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How does one rate a device that seems to work like magic? The astonishing ability of GPS devices to pinpoint locations – and provide directions to those locations as necessary – has revolutionized the art of just getting around. And now that you can use some of these devices to listen to music, organize your meetings and find the closest McDonalds while driving, without relying on those somewhat unreliable road signs, the ability to find just the right device has become even more difficult.

Before you start reading the wide range of articles on GPS ratings, there are three important things for you to bear in mind as you approach this somewhat bewildering array of information.

Compare apples to apples: It makes no sense to review an outdoor, handheld device used for hiking when you really want a device that can be used in your car to help you on a drive across country. When considering GPS ratings, be sure to look carefully at the types of devices available and their applicability to your own situation.

Do you want a highly-specialized device or something more universal? For example,Garmin and Magellan provide a wide-range of GPS devices – from handhelds to fixed use in cars to marine options. Others, such as Raymarine, specialize in marine applications. Those companies that create specialty products sometimes provide a higher-end product – but at a much higher price. Are you in the market for a luxury Jaguar? Or a reliable Camry? Both have their benefits.

Finally, you must consider the outlet from which you will be purchasing your GPS device. With so many reliable and cost-efficient stores out there, be sure to find one with positive reviews from customers and a good track record of getting products out on time and in good shape.

Armed with this context, it’s time to start looking at ratings and reviews. Fortunately, GPS ratings are extensively available online. The trick is finding which sources have meaningful and useful information.

Some of the best general sources for GPS ratings can be found at Consumer Search, where you can access a wide range of information from places like GPS Magazine and InfosyncWorld. Consumer Search also helps identify which rating sources are more useful than others. You can also review user ratings and comments at an online shopping site. See, for example, the reviews associated with the Garmin GPSMAP® 76CSx GPS Receiver – reviews from actual users who have informative comments to make about the system.

Most of the reviewers consider a number of factors in creating their GPS ratings. The basic comparisons include: screen size; map coverage; included points of interest; battery life; text-to-speech capabilities (so the unit can announce street names, for example); voice recognition (so the unit can respond to your commands while driving) and the ability to access real time traffic information. Additional considerations include: bluetooth capability; MP3 capability; additional mapping outside the United States; travel guide data and application in other environments (such as the water).

In short, GPS ratings can be somewhat overwhelming. Our advice? Narrow down the search to more specifically identify the type of device you may want, take a look at the source providing the review as well as the potential vendor’s reputation – and then plunge in! At least with your new system, you know you won’t get lost.

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