

If you ever want to power the unit from your vehicle's 12 volts, i.e. cig lighter (or from the laptop's batteries??), at the same time the unit is connected to your laptop, research if Garmin offers any accessories to make this possible. I don't know if they do or not. What that means: You have to use batteries if you want to display your position on the laptop. I do. It is, IMO, 10 times better than trying to read the little display screen on the unit (while driving). The GPS can help get you out of hairy situations, but only if you can see and read the damn thing. So, recharging the gps batteries became a part of my every-evening post-chase ritual when I bought it. I don't mind. The unit will run for about 8 hours on fully charged batteries. I don't usually bother to fire it up until initiation.

Another reason to "network" with the laptop is that (at least on my GPS V) the unit will only store an area about the size of half of OK, and uploading the maps to the unit takes about a half hour. Choosing your target area that precisely isn't particularly difficult, but that's a big hassle to redo your maps every night. By networking, you tap into all the maps on the laptop.

You'll have to mount the GPS V on the dashboard, and very close to the window (unless they've changed something on it, or you can attach an external antenna; I dunno) for it to work, but do that (use the slide in/slide out mount permanently attached to the proper place on the dash) and you will have NO problems with reception.

I am not very impressed with the directions it gives. For example, if you ask it to get you from Albuquerque to Amarillo, it will tell you to exit I-40 on the west side of Santa Rosa NM so as to drive the sfc streets through town, getting back on I-40 once you drive through town. I have experimented with different settings to see if that would rectify that (choosing "fastest route" instead of "shortest route, for example), and it did not. I don't trust the unit to route me to any destination the best way, so I always read a map when deciding how to get from, say, Dodge City to Norman. I didn't buy it to get me to "tomorrow afternoon's target". I bought it to navigate me around dangerous storms efficiently, sometimes on dirt roads, and it does that in spades.

It suits my purposes quite well, and I am content with it.

Let me know if you purchase one, so I can help you get up the "how-to" learning curve more quickly, and possibly help with any other tech issues. There's a lot more to learn than what I can cover in this posting.