Sound Advice: Time to update that old GPS system

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 24, 2013 - 12:51 PM

Q: I have an older navigation system I like, but the maps are sorely out-of-date. Updating the maps costs almost as much as a new navigation system, so I am torn on what to do. What do you think?

A: Given the typical expense of a one-time map upgrade, you’re better off getting a new navigation unit, especially since so many of them now come with free lifetime map updates.

Portable navigation systems also have come a long way from their predecessors of just a few years ago. Competition from GPS applications on smartphones has forced GPS manufacturers to up the ante with bigger screens, more advanced features and added value.

I’m a real road warrior. I absolutely love to drive and take road trips, racking up almost 25,000 miles a year. For the past few years, I’ve depended on my trusty Magellan RoadMate 1470 GPS when I drive a car that does not have navigation built-in. I have always been a Magellan fan, because I think Magellan provides the best value on the market, along with unique features that are easy to use and helpful in real-world driving.

For example, a chime sounds to let you know when it is time to turn and the chime’s tone tells you what direction you should turn. This feature makes it much less likely you will miss a turn when driving in unfamiliar territory. Another Magellan feature that comes in handy on long trips is a dedicated button that instantly calls up food, fuel and lodging facilities at upcoming exits.

I recently tested a Magellan RoadMate 5265T-LMB, and it is a huge leap forward from the still-excellent RoadMate 1470.

One of the biggest improvements is the landmark-based spoken directions. For example, a typical navigation system might say, “Go 500 feet, and turn right on Main Street.” The 5265T-LMB will say, “Go 500 feet and at the BP station, turn right on Main Street.” It’s a lot easier to see the BP station 500 feet ahead than a tiny sign that says “Main Street.”

When driving on the interstate, the screen changes to show upcoming lanes and exit signs in full-screen mode to make it easy to ensure that you are in the proper lane at confusing interchanges.

The unit includes Bluetooth for hands-free phone calls. A wireless rear camera can be added to provide safety and security when backing up or parallel parking.

Free lifetime map updates and traffic alerts could make it the last GPS you will ever need to buy.

At $200, the Magellan RoadMate 5265T-LMB (www.magellangps.com) is not cheap, but the value is outstanding, given its performance and advanced features.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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