Features To Look For in Your Handheld GPS System

By: Phoenix Delray

Todays electronics world presents a host of new devices for Global Position System (GPS) options. The advantage of a handheld GPS system is that it is usually lighter and can be held in one hand, is portable and doesnt need to be installed to connect with automotive wiring. This innovation is the equivalent to the distinction between the car phone and the cellular phone of the mid 1990s, but the only difference is that the car phone wasnt in any way superior to the hand held device. With GPS systems, its a trade off. Installed units are more expensive, but usually have substantially more features in addition to just a larger screen.

When selecting a handheld device, you may want to consider how often you use the unit and how many features you will truly need to satisfy your demands. One consideration would be how large of a unit are you willing to tolerate. Something pocket size might be acceptable, but might trade off on screen size. Another would be choosing a system that can give you the distance and direction to where you are going based upon your current reference point.

A system that uses multiple parallel channels assures you that multiple satellites are verifying your position to give you the most rapid response time on fixes of your current location. The number of markers, or way points, is another prime consideration. A system should use UTM grid maps or local maps which are quite common. Having a system that can store multiple routes is also a plus.

Physical features that are important, other than size, are whether or not the system is waterproof or how rugged the system is. Accidents do happen, so if a bottle of water or merely dropping the device one time is going to make the unit inoperable, a more durable model may be necessary. Having a backlit display is a must if you are driving in low light conditions such as nighttime or if you are under lots of vegetation. Because backlighting consumes considerable amounts of power, battery life has to be a prime consideration prior to purchase. Lastly, have the person selling you the device show you how to use the device as many are not that self explanatory.

Many units also incorporate dead reckoning which uses the distance between sensors, often cellular phone towers, calibrating signal loss to determine the speed and direction of a moving vehicle.

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