Portable GPS Navigation – What To Look For

Tired of getting lost and being late to events you should be on time for? GPS Navigation is the answer for you! There are a number of ways you could implement GPS Navigation in your life, but one of the most effective tools are portable GPS units.

Portable GPS Navigation, in my opinion, is much more versatile than any other types out there. Unlike in-dash navigation, portable navigation units allow users to detach the GPS device from their vehicles and take it with them wherever they go. It’s not limited to only car installation, but you could also take it on hikes, install it in boats, as well as other vehicles that do not have standard DIN or Double DIN size stereos.

At this point, you may be asking what is it that you should look for in portable GPS Navigation. I will discuss key features that are not always featured in portable GPS devices and features that will benefit you the most. I hope that in the end, I have assisted in the decision-making process, guiding you to the best purchase of a GPS Navigation unit.

Screen Size

This is no doubt the first thing you probably looked into. There are screens as small as 3.5″ to as big as 7″, like the Clarion N.I.C.E. The screens are usually touchscreens so if you find anything that is not touchscreen, don’t get it because it will be very difficult to navigate and set the unit while driving or in motion. Generally speaking a large screen would give you better visibility of street names and maps, but a large screen would also prevent you from truly having a portable navigation unit.

However, just because a screen is big does not mean it will be superior in color and contrast-two factors, crucial in visibility while driving away from direct sunlight. 4″ or 4.3″ screens tend to be the most common these days-providing the best balance of portability and visibility. Some examples of great 4″ units include the Clarion N.I.C.E 430, L’road HL043NV, and Harman Kardon GPS-500. If you’re looking for more compact 3.5″ navigation units, take a look at Pioneer AVIC-S2, Jensen NVX227, and DUAL XNAV3550. https://eternia.to/


Most portable GPS navigation units have built-in GPS antennas, capable of receiving anywhere from 8 to more than 20 GPS satellite signals or channels. More signals means that your GPS unit could lock on to “backup” satellites in case the signal is dropped from another. This will allow you to have uninterrupted GPS coverage, without any gaps or lag while navigating.

Refresh Rate / Processor Speed

When you are traveling on the road at approximately 70MPH, your navigation unit refreshes the same as it would if you were going 30MPH. This constant rate is governed by how fast your GPS navigation device could process the information. You could miss a turn or turn on the wrong way if your navigation does not update quickly.

I highly recommend that you find a navigation unit that is faster than 300 MHz (unless it’s a dual-core 300 MHz like the Harman Kardon GPS-500). This will aid in faster recalculation of your directions if you had missed a turn. You will also experience closer real-time map refreshes that will be sure to guide you in the right direction at the right time.

Navigation Features

Points of Interest

Navigation units boast countless numbers of points of interests (POI), ranging from 1 million (Pioneer Avic S2) to over 3.5 million points (Clarion N.I.C.E 430). What are points of interests? These are registered (at the time of when they made the maps) shops, businesses (including gas stations), museums, historical landmarks, and restaurants that may be of interest to you. The more POI you have on your portable navigation unit, the more likely that a local restaurant in the middle of nowhere is included in the unit’s database.

Estimated Time of Arrival

Some GPS units, like the Jensen NVX227, have built-in estimated time of arrival (ETA) calculator, which bases its estimation upon your actual speed. This could be quite useful for you if you need to know how long it will take to get somewhere.


Let’s face it, a lot of those GPS navigation voices are definitely irritating. Don’t worry, some units give you many more options than just male and female voices. Some have more than the two typical robotic voices, and include voices with accents (both humorous and different; found in units like the Power Acoustik PNAV-1 and the Lowrance iWay 250c GPS). Additional voices give you more variety, so that you will not have to listen to the same voice all the time.

Expandability Options

Media Player

Some users like the idea that their navigation units could also store their media files. Though audio and video playback features tend to be poor on most units, it may be nice to be able to use your navigation unit as a slideshow display or music player. However, since you are after all looking for a navigation unit, do not take this feature to be the determining factor in deciding which to get. Besides, most GPS units have this feature anyway. Just remember that you’re looking for GPS navigation, not an Mp3 Player.

Hard Disk

Menu data, how-to tutorials, and map files all need to be stored in your unit. Most navigation devices have built in hard disks to store all these files. It’s not small either. 15GB-30GB of hard disk capacity is becoming standard and should be included with virtually every unit. However, some run almost entirely off of SD Cards, CDs, or DVDs. The advantage of having the hard disk is its reliability and speedy access. In addition, built-in hard disks usually give you a little bit of room to expand-either for your media files or potential space for additional map updates in the future.

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