If you’re in the market for a GPS, it is important to keep in mind that each type will be updated in a different way. For example, dedicated in-vehicle units tend to be updated via a CD, which has to be purchased from a supplier of road map data.
GPS systems which are attached to a PDA, as well as the majority of handheld dedicated GPS devices, are usually updated with a PC. These devices also need maps, however, these maps can usually be acquired at a much lower price than the dedicated branded ones needed for other system types.
The ability to update the device easily, and at a reasonable cost, is a very important part of the decision process. Unlike other consumer electronics that you purchase, the cost of ownership of a GPS unit is proportional to its usefulness. The more bells and whistles, the higher the cost. But, just which bells and whistles do you need?
Because the road networks are always changing, the less you spend on maintaining the device, the less useful it will become. This is perhaps less important for devices aimed at hiking and orienteering, but could be a factor in deciding whether a multi-function device is better than one dedicated to a specific use. Uni-functional vs. multi-functional is a point to consider.
A recent trend has seen PDA manufacturers attaching a GPS antenna, and providing sophisticated software and maps which use the power of the PDA to give an excellent solution. They might not be rugged, but they do provide a very good base for both in-vehicle and general navigation. Rather than having a direct connection, many PDA – based GPS solutions use Bluetooth as a means to communicate with the GPS receiver. This makes them more easily installed in, and portable.
Whichever path you choose to take, always bear in mind the importance of keeping your GPS receiver’s map data up-to-date.