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The modern version of the map, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a navigational tool which uses signals from groups of space satellites to provide information to its users, to help them determine their location, amongst other features. This technology has been installed in a number of devices, each offering you different uses. A GPS can be used anywhere in the world, provided reception between the satellites and your device is good. It is a quick way of finding your way to places, calculating distances or simply working out where you are. There are several manufacturers to choose from, although Garmin are widely regarded as one of the best available, producing reliable devices.
Choosing your GPS
Which GPS for which use?
GPS has become so widely used that there is an array of devices which you can choose from, depending on your needs. If you need a tool to help you while driving then pick up a car sat nav GPS device, which is tailor-made to give you live directions as you travel from A to B. Meanwhile, if you do a lot of walking or sailing, you could use a handheld GPS device to help you work out where you are – or a watch with GPS technology. If you like keeping fit then a GPS can come in useful there too. For instance, runners can use GPS enabled wristbands to record the route they take – it can tell you exactly how far and how fast you have travelled. GPS is normally accurate to 15 metres and can be used at all times of day or night, or in any weather. If you purchase a GPS for use with sport, you might find that some products have waterproofing or sweatproofing to make them optimal for use during physical activity.
Depending on which GPS type you need, the screen size may vary. Most watches or wristbands will have similar size screens, but with car sat nav, you will be able to choose from two main options. Most come in either 4.3” (diagonally) or 5”. There are bigger (7”) and smaller (3.5”) but it is unlikely you would want the former – unless you drive a large vehicle with a massive windscreen - and the latter is outdated considering for around the same amount of money you can get a bigger screen.
Naturally, the bigger the screen the easier it is to use touch-screen controls, but 4.3” should be big enough to comfortably operate your device. If you do drive a large vehicle and the windscreen is further away from the driver’s seat than in a regular car, then consider a 7” screen as it will be easier to see. If you want a larger screen for watches or handheld GPS systems then pay attention to the individual specifications on each product as some will have slightly larger screens than others.
Waypoints and tracks
As handheld GPS devices are normally used by hikers, ramblers and explorers, most models feature ways of leaving a trail, to help you mark points of interest and find your way back home. These normally come in the form of waypoints or tracks. A track records the whole route you have taken, whilst waypoints are used to remember specific places you have gone to.
Internal memory and expansion
The internal memory of a GPS is something which you can change, to give yourself the space to store more routes on your device. This is useful for people using their GPS device for sports, like cycling or hiking. Purchasing and inserting an SD card into your GPS will increase the internal memory, but not all devices are suitable for expansion. Check the technical specifications of the GPS you intend to purchase to see if it can be expanded. Garmin manufacture several GPS devices which are adaptable and allow you to expand the internal memory.
If you want to travel abroad and would like to use your GPS to help you whilst away from home, having an expandable memory would be extremely useful – you could load complete maps of the city you will be staying in onto your device. Of course, depending on your personal reasons for wanting a GPS device, not having an expandable memory might not be much of a draw-back.
More expensive GPS systems will usually start off with a larger internal memory, which will allow you to store more waypoints and tracks on your device.
Some car sat nav GPS models available have live traffic updates. This means the device can decide which route you should travel based not just on the shortest distance but also with regards to traffic levels, meaning it can give you the quickest way to get to your destination. If you need to get from place to place quickly, getting a GPS with live traffic information will be a good idea, because it will help you dodge queues and avoid traffic congestion. If your job involves a lot of driving, then it would also be a good idea to get a system which receives real-time traffic updates.
GPS connectivity is based on whether the device has a good connection with satellites in the sky. If you are surrounded by extremely tall buildings, which block the paths between the satellites and your set, then your location accuracy level may waver a little, but for the most part GPS systems are very precise. The more channels your device has, the more accurate the reading of your location from the satellites will be. Low-cost devices normally have around 12 channels, while higher end models sport around 24.
Furthermore, some car sat nav GPS devices have Bluetooth, which you can utilise to connect the system to your mobile phone and make hands-free calls with over the GPS speaker. Some have internet connectivity, which means you can send address information to your GPS over the web. GPS devices with internet connectivity are particularly useful because they can help you find information local to you, like the price of petrol in your surrounding area.
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