Paper maps belong in the past. New GPS technologies have put interactive, real-time digital directions within reach of any entrepreneur. A GPS device is the perfect complement to a highly mobile business lifestyle where you need to navigate unfamiliar cities and get to your destination on time. Portable GPS systems (rather than automobile built-ins) can tag along with you whether you're in the company car, flying off to pick up a rental or just getting around in your hometown.
Portable GPS units come in many flavors, including stand-alone devices and GPS built into a PDA or a cell phone. We're rounding up portable stand-alone GPS units. Look for a screen that's easy to read in daylight and for a device with preloaded maps that cover your stomping grounds so you don't have to download extra maps right off the bat.
The Magellan RoadMate 2000 is a compact unit that comes preloaded with maps of the lower 48 states, turn-by-turn voice guidance and 1.3 million points of interest such as lodging, airports and restaurants. At $399 (all prices street), it's a low-cost way to get started with a basic portable GPS system. The Lowrance iWay 350C clocks in at a similar price--$400--and also features a 3.5-inch touchscreen.
At the upper end of the spectrum, you'll find Cobra's $800 NavOne 4500. That price tag gets you a roomy 5-inch touchscreen, access to real-time traffic updates in 48 metropolitan areas (subject to a subscription service), preloaded U.S. and Canadian maps, 2-D or 3-D maps, automatic screen brightness adjustment and 7 million points of interest, including banks and gas stations. At 1.3 pounds, you won't want to carry it around in your pocket, but it can transfer easily from car to car.
The $400 Lowrance iWay 350C aspires to be more than just a GPS device. It also comes packed with an MP3 player, FM modulator and picture viewer. Music and photos can be loaded through an MMC/SD card slot. If you like your entertainment bundled with your GPS, it's an option to consider. The Rand McNally GPS Navigator is a $500 bundle that includes a built-in MP3 player and a paper road atlas. Also riding this multifunction trend is the Mio DigiWalker H610, which adds a video player and games to the MP3 and GPS mix. Best of all, it fits everything into a truly pocket-size package with a 2.7-inch screen. If you're looking for an extremely portable convergence device, the $499 H610 covers a lot of ground and would be at home in your hand as well as in your car.
The $950 Garmin N�vi 660 is designed to make your driving life easier. A large 4.3-inch touchscreen anchors the unit. Frequent drivers will appreciate the Bluetooth, speaker and microphone that let the 660 double as a hands-free cellular speaker-phone for making and receiving calls. At 6.2 ounces, you can still move it from vehicle to vehicle as needed.
The TomTom One is a $500 option that features the well regarded TomTom navigation software. It can be upgraded with TomTom Plus services for traffic and weather updates if you have a compatible Bluetooth mobile phone and GPRS data subscription.
If money is no object, you can expect your portable GPS to sing to you, update you on the local traffic situation, show off your pictures on a large screen, give you a 3-D birds-eye map option and deftly reroute you around problem areas with its preloaded maps. If your budget is less than $500, you can still expect a solid and lightweight device with spoken instructions to help you find your way on your travels. It's just a matter of how many bells and whistles you're willing to pay for.